It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And I'm Renee Montagne. The U.S. Senate has opened debate on a sweeping immigration bill. And President Obama says it's the best chance in years to fix what he calls a broken immigration system. The measure took a step forward yesterday when a big, bipartisan majority of senators voted to take up the bill. But it still faces serious obstacles, as NPR's Scott Horsley reports.
When a former IT contractor at the National Security Agency gave The Guardian U.S. government surveillance information, he told the paper that his only motivation was to spark a public debate about government surveillance.
"This is something that's not our place to decide," Edward Snowden said. "The public needs to decide whether these programs and policies are right or wrong."
British telecom giant Vodafone has announced it's making a bid to buy Kabel Deutschland - Germany's biggest cable company. The reported offer of over 13 billion dollars marks a major change in strategy for Vodafone. Up until now, it has focused almost entirely on the mobile phone market. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
And today's last word in business is: Big brother and bigger book sales.
The NSA's surveillance scandal has caused a jump in sales of George Orwell's classic dystopian novel "1984." Sales on Amazon.com have risen nearly 6,000 percent since news of the NSA's secret surveillance program broke, which is double plus good for a book first published 64 years ago last week.
And that's the business news on MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
If you've experienced sticker shock shopping for ground beef or steak recently, be prepared for an entire summer of high beef prices.
Multi-year droughts in states that produce most of the country's beef cattle have driven up costs to historic highs. Last year, ranchers culled deep into their herds β some even liquidated all their cattle β which pushed the U.S. cattle herd to its lowest point since the 1950s.
The day we arrived in Iran's capital, Tehran, billboards along the drive from the airport to the city center were already telling us something about what's happening in the country as it prepared for Friday's presidential elections.
We see typical highway signs for Sony Ericsson, but also billboards featuring the face of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic. We also see and drive under giant signs that are from Iran's current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, urging people to vote.
Tyler Saladino is one of thousands of minor league baseball players hoping to make it to the major leagues. He plays in Alabama for the Birmingham Barons, the AA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. Last year, NPR profiled Saladino. But since then, maybe things have changed for the 23-year-old infielder.
Latin America is riddled with crime, and no place is more violent than Honduras. It has just 8 million people, but with as many as 20 people killed there every day, it now has the highest murder rate in the world.
It would be easy to blame drug trafficking. Honduras and its Central American neighbors have long served as a favored smuggling corridor for South American cocaine headed north to the U.S.
In the late 1950s, after the Soviet Union successfully put their satellite, Sputnik 1, into orbit, American fears over the Communist threat reached a new height. The U.S. was trailing badly in a competition that would come to define the next decade β the race to space.
So on April 9, 1959, the U.S. kicked off its own space age by introducing the country to its first astronauts, known as the Mercury Seven. Their story is well known, but the story of their wives is often overlooked.
When Patrick and Sharon O'Toole began their ranching business on the Wyoming-Colorado border, they tended the sheep themselves. But eventually, the O'Tooles wanted to settle down and have kids, so they hired foreign ranch hands with H-2A, or guest worker, visas to work on the ranch for $750 a month.
Peruvian shepherds on guest worker visas tend thousands of sheep in Wyoming, but they only make about half of what agricultural workers elsewhere are paid.
Basketball offers its fans the ultimate contradiction. On the one hand, it's the sport that most depends on its stars. On the other, it's the most intimate β even organic β of all the team games, with its players more fundamentally involved with one another. Both of these opposing realities are rooted in the same base.
Viewed out of context, recent Washington revelations paint a disturbing portrait of the vast amount of electronic data the nation's spy agencies are collecting. But the blockbuster news stories belie a simple truth: Personal privacy rights have been under sustained assault since well before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. And it's not just government that's vacuuming up information.
Media mogul Oprah Winfrey is giving a multimillion-dollar boost to the Smithsonian's new facility, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). She gave the museum, which is being built in Washington, D.C., $12 million Tuesday, in addition to a previous $1 million donation.
"I am so proud of African-American history and its contributions to our nation as a whole," says Winfrey, chairman and CEO of the Oprah Winfrey Network. "I am deeply appreciative of those who paved the path for me and all who follow in their footsteps."
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish.
The most ambitious and potentially historic bill that Congress may see this term is now being debated in the full Senate. It's the bill to revamp immigration laws and it's a high priority of President Obama's. He's repeatedly pushed back at Republicans who insist on more border security. And today, the president took the time to speak about it again, in advance of the Senate debate.
Melissa Block talks to Washington attorney David Laufman, who prosecuted national security cases during the George W. Bush administration. He talks about the complications of prosecuting a case that involves extradition requests and classified materials.
"We're going to use this fund to find the most promising nonprofits in America," he said when announcing the plan. "We'll examine their data and rigorously evaluate their outcomes. We'll invest in those with the best results that are the most likely to provide a good return on our taxpayer dollars."
If you're a member of Congress and you didn't know about the National Security Agency's phone records program before it was disclosed last week, President Obama has this to say to you: Where have you been?
"When it comes to telephone calls, every member of Congress has been briefed on this program," Obama said to reporters last Friday.
Walk into any bookstore or library, and you'll find shelves and shelves of hugely popular novels and book series for kids. But research shows that as young readers get older, they are not moving to more complex books. High-schoolers are reading books written for younger kids, and teachers aren't assigning difficult classics as much as they once did.
The runways at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., are busy. This is where the Army tests its military drones, where it trains its drone pilots, and where four Customs and Border Protection drones take off and land.
From here, the CBP drones survey the Arizona-Mexico border β mainly looking for immigrants and drug smugglers.
Reaction was swift to the Obama administration's announcement Monday night that it was dropping a long-running legal battle to keep age restrictions on one type of the morning-after birth control pill.
But like just about everything else in this decade-long controversy, the latest decision has pleased just about no one.
As Russia prepares to host the world for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, it faces a number of challenges: The weather is mild for winter sports; residents are complaining about being displaced; and the project is costing a huge amount of money.
Yet the Black Sea resort town, a favorite of President Vladimir Putin, is bustling with construction cranes. Workers are racing to complete high-rise hotels and state-of-the-art venues for figure skating, speedskating and hockey.
Nelson Mandela has been hospitalized since Saturday with a recurring lung infection. The government says his condition is unchanged β serious, but stable. But his poor health and advanced age β 94 β suggest the former president's days are numbered. Retired archbishop Desmond Tutu described the anti-apartheid campaigner as an "extraordinary gift".
The Bracken Bat Cave, just north of San Antonio, is as rural as it gets. You have to drive down a long, 2-mile rocky road to reach it. There's nothing nearby β no lights, no running water. The only thing you hear are the katydids.
The cave houses a massive bat colony, as it has for an estimated 10,000 years. Bat Conservation International, the group that oversees the Bracken Cave Reserve, wants it to stay secluded, but the area's rural nature could change if a local developer's plan moves forward.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And I'm Melissa Block.
An update now on the congressional investigation into the IRS' flagging of conservative groups for extra scrutiny. For the first time since the scandal broke, there are no public hearings scheduled this week. The action is all behind closed doors as NPR's Tamara Keith tells us from Capitol Hill.
In North Carolina, NAACP leaders are planning a seventh week of protests at the state legislature. The demonstrations have grown in size and number of arrests every week since they started back in April. Protest organizers oppose the social, economic and voting policies of the Republican-led General Assembly, and they want lawmakers to take notice. But it's not clear whether legislators will change their policies as a result of the protests.