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The Best Of Fresh Air 2011
1:25 am
Fri December 30, 2011

Stephen Colbert: A 'Company' Man On Broadway

Stephen Colbert and Martha Plimpton perform a song from Company on stage during the 65th annual Tony Awards.
Andrew H. Walker Getty Images

This week on Fresh Air, we're marking the year's end by revisiting some of the most memorable conversations we've had in 2011. This interview was originally broadcast on June 14, 2011.

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Business
10:01 pm
Thu December 29, 2011

Happy Holidays? Indeed, For Some Stuck At Work

Louise Tucker-Mitchell laughs on the phone with a customer at Enterprise Rent-A-Car at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. She says she likes working the week between Christmas and New Year's, as it's calmer and a good time to catch up.
Sara Carothers NPR

It's the last workweek of the year, and just about half of American workers have been in the office.

If that sounds like a drag, well, meet Louise Tucker-Mitchell.

She works for Enterprise Rent-A-Car at Washington, D.C.'s Reagan National Airport. For her, at least, being stuck at work between the holidays is a secret pleasure.

Things are unusually quiet. Traffic is uncharacteristically light. "This is the free time when you can sort everything out and get it done," she says.

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Television
10:01 pm
Thu December 29, 2011

Oprah Winfrey Network Still Finding Its Footing

Oprah Winfrey talks to reporters during a press tour that followed the launch of her cable network, OWN, in January.
Frederick M. Brown Getty Images

Ratings have been a major disappointment for the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), but that could change now that Oprah Winfrey is about to debut her own show on the cable channel.

When Winfrey ended her longtime show on broadcast TV earlier this year, there were lots of tears and endless tributes to the queen of daytime talk.

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The Two-Way
4:14 pm
Thu December 29, 2011

Basil Al-Sayed, Who Chronicled The Syrian Uprising, Is Dead

Basil al-Sayed, a Syrian citizen journalist who lost his life documenting the uprising in Homs.
Rami Jarrah

This was the last thing Basil al-Sayed, a citizen journalist in Syria, filmed before he was shot in the head by security forces:

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The Salt
3:19 pm
Thu December 29, 2011

What The World Eats For A Better, Luckier 2012

In Denmark they eat a towering cake called kransekage for New Year's Eve.
Jeremy Noble via Flickr

Many cultures greet the New Year with a feast that symbolically sets the table for the year ahead. As they sit down to traditional dishes, people often try to internalize their hopes and goals for the coming year.

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Shots - Health Blog
3:09 pm
Thu December 29, 2011

Transplants Bring New Faces In 2011

Charla Nash received a full-face transplant after she was mauled by a chimpanzee in 2009.
HO AFP/Getty Images

If there's a medical advance that seized the public imagination this year, we'd venture to say it was facial transplant surgery.

Three transplants gave severely injured patients completely new faces in 2011. Now the doctors involved have revealed details about the complex cases in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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The Two-Way
3:07 pm
Thu December 29, 2011

China Officially Sets Its Sight On The Moon

China laid out its vision for space exploration in a white paper released today. In it, China declares its intention to put a man on the moon, a feat accomplished last by the United States almost 40 years ago.

The Financial Times says that while the prospect has been discussed by scientists in the past, the paper is "the first public government document to enshrine it as a policy goal."

The Times adds:

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Middle East
3:04 pm
Thu December 29, 2011

In Syria, Arab League Observers Caught In Crossfire

In this frame grab from an amateur video posted on YouTube, members of the Arab League monitor violence in the Syrian city of Homs this week.
YouTube

Originally published on Thu December 29, 2011 4:51 pm

Despite the presence of an Arab League monitoring mission, Syrian security forces shot dead at least 40 protesters on Thursday, according to activists.

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States Of The Economy
2:51 pm
Thu December 29, 2011

'It's A Great Day In South Carolina' - If You Have A Job

South Carolina has an unemployment rate of 9.9 percent, above the current national figure.

But that's not the message you'll get if you call Republican Gov. Nikki Haley's office, where you'll be greeted with a cheery message: "It's a great day in South Carolina..."

And that's the same message you'll receive when calling call any other state agency. Or attend any recent event with the governor, like one last month in Columbia where TD Bank announced its plans to create a regional hub.

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The Two-Way
2:31 pm
Thu December 29, 2011

Body Odor May Explain Why Mosquitoes Prefer Certain People

An Anopheles albimanus mosquito, which is an important vector for malaria transmission in Central America.
James Gathany CDC

It's a question that has surely crossed the minds of many of you: Why is that mosquitoes tend to prefer certain people?

Scientists think they have an answer — at least to what attracts the the African mosquito Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto, which is partly responsible for the transmission of malaria. The researchers, led by Niels Verhulst of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, found that the blood suckers are attracted to certain people because of the kinds of bacteria on their skin.

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Environment
1:57 pm
Thu December 29, 2011

U.S. Military Tests Out Green Tech In Afghanistan

In this photo released by the U.S. Marines and taken in December 2010, Lance Cpl. Dakota Hicks, from Laharpe, Ill., connects a radio battery to a portable solar panel communication system in Sangin District, in Afghanistan.The U.S. military is trying to wean itself off reliance on fossil fuels by employing solar energy and biofuels, among other measures.
Gunnery Sgt. William Price Small AP

Originally published on Thu December 29, 2011 6:19 pm

The heavy, mine-resistant vehicles that almost all U.S. military personnel use to move about Afghanistan are gas guzzlers. And even though the U.S. military buys that fuel at a reasonable price, the energy it takes to fly it and truck it to remote parts of Afghanistan drives the price into the stratosphere.

There's also a much greater cost, says Ray Mabus, secretary of the U.S. Navy.

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National Security
1:56 pm
Thu December 29, 2011

Terrorists Struggle To Gain Recruits On The Web

The Twitter page for al-Shabab, the radical Islamic group in Somalia that has been branded a terrorist organization by the U.S. Such groups are active in social media, but have not attracted many recruits.
Twitter.com

Terrorist groups seemed to be all over the Web in 2011. There were al-Qaida videos on YouTube, Facebook pages by Islamic militants in Somalia, and webzines – like Inspire magazine – produced by al-Qaida affiliates in Yemen.

If there were an award for the best known terrorist music recording in the past couple of years, it would probably go to the Somali militia group al-Shabab for a YouTube video that extolled the virtues of jihad, or holy war.

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Music Reviews
1:08 pm
Thu December 29, 2011

This One's For Guy Clark, Americana's Craftsman

Guy Clark is a storyteller who carves songs out of quiet moments and marginal characters.
Senor McGuire

Originally published on Thu December 29, 2011 3:21 pm

Singer-songwriter Guy Clark is a key figure in alternative country music. In the 1970s, his Nashville home was an axis of creativity, a hangout where musicians assembled to trade songs and stories, and where Clark mentored young songwriters at the time, like Steve Earle and Rodney Crowell.

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The Two-Way
12:58 pm
Thu December 29, 2011

Are You Being Paid $600,000 To Party?

She'll be paid well to party: Kim Kardashian.
David Livingston Getty Images

Headlines claiming that celebrity-whose-famous-for-being-famous Kim Kardashian will be paid $600,000 to host a New Year's Eve party at the Tao nightclub in Las Vegas' Venetian hotel and casino and then return to the Tao a few more times in 2012 to make "special appearances," certainly catch your eye.

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Movie Reviews
12:54 pm
Thu December 29, 2011

'A Separation': In Tehran, Houses And Hearts Divided

The Great Divides: Simin (Leila Hatami) and Nader (Peyman Moadi) are at odds first about whether to leave Iran for life abroad — and then about more urgent issues yet.
Habib Madjidi Sony Pictures Classics

Originally published on Fri December 30, 2011 8:58 am

The opening moments of A Separation lay out the story you'd expect to see in a film about a wife who is leaving her husband: Simin (Leila Hatami) and her bank-clerk spouse, Nader (Peyman Moadi), are explaining heatedly to a judge why they want a separation. Or actually, why they don't want it.

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Music News
12:53 pm
Thu December 29, 2011

Government Bulldozer: Protest Songs From Russia

Russian musician Noize MC
Courtesy of the artist

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The Two-Way
12:32 pm
Thu December 29, 2011

Verizon Will Charge $2 To Pay Bill Online Or By Phone

The Verizon Wireless logo hangs over a store in Portland, Ore.
Don Ryan AP

Originally published on Thu December 29, 2011 12:34 pm

Beginning Jan. 15, Verizon will charge you an extra $2 if you choose to pay your bill online or by phone. In a statement, the largest mobile service provider in the country said the "convenience fee" is "designed to address costs incurred by us for only those customers who choose to make single bill payments in alternate payment channels."

Verizon also lists seven ways that allow you to pay without incurring the fee and it reads a bit like the complex mobile bills you get each month. They are:

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It's All Politics
12:02 pm
Thu December 29, 2011

Undecided In Iowa: Potential Caucus-Goers Doing Serious Work Before Tuesday

Katherine Burns (center)
Becky Lettenberger NPR

Originally published on Mon January 2, 2012 4:25 am

As we continued our Iowa travels in the days leading up to next week's presidential caucuses here, NPR photographer Becky Lettenberger and I have been struck by the utter seriousness of the state's Republican voters.

Presidential caucus seasons past have often been marked by fun and some frivolity at campaign events: Funny T-shirts and hats, jokes and punch lines offered up by candidates, a sense of hope and anticipation.

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The Two-Way
11:55 am
Thu December 29, 2011

Iran Much In Mind As U.S. Wraps Up $30B Sale Of Fighters To Saudi Arabia

Originally published on Thu December 29, 2011 11:57 am

The news that the U.S. has finalized a deal to sell nearly $30 billion worth of F-15SA fighter jets and other equipment to Saudi Arabia comes, as every story about the agreement says, as America and its allies seek to further isolate and pressure Iran so long as that Persian nation continues to be a threat to others in the region.

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The Picture Show
11:50 am
Thu December 29, 2011

Snow-Wash: North Korea Doctored Photos Of Kim's Funeral

The funeral procession of Kim Jong Il brought back memories of an era when images of Communist propaganda were ubiquitous. The visual backbone of the images or illustrations were usually order and symmetry, enacted on a grand scale.

Wednesday's event was no exception. An overall view of the snowy procession had it all: the framed image of Kim Jong Il in the foreground, the masses of mourners lined neatly on the sidelines, the motorcade in perfect sync and the order that is associated with a totalitarian regime — a regime with access to Photoshop.

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Business
11:37 am
Thu December 29, 2011

Gas Pains? U.S. Diesel, Gas Exports Surpass Imports

For the first time in more than six decades, the United States is exporting more gasoline and diesel than it imports.

To be clear, we're talking about finished petroleum products, not crude oil. The U.S. still imports about half the crude it consumes.

Refineries are touting this new export statistic — after all, gasoline and diesel are manufactured products. They say a boost in exports keeps more manufacturing jobs in the U.S. But one reason exports are increasing is that demand for gas in this country is declining.

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Shots - Health Blog
11:24 am
Thu December 29, 2011

Avastin Falls Short In Treatment Of Ovarian Cancer

Richard Morgenstein Genentech

Originally published on Thu December 29, 2011 11:25 am

Cancer-fighter Avastin just came up short as a treatment for ovarian tumors.

Two studies found that the drug, which blocks the formation of new blood vessels, didn't extend the lives of patients with ovarian cancer.

Avastin did slow the progression of the cancers a little bit. But the patients getting Avastin as part of treatment with several medicines had more side effects, including blood clots and high blood pressure, than the people who didn't get it.

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The Two-Way
11:10 am
Thu December 29, 2011

Venezuela's Chávez: Maybe The U.S. Is Giving Cancer To Leftist Leaders

A handout picture released by the Venezuelan presidency, shows President Hugo Chávez speaking with members of the Army during a military ceremony in Caracas on Wednesday.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 29, 2011 4:25 pm

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez mused that the United States might be behind his cancer and that of other leftist leaders in Latin America.

Reuters reports:

"'It would not be strange if they had developed the technology to induce cancer and nobody knew about it until now ... I don't know. I'm just reflecting,' he said in a televised speech to troops at a military base.

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The Two-Way
11:10 am
Thu December 29, 2011

Surprise Headline Of The Day: Gadhafi's Daughter 'Eyeing Asylum In Israel'

Aisha Gadhafi in 2006.
Khaled Desouki AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat December 31, 2011 10:24 am

Stay with us for a minute while we walk through the reporting chain:

The Los Angeles Times writes today that former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's 35-year-old daughter Aisha is "reportedly eyeing asylum in Israel."

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It's All Politics
10:26 am
Thu December 29, 2011

At Romney Rally, Iowa's Moderate GOP 'Silent Majority' Voters Start Talking

A young Mitt Romney supporter holds yard signs Thursday at a campaign event at J's Homestyle Cooking in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Mon January 2, 2012 4:26 am

Another strong turnout this morning for Mitt Romney at a restaurant in Cedar Falls, though the small place wasn't quite as packed as yesterday's breakfast stop in Muscatine. Romney spent a lot of time shaking hands and posing for pictures with customers, supporters and restaurant staff, after he spoke for about 20 minutes. He usually takes a couple of questions from the crowd but did not today, preferring to spend more time than usual glad-handing.

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The Salt
9:59 am
Thu December 29, 2011

Chefs Roll Out Hearty, Homey Meatballs On The Cheap

Meatballs over pasta from Michel Richard's restaurant in Washington, D.C.
Melissa Forsyth NPR

When I'm considering a gourmet lunch, meatballs don't exactly spring to mind. So I was more than a little surprised to hear that haute cuisine chef Michel Richard was opening a meatball joint just down the street from NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C.

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The Two-Way
9:40 am
Thu December 29, 2011

Unused Gift Cards? What About A Group That Collects Them For Charities?

Our post-Christmas post about the estimated $41 billion worth of gift cards that haven't been redeemed since 2005 seemed to strike a chord. And our shout-out for ideas about what to do with cards you don't want or that only have a little bit of money left on them generated some good responses. Such as this:

Trena Gravem (Trena) wrote:

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The Two-Way
8:55 am
Thu December 29, 2011

Petraeus Did Not Consider Quitting Over Afghan Drawdown, Author Says

Gen. David Petraeus in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on July 4, 2011.
U.S. Navy Lt. j.g. Haraz N. Ghanbari Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 29, 2011 9:16 am

The lede on an Associated Press report this morning:

"Four-star general-turned-CIA director David Petraeus almost resigned as Afghanistan war commander over President Barack Obama's decision to quickly draw down surge forces, according to a new insider's look at Petraeus' 37-year Army career."

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Science
8:39 am
Thu December 29, 2011

Debunked Science: Studies In 2011 Take Heat

2011 may go down as the year of the retraction in the scientific world.

Among the highly publicized discoveries that got debunked this year: a genetic basis for longevity; a new form of life; an explanation for autism; and a link between a virus and chronic fatigue syndrome.

All of these non-discoveries have something in common. They involved findings that both scientists and the public badly wanted to believe.

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It's All Politics
8:24 am
Thu December 29, 2011

Across Iowa, Gingrich Highlights His Experience As Poll Numbers Slip

Newt Gingrich speaks Wednesday at Southbridge Mall in Mason City, Iowa.
Scott Olson Getty Images

Originally published on Mon January 2, 2012 4:26 am

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich started Thursday's Iowa campaigning with a stop in Sioux City at The Coffee Works. Only about a dozen customers were there, but he was questioned critically by one about his comments on reforming the federal judiciary.

Linda Santi told Gingrich she didn't appreciate him "politicizing" the Iowa Supreme Court's 2009 decision that found unconstitutional a state law banning gay marriage. Santi said the decision was in accordance with the state constitution. Gingrich ended the conversation with: "We'll have to agree to disagree."

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