NPR News

Parallels
2:05 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

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

Cuba's President Fidel Castro, left, and Venezuela's 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.-Cuba may also have an impact on relations between Cuba and Venezuela.
Jose Goitia AP

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 Nicolás Maduro is praising the rapprochement between the U.S. and Cuba.

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Goats and Soda
1:56 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

And The Award For Most Offensive Fund-Raising Video Goes To...

The "Rusty Radiator" award for most offensive or stereotypical portrayal of the developing world in a fund-raising video went to Feed A Child South Africa.
Feed A Child South Africa

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The Two-Way
1:54 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

5 Defining Moments In The U.S.-Cuba Relationship

Obama shakes hands with Castro during a memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela in Soweto, South Africa, on Dec. 10, 2013. Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro says his brother introduced himself to Obama in English, telling him, "Mr. President, I'm Castro," as the two leaders shook hands.
AP

1. Obama, Raul Castro Announce Normalization Of Relations

President Obama said Wednesday the U.S. and Cuba will normalize relations, which have been strained since being severed in 1961. He spoke to Cuban President Raul Castro on Tuesday to finalize details of the announcement.

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Television
1:24 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

A Tribute To Stephen Colbert, A Self-Proclaimed 'Junkie For Exhaustion'

Stephen Colbert will host his final episode of The Colbert Report Thursday after nine years on air.
Pool Getty Images

After nine years, Stephen Colbert is retiring the character he created for The Colbert Report, the conservative, self-important blowhard who opines about the news and the media. The final episode airs Thursday. Colbert will take over as host for The Late Show, replacing the retiring David Letterman.

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NPR Story
12:53 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

Putin Vows To Fix Russian Economy

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual press conference in Moscow on December 18, 2014. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images)

In his annual press conference, which ran four hours, Russian President Vladimir Putin promised to ease the country’s economic woes by diversifying its heavy reliance on oil and gas. He also said he’s confident the plummeting ruble will recover.

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NPR Story
12:53 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

Are Artificial Christmas Trees Really More Environmentally Sound?

Tree farms provide the majority of Christmas trees. (jpmatth/Flickr)

Three million American families will buy real Christmas trees this year. Most are grown in either Oregon or North Carolina, the top two Christmas-tree-producing states in the country.

However, the real-tree industry has something in common with many other businesses: competition with China. About 79 percent of people now use artificial Christmas trees.

One reason people purchase artificial trees is because they believe they’re more environmentally sound. But is that true?

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NPR Story
12:49 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

A Short History Of U.S.-Cuba Relations

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter (left) shakes hands with Cuban President Fidel Castro on May 12,, 2002, at the State Council in Havana, where Castro, Carter and their respective delegations met for a working meeting. Carter was on a five-day visit to Cuba, invited by Castro. (Adalberto Roque/AFP/Getty Images)

President Obama’s decision to change U.S. policy on Cuba comes after a half century of icy relations. The announcement came as a surprise to many, including Julia Sweig, director for Latin American studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Sweig joined Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to discuss the history of the struggle between the two nations and outline what the opening of diplomatic relations and easing of restrictions will mean both for Cuba and the United States.

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Shots - Health News
12:43 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

NIH Allows Restart Of MERS Research That Had Been Questioned

A transmission electron micrograph shows Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus particles (colorized yellow).
NIAID

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 1:26 pm

Some researchers who study the virus that causes Middle East respiratory syndrome got an early Christmas present: permission to resume experiments that the federal government abruptly halted in October.

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The Two-Way
11:42 am
Thu December 18, 2014

6 Things You Should Know About Cuban Cigars

American actor Groucho Marx, with his trademark mustache, glasses and cigar. We can't be sure that this cigar was Cuban.
John Kobal Foundation Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 12:55 pm

Cuban cigars are wrapped in mystique. Soon travelers will be able to bring back $100 worth of the famed cigars. Here are some facts you should know.

1. Cuban cigars are expensive, even in Cuba.

As NPR's Tom Gjelten tweeted, the new permission to bring back $100 worth of tobacco (or alcohol) allows you at the most four good cigars. Tom says he hasn't been back to Cuba for six years, but the last time he was there, a single Cohiba or Uppman "set you back at least $25."

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The Salt
11:16 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Tourtiere: A French-Canadian Twist On Christmas Pie

Tourtiere is a savory, spiced meat pie, which both French- and English-speaking Canadians love to serve around the holidays.
martiapunts iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 2:21 pm

A version of this story was originally published on Dec. 23, 2011.

If you happen to spend Christmas Eve in Canada — especially Quebec — you might be lucky enough to be invited to a festive dinner after midnight Mass. The feast is an old tradition from France called reveillon, and it's something to look forward to after a long day of fasting.

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The Two-Way
11:15 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Boko Haram Suspected In New Round Of Killing And Kidnapping

Members of the Abuja "Bring Back Our Girls" protest group sit during a march in continuation of the Global October movement. Once again, Boko Haram militants are implicated in killings and mass kidnapping in northeastern Nigeria.
Afolabi Sotunde Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 2:37 pm

Updated at 4:30 p.m. ET

Islamist extremists are being blamed for an attack in northeastern Nigeria that killed at least 33 people and resulted in the kidnapping of about 200 others.

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The Two-Way
10:35 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Pakistani Court Grants Bail To Suspect In Mumbai Attack

Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi, seen here on June 28, 2008, was granted bail today by an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan. India says he is one of the masterminds of the 2008 attack on Mumbai that killed more than 160 people.
Roshan Mughal AP

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 12:24 pm

An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan has granted bail to a man accused of masterminding the deadly 2008 attack on Mumbai, India.

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Shots - Health News
10:22 am
Thu December 18, 2014

California Whooping Cough Infections Run High Among Latino Babies

Nurse Julietta Losoyo gives Derek Lucero a whooping cough vaccination at the San Diego Public Health Center on Dec. 10.
Chris Carlson AP

California is battling the worst whooping cough epidemic in 70 years.

Nearly 10,000 cases have been reported in the state so far this year, and babies are especially prone to hospitalization or even death.

Six of 10 infants who have become ill during the current outbreak are Latino. There's no conclusive explanation, but there are a few theories that range from Latino cultural factors to a lack of health insurance.

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Goats and Soda
9:50 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Death Comes In Many Different Ways. And Some Are A Bit Surprising

A vigil is held against violence in Cali, Colombia. The country has seen some 1,090 homicides this year.
Luis Robayo AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 12:55 pm

We're living longer.

And cardiovascular disease and infectious diseases aren't taking quite as much of a toll as they did a couple of decades ago.

But that doesn't mean we're immortal.

Road accidents, suicide, chronic kidney disease, alcohol-related diseases ... these are a few of topics to discuss after looking at a new country-by-country analysis of causes of death by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

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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)

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 10:11 am

India took a giant leap forward toward its ambitious goal of sending humans into space, launching an unmanned crew capsule aboard a powerful new rocket.

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

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 10:37 am

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

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

Alyson Hurt/NPR

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 10:47 am

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 another infectious disease, an analysis says. That includes naturally occurring outbreaks like dengue fever, tuberculosis and measles, as well as the use of bioterrorism 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 11:20 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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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 1:05 pm

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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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

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 12:58 pm

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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

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 10:22 am

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 10:31 am

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

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

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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 10:31 am

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

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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Afghanistan
3:11 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Fight Against Corruption In Afghanistan Press On

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 10:31 am

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

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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NPR Story
3:11 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Obama Announces Diplomatic Thaw With Cuba

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 10:31 am

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

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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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 10:31 am

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

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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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 10:31 am

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

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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NPR Story
3:11 am
Thu December 18, 2014

How Tchaikovsky's 'Nutcracker' Became A Holiday Tradition

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 10:31 am

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

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Here is a holiday tradition that seems as old as Christmas trees and mistletoe.

(SOUNDBITE OF PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY SONG, "NUTCRACKER OVERTURE")

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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 10:36 am

The latest word from scientists studying the Arctic is that the polar region is warming twice as fast as the average rise on 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 10:31 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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