A Hallmark Christmas ornament has drawn criticism from people who accuse the greeting card company of political correctness and anti-gay bias. The ornament — a tiny sweater — is decorated with the words "Don we now our FUN apparel!" "Fun" replaces the word "gay" from the line in the Christmas song "Deck the Halls." Hallmark says it was trying to avoid misinterpretation and should never have made the change.
We've gotten used to seeing rallies in Iran where protestors chant death to America. But even before the new president's charm offensive, that slogan had waned, so much so that some hard-liners are planning a Grand Day of Death to America: Monday, the anniversary of the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in 1979. And Revolutionary Guards promise the slogan will once again echo across the nation.
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Steve Inskeep talks to freelance writer Johnnie Roberts and NPR's Gene Demby about the branding of high-end products — and the implications when companies specifically court, or exclude, consumers based on race.
Senate Republicans have once again blocked President Obama's nominees. Despite a deal in July to let several of the president's picks go through, the rancor has returned with a fresh batch of appointments. Two nominations failed within less than an hour on Thursday, and Democrats may once again threaten to change Senate rules so Republicans can't easily derail another nomination.
On a Friday, it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
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The 47 million Americans who rely on food stamps will have to make do with less starting today. The officially-name Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is losing $5 billion of funding. That's because a temporary increase in benefits that was part of the economic stimulus in 2009 is expiring - which means a family of four could lose up to $36 a month in benefits.
This is the second report in a four-part series on adult education.
Ana Perez never made it to high school. Her education ended after the sixth grade, when war broke out in her native El Salvador. She says she's "desperate" to learn English, but she gets nervous trying to speak it.
Immigrants like Perez see English as the key to a better life. Many hope learning the language will help lift them out of poverty and integrate them into American society. But gaining English proficiency is a difficult task amid everyday obligations.
Since childhood, Rami Aizic knew he "needed and wanted to be a dad." He assumed he would one day meet the girl of his dreams and it would all just happen.
Then he realized he was gay.
Robin Share also wanted kids, but had no partner. So when a mutual friend told Rami about Robin, he called her up and left a message: "Hi, Robin. I'm a friend of Scott's and he said you might be interested in having a baby with me. So give me a call back."
In a barn outside Manhattan, Kan., researchers from Kansas State University are trying to solve the riddle of bovine respiratory disease. They're sticking plastic rods down the noses of 6-month old calves, collecting samples of bacteria.
Starbucks, which revolutionized the coffee industry, is now taking on tea. It has opened its first tea bar, and it's creating mixed tea beverages, some even more complex and customized than the coffee beverages we all know.
This first store, on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, has minimalist decor: gray soft seats, charcoals, chestnut browns. Teavana teas line one wall. Beakers filled with colored liquids greet you at the entrance.
As if the rollout of the federal health law didn't have enough problems, abortion is back in the spotlight.
How the various health plans in the exchanges would or would not pay for abortion was one of the very last issues settled before the bill was passed in 2010. Now abortion's invisibility on the federal HealthCare.gov website has some people pretty upset.
Originally published on Sun November 3, 2013 6:57 am
Unnamed U.S. officials have told CNN and The Associated Press that Israeli warplanes destroyed a shipment of Russian missiles at a Syrian airbase. But officials in Tel Aviv won't comment on the reported attack near the port of Latakia overnight on Wednesday.
"We're not commenting on these reports," a spokesman for the Israeli Defense Ministry told Reuters.
Reuters also reported an explosion in the area and said one Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he thought that Israel had carried out a strike, but stressed that he was not entirely certain.
Originally published on Thu October 31, 2013 5:37 pm
A federal appeals court judge has put a temporary hold on changes to the New York Police Department's controversial "stop-and-frisk" policy ordered by a lower court and suspended the judge who made the earlier ruling.
Getting young, healthy people to sign up for health insurance is seen as critical to the success of the Affordable Care Act. It's precisely those people who will help offset the cost of the older, sicker ones.
But while cheap health insurance and subsidies based on income are intended to make the program appealing to the young, what if they haven't even heard of the health care law? Or don't want to buy even an inexpensive policy?
When you hear the phrase, "writing guide," unpleasant things may spring to mind: sentence diagrams or even — shudder to think — your high school textbook.
Now, imagine the exact opposite, and you might get Jeff VanderMeer's Wonderbook. It's a writing guide, sure, but it's unlikely you've seen one like this before. Misbegotten fish serve as models for revision. Dragons butt in from the margins to contradict lessons. There's even a talking penguin — but don't get him started on what he thinks of the duck.
Originally published on Fri November 1, 2013 11:44 am
When many Americans hear the word "globalization," they think: "jobs going overseas."
And sometimes it does mean just that.
But as globalization knits nations closer together, foreign companies increasingly are creating jobs in the United States, not luring them away. Despite the Great Recession, slow recovery and political dysfunction in Washington, the United States remains a top destination for the world's wealth.
Much of the world is turning hotter and dryer these days, and it's opening new doors for a water-saving cereal that's been called "the camel of crops": sorghum. In an odd twist, this old-fashioned crop even seems to be catching on among consumers who are looking for "ancient grains" that have been relatively untouched by modern agriculture.
Sorghum isn't nearly as famous as the big three of global agriculture: corn, rice and wheat. But maybe it should be. It's a plant for tough times, and tough places.
Originally published on Fri November 1, 2013 2:33 pm
"When the war is over, we can debate the morality of what we do."
This sentiment, expressed by Harrison Ford's gruff Col. Hyrum Graff, pretty accurately sums up what director and screenwriter Gavin Hood is trying to do in his adaptation of the widely read 1985 sci-fi novel Ender's Game.
Keanu Reeves' directorial debut, Man of Tai Chi, is basically the anti-Kill Bill. Both movies are quilted together from their auteurs' favorite Asian action flicks, but where Tarantino's was overheated, Reeves' is elegantly iced. It's martial-arts mayhem with a touch of zen.
The gang rape of a 16-year-old Kenyan schoolgirl — and the lack of punishment given to the alleged rapists — has sparked outrage in the country and beyond.
The attack was so violent it left the girl in a wheelchair with a severe back injury. She identified some of her attackers, who police apprehended — only to let go after they were ordered to cut the lawn at the police station.
The Exorcist was the story of one girl's demonic possession and the priest who saved her. It was engaging, terrifying and masterful — and it gave new meaning to the phrase "a real head-turner."
William Peter Blatty wrote the screenplay, adapting his own best-selling book. The film starred Ellen Burstyn and a very young Linda Blair — barely 12 years old when shooting began. William Friedkin, who had recently won an Academy Award for The French Connection, was the director.
Former Newark Mayor Cory Booker was sworn in Thursday, making him only the fourth African-American elected by popular vote to the United States Senate, and only the second in the chamber currently. This is in contrast to the 41 blacks who represent House districts.
Housing has been one of the bright spots in the economy this year. This week, a report showed that home prices in the top 20 cities continued their robust upward march in August. There are also far fewer foreclosure sales and other signs of distress in the market.
But the Federal Reserve expressed concern Wednesday about the slowing housing market. Pending home sales fell far more than expected. And housing experts are bracing for some volatility.