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It's All Politics
10:01 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

State Of The GOP Race: Are We In For A Protracted Primary Season?

Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich face off at the ABC News GOP Presidential Debate on Dec. 10.
Kevork Djansezian Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 9:53 am

The mitts are off, so to speak, in the Republican presidential primary. Mitt Romney, the former front-runner, and his current and most serious rival, Newt Gingrich, are now engaged in an all-out war.

With only a few short weeks until voters in Iowa go to the caucuses, Romney is doing everything he can to stop Gingrich's sudden and surprising rise.

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The Two-Way
4:46 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Look Up! There's Still A Chance To Catch Geminid Meteor Shower

In this picture provided by Wally Pacholka of AstroPics.com, a Geminid fireball explodes over the Mojave Desert in the Jojave Desert, Calif. on Dec. 13, 2009.
Wally Pacholka AP

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 4:58 pm

Every year around this time, the Geminid Meteor Shower is on display. ABC News reports that, yesterday, the shower delivered a pretty spectacular show with some star gazers reporting about 80 shooting stars per hour.

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All Tech Considered
4:01 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Who's Opposed To .XXX Domain Names? Not Exactly Whom You'd Think

Members of the adult entertainment industry and its trade groups gathered in San Francisco in March to oppose the creation of a separate Internet address for adult entertainment websites.
Anonymous AP

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 3:42 pm

Education has .edu, .gov belongs to the government, and now, adult entertainment has .xxx.

Since last week, anyone can go online and buy a domain name ending in .xxx — but it's not all adult entertainment companies that are rushing to purchase the new addresses.

Colleges and other institutions have purchased .xxx domains pre-emptively to prevent others from doing so and associating their names with adult content. And many big names in the adult entertainment industry are opposed to the possibility of censorship by places that could block the entire .xxx domain.

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Books
3:51 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Maureen Corrigan's Favorite Books Of 2011

This year-end list is dominated by fiction, but a couple of nonfiction titles also made the cut as well. Book critic Maureen Corrigan says that 2011 was a banner year for fiction — especially for several first-time novelists.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

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Energy
3:42 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

U.S. Nuclear Agency Suffers Leadership Meltdown

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Chairman Gregory Jaczko (center) speaks Wednesday during a meeting of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. His fellow commissioners, from bottom left: Kristine Svinicki, William Magwood IV and William Ostendorff.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 5:12 pm

The government organization charged with keeping nuclear power safe is having a meltdown. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission consists of five commissioners who direct the work of hundreds of nuclear engineers and other experts. They write the rules for how nuclear reactors operate.

Now four of those commissioners say the chairman of the NRC is a bully who's destroying their ability to do their job.

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The Two-Way
3:17 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

As FAMU Fallout Deepens, Ga. District Halts Band Activity

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 3:34 pm

A Georgia school system has suspended all marching band activities after it launched an investigation spurred by the alleged hazing at Florida A&M University.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Dekalb County School System spokesman said they made the decision after uncovering "documented evidence of inappropriate activity that took place over the summer." The AJC adds:

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Around the Nation
3:16 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Experts Question Need For Stronger Cellphone Ban

A driver uses a cellphone in Maine, which has laws that ban people under 18 from using cellphones behind the wheel and bar all drivers from texting.
Robert F. Bukaty AP

When the head of the National Transportation Safety Board called for states to pass tough new laws banning drivers from using cellphones or hand-held devices, she said: "No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life."

While Tuesday's statement by NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman is undeniable, there are those who question the advisability of such a ban. Some state lawmakers and transportation experts say it could be difficult to enforce and that there's no real evidence yet that existing laws on hand-held devices have significantly reduced accident rates.

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Politics
3:08 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Report: Wealthy 'Elite Donors' Fueling U.S. Politics

A report released by the Sunlight Foundation finds that in the 2010 midterm elections, 26,783 donors nationwide gave more than $10,000 each.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 7:10 pm

A tiny percentage of very wealthy Americans funded a relatively large chunk of the 2010 congressional midterm races, continuing a trend that has been growing for two decades, according to a new analysis of political contributions.

The Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for transparency in politics and government, found that fewer than 27,000 individuals (out of a population of 307 million) each gave at least $10,000 to federal political campaigns in 2010.

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It's All Politics
2:43 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Just How Many Jobs Would The Keystone Pipeline Create?

Demonstrators march with a replica of a pipeline during a protest to demand a stop to the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline outside the White House last November.
Evan Vucci AP

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 5:12 pm

One of the major sticking points between the House and the Senate as they face off over end-of-year legislation is the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The bill the House passed Tuesday contains a provision forcing President Obama to decide on the pipeline within 60 days.

Republicans say this project should move ahead quickly because it will create thousands of jobs. But just how many jobs would be created is a matter of contention.

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Middle East
2:33 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Egyptian Islamists Favored In Second Phase Of Voting

Women stand in line to cast their votes in Suez, Egypt, on Wednesday. For months after the revolution, the port city had no government or services. Some voters are turning to the Salafists or the Muslim Brotherhood to bring change.
Eman Helal AP

Originally published on Tue January 31, 2012 9:48 am

A steady stream of voters showed up Wednesday at polling centers in the port city of Suez and eight other governorates in Egypt. Islamists are expecting to boost their lead in the second phase of the country's landmark parliamentary elections.

The first phase was held last month, and the third and final phase will come next month as the country votes by region.

At a school called "Freedom" in Suez, many women were heavily veiled with only their eyes showing.

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The Two-Way
2:31 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

In High Profile Case, Two Romanian 'Witches' Arrested

Witches. Police. Blackmail. And TV celebrities.

Yep, that caught our attention, too, so we had to pass along a strange case that has made its way to court in Romania. The government has arrested two self-professed witches who are accused of blackmailing their clients. The AP reports:

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Africa
2:20 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

South Sudan: Will Oil Lead It Out of Poverty?

South Sudanese security forces stand outside the control room of the Petrodar oil facility in Paloich, South Sudan. Sudan was once sub-Saharan Africa's third-largest oil producer, but much of that oil came from what is now South Sudan.
Pete Muller AP

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 5:12 pm

South Sudan, the world's newest nation, is still trying to find its feet, and private companies, international aid experts and diplomats have gathered in Washington this week to see if they can help.

The 5-month-old country is one of the most underdeveloped places in the world, and it still has many lingering disputes with its former rulers in Sudan — disputes that could scare off potential investors.

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Middle East
2:14 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Mysterious Events Leave Tehran Feeling Under Siege

A picture released by the official website of Iran's Revolutionary Guard on Dec. 8 shows Iranian Revolutionary Guard Brig. Gen. Amir-Ali Hajizadeh (right) looking at a U.S. spy drone that crashed in Iran on Dec. 4.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 5:12 pm

It's never easy trying to figure out just what is going on in Iran.

But it has been especially difficult of late — after an explosion that reduced a missile base to rubble, another blast that was heard but not seen, and the mysterious case of the downed American stealth drone.

These events have left a slew of questions and very few answers.

The huge explosion at the missile base outside Tehran on Nov. 12 was heard in the capital, about 30 miles away, and, satellite pictures show, it devastated the base.

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It's All Politics
1:56 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Not So Fast, Newt: Gingrich As Polling Phenomenon

Republican presidential candidates Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich laugh at a presidential debate at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., in October.
Scott Eells AP

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 4:32 pm

Poll after poll shows Newt Gingrich with a commanding lead for the Republican nomination for president.

The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll is the gaudiest yet, giving the former speaker of the House 40 percent among Republicans across the country, nearly double the number for erstwhile front-runner Mitt Romney.

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Iraq
1:39 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

How Much Influence Will Iran Have In Iraq?

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (left) shakes hands with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during an official meeting in Tehran last year.
STR AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 7:36 am

Earlier this month, a ceremony took place in Baghdad that was unthinkable under Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein: Ashura, the annual Shiite ritual marking the slaying of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and one of the most revered figures in Shiite Islam.

As the trumpets sounded in Baghdad's notorious Shiite slum of Sadr City, boys and men wearing white shrouds brought swords down onto their shaven heads. Thick red blood gushed onto their faces. Hussein sacrificed for us, the belief goes, and devoted followers are ready to sacrifice for him.

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The Two-Way
1:35 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Christmas Stamps Are OK; Christmas Carols? Not At The Post Office

There's been some consternation on the Web about what happened this weekend at a post office in Silver Spring, Md., when three Christmas carolers — all decked out in shawls, bonnets and a top hat (for the guy) — popped in and started singing.

It seems that one of the USPS managers on duty jumped into action, telling the trio that they couldn't do that because they were on government property.

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Shots - Health Blog
1:15 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Hospitals Torn On Reducing Repeat Admissions

Joseuly Claudio, 53, gets weekly checkups from nurse practitioner Mary McDonagh at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York.
Fred Mogul WNYC

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 3:01 pm

What doesn't kill you, only makes you a repeat customer.

So says Prescott Pharmaceuticals, fictional and macabre sponsor of The Colbert Report.

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Latin America
1:04 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

In Cuba, Dial-Up Internet Is A Luxury

Cuba is one of the least-connected countries in the world, a time-warped place where millions of young people have never been online and a dial-up Internet account is the stuff of dreams.

An undersea fiber-optic cable linking the island to Venezuela was supposed to change that this year. But six months after its completion, frustrated Cubans are still starved for web access.

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The Two-Way
12:59 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Putin Loyalist Resigns As Russia's Speaker Of Parliament

Tens of thousands of protesters turned out in Moscow and other major cities across Russia in open defiance to strongman Vladimir Putin's 12-year rule.
Dmitry Chistoprudov AFP/Getty Images

The protests that have spread across Russia took a big political toll today, when the speaker of parliament announced his resignation. As the AP reports, the move appears to be tailored by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as an attempt to "stem public anger."

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World Cafe
12:58 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Tinariwen On World Cafe

Tinariwen.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 12:59 pm

The only aspect of Tinariwen more urgent and heartbreakingly human than its unique blend of electric rock and North African traditional music is its story. Tinariwen's members fought as rebels in Mali to protect their land and the Tuareg people, and out of the rebel camps formed a counterculture — and a rock band.

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Economy
12:47 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Michigan Town Grapples With Shrinking Public Sector

Inkster, Mich., resident Darrel Osborne says he's noticed the reduced police presence in the city.
Sarah Hulett for NPR

Tammi Warren has lived on the same winding street in the Detroit suburb of Inkster, Mich., all her life. But as she drives down the block in her Ford pickup, Warren points to several houses on her street that stand vacant, casualties of the housing market collapse.

Vacant houses mean less tax revenue for the city, and less revenue makes it harder for Inkster to provide basic city services.

"[The] city of Inkster has eliminated 38 positions," says City Treasurer Mark Stuhldreher. "It's about 25 percent, roughly, of the workforce."

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The Two-Way
11:26 am
Wed December 14, 2011

Scientists Set New Internet Speed Record

Now, we all have reason to complain about the speed of our Internet connection. Scientists announced yesterday that they have broken the Internet speed record by transferring data at 186 Gbps between two cities.

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Rick Perry
11:17 am
Wed December 14, 2011

5 Things You May Not Know About Rick Perry

Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition 2012 Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington, D.C., last week.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 9:36 am

The eyes of Texas have been upon James Richard "Rick" Perry ever since he boot-scootin' boogied onto the public-service stage. Now political observers are watching Perry's fortunes fluctuate as a Republican candidate for president.

Political junkies have followed the career of Perry — an Eagle Scout, veterinary student and son of a farmer and a bookkeeper — from his initial election as a Democrat to the state House of Representatives in 1984. They have studied his endorsement of Al Gore for president in 1988. They watched him as he changed parties in 1989.

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The Two-Way
10:40 am
Wed December 14, 2011

Voyager 1 Speeds Toward The Brink Of Interstellar Space

An artist's conception shows Voyager 1 encountering a stagnation region. To the left is interstellar space.
NASA/JPL-Caltech

Originally published on Tue December 27, 2011 11:09 am

(Note: This post was first published on Dec. 14. It was reposted Monday — the 26th — because that's when it was broadcast on Morning Edition.)

The Voyager 1 spacecraft is 11 billion miles from the sun. And every minute, it gets 636 miles closer to its destination: the frontier of interstellar space.

The craft is currently in what NASA calls, not undramatically, "the boundary between the solar wind from the Sun and the interstellar wind from death-explosions of other stars," an area that astrophysicists also call, less dramatically, a stagnation layer.

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All Tech Considered
10:32 am
Wed December 14, 2011

Voyager Probes Aim For Interstellar Space, Four Decades Of Travel

Artist's concept of NASA's Voyager spacecraft. For 35 years, the probes have been beaming images and information back to Earth via a 23-watt transmitter.
NASA/JPL-Caltech

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 10:57 am

NASA is on the brink of putting a man-made craft into interstellar space for the first time, as Voyager 1 speeds toward the outer edge of our solar system. The Voyager program's chief scientist, Dr. Ed Stone, spoke with NPR's Steve Inskeep about that feat, and what it means for NASA.

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The Two-Way
10:08 am
Wed December 14, 2011

Obama To Troops: 'Welcome Home'

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama with troops at Fort Bragg, N.C., today (Dec. 14, 2011) after his address.
Gerry Broome AP

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 11:12 am

"On behalf of a grateful nation, I'm proud to finally say these two words and I know your famlies agree:

"Welcome home."

With that, President Obama began an address today at North Carolina's Fort Bragg, where he continued to mark the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq by talking with some of the troops who served in that nearly nine-year conflict.

We updated this post with more from his address.

Update at 12:25 p.m. ET. "Because Of You":

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Religion
10:02 am
Wed December 14, 2011

New York Hasidic Women Want Separate EMT Unit

A Hatzolah ambulance crew at the scene of a fire at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun synagogue in New York City last summer. Some Hasidic women want to form their own EMT unit within the Orthodox Jewish ambulance service to help women keep their modesty during emergency baby deliveries.
Daniel Barry Getty Images

If you live in New York City, you will often see the Orthodox Jewish ambulance service known as Hatzolah on the street. Hatzolah has some 1,200 volunteers — all men — in New York City and is known for its quick response time.

Now, a group of Hasidic female EMTs wants to create a women's division within Hatzolah, to help deliver babies in emergencies.

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The Two-Way
9:35 am
Wed December 14, 2011

Reports: Afghan Rape Victim Freed, Unclear If She Must Marry Attacker

Burqa-clad Afghan women wait to buy chickpeas from a shop in Kabul earlier this year.
Shah Marai AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 9:37 am

Gulnaz, the young Afghan woman whose story has spread around the world because she was imprisoned after being raped by a relative, is now free, CNN and the BBC are reporting.

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Shots - Health Blog
9:34 am
Wed December 14, 2011

Medicaid Takes Growing Slice Of States' Spending

Medicaid enrollment climbs.
Kaiser Family Foundation

Medicaid sure is popular. And that's a big problem for state budgets.

These days the health program for the poor is claiming a bigger slice of states' spending than even K-12 education, says a report from the National Association of State Budget Officers.

All told, Medicaid is expected to grab 23.6 percent of states' spending in fiscal 2011, up from 22.3 percent the year before.

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The Salt
9:29 am
Wed December 14, 2011

Putting Farmland On A Fertilizer Diet

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a document yesterday that got no attention on the nightly news, or almost anywhere, really. Its title, I'm sure you'll agree, is a snooze: National Nutrient Management Standard.

Yet this document represents the agency's best attempt to solve one of the country's — and the world's — really huge environmental problems: The nitrogen and phosphorus that pollute waterways.

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