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1:00pm

Fri December 23, 2011
Television

The Science Behind 'Breaking Bad'

Cooking crystal meth is just "basic chemistry" for Walter White, the fictional chemistry teacher and anti-hero of the TV drama "Breaking Bad." Organic chemist Donna Nelson serves as science adviser to the show; she explains how the series' writers work to get the science right.

1:00pm

Fri December 23, 2011
Environment

Searching For A Ghost Bird

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 1:42 pm

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. Birding. Birding doesn't seem like a risky pastime, does it? What's the worst that could happen? Sunburn, a little rain, a little cold, lost binoculars. Well, not always. In 2010, Tim Gallagher, editor of Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Living Bird magazine, went in search of a rare woodpecker and was lucky to make it back alive.

Our multimedia editor Flora Lichtman talked to Gallagher about it and has this story.

FLORA LICHTMAN, BYLINE: The imperial woodpecker is two feet tall. That's huge.

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1:00pm

Fri December 23, 2011
Health

The War On Cancer Turns 40

Forty years ago, President Nixon signed the National Cancer Act, beginning the War on Cancer. Harold Varmus, director of the National Cancer Institute, discusses four decades of scientific progress in preventing, detecting and treating cancer--and the mysteries that still remain.

1:00pm

Fri December 23, 2011
Architecture

Building Bridges From Plastic Shampoo Bottles

Discarded plastic shampoo and juice bottles are finding new life in unlikely places--as bridges, railroad ties and pilings. Jim Kerstein, CTO and founder of Axion International, talks about how his company transforms plastic waste into structures strong enough to support trucks, trains and tanks.

12:00pm

Fri December 23, 2011
NPR Story

'Earth Song' Still Inspires King Of Pop's Brother

Jermaine Jackson performed alongside his brother, Michael, in the legendary Motown group the Jackson 5. In his book, You Are Not Alone: Michael, he looks at his struggle to come to terms with his brother's death. As part of Tell Me More's series, In Your Ear, Jackson talks about the songs that continue to inspire him.

12:00pm

Fri December 23, 2011
Barbershop

Shop Talk: Obama Jumps In The Polls

The guys weigh in on President Obama's recent increase in popularity, and they look at the NBA match-ups that will kick-off the season on Christmas Day. Guest host Allison Keyes is joined by author Jimi Izrael, GOP strategist Ron Christie, The Boston Globe film critic, Wesley Morris, and Dave Zirin, sports editor at The Nation.

12:00pm

Fri December 23, 2011
NPR Story

Will Lawmakers Make Santa's Naughty Or Nice List?

After receiving an earful from Democrats and Senate Republicans, House GOP members agreed to a deal to extend unemployment benefits and a payroll tax holiday. The Republican race is also heating up in Iowa and New Hampshire. Guest host Allison Keyes speaks with former GOP National Committee chairman Michael Steele, and Joy-Ann Reid of TheGrio.com.

11:50am

Fri December 23, 2011
Politics

What's Behind House GOP's Payroll Tax Reversal?

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 12:01 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

A bitter fight in Congress is come to an end just in time for Christmas. The House and the Senate this morning, approved an extension of payroll tax cuts for every worker and benefits for the long-term unemployed. This required a major reversal for House Republicans who, earlier this week, voted to reject a nearly identical compromise.

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11:46am

Fri December 23, 2011
The Salt

Senator Finds Government-Funded Food Waste Far Beyond The Compost Bin

The Washington State Fruit Commission received $100,000 in federal money to promote cherries in Indonesia, but Sen. Tom Coburn says this is a waste of taxpayer money.
Jeff Goulden iStockphoto.com

As Eater reported this week, some politicians believe this country is awash in food waste. But this isn't the stuff in the garbage — it's the way we pour money into building restaurants, promoting American food products abroad, and encouraging the purchase of local foods.

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11:37am

Fri December 23, 2011
Opinion

Bittersweet Anticipation: Expecting The Expected

iStockphoto.com

Ben Dolnick is a writer based in Brooklyn.

Lately, just in time for Christmas, I've discovered that I've been acting in a play. A kind of holiday pageant, really. Working title: Things Are Always Better Before You Have Them.

Act One: I learn about the existence of something I want. Say, a book. (Ooh, a book of letters between William Maxwell and Eudora Welty!)

Act Two: I add the book to my Amazon wish list, which I proceed to circulate shamelessly to my family.

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11:23am

Fri December 23, 2011
It's All Politics

Boehner's 2012 Challenges Highlighted By Payroll Tax Misstep

Originally published on Mon December 26, 2011 12:09 pm

House Speaker John Boehner announces a payroll tax cut extension agreement, December 22, 2011.
Evan Vucci AP

When the histories of the current 112th Congress are finally written, maybe it all will become clear.

But for right now, there seem to be many more questions than answers.

For instance, why did House Republicans ever think it was a good idea to stake out a position on the payroll-tax issue that would leave them holding the bag for a new year's tax increase for 160 million workers? That has now been averted with Congress' passage Friday morning of a two-month extension of the current payroll-tax holiday.

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11:10am

Fri December 23, 2011
The Two-Way

Cue The Scary Music: 'Space Ball' Crashes In Namibia

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 12:43 pm

The space ball. What is it?
Namibia's National Forensic Science Institute AFP/Getty Images

It's said to be made of a "metal alloy known to man," according to Agence France Presse. (We enjoyed that Spock-like line.)

But there's much that isn't known about what's being called a "space ball" that came down in Namibia last month: Such as where or what it came from.

Officials from NASA and the European Space Agency have been contacted.

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11:06am

Fri December 23, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

What's Sharing An Egg (Or Sperm) Among Friends?

Should she know that this moment was made possible by an egg donor?
iStockPhoto.com

Though there are more ways today to create a baby than ever before – with help from a friend or stranger's sperm, egg, embryo or womb, just to name a few—questions continue to swirl about what and when to tell the resulting children about how they're related to whom.

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10:54am

Fri December 23, 2011
The Fresh Air Interview

Singer Darrell Scott Reflects On His Father's Death

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 11:23 am

Darrell Scott released his father Wayne's first album in 2006. Wayne also wrote two of the songs on Darrell's forthcoming album, Long Road Home.
Scott Simontacchi Thirty Tigers

Country singer-songwriter Darrell Scott grew up playing with his father, Wayne, and helped his father release a debut album at age 71. They continued to collaborate in recent years.

Last month, Darrell was in Texas in between gigs when he learned that his father had died in a car accident.

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10:20am

Fri December 23, 2011
The Two-Way

Revisiting Istalif, Famed For Pottery And Picnics

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 10:24 am

A man in Istalif last year.
Shah Marai AFP/Getty Images

Hearing Renee Montagne's Morning Edition report today about the village of Istalif, Afghanistan, brought back memories for this blogger.

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9:20am

Fri December 23, 2011

8:55am

Fri December 23, 2011
The Two-Way

Vaclav Havel, Hero Of The 'Velvet Revolution,' Laid To Rest

A picture of former Czech President Vaclav Havel lay among candles and floral tributes as people gathered in Prague on Thursday to honor him.
Odd Andersen AFP/Getty Images

8:55am

Fri December 23, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Americans Say Security Checks Are A Bigger Health Concern Than Flights

A Transportation Security Administration volunteer demonstrates a full-body scanner at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport in March 2010.
Scott Olson Getty Images

If you're heading for the airport humming I'll Be Home For Christmas, all of us at Shots hope your trip goes without a hitch.

With all the comings and goings of the holiday season on our minds, we recently asked Americans a few questions and air travel and health.

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8:00am

Fri December 23, 2011
The Two-Way

Arlington Cemetery: Possible Problems With 64,230 Graves Or Records

A review of 259,978 gravesites and more than 510,000 records at Arlington National Cemetery has identified 64,230 cases of potential problems that range from minor mistakes in files to errors on gravestones, according to a U.S. Army report delivered to Congress on Thursday.

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7:58am

Fri December 23, 2011
Europe

100-Year-Old Christmas Letter Printed In 'Irish Times'

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 8:01 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Good morning, I'm Renee Montagne. An Irish man received a touching Christmas gift when 100-year-old letter from his mother to Santa was printed in the Irish Times. He had never seen the letter. The slightly-scorched note had been stuck in the chimney of his mother's childhood home in Dublin for more than 80 years until the current owner discovered it. Annie Howard was just 10 in 1911 when she asked Santa for gloves, toffee and a baby doll.

It's MORNING EDITION. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

7:51am

Fri December 23, 2011
Around the Nation

Pa. Rhyming Judge Pens Again

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 7:55 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Good morning, I'm Linda Wertheimer. In Pennsylvania, a State Supreme Court judge known for writing opinions in rhyme is at it again. Justice Michael Eakin was writing for the majority in an insurance fraud case. He produced six pages of verse with gems like: Convictions for the forgery and theft are approbated; the sentence for insurance fraud, however, is vacated. A colleague wrote a dissent which did not rhyme. It's MORNING EDITION. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

7:15am

Fri December 23, 2011
The Two-Way

Payroll Tax Cut's Last Hurdle Cleared: House Gives 'Unanimous Consent'

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 1:35 pm

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Capitol Hill Thursday (Dec. 22, 2011).
Evan Vucci AP
(This post was retopped with the latest news at 1:30 p.m. ET.)

Marking the end of the latest pitched political battle in Washington, President Obama said this afternoon that Congressional approval of measures to extend for another two months a payroll tax cut and benefits for the long-term unemployed is "good news just in the nick of time for the holidays."

"I said it was critical for Congress not to go home without preventing a tax increase" and the expiration of the long-term jobless benefits, Obama said, "and I'm pleased to say they've got it done."

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4:29am

Fri December 23, 2011
Asia

With N. Korea In Flux, Neighbors Reassess Policies

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 10:23 am

South Korean soldiers face a North Korean soldier standing at the border village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea on Thursday. North Korea's neighbors are reassessing their policies following the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
Wally Santana AP

The boundary between North Korea and South Korea has been called the world's most dangerous border. But on Thursday, the most dangerous thing about it appeared to be the biting cold and bone-chilling wind, with one Korean soldier jokingly describing the temperature as "hell."

At the Joint Security Area where the actual demarcation line is, half a dozen South Korean soldiers stood at the alert, facing off against one solitary North Korean soldier in khaki. The only unusual sign was the North Korean flag flying at half-staff.

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4:00am

Fri December 23, 2011
Business

Business News

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 7:39 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with bad Apple.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: The frenzy for Apple's phone 4S has failed to catch on in much of Europe. Given the product's high price and the region's weak economies, shoppers just haven't bitten. Apple's market share has dropped in France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Though, the British never wants to fall in with the continent have fallen hard for the phone. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

4:00am

Fri December 23, 2011
Business

UPS's Hub Braced For Holiday Shippers

Thursday was the busiest day of the year for shipper UPS. Rick Howlett of member station WFPL went to the company's hub in Louisville, Kentucky, to find out what the day was like.

4:00am

Fri December 23, 2011
Business

Bell Maker Tries To Revitalize The Industry

Few things announce the arrival of Christmas-time like the sound of bells. And chances are many of the bells you hear this holiday season can be sourced to one small, family-owned manufacturing business in Connecticut. Bevin Brothers was founded 180 years ago.

4:00am

Fri December 23, 2011
Business

The Last Word In Business

Linda Wertheimer has the Last Word in business.

4:00am

Fri December 23, 2011
Politics

House Leaders Do An About-Face On Tax Extension

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 6:39 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

It appears as if the bitter fighting in Congress is about to come to an end just in time for Christmas. Today, the House and the Senate are expected to approve an extension of the payroll tax holiday and benefits for the long-term unemployed. This required a major reversal for House Republicans who, earlier this week, voted to reject a nearly identical compromise.

Read more

4:00am

Fri December 23, 2011
World

2011 Was A Bad Year For Dictators

Over the last year, many dictators have fallen from power. To name a few: Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was killed, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il died. Linda Wertheimer talks to Susan Glasser, with Foreign Policy magazine, about the year that was and which of the world's remaining strongmen need to worry about what 2012 has to offer.

4:00am

Fri December 23, 2011
Sports

NBA Kicks Off Shortened Season On Christmas Day

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 6:44 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Professional basketball was on a long break because of the lockout, but on Christmas Day the NBA kicks off its shortened season with a five-game package featuring exciting games and glittering superstars. There's a rematch between defending champion Dallas and everybody's favorite team to hate, the Heat from Miami. Younger folks ready to break through playing for Chicago and Oklahoma City are in action, as are the storied Boston Celtics and the L.A. Lakers.

To preview these games we turn to NPR's Tom Goldman. Good morning, Tom.

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