And let's turn our attention now to Iraq, where there's been a new bout of violence. The government there is fighting Al Qaida-linked militants who have reportedly overrun police stations and jails. Government forces have responded to this with missile strikes and ground troops. This fighting is in the country's western Anbar Province, which borders Syria.
The situation in South Sudan is, in many ways, emblematic of the troubled year the continent of Africa has endured. After two decades of democracies taking root and economies growing, 2013 brought a series of seemingly intractable conflicts: flare-ups in Mali, Nigeria, the Central African Republic and, as we've just heard, South Sudan.
To get a sense of why this is happening now, we spoke to NPR's West Africa correspondent, Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, who shared her fears and hopes for a part of the world she holds dear. Ofeibea, welcome.
Turkey's government is defending itself against a corruption scandal. That scandal has shaken a nation often described as the model for moderate Islamic democracy. The scandal reaches the highest levels of the government, and has sparked a strong backlash by Turkey's ruling party.
We reached NPR's correspondent in Istanbul, Peter Kenyon, to learn more about what's going on.
The Quantified Self movement promotes something called life logging. That means tracking all kinds of details of your life in order to improve it. To find out more about the topic, David Greene talks to two people involved with life logging: Kitty Ireland, who works for a life logging app called Saga, and to David Goldstein, who turned to life logging with the help of a coach.
OK. We've gotten through Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year's. But if you're an NFL fan, the next holiday up is Wild Card Weekend. There is football on Saturday and Sunday. Four wild card teams facing four teams that won their divisions. And there are some pretty interesting storylines to cover. Let's cover them with NPR's Mike Pesca. Hey, Mike.
MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Storyline number one - not all the teams playing are wild cards. It is called that but they get to play divisional leaders, don't they?
In 1968, Susan Mello Souza and Mary Moran Murphy were teenagers — and both were pregnant. To keep that a secret, their families sent them to St. Mary's Home for Unwed Mothers in Massachusetts, where they lived until they gave birth.
Actor Malcolm-Jamal Warner is best-known for the role he played in the '80s, as Theo Huxtable on The Cosby Show. He's so well-known for that role, in fact, that even now — at age 43 — he still gets called by the wrong name.
"People kind of have a misconception, because when someone calls me Theo and I correct them, say, 'No, my name is Malcolm,' they think I have an attitude about it and I don't want to be associated with the show," Warner explains to NPR's David Green.
Regardless of how critics and audiences eventually responded, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark was always going to be one of the most-discussed shows in Broadway history. It had songs by U2's Bono and the Edge; it was directed by The Lion King's Julie Taymor; it was based on a hit Marvel franchise; there were going to be flying stunts right over the audience's heads.
And then somehow it all went very wrong, from injured actors to huge cost overruns.
Wiping out malaria is a top goal for many leaders in global health.
Fewer people are dying now from the mosquito-borne disease than at any other time in history. "And there's a very, very strong belief now that malaria can be eliminated," says Joy Phumaphi, who chairs the African Leaders Malaria Alliance.
But when you look at the overall numbers on malaria, eradication almost seems like a pipe dream.
The Justice Department will answer a challenge Friday morning to a controversial provision in the new health care law. It requires most employers that offer health insurance to include birth control at no cost.
A group of Catholic nuns has objected to that, and this week they won a temporary reprieve from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. It's an unusual test case, but it won't be the last one.
Originally published on Fri January 3, 2014 8:09 am
Cost overruns are threatening to shut down a multibillion-dollar expansion of the Panama Canal aimed at allowing the world's largest ships to pass through the short cut between the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean.
A European consortium funding the project says it won't continue the work until Panama coughs up the extra cash — which amounts to $1.6 billion over and above an original $3.2 billion bid to build a third set of locks.
Originally published on Thu January 2, 2014 6:07 pm
It's early January, and that means it's time for the Quadrantid meteor shower to peak. Despite winter weather that might cloud the skies in some areas, forecasters say this year's event is worth getting up for, citing lunar conditions that will darken the night sky.
If you haven't heard of the Quadrantids, don't worry. Even NASA calls them "a little-known meteor shower named after an extinct constellation."
Originally published on Fri January 3, 2014 8:19 am
Police have a suspect in custody in connection with the murder of a popular priest in Northern California whose body was found on New Year's Day with unmistakable signs of "blunt-force trauma," authorities say.
Gary Lee Bullock, 43, of Redway was arrested by Humboldt County deputies on Thursday, police said in a statement.
In 2010, well-traveled freelance photographer Kristie McLean arrived in Ethiopia, her first trip to the country. She was there to photograph women with an injury that can happen when a baby gets stuck during childbirth: obstetric fistula. It's a condition common in rural Africa and Asia, where women give birth far from hospitals and C-sections aren't readily available.
When members of Congress return to work next week, at the top of the "to-do" list is whether to renew emergency unemployment benefits. An extension of the benefits expired at the end of 2013, which means 1.3 million out-of-work Americans are no longer getting unemployment checks.
Imagine a museum that's only 6 square feet. It's called, simply, Museum and it's housed in an old elevator shaft in an alley near New York City's courts. It has some odd exhibits on 18 small shelves, and only about four people can fit into the space at a time.
My favorite crime novels always combine more than one genre. Like a detective mystery that's really psychological. Or a police captain who happens to be a gourmet. Honestly, most travel books don't even get going until a body or two is discovered.
In the case of Before I Burn by Gaute Heivoll, the mashup is suspense meets memoir. It sounds a little gimmicky, but I promise it's absolutely not. Instead we have a semi-autobiographical novel that's poetic, gripping and at times even profound.
For the past three decades, Oklahoma averaged about 50 earthquakes a year. But that number has skyrocketed in the past few years. In 2013 — the state's most seismically active year ever — there were almost 3,000.
The quakes are small, and they're concentrated in the central part of the state, where the Erwins live.
Originally published on Thu January 2, 2014 4:45 pm
A new national survey showing that the share of Republicans who believe in evolution has tumbled from 54 to 43 percent over the past four years comes at an inopportunetime.
The Pew Research poll suggests that the GOP, already struggling with an identity crisis and facing ferocious internal battles, is out of sync on the issue with independents and young voters, who are far more likely to believe in the science of evolution than their forebears.
It was November when Republican Trey Radel, a first-term congressman from Fort Myers, Fla., was charged with cocaine possession — a misdemeanor in Washington, D.C. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year's probation.
A few days before Christmas, fresh from a month in rehab, Radel held a news conference with his wife by his side. He apologized and said that alcohol, not cocaine, is his main problem, and that's what he was treated for.
But the main point of his news conference was to say that he would not step down from Congress.
It's never a good sign when a character in a mystery has to give a speech at the end explaining exactly what's just happened. You know, just in case the story itself didn't actually manage to make it clear.
Sure, Hitchcock gets away with it at the end of Psycho, but only because the whodunit portion of that movie isn't the thing that makes it so great. Also, he's Alfred Hitchcock; the masters can get away with breaking some rules, because they can make up others that work just as well.
Originally published on Fri January 3, 2014 8:17 am
A former Georgia banker who vanished while under suspicion for stealing millions of dollars appeared in court Thursday, after being arrested during a traffic stop this week. The man had been presumed dead after his mysterious disappearance 18 months ago.
NPR's Debbie Elliott reports for our Newscast unit:
"Deputies in south Georgia picked up 47-year-old Aubrey Lee Price for a traffic violation on New Year's Day. Now he's in jail, charged with embezzling $21 million from Montgomery Bank and Trust, the bank he ran in tiny Ailey, Ga.