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3:00pm

Tue December 27, 2011
Around the Nation

Teens Win Top Honors For Xbox Innovation

Host Robert Siegel speaks with Cassee Cain and Ziyuan Liu, who recently won the team portion of the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology. The high-schoolers from Oak Ridge, Tenn., modified the Kinect device for Microsoft's Xbox 360 in order to analyze human gait. Cain and Liu hope to use the device to diagnose and treat medical problems that affect movement.

3:00pm

Tue December 27, 2011
Presidential Race

A Moment From Rick Perry's Time On The Stump

All this week, we're highlighting moments from each of the presidential candidates' stump speeches. Today, we hear from Rick Perry in Muscatine, Iowa.

2:51pm

Tue December 27, 2011
Planet Money

The Undertakers Of The Retail Industry

Originally published on Wed January 4, 2012 6:13 pm

Joe Raedle Getty Images

When the internet kills a big box retailer, Gordon Brothers is the undertaker.

"They're stuck with selling the things that are inside the box," says bankruptcy lawyer Steve Jakubowski.

Gordon Brothers specializes in retail liquidations. When a store dies, they put on a suit, greet the guests and sell them whatever remains. And that means everything — not just books and clothing and DVDs, but shelves, lighting fixtures, even the chairs.

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2:25pm

Tue December 27, 2011
The Two-Way

Reports: Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson Won't Seek Re-election

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

The race for control of the Senate just got even more interesting with word from several news outlets that Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) won't be seeking re-election in 2012.

The Omaha World-Herald says "it's good news for Republicans, but incredibly bad for Democrats who need the equivalent of a Christmas miracle to keep the seat."

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2:15pm

Tue December 27, 2011
The Two-Way

Brazil Overtakes U.K. As World's Sixth Biggest Economy

Thousands of people crowd Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil as summer gets going in the Southern Hemisphere.
Vanderlei Almeida AFP/Getty Images

Brazil is now the world's sixth biggest economy overtaking the U.K., according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research. As the Financial Times puts it, it's another milestone that's part of a larger trend where emerging economies outpace developed ones. China, they report, overtook Japan earlier this year.

The BBC explains:

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2:14pm

Tue December 27, 2011
Politics

Congress Really Is As Bad As You Think, Scholars Say

Originally published on Thu December 29, 2011 10:41 am

House Speaker John Boehner, surrounded by Republican House members, speaks during a news conference in Washington last week. The House initially rejected a plan to extend a tax cut for two months to buy time for talks on a full-year renewal. It later compromised — a rare event in 2011.
Susan Walsh AP

Congressional approval ratings are on the rocks, hovering in or near single digits for the first time since pollsters started measuring them. But just how bad is the current congressional stalemate?

Thomas Mann, senior fellow of governance studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington, is working on a book about Congress with a title that provides a succinct answer: It's Even Worse Than It Looks.

In modern history, Mann says, "there have been battles, delays, brinkmanship — but nothing quite like this."

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2:12pm

Tue December 27, 2011
Music Interviews

The 'Guitar Passions' Of Sharon Isbin And Steve Vai

Originally published on Tue December 27, 2011 6:31 pm

Sharon Isbin (left) and Steve Vai switch axes.
Afshin Javadi

Classical guitarist Sharon Isbin started the Juilliard guitar program. Her new album, Guitar Passions, features collaborations between Isbin — who studied with Andres Segovia, among others — and artists with very unclassical careers: jazz guitarist Stanley Jordan, rock singer Nancy Wilson of the band Heart, soprano saxophonist Paul Winter and several others.

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1:45pm

Tue December 27, 2011
All Tech Considered

Tutors Teach Seniors New High-Tech Tricks

At Pace University in New York, college students who tutor seniors in local retirement homes are prepped with sensitivity training. Brittany Beckett (left), a Pace student, and Muriel Cohen work together at United Hebrew of New Rochelle.
Courtesy of Pace University

A week after Christmas, many Americans are no doubt trying to figure out how to use the high-tech gadgets they got as gifts. This can be especially challenging for seniors. But a number of programs across the country are finding just the right experts to help usher older adults into the digital age.

For Pamela Norr, of Bend, Oregon, the light bulb went off as she, yet again, was trying to help her own elder parents with a tech problem. To whom did she turn?

"My teenage kids," she says.

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1:40pm

Tue December 27, 2011
The Two-Way

India's Hazare Begins New Hunger Strike In Corruption Fight

Originally published on Tue December 27, 2011 1:43 pm

A supporter receives blessings from Indian anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare during the first day of Hazare's hunger strike, in Mumbai, India on Tuesday.
Rajanish Kakade AP

India's anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare, 74, has begun another three-day fast in Mumbai just as Parliament begins debate on a bill that would create an office with the authority to investigate corruption.

But, as The Christian Science Monitor reports, Hazare calls the bill "weak and useless." The Monitor adds:

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1:30pm

Tue December 27, 2011

1:14pm

Tue December 27, 2011
Performing Arts

There's Something About 'Matilda'

Kerry Ingram is one of four young actresses portraying the title role in Matilda the Musical.
Manual Harlan Playbill

While pantomime performances of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are traditional English holiday entertainment fare, there's a new hit in town. Londoners are flocking to Matilda the Musical, a souped-up version of Roald Dahl's well-known children's novel, playing in London's West End.

The production by The Royal Shakespeare Company has been proclaimed the best British musical in years. But despite most of the cast being under 16, this show is certainly not just for kids.

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1:00pm

Tue December 27, 2011
NPR Story

John Brown: The Man Who 'Sparked' The Civil War

Originally published on Thu December 29, 2011 12:25 pm

American abolitionist John Brown led the 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry, Va. That takeover and the man behind it are the subjects of historian Tony Horwitz's new book, Midnight Rising.
Hulton Archive Getty Images

On an October night in 1859, 21 men staged a takeover of a national armory in tiny Harpers Ferry, Va. Though unsuccessful, the raid drew the nation's attention to its electrifying leader, a man named John Brown — and helped set the nation on the path to war.

Brown went on to become perhaps one of the most polarizing figures in American history. The devout Calvinist and abolitionist is remembered as a traitor and terrorist by some, and a hero by others.

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1:00pm

Tue December 27, 2011
Middle East

Can Arab League Monitors Quell Violence In Syria?

Arab League observers arrived in Syria Monday, prompting a tentative calm between anti-government protestors and security forces. But many Syrians are skeptical that the monitors can permanently quell the unrest.

1:00pm

Tue December 27, 2011
Energy

As Nuclear Plants Age, No Easy Energy Solutions

Originally published on Tue December 27, 2011 2:13 pm

Transcript

NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. No nuclear power plants have been built in this country since the accident at Three Mile Island more than 30 years ago. The old reactors continue to provide 20 percent of our electrical power, but many of them will start to come offline in the next 10 years or so.

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1:00pm

Tue December 27, 2011
Music

NPR's Long-Running 'Piano Jazz' Gets A Makeover

Originally published on Tue December 27, 2011 2:24 pm

Transcript

NEAL CONAN, HOST:

For decades, the great Marian McPartland illuminated public-radio airwaves with her duets and conversations as the host of PIANO JAZZ. Since 1979, she spoke and played with established artists like Herbie Hancock, Alice Coltrane, Carla Bley and - of course - Dr. Billy Taylor. Next week, a new kind of PIANO JAZZ launches on NPR. The show will feature young talents who shine through their energy, innovation and artistry.

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12:49pm

Tue December 27, 2011
The Salt

Inhalable Caffeine: Party Drug Or Handy, Pocket-Sized Boost?

One AeroShot contains 100 mg of caffeine and sells for $2.99, making if roughly comparable to buying a latte.
Breathable Foods

If you've ever lamented the time and effort it takes to brew or procure a cup of coffee, this might perk you up. "Breathable Energy. Anytime. Anyplace."

That's the campaign slogan for AeroShot, a plastic inhaler, roughly the size of a lipstick tube, filled with a powdery, calorie-free mix of caffeine, B vitamins, and citrus flavors. It's slated to hit stores in January, just in time for the New Year.

But some aren't so sure selling caffeine in pocket-sized tubes — and marketing it to young people — is a great idea.

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12:27pm

Tue December 27, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

For Hospitals, There's No App For Adopting Tablet Computers

Tablets are easy to find at the local coffee shop but are still scarce at hospitals.
iStockphoto.com

Hospitals are often eager to embrace the latest medical technology, but the road to deploying tablet computers has been a little bumpy.

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12:11pm

Tue December 27, 2011
Crisis In The Housing Market

Housing Market Stays Mired In Low Home Price Spin

According to the Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller Home Price Index released Tuesday, home prices were down 3.4 percent this year as of October — around a 35 percent drop from their peak.
Scott Olson Getty Images

This month, consumer confidence jumped to its highest level since April, a sign that the U.S. economy is starting to mend. But the housing market isn't going along yet with this cheerier mood: Home prices were down 3.4 percent for the year as of October, according to a new report released Tuesday.

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12:00pm

Tue December 27, 2011
NPR Story

Hating On Congress ... Justified?

Congress' approval ratings hit an all-time low in December, according to the polling firm Gallup. Host Michel Martin looks at why many Americans seemed to be frustrated with Congress. She hears from NPR Senior Washington Editor Ron Elving and Mark Eaton of the Capitol Steps, a musical political satire group.

12:00pm

Tue December 27, 2011
NPR Story

Big Technology A Threat To Small Businesses?

Originally published on Tue December 27, 2011 12:15 pm

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to switch gears now and talk about the intersection of technology and retail. A recent Amazon.com promotion urged customers shopping in so-called brick and mortar stores to use its price check app. By scanning a bar code in the store, Amazon would give the customer a 5 percent discount, up to five dollars. Though only a small savings, the incident left a lot of local retailers, especially bookstore owners, pretty upset.

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12:00pm

Tue December 27, 2011
Parenting

Tina Fey, Michelle Obama Among 2011 Powerful Moms

WorkingMother.com recently released its list of the year's most powerful moms. Michel Martin and regular parenting contributors Leslie Morgan Steiner and Jolene Ivey discuss what it takes to be a strong mom, who they admire, and who should not have been on the list. Also joining the conversation is Helen Jonsen, editor of WorkingMother.com.

12:00pm

Tue December 27, 2011
Economy

Credit Unions Booming From Anti-Bank Outrage

Originally published on Fri December 30, 2011 4:16 pm

In 2011, more than 1 million Americans moved their money into credit unions. Customers were tired of the big banks charging new fees, and the credit unions also got a big PR boost from the Occupy protesters.

"Credit unions are nonprofit cooperatives," explains Tell Me More money coach Alvin Hall. "They can't issue shares to people at all, and they are made up of a group of people who come together, basically, to try to use their money in ways that will help that group of people have easier access to credit."

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11:26am

Tue December 27, 2011
Middle East

Dealing With Dictators: Is Exile Or Trial Better?

Critics of Syrian President Bashar Assad have been debating whether it would be better to threaten him with prosecution or encourage him to go into exile. Here, Syrians hold a rally supporting Assad in Damascus this month.
Muzaffar Salman AP

The death toll in Syria keeps mounting, as do the calls for the ouster of President Bashar Assad. But in dealing with Assad, should the international community threaten him with prosecution at the International Criminal Court or offer him a comfortable exile?

That question is being widely debated, and came up several times earlier this year with the ouster of other Arab autocrats. Last month, a United Nations commission found that Syrian security forces loyal to Assad had killed hundreds of children and perpetrated other "crimes against humanity."

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11:00am

Tue December 27, 2011

10:25am

Tue December 27, 2011
The Two-Way

Consumer Confidence Rose This Month

American consumers felt better this month about how things are going for the U.S. economy and their own financial situations, the private research group The Conference Board just reported.

Its consumer confidence index rose to 64.5 from 55.2 in November and is back at a level not seen since last April.

But in a statement, the director of the board's consumer research center advises viewing the again with caution.

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10:05am

Tue December 27, 2011
The Two-Way

Sears, Kmart Closings Will Shutter 3 Percent Of Company's Stores

Originally published on Tue December 27, 2011 10:09 am

Mark Lennihan AP

As you know, numbers can often be looked at several ways.

There's the headline that "dozens of Kmart, Sears stores to close" and the topline news that "between 100 and 120 Sears and Kmart stores" are going to be shut down as the retailer looks to trim costs and move ahead after it endured a pretty poor holiday shopping season.

That's a lot of stores, obviously.

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9:35am

Tue December 27, 2011
The Two-Way

Home Prices Fell Again In October

Renzo Salazar, from Real Signs of Ace Post Holding Inc., placed a bank owned sign on top of a for sale sign outside a foreclosed home in Miami last month.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Home prices dropped from September to October in 19 of the 20 cities where it tracks the real estate markets, according to the widely watched S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices report.

According to a statement from David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices:

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9:35am

Tue December 27, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Infectious Fungus Common In Household Drains

Originally published on Tue December 27, 2011 10:14 am

Looks clean up here, but down below it could be a mess.
iStockphoto.com

What gunk lurks in the bathroom sink drain? A fungus that can cause infections in humans, for one thing.

The fungus in question (genus Fusarium) can cause sinus infections and funky toenails. On rare occasions it kills people with weak immune systems. More recently, it has caused serious eye infections in people who wear contact lenses.

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9:05am

Tue December 27, 2011
The Two-Way

Top Stories: Yemeni Leader May Be Treated In U.S.; Syria Moves Tanks

Originally published on Tue December 27, 2011 9:08 am

Good morning.

If you're just getting into the swing of things after a long Christmas weekend, welcome back. If you're still on vacation, we're jealous.

Our early headlines:

-- Activists Condemn Syrian Army's 'Show,' Say Tanks Didn't Move Far.

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8:51am

Tue December 27, 2011
The Best Of Fresh Air 2011

Aaron Paul: Playing Bad On 'Breaking Bad'

Originally published on Tue December 27, 2011 10:18 am

Aaron Paul plays a meth-making drug dealer on the AMC drama Breaking Bad. He also played a recurring character on the HBO series Big Love.
Ursula Coyote AMC

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 September 19, 2011.

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