In North Carolina, pressure is mounting to pardon a group of people convicted of a crime everyone agrees they did not commit. The group is known as the Wilmington Ten. In 1972, a state court found them guilty of firebombing a store.
Mourners put decorations on a Christmas tree, part of a memorial in Newtown, Conn. Holiday greetings, toys and cards have flowed into the town, and some residents say the community feels closer-knit since the shooting.
The days leading up to Christmas are typically bustling in Newtown, Conn. But given the depth of grief in this community since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, preparations for the holiday began very late.
Local shopkeepers say Saturday was the first day many people came out for holiday shopping since the tragedy. Tamara Doherty, owner of the Wishing Well — a shop filled with local crafts, Christmas ornaments, pottery and potpourri — says her business is finally picking up.
Two firefighters died and two others were hospitalized in western New York on Monday. They were shot after responding to a fire in the town of Webster, outside Rochester. Police say the gunman is also dead, and they're not ruling out the possibility that the firefighters were led into a trap.
Sharon Morgan is a black descendant of American slaves. Thomas Norman DeWolf is a white descendant of a famous slave-trading family. The two travelled together for three years to track the roots of racism. They talk with guest host Celeste Headlee about their journey, chronicled in the book, Gather at the Table.
People joke that it's customary for non-Christians to eat Christmas dinner at Chinese restaurants. But a Jewish community in Detroit is offering an alternative. They work with Muslims to volunteer for nearly 40 projects around the city. Guest host Celeste Headlee talks with organizers Micki Grossman and Dr. Muzammil Ahmed, about "Mitzvah Day."
Originally published on Mon December 24, 2012 11:53 am
Milk and cookies might be the traditional Santa offering on Christmas Eve, but in at least one household, St. Nicholas will be getting smoked salmon and scotch.
It's just one out-of-the-ordinary example we gleaned from a call out to fans of NPR's Facebook page. Many of them involved a different sort of Christmas "spirit" — the kind that could push Mr. Claus over the legal limit, at least during the U.S. leg of his annual aerial circumnavigation.
The Monday after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., toys and stuffed animals began arriving by the truckload. Ten days later, the gymnasium at Edmond Town Hall in the center of Newtown is full of them.
"When I realized that it was getting so large, I thought that we should get this to the children before the holidays," says Ann Benore, a caseworker for Newtown Social Services.
Philip Kaplan and Debra Jo Lashaway were both arrested, then cleared of their charges. Their court files were sealed, effectively removing the arrests from their public record, but their mug shots linger on websites that make money by charging people to remove their arrest photos. Now, they're part of a lawsuit that argues their right to publicity has been violated.
In August 2011, Debbie Jo Lashaway was charged with theft. She was arraigned and booked in Lucas County, Ohio, and her mug shot was taken.
Seven months later, the charges were dismissed and her record was sealed — effectively removing the theft charge from her public record. Six months after that, she even won a judgment against the man who accused her of theft, declaring the charge bogus and awarding her thousands of dollars in damages.
Among the candidates President Obama may nominate for the next defense secretary is Michele Flournoy, formerly the highest-ranking woman in the Pentagon.
Flournoy is a mother of three, and in February, she stunned her colleagues when she stepped down from her job as undersecretary of defense for policy to spend more time with her children.
It wasn't an easy decision, but it's a dilemma that many working mothers face. While some call for changes in workplace policy to make caring for families and working easier, others argue women ultimately have to make a choice.
West of the city of Colorado Springs, trees charred by the summer's wildfire scar the steep foothills. The Waldo Canyon fire destroyed more than 300 homes in June.
Now, that devastated neighborhood is coming back to life, with construction workers swarming over half-completed houses. While many of its former residents are preparing to move back, some just want to move on.
In the days after the fire devoured their homes, shell-shocked residents tried to wrap their minds around what had just happened to them.
At about 8 a.m. on March 6, 1998, Matthew Beck arrived to work at the headquarters of the Connecticut State Lottery. He hung up his coat, walked into an office and shot the first of four victims.
Beck ended up killing a number of his co-workers and then took his own life in the parking lot when the police arrived.
Mike Lawlor, the Connecticut governor's criminal justice adviser, was a state representative at the time, and wanted to understand what led to the rampage. He learned that Beck had previously attempted suicide and owned a number of guns.
Countless kids have grown up with the Girl Scouts, the Boy Scouts or Campfire Girls, but for some families, the uniforms and outdoor focus of traditional Scouting groups don't appeal.
In recent months, Scoutlike groups that concentrate on technology and do-it-yourself projects have been sprouting up around the country. They're coed and, like traditional Scouting organizations, award patches to kids who master skills.
The surviving students of Sandy Hook Elementary will not be returning to their school in Newtown, Conn., where 20 first-graders and six educators were shot to death on Dec. 14.
Instead, when classes resume after the holidays, they'll attend a school in the neighboring town of Monroe. Parents, teachers and administrators in both towns are working to make the new school as similar as possible to the one Sandy Hook students left behind.
Originally published on Sat December 22, 2012 6:50 pm
"The House has done its part to avert this entire fiscal cliff," House Speaker John Boehner said Saturday in his weekly address.
He cited the measure that passed Thursday, which would reorganize the automatic spending cuts to protect the defense budget and cut deeper elsewhere. He also pointed to legislation that would stop all tax hikes on Jan. 1.
Originally published on Wed December 26, 2012 9:40 am
If there's one common language that some recent immigrants in Dayton, Ohio, seem to share, it's soccer.
The first Dayton World Soccer Games kicked off earlier this year, an initiative hosted by the city to welcome an influx of immigrants. On the field, a rainbow of brightly colored jerseys represented nearly 20 of the different immigrant communities in the city.
"I've been really surprised to see that there's a lot of soccer going on in Dayton," says Adolphe Bizwinayo, who left Rwanda as a refugee.
The nation's largest gun owners group had said little in the immediate aftermath of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. But the National Rifle Association's executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, broke that silence Friday with a call to place armed guards at all of the nation's schools.
The idea was met with immediate criticism from Democrats in Congress.
In a news conference Friday, President Obama said there were still things the parties could agree on about the automatic tax-rate increases and spending cuts at the end of the year. But he said parties would have to work together to get a plan approved in the next 10 days.
"Call me a hopeless optimist, but I actually still think we can get it done," he said, after meeting with Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and speaking to Republican House Speaker John Boehner.
Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., gets into his pickup truck after voting in Wrentham, Mass., on Nov. 6. Brown lost the election to Democrat Elizabeth Warren, but both he and his truck could be back on the campaign trail soon.
Originally published on Fri December 21, 2012 3:55 pm
President Obama's nomination of Democrat John Kerry to be secretary of state sets off a chain of events that could put another Kennedy in the Senate, at least on an interim basis.
And it gives ousted Republican Scott Brown a fighting chance of returning to the Senate by midyear.
On Friday, Obama nominated Kerry, the senior senator from Massachusetts, to replace Hillary Clinton as the nation's chief diplomat. A 27-year veteran of the Senate and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry should win easy Senate confirmation early in the new year.
For more on yesterday's Republican meltdown, I'm joined by Republican Congressman Steve LaTourette of Ohio. He would have voted for Plan B if it had come up for a vote. He's a strong ally of Speaker Boehner, and he joins me now from Capitol Hill. Congressman LaTourette, welcome to the program.
REPRESENTATIVE STEVE LATOURETTE: Thank you very much.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And I'm Melissa Block. It's time for Plan C. Washington's efforts to avoid massive tax hikes and spending cuts come January 1st seem to be in disarray. Last night, House Speaker John Boehner failed to get enough Republicans to go along with what he called his Plan B. NPR's John Ydstie talked with members of the business community about whether that failure is seen as a setback or clears the way for more productive negotiations.
The New York borough of Staten Island was hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy. Almost two months after the storm hit, many residents will not be back in their homes by the Christmas holiday.
One organization is trying to make the season a bit brighter for uprooted families with a free toy store on the island. This all-volunteer effort looks like a real toy store, but it feels more like a community of neighbors.
The shop boasts shelves filled with toys like model cars, Monopoly, dolls, craft supplies and books — almost everything you would want in a regular toy store.
Today also brought the first detailed response to the Newtown shootings from the nation's largest gun rights group, the National Rifle Association. At a media event here in Washington, the group's CEO took a defiant stance and took no questions. NRA leaders had promised meaningful contributions on how to prevent more mass killings. As NPR's Peter Overby reports, they recommended more, not fewer, guns.
President Obama tapped Massachusetts Senator John Kerry to be the next Secretary of State on Friday. Kerry is expected to win easy confirmation in the Senate, which would be a relief in the midst of fierce partisan battles over taxes, spending and — coming next month — gun control. Melissa Block talks to Scott Horsley.