Melissa Block

As special correspondent, Melissa Block produces richly reported profiles of figures at the forefront of thought and culture, as well as stories and series on the critical issues of our day. Her reporting spans both domestic and international news. In addition, she is a guest host on NPR news programs, and develops podcasts based on her reporting.

Great reporting combined with compelling storytelling is vital to NPR's future. No one exemplifies that blend better than Block. As listeners well know, she has an amazing ability for telling the important stories of our age in a way that engages both the heart and the mind. It is why she has earned such a devoted following throughout her 30-year career at NPR.

As co-host of All Things Considered from 2003 to 2015, Block's reporting took her everywhere from the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to the heart of Rio de Janeiro; from rural Mozambique to the farthest reaches of Alaska. Her riveting reporting from Sichuan, China, during and after the massive earthquake there in 2008 helped earn NPR broadcast journalism's top honors, including a George Foster Peabody Award, duPont-Columbia Award, Edward R. Murrow Award, National Headliner Award, and the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi Award.

Block began at NPR in 1985 as an editorial assistant for All Things Considered and rose to become senior producer. From 1994 to 2002, she was a New York reporter and correspondent. Her reporting after the attacks of September 11, 2001, helped earn NPR a Peabody Award.

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My co-host Robert Siegel has just returned from a reporting trip in the Middle East, to the nation of Qatar, and next week he'll be bringing us some stories. Robert, welcome back.

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Hi, thanks, Audie. How are you?

CORNISH: So first, why Qatar?

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And I'm Melissa Block.

President Obama is leading a U.S. delegation to South Africa that includes three former presidents: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, to honor Nelson Mandela at a memorial service tomorrow. It's a unique show of respect for an extraordinary leader. But before he became a global icon, Mandela and his African National Congress had a complicated history with the U.S.

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Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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I really messed up. Those words today from the former mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick, before he was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison on corruption charges. Kilpatrick added: We've been stuck in this town for a very long time dealing with me. I'm ready to go so the city can move on.

Tens of millions of Brazilians have risen out of poverty over the past decade in one of the world's great economic success stories. The reasons are many: strong overall economic growth, fueled by exports. A rise in the minimum wage. A more educated workforce. And big government spending programs, including direct payments to extremely poor families.

But becoming middle class in Brazil means a better life, not an easy one. The new, lowest rung of the middle class is what in the U.S. would be called the working poor, with monthly incomes of between $500 and $2,000.

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To San Diego now where, after weeks of accusations of sexual harassment, apologies, denials, a lawsuit and a trip to a treatment center, the saga of Mayor Bob Filner may be coming to a close, or at least one chapter of it may be coming to a close. The San Diego City Council is in session, and it's considering a deal that would lead to Filner's resignation.

Sandhya Dirks of member station KPBS joins me now from San Diego City Hall. And, Sandhya, there have been reports of a resignation deal for a few days now. Where do things stand?

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In a military court in Washington State today, Army Sergeant Robert Bales offered these words: Sorry just isn't good enough, but I am sorry. Bales agreed to plead guilty to killing 16 Afghan civilians, as part of a deal that spared him the death penalty. Now his sentencing hearing is wrapping up.

And NPR's Martin Kaste is at the hearing at Joint Base Lewis McChord. He joins us now.

Martin, this is the first time that the jury heard from Sergeant Bales at any length. What did he say to explain what he did?

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In 2011, the foreign intelligence surveillance court ruled that one part of the National Security Agency's monitoring of emails broke laws and violated the Constitution. Until now, that court ruling was classified, so we didn't know what exactly the NSA had done. But today, the court ruling was made public. We learned that the court found that tens of thousands of emails, collected by the NSA, had no connection to foreign suspects and were illegally intercepted.

If you find yourself craving New Orleans food, you could go there and melt in the sweltering heat for a dose of gumbo or praline bacon. Or you could settle in on your couch, as I've been doing, and torture yourself watching reruns of the HBO series Treme. It's set in post-Katrina New Orleans and, along with the music, it puts the city's food on center stage.

There was an unexpected hold-up on day two of the court martial of Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, accused of gunning down fellow soldiers at Fort Hood. His "standby" attorneys have told the judge that don't believe it's ethical for them to keep assisting a man who they believe is trying to get the death penalty.

When it was launched Thursday, the Moto X, Google's first smartphone product to come out of its buyout of Motorola, was not the highest powered or highest pixeled device. Rather, the designers boasted of its usability — that the Moto X has a larger purpose: making the technology of a phone adapt to the way people use them, rather than force user behavior to adapt to the technology.

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President Obama rarely visits Capitol Hill, but today, he traveled down Pennsylvania Avenue to meet with House and Senate Democrats. He wanted to rally their support on a range of issues before Congress sets off on its long August recess. NPR congressional reporter Ailsa Chang joins us from the Capitol. And, Ailsa, meeting just with Democrats, no Republicans this time.

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A memorial service today in Spain to remember the victims of the country's worst rail disaster in decades. An American passenger died in a hospital over the weekend, bringing the death toll to 79. The train was carrying more than 200 passengers from Madrid when it derailed in northwestern Spain last Wednesday night.

Reporter Lauren Frayer is following developments from Madrid, and she joins me now. And, Lauren, tell us a bit more about this memorial mass tonight at the - that massive, soaring cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block. Disgraced former congressman - and current New York City mayoral candidate - Anthony Weiner is apologizing again, this time after the publication of still more lewd messages and photos that Weiner exchanged online with a woman who is not his wife.

If you want to learn how to write a song — one that's built to last, with vivid characters and images that plant you squarely inside a scene — listen to Guy Clark.

Songwriters who revere Clark will tell you he crafts songs with the same precision and attention to detail he uses when he builds guitars. But Clark has a simpler, blunter explanation, as he told me with a glint in his eye when I visited him recently at his home in Nashville, Tenn.

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This week, NASA is trying to do its part to raise science literacy. To give people a better understanding of Earth's position in the solar system, the agency's posted a picture of our planet taken from a billion miles away, give or take 100 million miles or so. And joining me now to talk about the picture, and why NASA took it, is NPR's Joe Palca. Joe, good to see you.

JOE PALCA, BYLINE: Good to see you.

Nearly one week ago, a fire erupted inside a parked Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787 at London's Heathrow Airport. Thursday, the British Air Investigation Branch issued a bulletin urging the deactivation of an emergency transmitter on all 787s. The British investigators stopped just short of blaming the Emergency Locator Transmitter for the fire. But they did recommend that the Federal Aviation Administration order the deactivation of beacons on 787s under FAA authority. Melissa Block talks with NPR's Wendy Kaufman.

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And I'm Melissa Block. The Obama administration has now joined France and Britain in concluding that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against its own people. That crosses a red line that President Obama has repeatedly warned would change the U.S. calculation in Syria.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

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And I'm Melissa Block. The morning-after pill will soon be available - without a prescription - on pharmacy shelves, with no restrictions on age. That's because the Obama administration has dropped a long-running battle to keep age restrictions on emergency contraception. NPR's Julie Rovner joins me to explain this policy change. And Julie, this was an unexpected development. It came tonight. What happened?

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During a tornado, the safest place to protect yourself is usually underground, but that's not an option for the large majority of people in southern Oklahoma. If you look just at new construction, fewer than 1 percent of homes in the area hit by the tornado have basements. Here to help explain why is NPR's Scott Neuman, who's written about this for our Two-Way blog.

And Scott, where I come from, a basement is a really common thing to have under the house. Not so in Oklahoma. Why not?

Opponents of expanding background checks for gun sales often raise the fear that it would allow the government to create a national gun registry — a database of gun transactions. In fact, federal law already bans the creation of such a registry. And the reality of how gun sales records are accessed turns out to be surprisingly low-tech.

The news today that the great country singer George Jones had died at age 81 left me flooded with memories of my visit with him in 2010.

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And as we continue to cover the events in the Boston area, we want to also talk about one other story, Boeing 787. The jet known as the Dreamliner will be back in the air soon. This afternoon, the FAA approved Boeing's redesign of the plane's battery system. Fifty 787s have been grounded for the last three months following two serious battery failures, one which led to a fire.

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And Tovia mentioned a different kind of attack, one that's the subject of a widening investigation here in Washington, D.C. A second letter thought to contain the poison ricin has been sent for further testing. That one was addressed to the White House. We heard yesterday about one addressed to Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker. Also today two Senate office buildings were locked down as the Capitol police investigated suspicious packages.

In Texas, prosecutors have filed capital murder charges against the wife of a former Justice of the Peace in Kaufman County. Kim Williams is charged with the murder of the county District Attorney, his wife, and another prosecutor.

The Senate has rejected a compromise background checks language pushed by Democrat Joe Manchin and Republican Pat Toomey. It could mean the end of gun control legislation in Congress, at least for a while. Ailsa Chang joins Robert Siegel from the Capitol with the latest.

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And I'm Melissa Block. A stunning revelation today from a member of Congress. It came from Republican Doug Lamborn, of Colorado, during an exchange on Capitol Hill with Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Lamborn cited a Defense Intelligence Agency report on North Korea's military capability, one that had not yet been released. Here's what Rep. Lamborn said.

The ideological gulf between gun owners and non-gun owners is a wide one — made all the more obvious by the ongoing debate over what, if any, gun control measures should be adopted in the U.S.

Sometimes, the debate feels like people are coming from different worlds, even for people within the same family. And while Americans are often willing to discuss their own views, it's rarer to hear conversations between people who own and love guns and those who do not.

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