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Before Twitter, radio, even electricity - in fact, going all the way back to pre-historic times, people gathered around fires to listen to stories. Even though the glow of computers has replaced the warmth of the campfire for most of us, some folks still hold fast to the tradition of oral storytelling.

As Missy Shelton reports, nearly 10,000 people have gathered this weekend for the National Storytelling Festival in northeast Tennessee to hear professional tellers weave some good yarns.

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...

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Hey, Mike.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: The second thing first, right?

MARTIN: Yeah, pretty much.

PESCA: Yeah. He's there and 'cause that we like him. But he's there.

(LAUGHTER)

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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

The latest national polls show the presidential race tightening in some of the all-important battleground states, with Republican Mitt Romney gaining on President Barack Obama's lead. We've been talking with political reporters in these swing states and this morning, we focus on New Hampshire. President Obama won the state back in 2008 with 54 percent of the vote to John McCain's 45 percent. The state's four electoral votes could be crucial this year.

In California, state officials are planning a multibillion-dollar environmental restoration of the inland delta near San Francisco Bay. There's only one problem: No one knows what the landscape used to look like. Ninety-seven percent of the original wetlands are gone, so the state is turning to historians for help.

This detective story begins on a sunny day in a dry field of corn, about an hour east of San Francisco.

How does a president bring the war in Afghanistan to an end? There are 68,000 American troops serving in the country as the war enters its 12th year.

The war hasn't been a major issue in the presidential campaign, and polls show American voters are tiring of the war. But the next commander in chief will find the Afghan war among the most difficult of many foreign policy challenges.

Both President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney appear to agree on a date: the last day of December 2014. That's when the Afghan security forces are scheduled to takeover.

Despite its liberal reputation, the home of Jack Kennedy and Tip O'Neill has never elected a woman as governor or senator. And in Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown's tight re-election race with Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren, gender could prove the difference.

When Brown won his Senate seat in a special election in 2010, he came away unscathed by something his female opponent at the time would have had a much harder time explaining away. He posed nude for Cosmopolitan when he was 22 to help pay for law school.

As we approach the presidential election in November, Weekend Edition is seeking your questions about issues and candidates in a new segment called Reporter Hotline. This week, we answer inquiries about the candidates' policies on housing and taxes.

Major defense companies said this week they will not send out layoff notices to warn of big job cuts in January, taking away the prospect of embarrassing layoff notices right before the November elections.

That's led to charges that the White House overstepped when it told the industry the notices are not needed.

The NPR Third-Party Candidate Debate

Oct 6, 2012

What's it like to be a third-party candidate running for president? Ralph Nader can tell us.

"You're excluded from the debates," he says. "You spend an exhausting amount of time, until Labor Day, trying to get over the ballot access barriers. Your petitioners are harassed in the streets; you're subjected to baseless lawsuits by one party or another."

Nader has run for president three times – four if you count the time he ran unofficially. In 2000, he managed to win almost 3 percent of the national vote.

Nov. 6 is 32 days away, but for millions of Americans, there is no longer an Election Day.

Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia now have early voting, which is under way even now in eight states. Hundreds of thousands of votes have already been cast, most before this week's presidential debates or Friday's jobs report, and all ahead of the three future debates and any unforeseen October event that might test the mettle of a candidate.

Wild-Card Wins And Anxiety-Prone Players

Oct 6, 2012

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Time for sports.

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SIMON: Major League Baseball premiered its new high-stakes, single game wild-card playoff round last night. But a controversial call involving a famously vague old rule is at the center of attention today. The - eh-eh - defending world champion St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Atlanta Braves in that game. The Baltimore Orioles put away the Texas Rangers. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman joins us now. Morning, Tom.

States Struggle To Manage Meningitis Scare

Oct 6, 2012

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Nearly two-dozen states are watching for new cases of a rare kind of meningitis, caused by fungal contamination in injections for back pain. Officials say the shots were custom made by a Massachusetts pharmacy that shipped about 17,000 doses to states from New York to California. While the disease cannot spread from person-to-person, at least five people have died and dozens more are sick. The outbreak first showed up in Tennessee as we hear from Daniel Potter of member station WPLN.

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(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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Revisiting Two CEOs' Economic Outlook

Oct 6, 2012

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

A few months ago, we sat down with two chief executive officers to talk about their views on why many companies aren't hiring, what they think it might take to spur hiring. Given yesterday's jobs report that the unemployment rate has fallow to 7.8 percent, we thought we'd revisit the issue with those same CEOs. Chris Gorman is the CEO of the KeyBank in Cleveland and joins us from his office. Chris, thanks for being back with us.

CHRIS GORMAN: Good morning, Scott.

The government has named 75 medical facilities that received a potentially contaminated drug suspected of infecting 47 patients with meningitis nationwide.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

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In the fall of 2002, the Washington, D.C., area was in the grip of terror. John Allen Muhammad and 17-year-old Lee Boyd Malvo were on a killing spree, targeting people as they filled up with gas or crossed the street.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block. Ten years ago this week, the Washington, D.C., area was in the grip of terror. On Wednesday, October 2nd, in Wheaton, Maryland, a man was shot and killed in a grocery store parking lot.

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For the past decade, al-Qaida has been a top-down organization.

Letters seized at Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan showed that he was a hands-on manager, approving everything from operations to leadership changes in affiliate groups.

But there's early intelligence that al-Qaida may have had a small role in the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, on Sept. 11.

If al-Qaida involvement is confirmed, it may signal that al-Qaida has changed.

Brenda Clubine is a platinum blonde with focused blue eyes and a no-nonsense demeanor.

She spent 26 years in prison for killing her husband. After enduring beatings and emergency room visits, she says, it finally ended in a locked motel room where he told her to give him her wedding rings.

"I said, 'Why?' He said, 'Because tomorrow they won't be able to identify your body without them,' " Clubine says.

American speedskater Simon Cho says what he did was "wrong" when he yielded to what he claims was persistent pressure from a coach to tamper with another skater's blades at the World Short Track Team Championships in Poland last year.

"Tampering with someone's skates is inexcusable," Cho told NPR in his first interview about the incident. "And I'm coming out now and admitting that I did this and acknowledging that what I did was wrong." The Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune also spoke with Cho earlier this week after the NPR interview.

Ken Rensink's path to special education teaching began when he was 19, just one day after he completed his training for the U.S. Army Reserves. He fell asleep at the wheel of his car, hit a telephone pole and nearly lost his life.

"I was paralyzed from the waist down," Ken told friend Laurel Hill-Ward, a Chico State University professor who trains special education teachers. "My left arm was so weak, I could barely hold a plastic cup of water."

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