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Latin America
3:19 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Sen. Marco Rubio: Obama's Cuba Deal Is Bad Foreign Policy

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 3:52 pm

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

World
3:19 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

U.S. Deal May Not Change Life Much For Everyday Cubans

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 3:52 pm

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

Economy
3:19 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Fed: Interest Rates Could Rise As Early As May 2015

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

The Salt
3:19 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Japan's Butter Shortage Whips Its Cake Makers Into A Frenzy

A customer picks up a block of butter at a food store in Tokyo on Nov. 10th. Japanese shoppers are up in arms over a serious butter shortage that has forced Tokyo to resort to emergency imports, as some grocers limit sales to one block per customer.
Yoshikazu Tsuno AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 3:47 pm

We are well into the Christmas season, and if you live in Japan, that means sponge cake.

The traditional Japanese Christmas dish is served with strawberries and cream, and it is rich, thanks to lots and lots of butter. But the Japanese have been using even more butter for their Christmas cakes this year, exacerbating what was already a national butter shortage.

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The Two-Way
2:34 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Obama Issues 12 Pardons, Commutes 8 Sentences

President Obama commuted the prison sentences of eight people who were convicted of drug-related crimes Wednesday, in a move that also saw 12 presidential pardons issued, for offenses ranging from theft to running an illegal distillery.

Half of the eight whose sentences were commuted had been sentenced to life imprisonment.

Citing "unduly harsh sentences issued for drug offenses under an outdated sentencing regime," a White House official said Wednesday that all eight of those who were punished for drug offenses "would receive a substantially lower sentence today."

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The Two-Way
2:31 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Alan Gross' Release: How It Went Down

Alan Gross and his wife, Judy, in Washington on Wednesday after his release from a Cuban prison.
Algerina Perna Baltimore Sun/TNS /Landov

American Alan Gross had spent more than five years in a Cuban prison where he lost five teeth, 100 pounds and much of the sight in his right eye. He could barely walk because of chronic pain and was, his wife Judy Gross said in June, "despondent and very hopeless" because he had 10 years to go in his sentence for crimes against the Cuban state. Then, on Tuesday, his lawyer, Scott Gilbert, told him in a phone call that he was going home.

There was a long pause, his spokeswoman Jill Zuckman said today in Washington, and then Gross said, "I'll believe it when I see it."

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All Tech Considered
2:24 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Weekly Innovation: Nonstick Coating Helps Ketchup Slide Out

With LiquiGlide, ketchup easily slides outside of the bottle with no shaking necessary.
LiquiGlide

Just think about how much food or product we waste because it's stuck on the sides of its container. Whether it's that last bit of ketchup or toothpaste, it seems easier to throw it out and start anew rather than deal with that endless game of shaking and squeezing.

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Parallels
2:18 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

In Gaza, The Specter Of ISIS Proves Useful To Both Sides

The Islamist group Hamas, shown here in a rally in the Gaza Strip on Dec. 12, is the strongest faction in the Gaza Strip. The Islamic State, or ISIS, is not believed to be in the territory, though flyers purporting to be from the group have circulated in Gaza. They are widely believed to be fake, but both Israel and Hamas have tried to use them to their advantage.
Mahmud Hams AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 2:44 pm

Earlier this month, more than a dozen writers, poets and activists in Gaza got threatening flyers signed with the name ISIS, the Sunni extremists fighting with brutal violence in Iraq and Syria.

But a few days later, a new flyer, also signed ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, denied responsibility and apologized.

The incident is raising the question of whether ISIS is taking root in Gaza — or if someone is just playing around.

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Around the Nation
2:17 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Some Cuban-Americans Angry With Release Of Spies

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 3:21 pm

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

Global Health
2:17 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Dreaming Up A Safer, Cooler PPE For Ebola Fighters

This design of this new anti-Ebola suit will make health workers more comfortable and could also save lives.
Courtesy of Clinvue and Roy Heisler

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 3:19 pm

Here's what it takes to design a better Ebola suit: a roomful of university students and professors, piles of canvas and Tyvek cloth, sewing machines, glue guns ... and chocolate syrup.

Even Youseph Yazdi, head of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design (CBID), still isn't sure what the syrup was for.

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Goats and Soda
2:17 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

We're Down To 5 Northern White Rhinos: Is It Too Late For Babies?

Najin, a female Northern White Rhino, gets a pat from keeper Mohamed Doyo. Najin, who lives at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, is one of only five of its subspecies left in the world.
Ben Curtis AP

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 2:39 pm

A 44-year-old Northern White Rhino named Angalifu died this week at the San Diego Zoo of old age.

Now only five animals remain in this subspecies, all in captivity. Four are females. The one male lives in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

So it would seem the Northern White Rhino is doomed to extinction. Poachers are to blame — they've slain thousands of Northern White Rhinos to get their horns, which are hawked in Asia as a health tonic.

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Movies
2:17 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Studios Hope Holiday Family Movies Will Grab Slice Of Shrinking Box Office

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 2:39 pm

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

Movie Interviews
2:17 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Major Movie Theater Chains Drop 'The Interview' After Threats

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 3:19 pm

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

Code Switch
2:17 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

An Updated 'Annie' And The Tradition Of Nontraditional Casting

Quvenzhane Wallis (second from right) stars in an updated version of Annie, produced by Jay Z.
Barry Wetcher Sony Pictures Entertainment

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 3:25 pm

That lovable moppet with the red dress, the curly hair, the big dog, and the even bigger voice is back.

This time, though, Little Orphan Annie is back with a difference: Quvenzhane Wallis is playing an African-American orphan in an ethnically diverse, up-to-date world. And that got us thinking about other instances where producers have breathed fresh life into familiar shows by making them dance to a new beat.

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Movie Interviews
2:17 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Angelina Jolie On Her Film's 'Unbroken' Hero: 'He Was Truly A Great Man'

During World War II, Louis Zamperini spent 47 days stranded in shark-infested waters before he was rescued by Japanese soldiers and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp.
Universal Pictures

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 2:39 pm

The new film Unbroken, from director Angelina Jolie, tells the story of an Olympic runner and World War II prisoner of war. Louis Zamperini shattered records at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and when the war broke out, he enlisted. Then, on a routine mission, his plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean, leaving him stranded in shark-infested waters for 47 days. When he was eventually rescued by Japanese soldiers, he became a prisoner of war.

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Shots - Health News
2:10 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

What Happens After You Get That Mammogram

This graphic lays out the possible outcomes for 10,000 50-year-old women who get screening mammograms for 10 years.
Courtesy of JAMA

Women and their doctors have a hard time figuring out the pluses and minuses of screening mammograms for breast cancer. It doesn't help that there's been fierce dissent over the benefits of screening mammography for women under 50 and for older women.

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The Two-Way
1:23 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Sony Cancels Christmas Day Release Of 'The Interview' Amid Threats

A sign posted Wednesday on the box office window at the Sunshine Cinema in New York. The New York premiere of The Interview, a Sony Pictures comedy about the assassination of North Korean President Kim Jong Un, has been canceled.
Andrew Kelly Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 3:56 pm

Updated at 5:10 p.m. ET

Sony Pictures has canceled the Christmas Day release of The Interview, the comedy that centers on a plot to assassinate North Korea's leader. The move came after the largest U.S. movie theater chains said they won't screen the film in the wake of threats against them by a group that also allegedly hacked Sony's internal documents.

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The Two-Way
1:18 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

PHOTO: The Meaning in a Phone Call

President Obama speaks with President Raul Castro of Cuba from the Oval Office on Tuesday.
Pete Souza The White House

On Tuesday, President Obama picked up the phone and talked to Cuban President Raul Castro.

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The Two-Way
12:56 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Alan Gross, U.S. Contractor Freed By Cuba, Says 'It's Good To Be Home'

Alan Gross addresses a news conference in Washington on Wednesday hours after his release from Cuba.
Gary Cameron Reuters /Landov

American Alan Gross, who spent five years in a Cuban prison before his release today as a humanitarian gesture, said "it's good to be home," and that he hoped the U.S. and Cuba move past their "mutually belligerent" policies.

"Two wrongs never made a right," Gross said in Washington shortly after he returned to the U.S. aboard a government plane.

Gross appeared frail but cheerful. Some of his front teeth were missing.

Gross thanked President Obama and his national security team for working toward his freedom.

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NPR Story
12:40 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

School Tries To Help Students By Coaching Parents

Moms gather at a classroom in Morales Elementary for a morning charla, or chat. They watch a training video about how to support their kids’ education and share their own experiences. (Houston Public Media)

For more than a decade, federal education policies have pushed schools to get parents more involved on campus. The idea is that if parents are more involved, then their children will do better academically — especially kids who struggle.

In one Texas school district, that idea is taking a new form. From the Here & Now Contributors Network, Laura Isensee of Houston Public Media visits an elementary school to find out more.

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NPR Story
12:40 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Atticus Lish's 'Preparation For The Next Life'

Atticus Lish is author of the book "Preparation for the Next Life." (Shelton Walsmith)

Atticus Lish‘s debut novel “Preparation for the Next Life” has already been drawing raves from critics.

It centers around an unlikely romance between Skinner, a veteran of the war in Iraq, and Zou Lei, a Uyghur from China. Lish told Here & Now‘s Robin Young that the book’s title has significance for both characters.

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NPR Story
12:40 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Inside The Lives Of Chinese Restaurant Workers

Restaurant workers relax in New York's Chinatown district on July 11, 2014 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/AFP/Getty Images)

Atticus Lish’s novel “Preparation for the Next Life” and a recent New Yorker article, “The Kitchen Network” by Lauren Hilgers, have thrown a spotlight onto the plight of the workers in Chinese restaurants.

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The Two-Way
12:22 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Prisoner Exchange With Cuba Led To Freedom For Top U.S. Intelligence Agent

Today's announcement that Cuba freed USAID contractor Alan Gross as a humanitarian gesture came with news of a separate prisoner exchange: Three convicted Cuban spies were traded for a U.S. intelligence asset who spent nearly two decades in Cuban prisons.

President Obama called the unnamed man "one of the most important intelligence agents that the United States has ever had in Cuba."

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Parallels
12:20 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

The U.S. And Cuba: A Brief History Of A Complicated Relationship

Fidel Castro looks up at the Jefferson Memorial on April 16, 1959. The Cuban leader visited Washington several months after seizing power. But U.S.-Cuban relations quickly frayed, and the U.S. imposed an embargo of the island in 1961.
AP

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 3:49 pm

Just months after he seized power in Cuba, Fidel Castro visited Washington in April 1959. He placed a wreath at the base of both the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials and was photographed looking up in seeming admiration of both U.S. presidents.

For U.S.-Cuba relations, it was all downhill after that.

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The Two-Way
12:12 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

New Cuba Policy Is Met With Cheers And Jeers On Both Sides Of The Aisle

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 1:46 pm

Updated at 3:42 p.m.

The Obama administration announced today that it would begin the process of re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba.

It's a contentious issue, and reaction has been swift. Here's a roundup:

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Shots - Health News
11:30 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Managed Care Plans Make Progress In Erasing Racial Disparities

A nurse checks a man's blood pressure during a health clinic In Los Angeles.
Patrick Fallon Bloomberg via Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 2:25 pm

Years of efforts to reduce the racial disparities in health care have so far failed to eliminate them. But progress is being made in the western United States, due largely to efforts by managed care plans to identify patients who were missing out on management of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

While management of blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar improved nationwide, African-Americans still "substantially" trailed whites everywhere except the western U.S., an area from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific as well as Alaska and Hawaii.

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The Salt
11:13 am
Wed December 17, 2014

A Holy Land Christmas Porridge Honors A Damsel In Distress

In Jerusalem, Syrian Orthodox Christian Nadia Ishaq prepares her burbara porridge with boiled what kernels, raisins, dried plums and dried apricots, topped with ground coconut in the shape of a cross. The holiday honors St. Barbara, an early convert to Christianity whose story is echoed in the Rapunzel tale.
Daniella Cheslow for NPR

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 1:51 pm

The winter holidays are a time of abundance, but for Christians in the Middle East, the official start of the Christmas season is marked by a decidedly rustic dish: porridge.

Archbishop Swerios Murad of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem says his congregation will eat boiled wheat kernels this week to mark the Feast of St. Barbara, or Eid el-Burbara in Arabic.

"It's a simple porridge," Murad tells The Salt, "but it's very important that it be sweet."

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Music
11:12 am
Wed December 17, 2014

D'Angelo's 'Black Messiah' Collapses Years, Genres

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 11:32 am

D'Angelo has built a considerable reputation on the basis of three albums: 1995's Brown Sugar, 2000's Voodoo, and now Black Messiah, unexpectedly released early Monday morning. The singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist has been widely praised for connecting many decades of different rhythm & blues styles, and Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker says Black Messiah is as adventurous as any fan could hope for.

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Author Interviews
11:12 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Between World Wars, Gay Culture Flourished In Berlin

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 11:32 am

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

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WILLKOMMEN")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome.

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Shots - Health News
10:06 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Behind The Scenes At The Lab That Fingerprints Microbiomes

Rob Knight, co-founder of the American Gut Project at the University of Colorado in Boulder, works in the lab where the samples are processed.
The American Gut Project

The gut microbiome may soon reveal important answers to questions about our health. But those answers aren't yet easy to spot or quick to obtain.

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