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2:48 am
Fri December 13, 2013

A Baby Who Saved Her Family From 'The Dark Moments'

Francisco Vasquez says his niece, Ellie, and his sister's battle with cancer have transformed his life "forever."
Courtesy of Maria Vasquez-Rojas

Originally published on Wed February 5, 2014 12:34 pm

Three years ago, Maria Vasquez-Rojas received news to celebrate: After many attempts to conceive, she was going to have a baby. But while pregnant with her daughter, Ellie, Maria was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer.

"If I had not gone in for that ultrasound they would have never caught it. [Ellie] saved my life," Maria tells her brother, Francisco Vasquez, on a visit to StoryCorps in Los Angeles.

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The Two-Way
7:11 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Chinese Ag Scientists Charged With Stealing Patented Seeds

Two agricultural scientists from China have been accused of trying to steal patented seeds from a biopharmaceutical company in Kansas.

Separately, six men from China, including the CEO of a seed corn subsidiary of a Chinese conglomerate, were charged Thursday with conspiring to steal patented seed corn from two of the nation's leading seed developers, prosecutors said Thursday, according to The Associated Press.

It wasn't immediately clear if the arrests were related, but The AP wrote of the group of six charged:

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The Two-Way
6:05 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

American Who Disappeared In Iran Reportedly Worked For CIA

A "proof of life" photo provided to the family of ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson in April 2011.
Uncredited AP

Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 4:05 am

The Associated Press reports in an investigative piece that an ex-FBI agent who disappeared in Iran in 2007 and was last seen in a "proof of life" photograph more than two years ago had been working for the CIA, despite official denials from the U.S.

Robert Levinson, who would now be 65, vanished after traveling in March 2007 to the Iranian island of Kish, described by The Associated Press as a resort "awash with tourists, smugglers and organized crime figures."

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All Tech Considered
5:45 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Wireless Companies, FCC Reach Deal On 'Unlocking' Cellphones

U.S. wireless carriers reached a deal with the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday that will make it easier for consumers to "unlock" their mobile phones and use them on a competitor's network.

The deal came in the wake of a consumer rebellion over the policy of locking cellphones to a carrier. A petition that garnered more than 114,000 signatures landed at the White House, and the Obama administration sided with the petitioners.

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The Two-Way
5:20 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

U.N. Report Confirms Chemical Weapons Were Used In Syria

Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 4:23 am

Chemical weapons were used in Syria's civil war, according to a team of international chemical weapons experts sent to investigate claims of chemical attacks.

"The United Nations Mission concludes that chemical weapons have been used in the ongoing conflict between the parties in the Syrian Arab Republic," the inspectors say.

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The Two-Way
4:49 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

House Approves Budget Deal; Compromise Heads To Senate

House Speaker John Boehner leaves a news conference Thursday, after criticizing conservative groups that he said held too much sway in Republican politics, "pushing our members in places where they don't want to be."
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 4:05 am

The House has approved a bipartisan budget deal to cut around $23 billion from the federal deficit over 10 years while removing the threat of a possible government shutdown until 2015. A shutdown deadline had loomed for Jan. 15.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 also sets spending levels for the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years, which its backers say will add more stability to both the U.S. economy and the government's operations.

Update at 6:35 p.m. ET: The Vote Tally

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It's All Politics
4:48 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Conservative Grass Roots Remains Skeptical Of Budget Deal

The Texas chapter of the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity held an event Wednesday called "All I Want for Christmas is Less Federal Spending."
Alan Greenblatt NPR

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 6:26 pm

John Boehner has had it with fielding complaints from the right.

The House Speaker's frustration with conservative groups opposing the budget deal boiled over Wednesday, when he delivered an unusually stinging critique, and again the next day.

"Frankly," he told reporters Thursday at a news conference, "I just think they've lost all credibility."

With Boehner, perhaps.

But at the grass-roots level, a Wednesday event held by one of those groups suggested the speaker's view of the budget agreement will still get some pushback.

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Shots - Health News
4:37 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

If You Drank Like James Bond, You'd Be Shaken, Too

James Bond is famous worldwide for his love of martinis and the ladies. But at six or seven drinks a day, the former was likely to hurt his odds with the latter.
Danjaq/ EON Productions

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 8:27 am

We all know James Bond had a hankering for martinis. But it looks like the international spy threw back far more Vespers, his martini of choice, than was good for him.

Dr. Indra Neil Guha, a liver specialist, and his colleagues at Nottingham University Hospital in England spent a year poring over Ian Fleming's James Bond books and tabulating how many drinks the suave spy drank a day.

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It's All Politics
4:18 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Boehner Blasts Tea Party Groups Over Budget Deal Criticism

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio rebukes conservative groups who oppose the pending bipartisan budget compromise during a Thursday news conference on Capitol Hill.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Some moments feel like turning points. Speaker John Boehner's rhetorical takedown of his party's Tea Party faction seems like one such moment.

For two days running, Boehner, R-Ohio, has made clear that he's heard just about enough from conservative advocacy groups such as the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks.

On Wednesday, he called them "ridiculous." On Thursday, he said "they've lost all credibility."

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Code Switch
3:38 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

African-American Gun Club Hopes To Help Curb Youth Violence

The Maryland Tenth Cavalry Gun Club, based in Marriottsville, Md., focuses as much on discipline and black history as it does on shooting.
Courtesy of the Maryland Tenth Cavalry Gun Club

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 7:17 pm

More than 200 people have been killed this year in Baltimore. Most of them were black, and most of them were shot to death, despite Maryland having one of the nation's toughest gun laws. This comes two years after the city recorded its lowest murder rate in more than two decades.

Members of one of the few African-American social firearm clubs in the nation think teaching young people different ideas about guns might help deter them from a life of violence.

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The Two-Way
3:38 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Secret U.S. Stealth Drone Flies Out Of The Shadows

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 4:34 pm

In retrospect, it should come as no surprise that this story did not immediately appear on our radar: Last week, Aviation Week reported that the classified RQ-180 stealth drone has begun test flights at Area 51.

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The Two-Way
3:36 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Kim Jong Un's Uncle, Formerly North Korea's No. 2, Is Executed

A still image taken from North Korea's state-run television footage and released Monday shows Jang Song Thaek being forcibly removed by uniformed personnel from a meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang.
Yonhap/Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 4:05 am

North Korea has announced that Jang Song Thaek, the uncle of leader Kim Jong Un and formerly the second most powerful man in the country, has been executed after being found guilty of treason by a military tribunal.

"The accused Jang brought together undesirable forces and formed a faction as the boss of a modern day factional group for a long time and thus committed such hideous crime as attempting to overthrow the state," North Korea's official KCNA news agency said.

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Books
3:35 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Don't Hate The Players, Learn The Rules Of The Game (Theory)

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks with Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., on Nov. 13 at the start of a congressional budget conference.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 4:44 pm

This week, Congress has been pondering yet another deal with a deadline. Congressional leaders have agreed to a bipartisan budget that would set spending levels for the next two years, and if it passes, as expected, it would mark the first bipartisan budget deal since 2011. News of the deal comes again at the last minute, just as Congress begins packing its bags to adjourn for the holidays.

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NPR's Backseat Book Club
3:35 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

'Mr. Terupt' Shows What A Difference One Teacher Can Make

Because of Mr. Terupt cover.

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 6:41 pm

Not to judge a book by its cover, but just take one look at the jacket of Because of Mr. Terupt and you'll see it is the perfect book for December. It shows two mittened hands holding a snowball — a snowball responsible for a life-altering accident.

Mr. Terupt is a popular fifth-grade teacher at Snow Hill elementary school. And for seven students in particular, he is the center of their universe — a sage who gives them advice and confidence and helps them overcome obstacles and rivalries.

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Media
3:35 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Photojournalists Push White House For Better Access To Obama

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 4:44 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

Reporters today gave White House press secretary Jay Carney a tough time over the way the administration controls President Obama's image, in this case literally by limiting the situations in which professional photojournalists get to take pictures of the president. News organizations have formally protested and NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik joins us now to explain

Hey there, David.

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Politics
3:35 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Boehner Pushes Back Against Conservative Groups' Budget Opposition

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 4:44 pm

The House voted late Thursday to pass the House-Senate budget compromise. Speaker John Boehner urged passage of the "fine work" by budget chairman Paul Ryan, and was critical of conservative groups, who he said opposed the deal "before they've even seen it." The uncharacteristic criticism prompted reporters to ask if this is a turning point.

Middle East
3:35 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Radical Islamists In Northern Syria Spill Over Turkish Border

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 4:44 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

As we just heard, Turkish officials say they're clamping down on the radical Islamists who move through Turkey to join the rebellion in Syria. But in some frontier towns of southern Turkey, there's little sign of a crackdown.

NPR's Deborah Amos has that story.

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Middle East
3:35 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Turkey Struggles To Set Foreign Policy In Changing Neighborhood

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 4:44 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

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Asia
3:35 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Indian Supreme Court Reinstates 150-Year-Old Gay Sex Ban

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 4:44 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Protests have erupted in New Delhi after India's supreme court reinstated a law that criminalizes homosexual acts. The decision brings back a colonial era law introduced under the British. A lower court had previously ruled that statute unconstitutional. But yesterday, the supreme court declared that only parliament can change the law.

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Law
3:35 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Family Of Ga. Teen Found Dead In A Gym Mat Pushes For Answers

Demonstrators attend a rally on Wednesday in Atlanta for Kendrick Johnson, the Georgia teenager found dead inside a rolled-up wrestling mat in his school.
David Goldman AP

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 5:16 pm

Activists from across the country are asking Georgia's governor to support an investigation into the death of Kendrick Johnson, a 17-year-old discovered dead in a high school gymnasium almost a year ago. His body was found in a rolled-up gym mat.

State investigators ruled out foul play, but Johnson's parents don't believe it.

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Environment
3:35 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Long Island Wins Ultimate Faceoff Against Hurricane Sandy

Sediment samples from the seafloor near Long Island.
UT Austin Institute for Geophysics

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 6:50 pm

Hurricane Sandy last year did more harm to coastal cities and homes than any hurricane in U.S. history, except Katrina. Most of that damage has been repaired. But there's other damage that people can't see to the underwater coastline, known as the shore face.

Apparently, Long Island's shore face did remarkably well against the storm of the 21st century.

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Around the Nation
3:35 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

'Mother Jones' Tracked Child Gun Victims Since Newtown Shootings

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 4:44 pm

An investigative report by Mother Jones magazine looks at the number of children who have been shot and killed with guns in the year since the Newtown tragedy. Melissa Block speaks with Mark Follman, senior editor at Mother Jones, for more.

Around the Nation
3:35 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

National Cathedral Holds Vigil For America's Gun Victims

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 4:44 pm

One year ago this Saturday, a gunman killed 26 people at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. At the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, people gathered Thursday to remember those who have been killed by gun violence since that attack. A bell tolled for three minutes in memory of roughly 30,000 people who have lost their lives over the past year. We hear some of the service.

All Songs Considered
3:20 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Poll Results: Listeners Pick Their Favorite Albums of 2013

Vampire Weekend's Modern Vampires of the City was the most popular record in our listener poll for the best music of 2013.
Courtesy of the artist

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Shots - Health News
3:12 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Why Meningitis That Hit Princeton Is Hard To Beat With Vaccines

Developing a vaccine for meningitis B was tricky. Even the existing vaccine doesn't protect against all B strains.
Josef Muellek iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 3:46 pm

There's been a lot of talk about meningitis B lately. That's the type responsible for outbreaks at Princeton and the University of California in Santa Barbara.

And it got us thinking. How come this form of the illness isn't fazed by the vaccines given routinely to most young people in the U.S.?

This week, Princeton is administering an imported vaccine not approved for general use in this country, with special permission from the Food and Drug Administration.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Bilbo's Back, With More Baggage Than Ever

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is back for the second installment of the Hobbit trilogy, this time actually spending some time with Smaug the dragon (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch).
Warner Bros.

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 4:49 pm

Peter Jackson's decision to turn the single volume of The Hobbit into a three-film epic — with a total running time nearly as long as his adaptation of the Lord of the Rings trilogy — was met with considerable skepticism. Did Tolkien's relatively slight book really have enough story to justify stretching it out that much?

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Making 'Mary Poppins,' With More Than A Spoonful Of Sugar

Saving Mr. Banks chronicles Walt Disney's (Tom Hanks) long campaign to persuade Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to allow his movie-musical adaptation of her books.
Francois Duhamel Walt Disney Pictures

Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 1:42 pm

"We tell ourselves stories in order to live."

That endlessly quoted line from Joan Didion's The White Album echoes with more than the usual resonance for the two adversaries duking it out for control over the movie adaptation of Mary Poppins in Saving Mr. Banks.

For 20 years Walt Disney, reportedly on his young daughters' say-so, had tried to wrestle a green light from P. L. Travers, who wrote the original novels about the discipline-minded governess who flew in through a London window to save a troubled family from itself.

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The Two-Way
2:08 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

So Much For The 'Mozart Effect'

Researchers could not find a link between exposure to music and improved IQs in preschoolers.
Dmitry Naumov iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 5:02 pm

Music makes the heart grow fonder, but scientists are not so sure that it boosts IQ.

The Boston Globe notes:

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JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater
1:49 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Dee Alexander And The Evolution Arkestra On JazzSet

Marc PoKempner Courtesy of the artist

The Jazz Institute of Chicago and the city's Park District teamed up in December 2012 to present this free family concert with Dee Alexander. As we air it on JazzSet a year later, Alexander is just back from performing the show in Poland where, she writes, "everyone was on their feet."

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All Tech Considered
1:41 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Take A Look At The Top Tweeted Moments Of The Year

Leon Neal AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 3:02 pm

We're preparing to bid adieu to 2013, which means it's time for the ever-reliable year-end lists. NPR's Book Concierge lets you explore the best books of the year. NPR Music chronicled the best albums. And Twitter is out with the biggest tweets and most-tweeted moments of 2013.

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