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The U.S. Supreme Court returns on Wednesday to the emotional issue of affirmative action in higher education. The court will once again hear oral arguments on the issue, this time in a case from the University of Texas.

Over the past 35 years, the court has twice ruled that race may be one of many factors in determining college admissions, as long as there are no racial quotas. Now, just nine years after its last decision, the justices seem poised to outright reverse or cut back on the previous rulings.

With 27 days until the general election, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was on an Iowa farm Tuesday where he did what he's done for months: criticized President Obama's economic policies, though his critique understandably had an agricultural slant.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in a landmark case about race and college admissions. In 2008, a white student named Abigail Fisher was denied admission to the University of Texas, Austin.

Fisher sued the university, claiming she was denied admission because of her race. Her suit, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, could mean the end of admissions policies that take race into account.

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

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It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

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And I'm Robert Siegel.

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Some city sounds sent by our audience, now, to get us back down to Earth.

(SOUNDBITE OF CONSTRUCTION NOISES)

AMANDA BELL: My name is Amanda Bell(ph). And this is the sound of construction in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania.

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Romney Talks Regulation, Farming In Iowa

Oct 9, 2012

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

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A lot of Americans are struggling to lose a whole lot of weight, and they try all kinds of crazy things.

Ernest Gagnon — a man from Billerica, Mass. — decided to shed pounds by getting into the often intense, high-adrenaline sport of cyclocross: racing road bikes on obstacle courses.

Two years ago, Gagnon tipped the scales at 570 pounds. He was depressed and embarrassed to leave the house.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans turn to stomach-shrinking bariatric procedures, hoping for extreme weight loss.

All of these reduced appetites might seem like bad news for the restaurant business, but surgeon-distributed food discount cards aim to make dining out cheaper and more practical for gastric bypass patients.

But is this kind of encouragement really a good idea?

Culture warriors on the left and right would be wise to carefully examine a new survey from the Pew Research Center showing that a growing number of Americans are moving away from religious labels.

The study, titled "Nones" on the Rise, indicates that 1 in 5 Americans now identifies as "religiously unaffiliated," a group that includes those who say they have no particular religion, as well as atheists and agnostics.

Florida, Microcosm of Nation's Schools

Oct 9, 2012

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Should You Hide Your Heritage?

Oct 9, 2012

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Saying that the former Penn State assistant football coach had assaulted not only 10 young boys' bodies but also their "psyches and souls," a Pennsylvania judge this morning sentenced Jerry Sandusky to between 30 and 60 years in prison for the sexual abuse of those children.

Jerry Sandusky is expected back in a Bellefonte, Pa., courtroom Tuesday for a sentencing hearing. The former Penn State assistant football coach was convicted in June of sexually abusing 10 boys. Now young men, some of the victims will be given an opportunity to tell the court how the abuse affected their lives.

Sandusky has been in a county jail since the jury convicted him on 45 out of 48 counts, but after the hearing, he likely will be moved to a state prison.

On her 22nd birthday this summer, Sarah Wagner of suburban Wheaton, Ill., who describes herself as a huge fan of the Chicago Cubs, opened an email to find an incredible surprise — a recorded message from her favorite Cubs player:

"Hey, Sarah! Kerry Wood here! Thanks for your message and I hope you're having a great summer!"

"When I heard for the first time, I instantly smiled," says Wagner. "I think my hands probably went over like my mouth, like, 'Oh my gosh, Kerry Wood is talking to me, even though he has no idea who I am!' "

In the five days since Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was declared by many the winner of the first presidential debate, political watchers have waited to see if polls would shift in response to his performance. And, they did.

The typical jack-o'-lanterns that don front stoops this time of year pale in comparison to their multihundred-pound brethren: the giant pumpkin. Every year in Damariscotta, Maine, people hollow them out, climb inside and race them in the annual pumpkin regatta. There are two divisions — paddleboat and powerboat — and thousands gather to see whether it will be sink or swim for the contestants.

Topher Mallory bolts a wooden frame onto the flesh of his 550-pound pumpkin powerboat. The stern is large enough to mount a 10 horsepower engine — double that of most competitors.

Just outside of Camilla, Ga. — about four hours southwest of Atlanta — up a dirt road called Alligator Lane, is one of the largest alligator farms in the country.

"We've got about 20 chicken houses, and we've got about 100,000 alligators on the farm," says owner Mark Glass.

That's right, 100,000 alligators, and they are in big demand in Europe's high-fashion industry.

Right now it's hatching season.

Bruce Osterweil is a lucky man to live just a short walk from where San Francisco's Golden Gate meets the cold, rough waters of the Pacific Ocean. He is also a lucky man to have married his wife, Patricia Furlong, who has long provided the family's health insurance through her job at a small financial consulting firm.

But last month, Osterweil's wife turned 65 and decided to retire, and although she may walk away with a crystal bowl or a golden watch for all those years of service, she will also walk away from her company's generous health insurance benefits.

After failing to predict the Arab Spring, intelligence officials are now exploring whether Big Data, the combing of billions of pieces of disparate electronic information, can help them identify hot spots before they explode. The intelligence community has always been in the business of forecasting the future. The question is whether tapping into publicly available data — Twitter and news feeds and blogs among other things — can help them do that faster and more precisely.

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When was the last time you heard this sound:

(SOUNDBITE OF PINBALL MACHINE)

MARTIN: Pinball machines are as popular as ever in a small mountain town in Colorado, giving a new generation a taste of the past. NPR's Ahmad Shafi has the story.

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Comparing Greatness In Sports

Oct 7, 2012

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(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LIFE IS A BALLGAME")

SISTER WINONA CARR: (Singing) Life is a ball game being played each day. Life...

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It's time for sports with the guy we turn to every Sunday, just because we like him and he keeps answering the phone when we call, NPR's Mike Pesca.

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

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