U.S. News

Around the Nation
3:47 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Illegal Wreath 'Tippers' Look For Some Under-The-Table Green

The tips of balsam fir trees are used to make Christmas wreaths.
USDA

Originally published on Tue December 10, 2013 8:45 am

That wreath on your front door could contain stolen goods.

The tips of fir trees used to make wreaths are collected by "tippers" and attract high prices — as well as poachers, who cut limbs and even whole trees on private land.

The Christmas greens industry is estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars. But like other cottage industries, no one's really counting. Anyone with a desire to make some money can take part — on or under the table. And that's become a problem for some woodlot owners trying to protect their trees.

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It's All Politics
3:42 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Senate GOP Could Taste Sweet Revenge In Supreme Court Case

Miguel Estrada, whose 2002 nomination to a federal judgeship was filibustered by Senate Democrats, will represent Senate Republicans in their recess appointments case against President Obama.
Kiichiro Sato AP

Originally published on Mon December 9, 2013 4:09 pm

If revenge is a dish best served cold, in Washington it can also be served with a heaping side of irony.

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to Sen. Mitch McConnell's request to let Senate Republicans participate in the high-profile case Noel Canning v. National Labor Relations Board.

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The Two-Way
3:39 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Government Sells Last Shares In GM, Loses $10 Billion

General Motors Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson speaks to the media after a June 2013 GM shareholders meeting in Detroit. General Motors posted $152 billion in global revenues in 2012.
Bill Pugliano Getty Images

Originally published on Mon December 9, 2013 3:59 pm

Critics of the federal auto bailout will no longer be able to refer derisively to GM as "Government Motors" — on Monday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced the U.S. government has sold its remaining shares in the carmaker.

"With the final sale of GM stock, this important chapter in our nation's history is now closed," Lew said, announcing the sale.

The net? Taxpayers lost $10.7 billion on the deal.

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The Two-Way
2:54 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

18 LA Sheriff's Deputies Indicted In Sweeping Jail Probe

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca in 2011
Damian Dovarganes AP

Originally published on Mon December 9, 2013 4:02 pm

Federal prosecutors announced Monday the indictment of 18 current and former Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies on an array of charges stemming from a sweeping investigation into inmate abuse and corruption.

"These incidents did not take place in a vacuum — in fact, they demonstrated behavior that had become institutionalized," said U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. "The pattern of activity alleged in the obstruction of justice case shows how some members of the Sheriff's Department considered themselves to be above the law."

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Shots - Health News
2:34 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

To Curb Costs, New California Health Plans Trim Care Choices

Susan Shargel, an insurance broker in San Francisco, says she's seeing health insurance plans offer fewer doctor and hospital options.
Pauline Bartolone

Originally published on Tue December 10, 2013 10:22 am

When Diane Shore got a letter that her health policy would be canceled, the small premium increase for the new plan didn't bother her that much.

But the changes in her choices for care really bugged her. "My physicians will no longer be in this network of physicians, or the hospitals," she says.

Shore, 62, owned an IT consulting business in the San Francisco Bay Area and retired when she sold it in 2000. She wants to stick with the health care providers that she's had for years, she says, including the surgeon who cared for her when she had breast cancer in 1998.

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Around the Nation
2:34 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Supersized Cartoon Library Welcomes 'All Geeks And Dorks'

Curator Jenny Robb is in charge of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum's vast collection of everything from Calvin and Hobbes to Superman.
Tony Dejak AP

Originally published on Tue December 10, 2013 8:45 am

Comic book lovers have a new paradise. It's not the Batcave or the Fortress of Solitude; it's a new cartoon library and museum, tucked into a nondescript building on the Ohio State University campus.

Jenny Robb loves comics and cartoons; it's in her job description. She's the curator of the new Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, named after the famed Columbus Dispatch cartoonist. With millions of pages of material in this free collection, Robb is in charge of geek heaven.

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Politics
2:34 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Congress Tries To Craft Budget Deal Before Holiday Break

Originally published on Tue December 10, 2013 8:45 am

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

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Education
2:34 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Common Core Standards Could Knock As, Bs And Cs Off Report Cards

Originally published on Tue December 10, 2013 8:45 am

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Most of today's students and their parents are used to report cards based on the letters A through F. But a new grading system is taking root in schools across the country. It's called standards-based grading. The point is to give parents more information, as New Hampshire Public Radio's Sam Evans-Brown reports.

SAM EVANS-BROWN, BYLINE: Here's what we know about grades in America: A is good, F is bad. But what about these?

BRIAN STACK: We have like E, M, IP, and LP.

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The Two-Way
2:20 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Newtown Calls For 'Acts Of Kindness' On Shooting Anniversary

Erica Lafferty (right), daughter of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim Dawn Hochsprung, consoles Carlee Soto, sister of victim Victoria Soto, after representatives of 14 families addressed the media on Monday in Newtown, Conn.
Jessica Hill AP

Relatives of those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School have asked people to mark Saturday's anniversary of the mass shooting with "acts of kindness" and say they will light candles in memory of the victims.

At a news conference on Monday, the families also announced the launch of a website, http://mysandyhookfamily.org, to create a "singular place of sharing, communication, and contact with the families of those who lost their lives that day."

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Shots - Health News
12:49 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Violence In PG-13 Movies Comes With Plenty Of Sex And Booze

Explosions during the filming of the PG-13 hit The Dark Knight in Chicago in 2007.
Nam Y. Huh AP

If you're looking for good role models for your teenagers, the local cineplex may not be the place to go.

PG-13 movies are awash in violence, and the violence is almost always linked with sex and drinking, according to an analysis of top-grossing movies from 1985 to 2010.

The PG-13 movies, which are supposedly OK for teenagers, had the same amount of violence as R-rated movies.

Violence took up about one-third of the movies, researchers found.

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Book Reviews
10:05 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Latino Children's Literature That Should Top Lists

Originally published on Mon December 9, 2013 1:44 pm

Transcript

CELESTE HEADLEE, HOST:

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Children's Health
10:05 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Infants At Risk Due To Blood-Test Delays

Originally published on Mon December 9, 2013 6:09 pm

Transcript

CELESTE HEADLEE, HOST:

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The Two-Way
9:01 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Orc And Dagger: U.S., U.K. Reportedly Spied On Gamers Online

Gamers play at an IT fair in Germany. The NSA and a British counterpart have deployed agents into several virtual worlds, according to reports, including the online game World of Warcraft.
Johannes Eisele AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon December 9, 2013 12:14 pm

U.S. and British intelligence agencies have worked to infiltrate networks of violence-prone individuals who might unite for a common cause. And in some cases, the spies are also targeting networks that aren't regional terrorist cells — they're online gaming communities, according to the latest revelation from documents given to the media by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

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Technology
6:18 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Tech Giants Call On Obama, Congress For Surveillance Changes

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with a call for surveillance reform.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

The Two-Way
5:41 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Winter Storm Plows Through Mid-Atlantic To Hit New England

A winter storm is hitting an area from Virginia to New England, snarling traffic and closing schools. On Sunday, heavy snowfall changed the look of an NFL game in Baltimore, Md., where Ravens players stood for the national anthem at 1 p.m.
Patrick Smith Getty Images

Originally published on Mon December 9, 2013 6:24 pm

Winter won't officially begin for nearly two more weeks, but a winter storm continued to plow across much of the eastern part of the U.S. on Monday, bringing a dangerous mix of snow, ice and freezing rain. The storm knocked out power in some areas, fouled morning commutes and caused more than a thousand flights to be cancelled.

"Heavy snow fell Sunday in the Mid-Atlantic, with more than 8 inches reported in Philadelphia and a foot in nearby Newark, Del.," The Associated Press reports.

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NPR Story
4:06 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Other-Than-Honorable Discharge Burdens Like A Scarlet Letter

Reed Holway spent 13 months in Iraq. He says PTSD brought on a drinking problem when he returned to the States — and that eventually led to a bad-conduct discharge. Vets with "bad paper" have trouble getting any VA health benefits — even for PTSD.
Quil Lawrence NPR

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 9:21 am

Eric Highfill spent five years in the Navy, fixing airplanes for special operations forces. His discharge papers show an Iraq campaign medal and an Afghanistan campaign medal, a good-conduct medal, and that he's a marksman with a pistol and sharpshooter with a rifle.

None of that matters, because at the bottom of the page it reads "Discharged: under other than honorable conditions."

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Shots - Health News
4:06 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Epilepsy Patients Help Decode The Brain's Hidden Signals

Scientists say that epilepsy patients like Bennett have helped them learn how the brain controls movement and emotion.
Amy Standen NPR

Originally published on Mon December 9, 2013 11:29 am

Patients with severe epilepsy are giving scientists the chance to see the human brain in action, a view they could never get with an MRI or other high-tech tools.

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Around the Nation
3:06 pm
Sun December 8, 2013

Temperatures Dip From Sea To Icy Sea

Originally published on Sun December 8, 2013 4:12 pm

Frigid weather and freezing rain have beset large swaths of the country. Those below-average temperatures are expected to stay well into the week.

Environment
3:06 pm
Sun December 8, 2013

Unrealized, Unforeseen Environmental Results Of NAFTA

Originally published on Sun December 8, 2013 4:12 pm

When the U.S., Canadian, and Mexican governments were negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement back in the 1990s, environmentalists warned that it would create a race to the bottom: Countries would compete to gut environmental rules to attract businesses. But by and large, those fears were not realized. Still, the trade deal had other unforeseen environmental consequences.

It's All Politics
12:06 pm
Sun December 8, 2013

Debate On Wage And Wealth Gap Heats Up; Solutions Elusive

Protesters in Boston march in the parking lot of a Burger King as part of a nation-wide protest supporting higher wages for workers in the fast-food industry.
Stephan Savoia AP

The national debate about income equality and low-wage labor ramped up this week as fast-food workers across the country rallied for better pay and President Obama assailed the nation's growing income gap as the "defining challenge of our time."

Meanwhile, an $11.50 minimum wage bill was approved in the nation's capital, and giant discount retailer Wal-Mart opened its first Washington stores — accompanied by a flurry of ads defending the company's often-criticized pay and benefits practices.

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Around the Nation
11:19 am
Sun December 8, 2013

Go Ahead And Mail Your Boring Holiday Cards

After he and his son Simon encountered both Santa Claus and Superman in an ice cream parlor, NPR's Alan Greenblatt sent out this holiday photo in 2010.
Courtesy Alan Greenblatt

It's always chic to make fun of holiday letters. People can't win, whether they earnestly recount their fellowship missions to poor countries (self-important), brag about European vacations (must be nice) or simply bore with accounts of school plays or travails in their gardens.

The habit of knocking holiday letters is now not just snark shared between friends, but has become an annual journalistic tradition.

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Around the Nation
5:58 am
Sun December 8, 2013

Help Is Hard To Get For Veterans After A Bad Discharge

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 9:21 am

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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Economy
3:35 am
Sun December 8, 2013

Economists Toast 20 Years Of NAFTA; Critics Sit Out The Party

A truck bearing Mexican and U.S. flags approaches the border crossing into the U.S., in Laredo, Texas.
Reuters /Landov

Twenty years ago, millions of Americans were cocking their ears — waiting to hear a "giant sucking sound."

They feared Mexico would begin vacuuming up U.S. manufacturing jobs as soon as President Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, on Dec. 8, 1993.

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The Two-Way
12:53 am
Sun December 8, 2013

Winter Storm Moves Into Mid-Atlantic

Tractor trailers sit on I-35 north of Dallas on Saturday.
Tony Gutierrez AP

Originally published on Mon December 9, 2013 8:28 am

Freezing rain has been creeping across Tennessee on its way to the mid-Atlantic as the stunning cold, snow and ice that gripped Texas and the west on Saturday advance eastward.

The storm is expected to turn Virginia and Pennsylvania into an icy mess today and scrabble north into New York and southern New England tonight.

Roads will be perilous in many places by this evening and forecasters warned travelers and holiday shoppers to stay home.

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Around the Nation
3:33 pm
Sat December 7, 2013

N.Y. Train Crash Spotlights Push For Automatic Safety System

A police officer stands guard at the scene of a Metro-North passenger train derailment in the Bronx borough of New York on Dec. 1.
John Minchillo AP

Originally published on Mon December 9, 2013 9:36 am

A commuter train crash that killed four passengers in New York is raising questions about whether a high-tech safety system could have prevented the derailment.

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Race
3:33 pm
Sat December 7, 2013

How U.S. Activists Helped Push South Africa Away From Apartheid

Originally published on Sat December 7, 2013 4:33 pm

Transcript

ARUN RATH, HOST:

Growing up when I did, going to high school and college in the '80s and early '90s, I don't think I saw real political activism until I encountered the anti-apartheid movement. My own church sent a busload of congregants to picket the South African embassy. We all felt like we had a moral stake in ending apartheid and freeing Nelson Mandela.

Richard Knight says the anti-apartheid movement helped put pressure on South Africa's white leaders.

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The Two-Way
11:05 am
Sat December 7, 2013

U.S. Veteran, Held By North Korea, Arrives Safely In Calif.

Merrill Newman (left) walks beside his wife Lee and son Jeffrey after arriving at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday.
Ben Margot AP

Originally published on Sat December 7, 2013 11:57 am

Saying this was a "great homecoming," Merrill Newman, the 85-year-old Korean War veteran who had been held by North Korea for weeks, walked out of San Francisco International Airport with his wife on Saturday.

As we reported, Newman was deported by North Korea on Friday, days after he appeared on state TV reading an apology for alleged war crimes.

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Shots - Health News
8:03 am
Sat December 7, 2013

Gene Therapy Keeps 'Bubble Boy' Disease At Bay In 8 Children

David Vetter was born without a functioning immune system and spent his life in a bubble that protected him from germs. He died at age 12 in 1984. Scientists are using gene therapy to treat the disorder so that children can live normally.
Science Source

Researchers say they are achieving success in curing the genetic defect that causes some children to be born without immune defenses, a rare condition made famous in the 1970s by a Texas boy who lived most of his short life in a sterile "bubble."

Scientists now report that 8 out of 9 young children given gene therapy for a type of severe combined immunodeficiency disease, called SCID-X1, are alive and living amid the everyday microbial threats that would otherwise have killed them. The oldest is just over 3 years old.

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The Two-Way
6:44 am
Sat December 7, 2013

WATCH: Maya Angelou's Poem For Nelson Mandela

Poet Maya Angelou has written a poem in honor of Nelson Mandela, "on behalf of the American people."
PRNewsFoto/Forsyth Medical Center AP

Originally published on Sat December 7, 2013 11:35 am

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Around the Nation
6:05 am
Sat December 7, 2013

White House Invites All To 'Gather Around' A Holiday Tradition

Every year, on the day after Thanksgiving, almost 100 volunteer decorators show up at the White House. They spend the next five days stringing garlands and hanging ornaments, making the White House sparkle for the holidays.
Jim Watson AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat December 7, 2013 9:35 pm

Every year, on the day after Thanksgiving, almost 100 volunteer decorators show up at the White House. They spend the next five days stringing garlands and hanging ornaments, making the White House sparkle for the holidays.

At NPR, we have a related tradition. This is the fourth year in a row that White House correspondent Ari Shapiro has brought us the voices of some of those volunteers.

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