Originally published on Mon January 7, 2013 4:57 pm
For the third straight year, spending on health care in 2011 grew at a historically slow rate, government researchers report.
According to a study published in the January issue of the policy journal Health Affairs, U.S. health spending rose 3.9 percent in 2011. That's statistically almost identical to the rate of increase in each of the two previous years.
This month marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the famed and widely cited case that legalized abortion. Yet across the country, states are continuing to approve restrictions.
With little fanfare, Virginia and Michigan Republican governors recently signed new abortion bills into law. Virginia's Bob McDonnell, in particular, quietly approved clinic regulations adopted by the state's Board of Health three months ago that hold abortion clinics to the same building standards as hospitals.
What's the coolest new gadget at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week? It's too soon to tell. But I have an early favorite for the title of oddest new gadget: the HAPIfork and HAPIspoon. They may sound like characters from a nursery rhyme, but this fork and spoon connect to the Internet and can monitor and record how you eat.
The HAPI utensils measure how long your meals last, how long you pause between each bite and how many mouthfuls of food you consume.
Google's Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt (left) arrives at Pyongyang International Airport on Monday. There is speculation that Schmidt's presence in North Korea could have an upside for Google by positioning Schmidt as the company's global ambassador.
Originally published on Mon January 7, 2013 4:39 pm
Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, has landed in North Korea. His trip there is a bit of a mystery.
Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, has been a vocal proponent of providing people around the world with Internet access and technology. North Korea doesn't even let its citizens access the open Internet, and its population is overwhelmingly poor — so it's not exactly a coveted audience for advertisers.
Originally published on Sun January 13, 2013 7:02 am
So why did President Obama choose Chuck Hagel to be his new defense secretary?
First, Hagel is Obama's kind of Republican. The former senator from Nebraska is a realist and pragmatist who hasn't been afraid to buck the orthodoxy of his chosen party, for instance when Hagel opposed the Iraq War.
In Spanish, most nouns default to masculine or feminine, as do the adjectives that describe them. So if you're referring to a group of people that includes a man, the word you'd use for that group would be masculine — even if that group is mostly made up of women.
John Brennan speaks in the East Room of the White House on Monday, after President Obama announced his nomination of Brennan to run the CIA. Obama also announced his choice of former Sen. Chuck Hagel (left) to head the Department of Defense.
President Obama's choice of John Brennan to lead the CIA appears to be less controversial than his decision to nominate former Sen. Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense.
The top Republican on the House intelligence committee, Rep. Mike Rogers, said in a statement Monday that he looks forward to working with Brennan at the CIA. Still, the Brennan nomination will raise questions about Obama's national security policy.
Originally published on Mon January 7, 2013 3:52 pm
It's become an annual tradition: bidding up an outrageous price for a Pacific bluefin tuna during the first auction of the new year at Toyko's Tsukiji fish market.
And on Saturday, a bluefin tuna big enough to serve up about 10,000 pieces of sushi fetched a mind-boggling price: $1.76 million. That's about three times as much as last year's tuna and equates to about $3,600 per pound for the 489-pound fish.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai will meet with President Obama and other senior U.S. officials in Washington this week. Many analysts remain skeptical about the prospects for a negotiated peace in Afghanistan. He's shown here speaking in Kabul last month.
As Afghan President Hamid Karzai comes to Washington to meet with President Obama and other U.S. officials this week, there is renewed discussion in Afghanistan about the possibility of a negotiated end to the country's war.
Recent talks hosted by France have rekindled hopes for some sort of reconciliation between the Taliban and Karzai's government. But given the decades of war in Afghanistan, many think the prospect of a peace deal remains nothing but talk.
NASA is facing a conundrum of large proportions; shuttle-sized, in fact. Now that the shuttle program has ended, NASA is no longer using shuttle facilities and equipment. That includes everything from a launch pad to space in the building where rockets were assembled. So NASA is conducting a secret auction. Orlando Sentinel staff writer Scott Powers explains what NASA is selling, why, and who the buyers might be.
President Obama rounded out his second term national security team on Monday. He nominated former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense and chose counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan to lead the CIA. Already, Hagel has encountered opposition from some in the GOP who question his commitment to Israel, and Brennan is sure to face questions about his tenure at the CIA under President George W. Bush.
Bank of America and Fannie Mae have agreed to settle legal issues stemming from the subprime mortgage crisis. The bank will pay Fannie Mae $3.6 billion in cash and will also spend $6.7 billion to repurchase certain mortgages sold to Fannie Mae.
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And I'm Melissa Block.
Today, President Obama announced his nominees for two key national security posts. For CIA director, he picked John Brennan, now his top counterterrorism adviser. And for defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, a former senator from Nebraska, a Republican and a Vietnam War veteran.
The news that disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong might be willing to confess to the doping charges he spent years denying has reopened interest in his case — and in the question of whether his lifetime ban from competitive sports could be eased in exchange for Armstrong's cooperation.
Ren Jianyu poses for a photograph at a restaurant in Chongqing, China, on Nov. 19, 2012, after being freed from a labor camp. The village official was sentenced to a "re-education through labor" camp after he criticized the government.
China has indicated that it will stop handing down sentences to its controversial labor camps, which allow detention without trial for up to four years. According to Chinese media, some 160,000 prisoners were held in "re-education centers" at the end of 2008.
Critics of the system greeted the announcement — which was slim on details — with cautious optimism.
Pressure to change the system has been mounting after a number of high-profile cases, including that of Ren Jianyu, who had been a young village official.
Originally published on Mon January 7, 2013 1:45 pm
Saying they're following the example of last year's Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, a coalition of "gun rights" activists announced today that they're calling on like-minded Americans to visit gun stores, gun ranges and gun shows on Jan. 19 in a show of unity they're calling "Gun Appreciation Day."
Back in 2009, as Morning Edition reported, some scientists were worried that the small metal cylinder used as the world's standard for what a kilogram should be might be losing weight.
But there were also those who thought the problem might have nothing to do with that carefully sealed away cylinder in Paris — that the real problem might be that the 40 replicas sent around the world are gaining weight.
Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (left) has returned to Italy's political scene in advance of next month's election. Also in the race is the current Prime Minister Mario Monti (right). They are shown here in November 2011 as Monti took over for Berlusconi.
With elections in Italy just weeks away, polls show leftist parties with a comfortable lead. Yet attention is focused on the battle between the former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, and the current prime minister, Mario Monti, an austere technocrat.
Monti's platform calls for continued austerity, budget cutting and labor reforms.
While Berlusconi and Monti are the two big names in next month's race, the expected winner is the leader of the leftist Democratic Party, Pier Luigi Bersani.
Moments after a deadly attack that turned an Aurora, Colo., movie theater into a scene of panic and tragedy, the police officer who found suspect James Holmes at first took him for a fellow police officer, due to the body armor Holmes was wearing.
But he noticed that Holmes was "just standing there" and had no sense of urgency — despite the pandemonium at the theater, as people continued to stream out.
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Ari Shapiro in Washington. Neal Conan is away. Well, Congress averted the milk cliff. A five-year farm bill was set to expire, and it could have doubled the price of milk if that had happened. But instead of passing a new five-year plan, Congress extended parts of the old farm bill. That renews subsidies for grain, cotton and soybeans; it cuts budgets for some organic and environmental initiatives.
Sunday Bloody Sunday is one of those films that lets you into the lives of believable, complicated characters. A handsome, self-centered young artist played by the actor/rock singer Murray Head is having simultaneous affairs with both an older woman (played with infinitely nuanced self-irony by Glenda Jackson) and an older man, a Jewish doctor (the touching Peter Finch), two intelligent adults who have mutual friends and even know each other slightly.
Julian Fellowes may be the Baron Fellowes of West Stafford, but the English screenwriter, director and novelist says his background "was much more ordinary than the newspapers have made it." What he means is that he did not grow up with servants waiting on him hand and foot, as people have seen done for the Crawley family on Downton Abbey, the hit television series Fellowes created. The third season premiered Sunday.
Originally published on Mon January 7, 2013 11:36 am
President Obama is moving to fill two key posts on his national security team with the nomination of former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican, to be secretary of defense and current White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
We're updating this post as he speaks, so be sure to hit your "refresh" button. We've also added an audio player so you can, if you wish, hear NPR's coverage and the president's remarks.
Update at 1:35 p.m. ET. Hagel Pledges To "Always Do My Best":
Originally published on Mon January 14, 2013 3:59 pm
We don't hear much about bank liquidity, partly because it sounds so dull. It's much more fun to talk about prop trading (fear the London Whale!) or structured finance (synthetic CDOs are crazy!).
But if you're trying to figure out how safe banks are — and how willing they'll be to make loans to ordinary people — liquidity is at least as important as other, more-dramatic-sounding corners of finance.
So the new liquidity rules global banking regulators released yesterday are a big deal for the real economy.
Originally published on Mon January 7, 2013 11:06 am
The Kulluk, the Shell oil-drilling rig that washed aground last weekend, is afloat and being towed to shelter on Kodiak Island in the Gulf of Alaska. The craft began its 30-mile trip late Sunday night. Examinations of the vessel have not found any signs of a leak.