House Speaker John Boehner was dealt a major defeat Thursday night. After spending most of the week trying to round up votes for his "Plan B" to extend tax cuts for virtually everyone, he pulled the measure without a vote and sent the House home for Christmas. The clock keeps ticking toward the end of the year, when automatic tax increases and spending cuts are set to hit.
Early Thursday, Boehner expressed confidence not only that his bill would pass but that the Democratic-controlled Senate would feel so much pressure, it would be forced to consider it, too.
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And I'm David Greene. Good morning. Action last night in the House of Representatives suggests just how hard it could be to pass a solution to the tax increases and spending cuts due at the end of the year.
INSKEEP: House Speaker John Boehner has yet to reach a deal with President Obama, so he sought to put his own plan before the House last night.
And now you can consider this. It's our last word in business today: A Bluetooth bathroom. The Japanese are known for being on the cutting edge of tech, and now that extends to the edge of the toilet seats.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
A Japanese company recently announced a smartphone-controlled toilet. Yup. Using a smartphone app, you can flush - that means not having to touch the handle at all.
Our regular listeners know by now we've been spending part of this holiday season exploring the tax code. So much of that code is up for debate as fiscal negotiations stagger forward, so we're learning what the rules are in our 12 Days of Tax Deductions.
Here's the top headline in last Friday's edition of the Newtown Bee: "Vandalism Leaves Old Headstones Cracked and Damaged." Just hours after that edition of the weekly paper was delivered, Newtown became a headline all over the world. Neena Satija, of member station WNPR, has the story of a small town paper covering - and caring - for its own.
This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.
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If you ever wished the Christmas season could go on for an extra week or two, here's a suggestion: visit Russia, where the Christmas tradition is a little different than in the United States and is celebrated on a different calendar. Of course, a quick flight to Moscow is not convenient for everybody, so NPR's Corey Flintoff did it for us.
The Long Island Power Authority is finally answering questions about its performance after Hurricane Sandy. LIPA, as it's known, is supposed to provide power to New York City's eastern suburbs, but needed weeks to restore power after the storm. Elected officials blasted the utility and executives have now answered questions from state investigators. Charles Lane of member station WSHU reports on what investigators think of the answers.
Some insurance companies are taking a page out of their own history books: running their own doctors' offices and clinics. Though the strategy previously had mixed results, insurers think that by providing primary care for patients, they might reduce costly diseases and hospital stays in the long run.
Dr. Michael Byrne spent eight years working for a Brooklyn hospital and he saw firsthand why the United States spends more on healthcare than any other country in the world.
If you're a student at the halfway point of the academic year, and you've just taken stock of your performance, perhaps you have reason to feel proud of yourself.
But a recent study suggests some of the pride you feel at having done well — especially in science — may be unfounded. Or at least your sense of your performance may not be a very accurate picture of how good you actually are.
The Christmas season is when retailers make the bulk of their profits, Hollywood blockbusters rake it in, and Broadway theaters are filled to capacity. In recent seasons, Broadway has even staged special limited-run holiday musicals — among them, adaptations of A Christmas Story and Elf — to take advantage of the hordes of tourists in New York looking for entertainment. But with production costs so high, how can these shows make their money back? The answer, it turns out, is complicated.
It's high season for pie-making. And when we came upon this touching story about a bunch of women gathering to bake fresh apple pies for the people of Newtown, Conn., it warmed our hearts here at The Salt. Truly.
The airline industry predicts some 42 million of us will be flying this holiday season, and that this weekend before Christmas will be one of the busiest periods.
For tips on how to get through what's expected to be some long security lines, we turn to the Transportation Security Administration's Lisa Farbstein. She says there's a useful guide on the TSA's homepage that allows you to type in an item to see if it's allowed in your carry-on, as well as a mobile app.
Nobody really wants to think about economics, the famously dismal science, while sitting down at a table loaded with love and calories. Like it or not, though, supply and demand drive food production and set the price of dinner.
So, in a season of feasts, what are the business stories on your holiday menu?
There is a war going on. The enemy is an innocuous little piece of ornamental fabric.
When the Professional Association of Innkeepers launched the Death to Doilies Campaign this year, the approach was tongue-in-cheek, but the message of change was serious: The doily has had the run of bed and breakfasts for too long.
Since the mid-1980s, the U.S. Border Patrol has quintupled in size — growing from about 4,000 to more than 20,000 agents.
The government has constructed some 700 miles of fencing and vehicle barriers. It has placed thousands of ground sensors, lights, radar towers and cameras along the border. And Customs and Border Protection is now flying drones and helicopters to locate smuggles and rescue stranded immigrants.
So here's the question: Is the Southwest border secure?
Once again, a tragedy of horrific proportions has the nation talking about changing gun laws, discussions that in the past ultimately resulted in no change. Will this time be any different? And, with less than two weeks to go, what to make of talks between President Obama and House Speaker Boehner about the fiscal cliff? Plus: a new senator is named in South Carolina, while a venerable senator from Hawaii leaves us. NPR's Ken Rudin and Ron Elving review the week in politics.
For more than 35 years, riders on the New York City subways and buses during their daily commute were graced with posters of beaming young women. While the women featured in each poster — all New Yorkers — were billed as "average girls," they were also beauty queens in the nation's first integrated beauty contest: Miss Subways, selected each month starting in 1941 by the public and professionally photographed by the country's leading modeling agency.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., shown in 2010, has said he would deserve a primary challenge if he voted for House Speaker John Boehner's "fiscal cliff" proposal, which would extend the Bush-era tax cuts only on income of less than $1 million.
House Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team are urging them to support his "Plan B" to avoid the automatic tax hikes of the "fiscal cliff." But they're also facing pressure from outside groups that could mount primary challenges against them if they do.
Boehner argues his plan — which would allow the Bush-era tax cuts to stay in place for income under $1 million a year — isn't a tax increase. But a number of conservative groups have come to a very different conclusion.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
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And I'm Robert Siegel.
Tomorrow, the National Rifle Association will hold a news conference here in Washington, weighing in, for the first time, since last Friday's shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. In and around Newtown, a public debate about gun violence and how the nation should respond has picked up in recent days.
From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
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And I'm Melissa Block.
In Chicago, there was a remarkable jailbreak this week. Two convicted bank robbers escaped from their high-rise cell, some 200 feet above the street. Federal and local authorities have been searching for the men since Tuesday. They don't know how the pair got away without anyone noticing. From member station WBEZ, Susie An reports that the escapees' unlikely plan depended on an awful lot of bed sheets.
After more than two centuries as an independent company, the New York Stock Exchange is about to change hands. It's being acquired by Atlanta-based IntercontinentalExchange, or ICE, as part of a deal valued at $8.2 billion. In recent years, ICE has exploded in growth.
And as NPR's Jim Zarroli reports, today's announcement is the latest in a series of rapid-fire changes that have transformed the world of stock trading.
To Syria now, where rebel forces are claiming a string of territorial gains, including six towns in the central province of Hama. As the fighting continues, there are also diplomatic efforts to establish leadership that could take over when Bashar al-Assad's regime falls. This month, more than 100 nations, organized as the Friends of Syria, backed an opposition coalition to replace Assad.
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I'm Robert Siegel. We begin this hour with political fallout from the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The U.S. ambassador and three other Americans died in that attack back in September, and this week, a scathing report set the stage for consequences.