Early on in Confronting the Classics, Mary Beard tells the story of the Roman Emperor Elagabalus, who "used to seat his dinner guests on cushions that, unbeknownst to them, were full of air. As the meal progressed, a slave secretly let the air out, so Elagabalus could enjoy the sight of his companions subsiding, until they slid beneath the table."
On 'Morning Edition': Free Syrian Army Gen. Salim Idris
As Secretary of State John Kerry was preparing to sit down with his Russian counterpart Thursday to discuss whether the Assad regime's chemical weapons can be handed over to international monitors, the commander of the rebel Free Syrian Army was telling NPR that "the Russian initiative is just a lie."
The world's largest paper producer says it's closing a mill in Alabama that employs 1,100 people. International Paper Company blames the closure in the town of Courtland on a decline in the demand for paper. Stan Ingold of Alabama Public Radio reports.
STAN INGOLD, BYLINE: The small town of Courtland, Alabama is reeling after the announcement by Memphis-based International Paper to close their mill. Diane Scanland is the executive director of the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce.
Mexico's president has unveiled a major shakeup of the country's tax system. His administration says it's aimed at capturing more of Mexico's paltry tax collection. Critics say it's unfairly targeting the middle class. Among the items slated for taxing: dog food and private school tuition.
It's been more than two years since Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill stripping collective bargaining rights from most public employees. The new law sparked massive protests at the Wisconsin State Capitol because many saw it as an attack on unions.
While most demonstrators eventually went away, a small group did not. They arrive at the building most weekdays to sing anti-Walker and pro-union songs.
On a recent day, more than 100 people were gathered in a circle on the Capitol lawn, tapping cowbells and singing a localized version of "This Land Is Your Land."
There is, of course, a lot of attention being paid about what's happening in Richmond because millions of other American homeowners around the country are also underwater - again, homes that are worth less than their mortgages. We're joined now by NPR correspondent Chris Arnold, who's been following all of this. Good morning.
CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.
MONTAGNE: How many homeowners are still underwater? I gather with the housing market coming back, this is changing - for the better.
Originally published on Thu September 12, 2013 4:09 am
A federal judge in San Francisco on Thursday hears arguments over a radical plan to stem the foreclosure crisis. The City of Richmond is proposing to buy underwater mortgages in order to help keep local residents in their homes. If banks don't want to sell those mortgages, the city says it is prepared to invoke eminent domain to seize the mortgages.
Victor Willis has finally won a share of the income from his most famous song. The New York Times reports Willis, you know him as the police officer, has emerged from six years of legal wrestling with a new copyright in hand. The victory gives him substantial control over "YMCA" and 32 other Village People tunes.
British officials unveiled plans Thursday morning to sell the majority of its centuries old postal service. It's the largest privatization of a government service the country has seen in decades. The public offering of the world's oldest postal service would take place in the coming weeks.
Now, those who favor U.S. military intervention in Syria include backers of Israel. One of them is Republican campaign contributor Sheldon Adelson. Another is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC.
NPR's David Welna reports on their lobbying efforts.
Originally published on Thu September 12, 2013 4:04 am
Russian President Vladimir Putin has written an op-ed piece for Thursday's New York Times. He's calling on the U.S. to forgo military strikes on Syria. For Russia's view of the Syrian conflict, Renee Montagne talks to Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center.
Originally published on Thu September 12, 2013 4:26 am
During the run-up to possible military action in Syria, the name of an unknown researcher was catapulted into the spotlight. Elizabeth O'Bagy was on NPR, Fox and quoted by Senator John McCain during a hearing. It turns out, O'Bagy is not exactly who she said she was, and her story reveals a lot about how Washington works during times of high drama.
Originally published on Thu September 12, 2013 4:21 am
Steve Inskeep talks to General Salim Idriss, commander of the Free Syrian Army. They discuss Syrian opposition reaction to President Obama's address to the nation this week, the Russian diplomatic initiative and what assistance the general is hoping to receive from the United States.
In the past couple of weeks, several major companies â€” Samsung, Sony, Qualcomm â€” have announced they will release smart watches this fall. As the name suggests, the gadgets do more than keep time.
The latest spate of computerized watches promise to do everything from working as a phone to taking photos and fielding emails. Smart watches have actually been around for a long time, but they've never really taken off as a product.
It's been five years since Lehman Brothers collapsed and touched off a banking crisis that is still being felt by the global economy. Today, the banking industry is a lot stronger than it was, but some critics say efforts to reform banking regulations have fallen short of their potential.
Perhaps one of the most uncomfortable things a doctor has to tell patients is that their medical problems are iatrogenic. What that means is they were caused by a doctor in the course of the treatment.
Sometime these iatrogenic injuries are accidental. But sometimes, because of the limits of medical technology, they can be inevitable. Now, a medical researcher in Seattle thinks he has a way to eliminate some of the inevitable ones.
Economist Tyler Cowen has some advice for what to do about America's income inequality: Get used to it. In his latest book, Average Is Over, Cowen lays out his prediction for where the U.S. economy is heading, like it or not:
"I think we'll see a thinning out of the middle class," he tells NPR's Steve Inskeep. "We'll see a lot of individuals rising up to much greater wealth. And we'll also see more individuals clustering in a kind of lower-middle class existence."
Native American tribes gave up millions of acres to the federal government in the 19th century in exchange for promises of funded health care, education and housing. But time and again, those funds have been cut.
The recent across-the-board federal budget cuts, known as sequestration, are no exception. They came with a 5 percent reduction in funding for mental health services, including suicide prevention. That's especially troubling for Native Americans, whose suicide rate are four times the national average.
Celebrity editor Tina Brown announced Wednesday that she's leaving The Daily Beast to launch her own media company. She has been a regular guest on Morning Edition. Brown, 59, plans to produce live forums on news topics.
Brown has edited some of the most prestigious publications: Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and Tattler. Five years ago, she helped found The Daily Beast â€” a news and opinion website. Now, the editor-in-chief says she's leaving to do what she calls "theatrical journalism" before live audiences.
Now that Congress' extraordinary Syria debate is on hold, at least for now, the next upcoming drama is really a return to much more familiar territory: how will congressional leaders get enough votes to pass legislation to keep the government from going off yet another metaphorical cliff.
Until Wednesday, it looked like Congress was moving toward a vote this week to fund the government past September, when the fiscal year ends, and into December â€” thus avoiding a shutdown. But that vote was postponed until next week at the earliest.
With the pause button pushed on the congressional debate over Syria, the House is turning its attention back to the issue that is expected to dominate the fall: the budget.
The long-running fight over spending and the debt is back. The House was supposed to act this week to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the month, and leaders had hoped to avoid drama. But the vote has been delayed, and drama is brewing.
Originally published on Wed September 11, 2013 4:46 pm
North Korea appears to be in the process of restarting a nuclear reactor used to produce weapons-grade plutonium, five years after shutting the facility down as part of international disarmament efforts.
New satellite imagery appears to reveal that the 5-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon, which experts believe can produce enough plutonium for one to two bombs a year, shows signs of being operational.
You can literally see rockets when you drive into Huntsville, Ala., also known as the "Rocket City." NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center is here, along with scores of aerospace and defense contractors. The city also has one of the largest fully digital school districts: 24,000 Huntsville City Schools students use laptops or tablets instead of textbooks.
All of this partly explains the new cybersecurity class at Grissom High School. Huntsville City Schools and U.S. Army Cyber Command are developing the curriculum, which will eventually begin in middle school.