In Russia, organizers of the 2014 Winter Olympics have called on dozens of shamans to pray for snow. But the centerpiece of the Olympic snow strategy is man-made: a massive system that features more than 550 snow-making machines.
Sochi, Russia, which is hosting the Olympics, is a resort town on the relatively warm Black Sea. There are beaches and palm trees. The Alpine events will be held on a mountain just 30 minutes away, where last February it was raining, not snowing.
The ice storm that's blanketed North Texas streets and highways has spawned a new name: cobblestone ice.
Cobblestone ice — sounds poetic, doesn't it?
Not if you've had to drive through it.
So what is it?
Ryan LaFontaine of the Texas Department of Transportation says cobblestone ice is a combination of ice accumulation and sand laid down by TxDOT and city trucks — which traffic compresses together to form a cobblestone-type surface, a thick layer of frozen ruts and potholes. In some places, it's several inches deep.
Snow is also critical for another winter sporting event, though this one has yet to qualify as an Olympic sport, that's snowball fighting. In January, St. Paul, Minnesota, hopes to set a new Guinness world record for the largest snowball fight. Seattle holds the title set this past January with 5,834 throwers. Joe Alton, the event organizer, joins me from St. Paul to talk about his snowball ambitions. Mr. Alton, welcome to the program.
JOE ALTON: Thank you so much for having me, Melissa.
The Ivy League school has begun vaccinating nearly 6,000 students to try to stop an outbreak of type B meningitis in an unusual federal government-endorsed administration of a drug not generally approved for use in the U.S.
Originally published on Tue December 10, 2013 2:49 pm
Princeton University has started vaccinating students against type B meningitis in an effort to stop an outbreak that's infected at least eight people.
The vaccine isn't approved for general use in the United States, though it is available in Europe, Australia and Canada. But the meningitis strain that hit the New Jersey campus isn't fazed by the vaccines typically used in the U.S. The Food and Drug Administration is allowing a Novartis vaccine that's usually sold in other countries to be administered on the Princeton campus.
President Obama with Paul Volcker at the White House in 2009. Volcker, who headed the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, lent his name to a new rule aimed at curbing risk-taking on Wall Street.
Originally published on Tue December 10, 2013 6:33 pm
The Volcker rule, a centerpiece of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial law aimed at stopping some of the risky banking practices that contributed to the economic meltdown, was approved by five key regulators on Tuesday, clearing the way for its implementation.
The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission became the fifth and final body to approve the rule. The Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. were also among the agencies that gave the green light.
The day when a simple blood test or saliva sample can identify your risk for medical conditions ranging from cancer to Alzheimer's disease seems tantalizingly close.
But genetics specialists say the hype around many of these tests has outstripped the science. Insurers generally only cover a test if there's strong scientific evidence that it can provide a health benefit to patients.
Originally published on Tue December 10, 2013 12:35 pm
While milk consumption continues to fall in the U.S., sales of organic milk are on the rise. And now organic milk accounts for about 4 percent of total fluid milk consumption.
For years, organic producers have claimed their milk is nutritionally superior to regular milk. Specifically, they say that because their cows spend a lot more time out on pasture, munching on grasses and legumes rich in omega-3 fatty acids, the animals' milk is higher in these healthy fats, which are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.
Students at Northeast Elementary Magnet, in Danville, Ill., play around. Fewer than 1 in 5 parents polled said their kids were getting physical education daily.
Credit Seth Perlman / AP
In a poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, parents reported that their kids aren't getting nearly as much time in phys ed classes as is recommended.
Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 12:42 pm
Avery Stackhouse, age 7, of Lafayette, Calif., says he wishes he had more time for phys ed.
"We just have it one day a week — on Monday." There's always lunch and recess, he says. "We play a couple of games, like football and soccer," he tells Shots.
But at Happy Valley Elementary, where he goes to school, recess lasts only 15 minutes and lunch is 45. Between eating and mingling, he says, "there's only a few minutes left where we play games and all that."
And here in Los Angeles this morning, 18 current and former deputy sheriffs are facing federal charges. They're accused of corruption and abusing inmates being held in the largest jail system in the country.
NPR's Kirk Siegler reports.
KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: Federal authorities are accusing the L.A. sheriff's deputies of a pattern of excessive force and civil rights violations inside L.A. County's main downtown jails.
In many ways, military veterans hold a privileged place in American society, but not all vets have access to what goes along with that privilege. In the past decade of war, more than 100,000 men and women left the military with less than honorable discharges, many due to bad conduct related to post traumatic stress disorder. Once they're kicked out of the military, they lose access to benefits like treatment for PTSD.
Time was when business-suited Santas would spend December roaming the corridors of Congress, bestowing all sorts of goodies upon their elected friends, prospective friends and staffers: baskets of food, bottles of booze, even high-priced tickets to sports events.
That last item is the kind of thing that sent uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff to prison. It also brought the House of Representatives a new set of ethics rules — stern and often complex limits on accepting gifts.
In Los Angeles today, federal prosecutors announced charges of corruption and civil rights abuses inside the nation's largest jail system. The indictments came against 18 current and former deputies of the LA Sheriff's Department. NPR's Kirk Siegler has details from outside the federal building in downtown Los Angeles.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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?
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.
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."
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.