NPR News

The Two-Way
6:33 am
Fri December 19, 2014

To Finish Up Year, Obama Will Hold A Press Conference

President Barack Obama speaks in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington on Dec. 17.
Doug Mills AP

President Obama will close out 2014 with his traditional end-of-year press conference.

The press conference is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. ET., and it's bound to be eventful because Obama has a lot to talk about.

Among the news events that will likely come up:

-- The normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba.

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Europe
6:22 am
Fri December 19, 2014

Great-Great Grandmother's Gift List Keeps Growing

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

The Two-Way
5:10 am
Fri December 19, 2014

What's Next For Cuba? The Headlines That Tell The Story

Two days after the U.S. and Cuba decided to end a more than 50-year estrangement, the natural question is: What's next?

On Morning Edition, NPR's Michelle Kelemen reports that the process of normalizing diplomatic relations will be pretty straight forward and is likely to be done quickly.

"We can do that via an exchange of letter or notes. It doesn't require a formal sort of legal treaty or agreement," Roberta Jacobson, assistant secretary of state for the western hemisphere, said during a briefing on Thursday.

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Book News & Features
5:03 am
Fri December 19, 2014

3 Business Best-Sellers Show Inequality Is Now The Hot Topic

Best-selling business books typically tell you how to get rich — either by becoming a better worker or investor, or perhaps by learning the secrets of successful entrepreneurs.

And in 2014, readers could find plenty of books promoting pluck and hard work, such as MONEY Master the Game and The Innovators.

But three books broke the pattern, generating headlines and big sales by focusing on unfair aspects of wealth creation.

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NPR Ed
5:03 am
Fri December 19, 2014

Details On The Administration's New College Ratings System

Today the Education Department released long-awaited details on a plan to hold colleges accountable for their performance on several key indicators, and officials said they'll be seeking public comment on the proposals through February.

"As a nation, we have to make college more accessible and affordable and ensure that all students graduate with a quality education of real value," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement.

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Your Money
3:03 am
Fri December 19, 2014

When Nonprofit Hospitals Sue Their Patients

Keith Herie is swamped in debt from medical issues he and his wife encountered starting about a decade ago. Heartland hospital is seizing 10 percent of his paycheck and 25 percent of his wife's wages, and has placed a lien on their home.
Steve Hebert for ProPublica

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 6:54 am

On the eastern edge of St. Joseph, Mo., lies the small city's only hospital, a landmark of modern brick and glass buildings. Everyone in town knows Heartland Regional Medical Center — many residents gave birth to their children here. Many rush here when they get hurt or sick.

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NPR Story
3:02 am
Fri December 19, 2014

Exchange Of Spies Was Critical To U.S.-Cuba Deal

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 4:16 am

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

Around the Nation
3:02 am
Fri December 19, 2014

Transparency Vs. Privacy: What To Do With Police Camera Videos?

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 6:22 am

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

NPR Story
3:02 am
Fri December 19, 2014

Cuban-American Congressional Leaders Vow To Fight Obama's Proposals

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 4:12 am

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

All Tech Considered
2:03 am
Fri December 19, 2014

For An Island Trapped In The '50s, An Instant Digital Revolution

Cubans try to connect to the Etecsa server during a May 9 service outage as they wait with other customers outside the offices of the state telecom monopoly in Havana, Cuba. Cuba's government has blamed technological problems on a U.S. embargo. Critics of the government have said it deliberately strangles the Internet to mute dissent. Normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations may prove who's right.
Franklin Reyes AP

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 3:02 am

This week's historic agreement between the U.S. and Cuba to reinstate diplomatic relations after decades of silence could launch a digital revolution in the island nation.

According to the White House, only 5 percent of Cubans have access to the open Internet, comparable to North Korea. As part of the deal, that could change overnight.

Status Check

Maribel Fonseca a teacher in Miramar, Cuba, has never seen the Internet. A few of her more privileged students have been online.

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Science
2:02 am
Fri December 19, 2014

7 Miles Beneath The Sea's Surface: Who Goes There?

The research vessel Falkor in August 2013.
Courtesy of Mark Schrope

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 3:02 am

A ship full of marine scientists is floating over the deepest part of the world: the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench. They're sending down probes to study life in one of the most hostile environments on the planet.

This week the researchers are targeting the two deepest spots in the trench — the Sirena Deep and the Challenger Deep — which each extend down about seven miles beneath the ocean's surface.

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Movie Interviews
2:01 am
Fri December 19, 2014

The Eye-Opening Saga Of Walter And Margaret Keane, Now On Screen

Amy Adams stars as painter Margaret Keane in the new movie Big Eyes.
Leah Gallo The Weinstein Company

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 3:02 am

It's a story almost too strange to be true: Throughout much of the 1960s and 70s, the wistful, wide-eyed children of painter Walter Keane were absolutely everywhere.

Paintings and posters of the big-eyed waifs, often in rags, their hair unkempt, brought fame and fortune to the charming, smooth-talking artist — along with widespread critical disdain.

But years later, it emerged that the art was actually the work of Walter's wife Margaret Keane. She painted in secret, behind closed doors, and he publicly claimed the work as his own.

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NPR Ed
1:59 am
Fri December 19, 2014

The Administration's College Ratings: How It Looks On Campus

Main Hall on the campus of Randolph College in Lynchburg, Va.
Parker Michels-Boyce Randolph College

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 3:02 am

It's late afternoon. Most classes at Randolph College are done for the day but students have begun gathering in the lobby of the elegant, century-old main hall.

A student taps on a piano while he and four classmates wait for their philosophy professor. After-hour sessions like these are a key feature of this small, private liberal arts college in Lynchburg, Va.

It markets itself nationally as a "unique, nurturing community of learners", well worth the $45,000 a year in tuition, room and board.

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The Two-Way
7:23 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

Two Of Colorado's Neighbors Sue State Over Marijuana Law

Nebraska and Oklahoma say Colorado's marijuana law is unconstitutional, in a challenge to the law in the Supreme Court. Earlier this month, visitors from Texas smell marijuana at the Breckenridge Cannabis Club.
Brennan Linsley AP

Saying that Colorado's law legalizing recreational marijuana use is unconstitutional and places a burden on them, Nebraska and Oklahoma have filed a lawsuit against the state with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Marijuana was made legal in Colorado after the state's voters approved an amendment in 2012. Its first recreational dispensaries opened at the start of this year.

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The Two-Way
6:05 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

Once Written Off, Kepler Telescope Finds New Planet

An artist's rendering shows the Kepler spacecraft in its new mission profile, called K2. The space telescope has found a new planet outside our solar system.
NASA

More than a year after NASA said its Kepler space telescope was beyond repair, the planet-hunting probe has delivered an unlikely find: a planet that's outside our solar system. The find comes after a team worked to find a way to make Kepler productive again, says NASA, calling the find "a comeback."

The space agency says the newly discovered exoplanet is 2.5 times the diameter of the Earth – and that the lead researcher on the project is a graduate student at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

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The Two-Way
4:47 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

'Team America' Is Benched: Won't Return To Theaters, Reports Say

An international police force (of puppets) won't be coming to a theater near you, as theaters have reportedly been told not to screen the film Team America, in response to the cancellation of The Interview.
Melinda Sue Gordon AP/Paramount Pictures

One day after some theaters vowed to screen Team America: World Police in the place of The Interview, whose release was canceled Wednesday, word has emerged that Team America has also been pulled. Both films make light of North Korea and its leader.

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Economy
4:32 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

Opportunity, Caution Seen For U.S. Banks As Cuba Rules Ease

President Obama announces changes to U.S. policy on Cuba, including relaxing restrictions on U.S. banking in the country, in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.
Doug Mills / Pool EPA/Landov

Among the changes to U.S. restrictions on Cuba President Obama announced Wednesday was a relaxation of the rules barring U.S. banks from doing business there.

Americans traveling in Cuba will now be able to use their credit cards and ATM cards, but many U.S. banks see the new rules as something of a legal minefield.

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Latin America
4:01 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

What Will Full Diplomatic Relations With Cuba Look Like?

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 4:32 pm

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

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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Energy
3:43 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

No Fracking In New York? That's OK With Pennsylvania

Leslie Roeder of New York City cheers outside New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office on Wednesday after the state announced a ban on hydraulic fracturing.
Andrew Kelly Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 5:16 pm

Pennsylvania's fracking boom has led to record-breaking natural gas production, but its neighbor, New York, announced Wednesday it was banning the practice. Industry and environmental groups say New York's decision could be good for Pennsylvania.

New York's ban comes six years after the state placed a temporary moratorium on fracking to study the gas drilling technique. Now, officials question fracking's economic benefits and cite environmental risks.

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The Salt
3:08 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

What The Change In U.S.-Cuba Relations Might Mean For Food

Sugar, coffee, fruit juice for babies, oil and salt inside a market subsidized by the government in Havana on July 11, 2013.
Enrique De La Osa Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 6:14 am

It took a few hours for some Cubans to realize the magnitude of President Obama's announcement on Wednesday about changes in the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba, according to Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez.

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Monkey See
3:07 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

Sarah Koenig On Serial: 'I Think Something Went Wrong With This Case'

Adnan Syed
Courtesy of Serial

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 4:32 pm

It's hard to believe that not only was there no Serial six months ago, there was no Serial three months ago. The hugely popular podcast, a spinoff production of This American Life, didn't even premiere until early October, but since then, it has made its way with great speed into worlds from Sesame Street to Funny Or Die.

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The Two-Way
2:56 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

In List Of Changes For Secret Service, A New Fence Comes First

A review panel says changes are needed at the Secret Service — along with a better fence at the White House. Here, members of the Secret Service Uniformed Division stand in front of the White House.
Kevin Dietsch UPI /Landov

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 5:46 pm

The Secret Service must both change the way it trains agents and hire more of them, according to a panel that reviewed the agency that has endured a string of embarrassing lapses in recent months. The panel says its suggestions are "a road map for reform" under a new director.

Some of those suggestions are inherently practical — such as one that states "the fence around the White House needs to be changed as soon as possible to provide better protection."

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The Two-Way
2:55 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

U.S. Announces Protections For Transgender Workers

The Justice Department is broadening a civil rights law to include protections for transgender workers, a reversal from how the Bush administration interpreted the measure.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the law, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, will now ensure that workers who sue over discrimination in the workplace will get fair and consistent treatment.

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Business
2:53 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

New Popularity Of L.L. Bean Boots Sparks Scramble To Fill Orders

A surge in popularity of L.L. Bean boots has the Maine company scrambling to fill orders.
Murray Carpenter NPR

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 4:32 pm

L.L. Bean's iconic rubber and leather boots — long worn by practical and preppie New Englanders — have swung back into fashion with young people and are more popular than ever.

The recent surge in demand has the company scrambling to fill orders, upgrading its manufacturing equipment and adding a third shift at its Maine boot factories.

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Music
2:53 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

Music A Longtime Feature Of Cuba-U.S. Cultural Exchange

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 4:32 pm

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

Law
2:53 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

Justice Department Sues Over Conditions At Rikers Island Jail

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 4:32 pm

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

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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Law
2:53 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Makes Court Appearance In Pretrial Hearing

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 4:32 pm

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

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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The Two-Way
2:24 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

Administration Won't Rule Out Raul Castro Visit To White House

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 5:54 am

The White House today said it "wouldn't rule out a visit from President Raul Castro" to Washington, a day after President Obama announced the U.S. and Cuba would begin talks to normalize relations and open embassies following more than five decades of hostility.

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The Two-Way
2:10 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

Immigration Is Driving Broad Demographic Shifts In U.S., Report Says

Navy Petty Officer Jimmy Dial (left) sits with his daughter, Kimberly, beside U.S. Army soldier Henri Blandon and his daughter as the men's wives and the girls' mothers become U.S. citizens at a naturalization ceremony last month in Ontario, Calif.
Nick Ut AP

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 5:38 pm

Native-born Americans are making up a smaller percentage of those living in some areas of the U.S. as immigration moves to become the key factor in population growth within the next quarter-century, according to a new analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts that examined county-level census data.

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Parallels
2:05 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

In Latin America, Not Everyone Is Thrilled With The U.S.-Cuba Thaw

Cuban President Fidel Castro (left) and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Barinas, Venezuela, in 2000. The two formed a close partnership, which has continued with their successors. However, the prospect of normal ties between the U.S. and Cuba may also have an impact on relations between Cuba and Venezuela.
Jose Goitia AP

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 6:18 pm

Latin American governments have long viewed Cuba as the region's David facing off against the Goliath of the United States. So from Mexico to Argentina, leaders are endorsing Wednesday's announcement that the two nations intend to normalize relations.

But this could prove awkward for Venezuela, which has been Cuba's closest ally and a fierce critic of Washington.

In public, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is praising the rapprochement between the U.S. and Cuba.

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