NPR News

The Two-Way
9:41 am
Thu December 18, 2014

India Tests Crew Capsule, New Heavy-Lift Rocket

India's test crew module floating in the Andaman Sea after splash down.
N. Balbantray Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)

India took a giant leap forward toward its goal of becoming the fourth nation to place humans into space, launching an unmanned crew capsule aboard a powerful new rocket designed for heavier payloads.

The Indian Space Research Organization, or ISRO, launched the 630-ton rocket from its facility at Sriharikota on the country's southeast coast. It was the first flight test of an improved version of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, or GSLV rocket.

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The Two-Way
9:38 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Montana Man Found Guilty Of Killing German Exchange Student

Markus Kaarma waits to be dismissed during an afternoon break in Missoula County Court in Missoula, Mont., in this Dec. 5 photo. A jury found Kaarma guilty Wednesday of deliberate homicide in the shooting death of a German high school exchange student who entered his garage.
Arthur Mouratidis Reuters /Landov

A Montana man's shooting in April of a German exchange student was a test of the state's "castle doctrine," which says a man's home is his castle and can be defended as such. But on Wednesday, a jury convicted Markus Kaarma of deliberate homicide in the death of 17-year-old Diren Dede, who was in his garage.

As Montana Public Radio's Christopher Allen reports, "Kaarma's defense team argued deadly force was justified because he was defending his home. Prosecutors argued Kaarma, who had been previously burglarized, set a trap with intent to harm and committed deliberate homicide."

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The Two-Way
8:55 am
Thu December 18, 2014

FIFA Begins Meeting After American Lawyer's Angry Resignation

Michael J. Garcia, head of FIFA's investigatory chamber of the ethics committee, resigned Wednesday in protest.
Walter Bieri EPA /LANDOV

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 9:22 am

Soccer's governing body is meeting Thursday in Morocco, a day after the American lawyer, who spent two years investigating allegations of corruption in the bidding process for the World Cup, quit in protest at how FIFA handled his report.

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Shots - Health News
8:44 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Is Your State Ready For The Next Infectious Outbreak? Probably Not

Alyson Hurt/NPR

Ebola may have slid off the nation's worry list, but that doesn't mean the United States is ready to handle an outbreak of Ebola or other infectious disease, an analysis says. That includes naturally occurring outbreaks like dengue fever, tuberculosis and measles, as well as the use of bioterror agents like anthrax.

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The Two-Way
8:25 am
Thu December 18, 2014

2014 Saw Fewest Executions In 20 Years, Report Finds

The gurney in the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary is pictured in McAlester, Okla., in 2008.
AP

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 9:06 am

There was a significant drop in the number of executions and death penalty sentences in 2014, a new report by the Death Penalty Information Center finds.

The group's year-end accounting finds that:

-- States conducted 35 executions in 2014 — the lowest since 1994.

-- And the justice system sentenced 72 people to death — the lowest number in 40 years.

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The Two-Way
8:17 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Putin: Sanctions, Falling Oil Prices Causing Ruble's Tumble

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures during his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday, where he blamed Western sanctions and falling oil prices on his country's economic troubles.
Pavel Golovkin AP

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 9:02 am

Russian President Vladimir Putin lashed out at the West in a year-end news conference today, blaming international sanctions and a steep plunge in oil prices for the precipitous drop in the value of the ruble.

Putin, speaking during a more than three-hour news conference attended by some 1,200 journalists, "promised never to let the West chain or defang his proud nation," according to The Associated Press.

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Shots - Health News
7:47 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Worries About Unusual Botulinum Toxin Prove Unfounded

A culture of Clostridium botulinum, stained with gentian violet.
CDC

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 8:31 am

Remember that worrisome new form of botulinum toxin we told you about in late 2013, the one that supposedly had to be kept secret out of fear it could be used as a bioweapon that would evade all of our medical defenses?

Well, as it turns out, it's not that scary after all. The antitoxin stored in the government's emergency stockpile works and would neutralize the toxin just fine.

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Goats and Soda
7:40 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Pakistan Keeps On Vaccinating Despite Tough Terrain And Terror Threat

A Pakistani health worker administers a polio vaccine to a child during a campaign in the northern city of Rawalpindi.
FAROOQ NAEEM AFP/Getty Images

Between the rugged terrain and the constant terrorist threats, vaccinating Pakistani children against common diseases hasn't been easy. Mountains make it hard — at times even impossible — for vaccinators to reach people in the north. In the south, health workers have to use four-wheelers and camels to travel through Pakistan's harsh deserts.

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Monkey See
5:54 am
Thu December 18, 2014

The Many Rabbit Holes (Or Should We Say Labyrinths) Of 'Serial'

Sarah Koenig and producer Dana Chivvis in the studio.
Elise Bergerson Serial

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The Two-Way
5:35 am
Thu December 18, 2014

New Era For Cuba? Voices From Miami And Havana

Anti-Castro protester Lazaro Lozano, left, argues with an unidentified pro-Obama supporter in the Little Havana area of Miami, on Wednesday.
Alan Diaz AP

Just hours after the United States and Cuba announced they were moving toward normalizing relations, crowds gathered in Havana and Miami trying to come to grips with a historic shift.

NPR covered the reaction in those two places with two pieces on Morning Edition.

NPR's Greg Allen reported from Miami:

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World
5:24 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Correct Name Gets Canadian Woman A Free European Trip

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 5:52 am

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

Around the Nation
5:24 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Santa Pays An Early Visit To Cape Cod Eateries

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 5:52 am

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

NPR Story
3:11 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Rep. Sires Pushes Back Against Obama's Cuba Plans

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 5:52 am

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

NPR Story
3:11 am
Thu December 18, 2014

S.C. Judge Rules 1944 Execution Of 14-Year-Old Boy Was Wrong

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 8:07 am

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

NPR Story
3:11 am
Thu December 18, 2014

How Tchaikovsky's 'Nutcracker' Became A Holiday Tradition

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 5:52 am

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

Afghanistan
3:11 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Fight Against Corruption In Afghanistan Press On

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 5:52 am

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

NPR Story
3:11 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Obama Announces Diplomatic Thaw With Cuba

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 5:52 am

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

Science
1:36 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Arctic Is Warming Twice As Fast As World Average

A lone polar bear poses on a block of arctic sea ice in Russia's Franz Josef Land.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 8:58 am

The latest word from scientists studying the Arctic is that the polar region is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. And researchers say the trend isn't letting up. That's the latest from the 2014 Arctic Report Card — a compilation of recent research from more than 60 scientists in 13 countries. The report was released Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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Parallels
1:31 am
Thu December 18, 2014

At An Isolated Camp, Iraqi Police Prep For A Showdown With ISIS

More than 4,000 officers of the Nineveh province security force are based in an isolated training camp in northern Iraq. Their aim is retaking ISIS-controlled Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city.
Deborah Amos NPR

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 8:27 am

When Mohammed Taha Yaseen recalls the day that Islamic militants swept through Iraq's northern city of Mosul this past summer, he chokes up.

"The army ran away," he says, and pauses to gain control of his voice. "We didn't run — the police stayed and fought ISIS."

Yaseen, an officer in the Mosul police force, tells his story at an isolated training camp in northern Iraq, less than 20 miles from the front lines with ISIS, also known as the Islamic State.

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Television
1:27 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Boundary-Pushing Late Night Hosts Move On — Colbert Up, Ferguson Out

Craig Ferguson hosts The Late Late Show in 2011.
Sonja Flemming AP

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 7:15 am

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The Two-Way
1:23 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Supreme Court Refuses To Block Arizona Driver's Licenses For 'Dreamers'

The Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., voted against Arizona's appeal, which would have allowed a state ban on driver's licenses for young undocumented immigrants.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 8:33 am

Arizona hoped an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court would prevent the state from having to grant driving permits to young undocumented immigrants, also known as "dreamers," who entered the country as children. A federal appeals court ruled in July of this year that Arizona must start issuing the licenses to dreamers, who under Obama administration policy are permitted to remain in the United States.

NPR's Nina Totenberg reported on the Supreme Court's Wednesday decision and the background of the legal dispute:

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The Two-Way
7:40 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

S.C. Judge Says 1944 Execution Of 14-Year-Old Boy Was Wrong

George Stinney Jr. appears in an undated police booking photo provided by the South Carolina Department of Archives and History. A South Carolina judge vacated the conviction of the 14-year-old, who was executed in 1944, saying he didn't receive a fair trial.
Landov

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 8:05 am

An African-American boy, George Stinney Jr., who was executed at age 14 in the killing of two young white girls has been exonerated in South Carolina, 70 years after he became the youngest person executed in the U.S. in the 1900s. A judge ruled he was denied due process.

"I think it's long overdue," Stinney's sister, Katherine Stinney Robinson, 80, tells local newspaper The Manning Times. "I'm just thrilled because it's overdue."

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The Two-Way
5:39 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

U.S. Officials Believe North Korea Was Behind Sony Hack

U.S. intelligence officials believe North Korea was centrally involved in the recent attack on Sony Pictures' computer network — possibly out of retribution for its film The Interview. Above, a security guard stands outside a theater during the film's premiere in Los Angeles last week.
Kevork Djansezian Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 6:29 pm

The recent attack on Sony Pictures' computer network that resulted in a flood of embarrassing emails and pirated movies has its origins in North Korea, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

More details about the U.S. investigation into the hacking attack could emerge as early as Wednesday night.

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The Two-Way
5:16 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Satanist And Christian Holiday Displays To Go Up At Michigan Capitol

Bearing the message "The Greatest Gift is Knowledge," a holiday display by the Satanic Temple will accompany a Christian Nativity scene on the grounds of the Michigan State Capitol.
Satanic Temple

Two very different holiday displays will share the grounds of the Michigan State Capitol next week: a traditional Christian Nativity and an exhibit by the Satanic Temple. The situation has brought controversy — and energized Christians who realized that a planned Nativity was in danger of being canceled.

The story drew intense attention after it emerged that there was a chance the Capitol grounds might host only a Satanic holiday display during the Christmas season, because plans for a Christian display didn't take into account Michigan's rules.

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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. 10. 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 Thu December 18, 2014 9:21 am

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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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 7:13 pm

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

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 7:07 pm

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

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And that changing relationship is something that Frank Calzon is questioning.

FRANK CALZON: The president has given Cuba - most of the Cuban government - most of what they want.

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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

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 7:44 am

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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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 fliers 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 7:15 pm

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

But a few days later, a new flier, 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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