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5:16pm

Wed December 14, 2011
Around the Nation

Experts Question Need For Stronger Cellphone Ban

A driver uses a cellphone in Maine, which has laws that ban people under 18 from using cellphones behind the wheel and bar all drivers from texting.
Robert F. Bukaty AP

When the head of the National Transportation Safety Board called for states to pass tough new laws banning drivers from using cellphones or hand-held devices, she said: "No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life."

While Tuesday's statement by NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman is undeniable, there are those who question the advisability of such a ban. Some state lawmakers and transportation experts say it could be difficult to enforce and that there's no real evidence yet that existing laws on hand-held devices have significantly reduced accident rates.

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5:08pm

Wed December 14, 2011
Politics

Report: Wealthy 'Elite Donors' Fueling U.S. Politics

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 9:10 pm

A report released by the Sunlight Foundation finds that in the 2010 midterm elections, 26,783 donors nationwide gave more than $10,000 each.
iStockphoto.com

A tiny percentage of very wealthy Americans funded a relatively large chunk of the 2010 congressional midterm races, continuing a trend that has been growing for two decades, according to a new analysis of political contributions.

The Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for transparency in politics and government, found that fewer than 27,000 individuals (out of a population of 307 million) each gave at least $10,000 to federal political campaigns in 2010.

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4:43pm

Wed December 14, 2011
It's All Politics

Just How Many Jobs Would The Keystone Pipeline Create?

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 7:12 pm

Demonstrators march with a replica of a pipeline during a protest to demand a stop to the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline outside the White House last November.
Evan Vucci AP

One of the major sticking points between the House and the Senate as they face off over end-of-year legislation is the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The bill the House passed Tuesday contains a provision forcing President Obama to decide on the pipeline within 60 days.

Republicans say this project should move ahead quickly because it will create thousands of jobs. But just how many jobs would be created is a matter of contention.

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4:33pm

Wed December 14, 2011
Middle East

Egyptian Islamists Favored In Second Phase Of Voting

Originally published on Tue January 31, 2012 11:48 am

Women stand in line to cast their votes in Suez, Egypt, on Wednesday. For months after the revolution, the port city had no government or services. Some voters are turning to the Salafists or the Muslim Brotherhood to bring change.
Eman Helal AP

A steady stream of voters showed up Wednesday at polling centers in the port city of Suez and eight other governorates in Egypt. Islamists are expecting to boost their lead in the second phase of the country's landmark parliamentary elections.

The first phase was held last month, and the third and final phase will come next month as the country votes by region.

At a school called "Freedom" in Suez, many women were heavily veiled with only their eyes showing.

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4:31pm

Wed December 14, 2011
The Two-Way

In High Profile Case, Two Romanian 'Witches' Arrested

Witches. Police. Blackmail. And TV celebrities.

Yep, that caught our attention, too, so we had to pass along a strange case that has made its way to court in Romania. The government has arrested two self-professed witches who are accused of blackmailing their clients. The AP reports:

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4:20pm

Wed December 14, 2011
Africa

South Sudan: Will Oil Lead It Out of Poverty?

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 7:12 pm

South Sudanese security forces stand outside the control room of the Petrodar oil facility in Paloich, South Sudan. Sudan was once sub-Saharan Africa's third-largest oil producer, but much of that oil came from what is now South Sudan.
Pete Muller AP

South Sudan, the world's newest nation, is still trying to find its feet, and private companies, international aid experts and diplomats have gathered in Washington this week to see if they can help.

The 5-month-old country is one of the most underdeveloped places in the world, and it still has many lingering disputes with its former rulers in Sudan — disputes that could scare off potential investors.

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4:14pm

Wed December 14, 2011
Middle East

Mysterious Events Leave Tehran Feeling Under Siege

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 7:12 pm

A picture released by the official website of Iran's Revolutionary Guard on Dec. 8 shows Iranian Revolutionary Guard Brig. Gen. Amir-Ali Hajizadeh (right) looking at a U.S. spy drone that crashed in Iran on Dec. 4.
AFP/Getty Images

It's never easy trying to figure out just what is going on in Iran.

But it has been especially difficult of late — after an explosion that reduced a missile base to rubble, another blast that was heard but not seen, and the mysterious case of the downed American stealth drone.

These events have left a slew of questions and very few answers.

The huge explosion at the missile base outside Tehran on Nov. 12 was heard in the capital, about 30 miles away, and, satellite pictures show, it devastated the base.

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3:56pm

Wed December 14, 2011
It's All Politics

Not So Fast, Newt: Gingrich As Polling Phenomenon

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 6:32 pm

Republican presidential candidates Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich laugh at a presidential debate at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., in October.
Scott Eells AP

Poll after poll shows Newt Gingrich with a commanding lead for the Republican nomination for president.

The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll is the gaudiest yet, giving the former speaker of the House 40 percent among Republicans across the country, nearly double the number for erstwhile front-runner Mitt Romney.

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3:39pm

Wed December 14, 2011
Iraq

How Much Influence Will Iran Have In Iraq?

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 9:36 am

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (left) shakes hands with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during an official meeting in Tehran last year.
STR AFP/Getty Images

Earlier this month, a ceremony took place in Baghdad that was unthinkable under Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein: Ashura, the annual Shiite ritual marking the slaying of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and one of the most revered figures in Shiite Islam.

As the trumpets sounded in Baghdad's notorious Shiite slum of Sadr City, boys and men wearing white shrouds brought swords down onto their shaven heads. Thick red blood gushed onto their faces. Hussein sacrificed for us, the belief goes, and devoted followers are ready to sacrifice for him.

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3:35pm

Wed December 14, 2011
The Two-Way

Christmas Stamps Are OK; Christmas Carols? Not At The Post Office

There's been some consternation on the Web about what happened this weekend at a post office in Silver Spring, Md., when three Christmas carolers — all decked out in shawls, bonnets and a top hat (for the guy) — popped in and started singing.

It seems that one of the USPS managers on duty jumped into action, telling the trio that they couldn't do that because they were on government property.

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3:15pm

Wed December 14, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Hospitals Torn On Reducing Repeat Admissions

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 5:01 pm

Joseuly Claudio, 53, gets weekly checkups from nurse practitioner Mary McDonagh at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York.
Fred Mogul WNYC

What doesn't kill you, only makes you a repeat customer.

So says Prescott Pharmaceuticals, fictional and macabre sponsor of The Colbert Report.

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3:00pm

Wed December 14, 2011
NPR Story

Norwegian Bakery Gets By During Butter Shortage

Norwegians are suffering a butter shortage. The Nordic country has to go without, supposedly because of trade barriers imposed by the country's dairy cooperative Tine. And of course, this comes right as the holiday baking season is heating up. Lynn Neary talks with Lovisa Morling, of the Apent Bakeri in Oslo, about how the bakery is getting by.

2:59pm

Wed December 14, 2011
The Two-Way

Putin Loyalist Resigns As Russia's Speaker Of Parliament

Tens of thousands of protesters turned out in Moscow and other major cities across Russia in open defiance to strongman Vladimir Putin's 12-year rule.
Dmitry Chistoprudov AFP/Getty Images

The protests that have spread across Russia took a big political toll today, when the speaker of parliament announced his resignation. As the AP reports, the move appears to be tailored by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as an attempt to "stem public anger."

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2:47pm

Wed December 14, 2011
Economy

Michigan Town Grapples With Shrinking Public Sector

Inkster, Mich., resident Darrel Osborne says he's noticed the reduced police presence in the city.
Sarah Hulett for NPR

Tammi Warren has lived on the same winding street in the Detroit suburb of Inkster, Mich., all her life. But as she drives down the block in her Ford pickup, Warren points to several houses on her street that stand vacant, casualties of the housing market collapse.

Vacant houses mean less tax revenue for the city, and less revenue makes it harder for Inkster to provide basic city services.

"[The] city of Inkster has eliminated 38 positions," says City Treasurer Mark Stuhldreher. "It's about 25 percent, roughly, of the workforce."

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1:26pm

Wed December 14, 2011
The Two-Way

Scientists Set New Internet Speed Record

Now, we all have reason to complain about the speed of our Internet connection. Scientists announced yesterday that they have broken the Internet speed record by transferring data at 186 Gbps between two cities.

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1:17pm

Wed December 14, 2011
Rick Perry

5 Things You May Not Know About Rick Perry

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 11:36 am

Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition 2012 Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington, D.C., last week.
Alex Wong Getty Images

The eyes of Texas have been upon James Richard "Rick" Perry ever since he boot-scootin' boogied onto the public-service stage. Now political observers are watching Perry's fortunes fluctuate as a Republican candidate for president.

Political junkies have followed the career of Perry — an Eagle Scout, veterinary student and son of a farmer and a bookkeeper — from his initial election as a Democrat to the state House of Representatives in 1984. They have studied his endorsement of Al Gore for president in 1988. They watched him as he changed parties in 1989.

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1:00pm

Wed December 14, 2011
Television

Crowd-Sourced Giving Changes Philanthropy

Websites like Kickstarter, Kiva and Giving Tree are changing how people donate money. With what's known as microphilanthropy, individuals, non-profits and even small businesses raise money directly from individual donors. Journalist and author Laura Vanderkam explains how crowd funding works.

1:00pm

Wed December 14, 2011
Politics

2012 Campaign Ads Owe Debt To 'Daisy Petals'

The GOP presidential hopefuls are airing ads in nearly all of the early voting states. NPR's Ken Rudin, political ad expert Ken Goldstein and Robert Mann, author of Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds: LBJ, Barry Goldwater, and the Ad that Changed American Politics talk about ads past and present.

1:00pm

Wed December 14, 2011
Your Money

Money Scams Snare Desperate Investors

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 2:40 pm

Transcript

NEAL CONAN, HOST:

'Tis the season for scams. The suspicious email asking for a helping hand, the website that promises a free product in exchange for a credit card number, or the bogus charity. This year, there's been a significant increase in investment scams, Ponzi schemes, fraudulent promissory notes and worthless investment contracts targeting especially at baby boomers. Kelly Greene is a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal, and joins us now from her office in New York. Nice to have you with us today.

KELLY GREENE: Thank you for having me.

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1:00pm

Wed December 14, 2011
Education

Does A College Education Have To Cost So Much?

Originally published on Fri August 3, 2012 2:17 pm

Transcript

NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. College tuition and fees rose over 400 percent between 1982 and 2007. Let me repeat that: 400 percent in 25 years. Many students get help from financial aid and scholarships, not to mention their parents.

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12:40pm

Wed December 14, 2011
The Two-Way

Voyager 1 Speeds Toward The Brink Of Interstellar Space

Originally published on Tue December 27, 2011 1:09 pm

An artist's conception shows Voyager 1 encountering a stagnation region. To the left is interstellar space.
NASA/JPL-Caltech
(Note: This post was first published on Dec. 14. It was reposted Monday — the 26th — because that's when it was broadcast on Morning Edition.)

The Voyager 1 spacecraft is 11 billion miles from the sun. And every minute, it gets 636 miles closer to its destination: the frontier of interstellar space.

The craft is currently in what NASA calls, not undramatically, "the boundary between the solar wind from the Sun and the interstellar wind from death-explosions of other stars," an area that astrophysicists also call, less dramatically, a stagnation layer.

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12:32pm

Wed December 14, 2011
All Tech Considered

Voyager Probes Aim For Interstellar Space, Four Decades Of Travel

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 12:57 pm

Artist's concept of NASA's Voyager spacecraft. For 35 years, the probes have been beaming images and information back to Earth via a 23-watt transmitter.
NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA is on the brink of putting a man-made craft into interstellar space for the first time, as Voyager 1 speeds toward the outer edge of our solar system. The Voyager program's chief scientist, Dr. Ed Stone, spoke with NPR's Steve Inskeep about that feat, and what it means for NASA.

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12:08pm

Wed December 14, 2011
The Two-Way

Obama To Troops: 'Welcome Home'

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 1:12 pm

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama with troops at Fort Bragg, N.C., today (Dec. 14, 2011) after his address.
Gerry Broome AP

"On behalf of a grateful nation, I'm proud to finally say these two words and I know your famlies agree:

"Welcome home."

With that, President Obama began an address today at North Carolina's Fort Bragg, where he continued to mark the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq by talking with some of the troops who served in that nearly nine-year conflict.

We updated this post with more from his address.

Update at 12:25 p.m. ET. "Because Of You":

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12:02pm

Wed December 14, 2011
Religion

New York Hasidic Women Want Separate EMT Unit

A Hatzolah ambulance crew at the scene of a fire at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun synagogue in New York City last summer. Some Hasidic women want to form their own EMT unit within the Orthodox Jewish ambulance service to help women keep their modesty during emergency baby deliveries.
Daniel Barry Getty Images

If you live in New York City, you will often see the Orthodox Jewish ambulance service known as Hatzolah on the street. Hatzolah has some 1,200 volunteers — all men — in New York City and is known for its quick response time.

Now, a group of Hasidic female EMTs wants to create a women's division within Hatzolah, to help deliver babies in emergencies.

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12:00pm

Wed December 14, 2011
NPR Story

GOP Frontrunners Spar In Lead Up To Iowa Caucus

Newt Gingrich has surged in the polls, but will trading jabs with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney pay off? In this week's political chat, host Michel Martin speaks with journalists Joy-Ann Reid and Mary Kate Cary about the race to win the GOP presidential nomination.

12:00pm

Wed December 14, 2011
NPR Story

Why Do So Few Women Have Mentors?

A good mentor can steer you to professional success. But according to a survey by LinkedIn, nearly 1 out of 5 women say they've never had a mentor at work. Host Michel Martin discusses the findings with Linked-In's Nicole Williams.

12:00pm

Wed December 14, 2011
NPR Story

Tips On Hot Gifts For The Tech-Lovers

The clock is ticking on holiday shopping, but it's not too late to buy this year's top gadgets. Host Michel Martin gets the dish from AOL's LaToya Drake. Some of the items on her list include an interactive dancing toy robot for kids, and for adults, a device that measures the amount of deep sleep a person gets each night.

12:00pm

Wed December 14, 2011
Music

Young Writer Looks To Ladytron For Dance Beats

Nigerian-Ghanaian author Taiye Selasi splashed onto the literary scene with her story, 'The Sex Lives of African Girls.' As part of Tell Me More's occasional series, In Your Ear, Selasi talks about the music that inspires her, including Ladytron single, 'White Elephant,' and a cover of REM's, 'Losing My Religion' by Nina Persson.

11:35am

Wed December 14, 2011
The Two-Way

Reports: Afghan Rape Victim Freed, Unclear If She Must Marry Attacker

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 11:37 am

Burqa-clad Afghan women wait to buy chickpeas from a shop in Kabul earlier this year.
Shah Marai AFP/Getty Images

Gulnaz, the young Afghan woman whose story has spread around the world because she was imprisoned after being raped by a relative, is now free, CNN and the BBC are reporting.

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11:34am

Wed December 14, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Medicaid Takes Growing Slice Of States' Spending

Medicaid enrollment climbs.
Kaiser Family Foundation

Medicaid sure is popular. And that's a big problem for state budgets.

These days the health program for the poor is claiming a bigger slice of states' spending than even K-12 education, says a report from the National Association of State Budget Officers.

All told, Medicaid is expected to grab 23.6 percent of states' spending in fiscal 2011, up from 22.3 percent the year before.

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