In just a couple of months, the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi will host the Winter Olympics. Russia is reportedly spending nearly $50 billion on those games, which would be an Olympic record. To finance venues and housing, one of Russia's state-owned banks lent about $7.5 billion to an elite group of industrialists who are helping bankroll the games. Now, those investors are getting a little nervous.
NPR's business news starts with fracking leftovers.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
INSKEEP: Fracking, I said fracking. The controversial process used to extract natural gas produces millions of gallons of wastewater. Now to cut costs, energy companies want to transport that leftover water on barges. But, the U.S. Coast Guard has concerns.
Our Planet Money team is making a T-shirt and following the shirt around the world as it gets manufactured — from the farms where the cotton is grown to the factories where the shirts are sewn together. All this week on Morning Edition and All Things Considered we'll be hearing stories about the fascinating world behind that T-shirt.
Demonstrations, often violent, are happening across Ukraine after its president refused to sign a trade agreement with the European Union. His decision came under heavy pressure from Russia, which in the past has cut off critical gas supplies to Ukraine to show its dissatisfaction. For more, Renee Montagne talks to journalist David Stern in the Ukrainian capital Kiev.
The wreckage of a Metro-North commuter train, which derailed Sunday just north of the Spuyten Duyvil station in Bronx, N.Y., lies on its side. The train was heading to Grand Central Terminal along the Hudson River.
Sergei Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 3 — "Rach 3," as fans fondly call it — is one of the most famously difficult pieces of music there is. The sheet music goes on and on, with notes so dense the pages start to look like modern art. The piece is so challenging that some noted pianists have declined to perform it — but Yuja Wang has recorded it for her newest album.
Starting Monday, same-sex marriage is legal in Hawaii. The state has long been a destination for weddings and honeymoons. And now state officials, as well as hotels and restaurants, are hoping the latest marriage-equality law will spur a new market for wedding tourism.
Wedding planner Keane Akao is showing off a secluded beach wedding site, one of several on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
"You can use the beach for pictures," he tells a couple, "and this is actually called Secret Beach."
When high school junior Nora Huynh got her report card, she was devastated to see that she didn't get a perfect 4.0.
Nora "had a total meltdown, cried for hours," her mother, Jennie Huynh of Alameda, Calif., says. "I couldn't believe her reaction."
Nora is doing college-level work, her mother says, but many of her friends are taking enough advanced classes to boost their grade-point averages above 4.0. "It breaks my heart to see her upset when she's doing so awesome and going above and beyond."
Most music fans will recognize the title of Ben Allison's new album, The Stars Look Very Different Today, as a reference to the song "Space Oddity," itself a reference to the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
One of the largest obstacles in getting people to bike to work is their fear of getting hit by a car. A new grass-roots project in Los Angeles is helping folks navigate the ins and outs of traffic.
It's 6:45 a.m. and Barbara Insua is busy packing a bag. She will ride seven miles from her home in Pasadena to NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, where she works as a graphic designer. She only started doing this ride a few months ago.
"It was kind of daunting," she says, "because seven miles to the lab — I didn't know how to do it. I'm not an avid cyclist."
It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath.
A commuter train derailed as it was heading into Manhattan this morning, killing four people and injuring more than 60. Witnesses say the train appeared to be going too fast as it rounded a curve just north of a train station in the Bronx. The National Transportation Safety Board is trying to piece together what happened.
Calling the improvements "night and day" from October, the Obama administration says it has met its goal of getting the troubled HealthCare.gov site working for a "vast majority" of users. But that's only part of a complex technology system that is designed to end with insurance companies providing coverage for millions of consumers.
It sounds unthinkable, but there are times, according to the rules of war, when it's morally acceptable to shoot a child.
A 12-year-old can, of course, fire an AK-47, but the more gut-wrenching decisions revolve around ambiguous situations. Could a child with a cell phone be a lookout for insurgents or send a detonation signal to an IED bomb?
These were the types of scenarios our soldiers had to face in Iraq. Countless soldiers have returned haunted by civilians they killed because the civilians panicked and ran through a checkpoint or reached for something too quickly.
Jon Taffer is the king of the bar business. Over the past three decades, he has managed dozens of bars and nightclubs, and is a consultant for bar owners all over the country.
Most recently, he has put his expertise to use as the host of the popular reality show Bar Rescue. Bar and nightclub owners with failing businesses ask Taffer for his help. In return, Taffer brings a team of bartenders, chefs and designers with him to revamp every part of the operation. On the show, as in person, Taffer is a tough, no-nonsense guy.
Now to a mode of transportation better suited to the budget of a public radio reporter - bicycling. If you think cyclists are not among the toughest athletes, well, you haven't been to Pittsburgh. The city has some brutal hills which actually attract a certain breed of cyclists. As Liz Reid from member station WESA reports, cyclists have been attacking those hills for 30 years in an event called the Dirty Dozen.
THRESHOLD CHOIR: (Singing) Can I stand here for you? May I use my heart as a gift?
ARUN RATH, HOST:
Those are the voices of the Northern California Threshold Choir, an a cappella group that brings music to a very specific audience. Kate Munger founded the Threshold Choir, and she explains what the organization does.
KATE MUNGER: Threshold Choir is a group of singers that go, when invited, to bedsides of people who are dying.
Actor Paul Walker has died. He was best known for his role in the "Fast & Furious" movie series. The 40-year-old actor was a passenger in a car that crashed in North Los Angeles. Walker was working on the seventh installment of the "Fast & Furious" series. And as NPR's Nathan Rott reports, he was also working on a life post-acting.
NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: The Paul Walker that you probably know was this one...
Originally published on Sun December 1, 2013 12:38 pm
The 100-day-old female panda cub at the National Zoo in Washington, now has a name: Bao Bao (宝宝) — meaning precious or treasure — was the most popular of the five names put up for a popular vote by Zoo.
The name was announced during a ceremony at the Zoo on Sunday afternoon.
Cui Tiankai, ambassador of the People's Republic of China, wrote the name in calligraphy on scrolls, which were unfurled at the ceremony.
Originally published on Sun December 1, 2013 9:07 am
White House officials say the government's health insurance website, which has been plagued with problems ever since it launched in October, is now working smoothly for most users.
"The site is now stable and operating at its intended capacity with greatly improved performance," Jeffrey Zients, the president's appointee to fix the site, said during a telephone conference with reporters on Sunday. The bottom line, said Zients, is that Healthcare.gov is "night and day" from what it was at launch.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Earlier this year, NPR's Planet Money team decided to make a T-shirt for their fans.
ZOE CHANCE, BYLINE: What does it say?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Let meput it on. Planet Money. Wow.
MARTIN: But this bit of public radio garb was different. This shirt would come with an autobiography. The Planet Money team set out to understand how the T-shirt was made and just who made it - from cotton field to final stitch. Alex Blumberg of Planet Money explains.
Palestinian refugee Lawahez Burghal stuffs tripe with rice and garbanzo beans for her family in their home in the Amari refugee camp in the West Bank. Many refugees still depend on the United Nations for food, health care and education.
Credit Emily Harris / NPR
Cousins play in the courtyard of their family compound. The Abu Isba family moved out of Qalandiya camp 35 years ago and has done well in construction. Four brothers live here with their wives and children, yet are still eligible for refugee services like basic health care and education.
Each week, Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin brings listeners an unexpected side of the news by talking with someone personally affected by the stories making headlines.
The U.S. Congress doesn't usually weigh in on domestic politics in other countries, but a resolution recently introduced in Congress by Rep. Keith Ellison is designed to put pressure on Narendra Modi, the front-runner to be India's next prime minister.