NPR News

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 Wed December 17, 2014 7:50 pm

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. 10th. 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 Wed December 17, 2014 5:46 pm

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 4:26 pm

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

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

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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Goats and Soda
2:17 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

We're Down To 5 Northern White Rhinos: Is It Too Late For Babies?

Najin, a female northern white rhino, gets a pat from keeper Mohamed Doyo. Najin, who lives at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, is one of only five of its subspecies left in the world.
Ben Curtis AP

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 6:00 pm

A 44-year-old northern white rhino named Angalifu died this week at the San Diego Zoo of old age.

Now only five animals remain in this subspecies, all in captivity. Four are females. The lone male lives in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

So it would seem the northern white rhino is doomed to extinction. Poachers are to blame — they've slain thousands of the rhinos to get their horns, which are hawked in Asia as a health tonic.

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Global Health
2:17 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Dreaming Up A Safer, Cooler PPE For Ebola Fighters

This design of this new anti-Ebola suit will make health workers more comfortable and could also save lives.
Courtesy of Clinvue and Roy Heisler

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 7:21 pm

Here's what it takes to design a better Ebola suit: a roomful of university students and professors, piles of canvas and Tyvek cloth, sewing machines, glue guns ... and chocolate syrup.

Even Youseph Yazdi, head of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design (CBID), still isn't sure what the syrup was for.

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Around the Nation
2:17 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Some Cuban-Americans Angry With Release Of Spies

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 7:21 pm

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

Shots - Health News
2:10 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

What Happens After You Get That Mammogram

This graphic lays out the possible outcomes for 10,000 women if they start getting annual screening mammograms at age 50 and continue that for 10 years.
Courtesy of JAMA

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 6:37 pm

Women and their doctors have a hard time figuring out the pluses and minuses of screening mammograms for breast cancer. It doesn't help that there's been fierce dissent over the benefits of screening mammography for women under 50 and for older women.

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The Two-Way
1:18 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

PHOTO: The Meaning in a Phone Call

President Obama speaks with President Raul Castro of Cuba from the Oval Office on Tuesday.
Pete Souza The White House

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 6:53 pm

On Tuesday, President Obama picked up the phone and talked to Cuban President Raul Castro.

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The Two-Way
12:56 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Alan Gross, U.S. Contractor Freed By Cuba, Says 'It's Good To Be Home'

Alan Gross addresses a news conference in Washington on Wednesday hours after his release from Cuba.
Gary Cameron Reuters /Landov

American Alan Gross, who spent five years in a Cuban prison before his release today as a humanitarian gesture, said "it's good to be home," and that he hoped the U.S. and Cuba move past their "mutually belligerent" policies.

"Two wrongs never made a right," Gross said in Washington shortly after he returned to the U.S. aboard a government plane.

Gross appeared frail but cheerful. Some of his front teeth were missing.

Gross thanked President Obama and his national security team for working toward his freedom.

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NPR Story
12:40 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Inside The Lives Of Chinese Restaurant Workers

Restaurant workers relax in New York's Chinatown district on July 11, 2014 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/AFP/Getty Images)

Atticus Lish’s novel “Preparation for the Next Life” and a recent New Yorker article, “The Kitchen Network” by Lauren Hilgers, have thrown a spotlight onto the plight of the workers in Chinese restaurants.

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NPR Story
12:40 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Atticus Lish's 'Preparation For The Next Life'

Atticus Lish is author of the book "Preparation for the Next Life." (Shelton Walsmith)

Atticus Lish‘s debut novel “Preparation for the Next Life” has already been drawing raves from critics.

It centers around an unlikely romance between Skinner, a veteran of the war in Iraq, and Zou Lei, a Uyghur from China. Lish told Here & Now‘s Robin Young that the book’s title has significance for both characters.

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NPR Story
12:40 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

School Tries To Help Students By Coaching Parents

Moms gather at a classroom in Morales Elementary for a morning charla, or chat. They watch a training video about how to support their kids’ education and share their own experiences. (Houston Public Media)

For more than a decade, federal education policies have pushed schools to get parents more involved on campus. The idea is that if parents are more involved, then their children will do better academically — especially kids who struggle.

In one Texas school district, that idea is taking a new form. From the Here & Now Contributors Network, Laura Isensee of Houston Public Media visits an elementary school to find out more.

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The Two-Way
12:22 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Prisoner Exchange With Cuba Led To Freedom For Top U.S. Intelligence Agent

Today's announcement that Cuba freed USAID contractor Alan Gross as a humanitarian gesture came with news of a separate prisoner exchange: Three convicted Cuban spies were traded for a U.S. intelligence asset who spent nearly two decades in Cuban prisons.

President Obama called the unnamed man "one of the most important intelligence agents that the United States has ever had in Cuba."

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Parallels
12:20 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

The U.S. And Cuba: A Brief History Of A Complicated Relationship

Fidel Castro looks up at the Jefferson Memorial on April 16, 1959. The Cuban leader visited Washington several months after seizing power. But U.S.-Cuban relations quickly frayed, and the U.S. imposed an embargo of the island in 1960.
AP

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 8:49 pm

Just months after he seized power in Cuba, Fidel Castro visited Washington in April 1959. He placed a wreath at the base of both the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials and was photographed looking up in seeming admiration of both U.S. presidents.

For U.S.-Cuba relations, it was all downhill after that.

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The Two-Way
12:12 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

New Cuba Policy Is Met With Cheers And Jeers On Both Sides Of The Aisle

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 1:46 pm

Updated at 3:42 p.m.

The Obama administration announced today that it would begin the process of re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba.

It's a contentious issue, and reaction has been swift. Here's a roundup:

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Shots - Health News
11:30 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Managed Care Plans Make Progress In Erasing Racial Disparities

A nurse checks a man's blood pressure during a health clinic In Los Angeles.
Patrick Fallon Bloomberg via Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 2:25 pm

Years of efforts to reduce the racial disparities in health care have so far failed to eliminate them. But progress is being made in the western United States, due largely to efforts by managed care plans to identify patients who were missing out on management of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

While management of blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar improved nationwide, African-Americans still "substantially" trailed whites everywhere except the western U.S., an area from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific as well as Alaska and Hawaii.

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Music
11:12 am
Wed December 17, 2014

D'Angelo's 'Black Messiah' Collapses Years, Genres

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 11:32 am

D'Angelo has built a considerable reputation on the basis of three albums: 1995's Brown Sugar, 2000's Voodoo, and now Black Messiah, unexpectedly released early Monday morning. The singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist has been widely praised for connecting many decades of different rhythm & blues styles, and Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker says Black Messiah is as adventurous as any fan could hope for.

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Shots - Health News
10:06 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Behind The Scenes At The Lab That Fingerprints Microbiomes

Rob Knight, co-founder of the American Gut Project at the University of Colorado in Boulder, works in the lab where the samples are processed.
The American Gut Project

The gut microbiome may soon reveal important answers to questions about our health. But those answers aren't yet easy to spot or quick to obtain.

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Goats and Soda
9:55 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Medical Workers In Conflict Zones Have Never Faced Greater Risks

Dr. Mohammed Arif helps treat a wounded patient at a field hospital in Kobani, Syria. Most of the clinics in this besieged Syrian border town are now in ruins. Only one still stands, its location kept secret lest it be targeted.
Jake Simkin AP

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 2:26 pm

Last month, American aid worker Peter Kassig was executed in Syria by the Islamic State militant group. The 26-year-old emergency medical technician had worked in hospitals, clinics and refugee camps throughout the region for more than two years. He was known for treating anyone who needed him, regardless of political affiliation. In a country like Syria, that kind of openness is both a statement of integrity and a huge personal risk.

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Parallels
9:19 am
Wed December 17, 2014

A Tweet On Women's Veils, Followed By Raging Debate In Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabian women wear their traditional face covering, the niqab, at a coffee and chocolate exhibition in the capital Riyadh on Monday. A prominent religious figure said on Twitter that the face veil is not mandatory, sparking a heated national debate.
Fayez Nureldine AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 11:48 am

The man at the eye of the storm in Saudi Arabia is Ahmad Aziz Al Ghamdi. He's a religious scholar, the former head of the religious police in Mecca, a group officially known as the Committee for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

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The Two-Way
9:05 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Polls Show Cuban-American Views On U.S.-Cuba Relations Are Nuanced

Men play chess at the Maximo Gomez Domino park in Little Havana in Miami, where political opinions are shifting.
Roberto Schmidt AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 4:49 pm

With news that the United States will work toward re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba and easing the embargo, there is already talk about the reaction in the Cuban-American community.

In political terms, this is a major voting bloc in the hugely important swing state of Florida.

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U.S.
8:51 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Cuba, U.S. Agree To Prisoner Release Including American Alan Gross

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 9:29 am

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

The Two-Way
7:59 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Church Of England Names Its First Female Bishop

The Rev. Libby Lane will be consecrated on Jan. 26.
Nigel Roddis Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 8:54 am

The Church of England has named its first female bishop.

The Rev. Libby Lane, who has been a parish priest for 20 years, will be consecrated on Jan. 26, becoming the first woman to hold that position since the church was founded five centuries ago.

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The Two-Way
7:09 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Obama Unveils 'New Approach' On Cuba As Former Foes Chart New Course

President Obama announced Wednesday that the U.S. will work with Cuba to normalize diplomatic ties.
Doug Mills UPI /Landov

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 12:41 pm

Updated at 2:39 p.m. ET

President Obama announced today the most significant change in U.S. policy toward Cuba in more than 50 years, paving the way for the normalization of relations and the opening of a U.S. Embassy in Havana.

Obama said "we will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries."

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