Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 10:56 am
Enrollment in the federal government's new health insurance exchange picked up sharply in November, but the number of people signing up for coverage still trails original forecasts. Officials from the Obama administration say they expect the pace of enrollments will continue to increase now that the insurance website is working more smoothly.
Renee Montage talks to David Cohen, the U.S. undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, about the sanctions against Iran and their role in curtailing the Iranian nuclear program.
The Affordable Care Act has produced a surge in the number of people signing up for Medicaid. The ACA offers billions of federal dollars to states to expand Medicaid coverage for the poor. But only 25 states have accepted the federal government's offer, and those that haven't could face economic and budget losses.
When Michael Hartnett was getting kicked out of the U.S. Marine Corps, he was too deep into post-traumatic stress disorder, drugs and alcohol to care as his battalion commander explained to the young man that his career was ending, and ending badly.
"Do you understand what I'm saying to you, son? It's going to be six and a kick," Hartnett recalls the commander telling him.
The "six" was an expected six months of hard labor in the brig. The kick happened at Hartnett's court-martial, and finally woke him up out of the haze.
Originally published on Tue December 10, 2013 6:07 pm
Congressional negotiators announced Tuesday that they'd reached a budget proposal to restore about $65 billion worth of sequestration cuts in exchange for cuts elsewhere and additional fees.
If approved by both the House and Senate, the plan — hammered out by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington — would avoid another government shutdown on Jan. 15.
Speaking at a news conference Tuesday evening, Ryan said the budget plan doesn't raise taxes and that it's a "step in the right direction."
Originally published on Tue December 10, 2013 6:09 pm
The fight over taxes, entitlements and income inequality has clearly been reignited in the Democratic Party, sparking questions about whether, and how hard, to push economic populism as the party approaches the 2014 midterm elections and beyond.
The latest flare-up came between centrist Democrats at the Third Way think tank and liberals who view Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., as their champion.
Originally published on Tue December 10, 2013 5:14 pm
House and Senate negotiators working to finish a farm bill say it is unlikely their work will be completed before the end of the year. The House is only in session for the rest of the week, and according to one of the negotiators, this week's snowy weather has delayed some numbers-crunching needed to figure out how much elements of a possible deal will cost.
"We're going to pass it in January," said Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., as she left a closed-door meeting to negotiate details of the five-year farm bill.
Originally published on Tue December 10, 2013 5:36 pm
A former actress who sent ricin-laced letters to President Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has pleaded guilty in federal court in Texarkana, Texas, as part of a deal to limit her sentence to no more than 18 years.
Shannon Guess Richardson, a mother of six from Texas, had minor roles in The Walking Dead and The Blind Side. She mailed three ricin-laced letters from New Boston, Texas, near Texarkana, and then contacted police to say that her estranged husband had done it.
Getting people to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act remains an uphill battle in much of Florida.
Politicians in the state erected roadblocks to the law from the beginning — from joining in the 2010 lawsuit to thwart the law to placing restrictions on what insurance helpers called navigators can tell people seeking advice.
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.
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.
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.
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.