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5:10am

Sat December 24, 2011
Asia

In Japan, Radiation Fears Reshape Lives

Japanese shoppers remain concerned about radiation levels in food following the country's nuclear accident in March. Shoppers are shown here in a Tokyo supermarket.
Lucy Craft NPR

Nine months after Japan's nuclear accident, life in Tokyo seems to have snapped back to normal, with a vengeance. The talk shows are back to their usual mindless trivia about pop stars and baseball contracts. The date of the tsunami and nuclear accident, March 11 — known here as just 3/11 — has faded into the background.

But while the horror has receded, for many of us, particularly women with families, things will never be the same.

There's no getting past the fact that the nuclear accident dumped radioactive particles into the atmosphere, soil and sea.

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6:31pm

Fri December 23, 2011
Law

Justice Department Blocks New S.C. Voting ID Law

The Justice Department has blocked a new South Carolina voting law, saying it violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The state law requires voters to present a photo ID in order to vote. The Justice Department says the law disenfranchises minorities, but the state says it protects against voter fraud. For more, Robert Siegel talks to NPR's Pam Fessler.

5:34pm

Fri December 23, 2011
The Two-Way

Work, Life Balance: VW Agrees To Switch Off After-Hours Email

VW workers will no longer get off-hours email on their BlackBerries
Karen Bleier AFP/Getty Images

In an always-connected world, the line between work and life is often blurred. Now, Volkswagen has announced that it is shutting down after-hours email for German employees who are handed Blackberrys.

The BBC has details:

"Under the arrangement servers stop routing emails 30 minutes after the end of employees' shifts, and then start again 30 minutes before they return to work.

"The staff can still use their devices to make calls and the rule does not apply to senior management.

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5:02pm

Fri December 23, 2011
The Salt

Tourtiere: A French-Canadian Twist On Christmas Pie

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

"They'll have a huge feast, with sweets and lobster and oysters, everything," says Thomas Naylor, executive chef to the Canadian ambassador to the U.S. "But, in Quebec at least, you'll always have tourtière. It will be the center of the reveillon."

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4:27pm

Fri December 23, 2011
The Two-Way

Britain's Prince Philip Is Hospitalized

(FILES) A file picture taken in June shows Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, attending a reception at Buckingham Palace.
John Stillwell AFP/Getty Images

After experiencing chest pains, Britain's Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, has been hospitalized.

The AP reports:

Prince Philip, 90, was taken from Sandringham, the queen's sprawling estate in rural Norfolk, to the cardiac unit at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge for "precautionary tests," a spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace said.

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4:10pm

Fri December 23, 2011
The Two-Way

Another Mass Protest Expected In Russia This Weekend

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 4:15 pm

Alexei Navalny, a leader of Russia's political opposition, speaks at a meeting to discuss a Dec. 24 opposition rally protesting election results in Moscow.
Mikhail Metzel AP

Tens of thousands are expected on the streets of Moscow tomorrow. As The Guardian reports, 50,000 have said they will show up on "Moscow's Sakharov Prospect, named after the late leading Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov," and thousands more will march across the country.

As we've reported, the protests stem from disputed parliamentary elections and come months before a crucial presidential election that will test Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's 12-year hold on power.

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4:00pm

Fri December 23, 2011
Monkey See

For 'Downton' Fans, A New Season And A New Book

Originally published on Thu December 29, 2011 8:08 am

Brendan Coyle is John Bates and Joanne Froggatt is Anna Smith in Downton Abbey, which returns January 8 to PBS.
Nick Briggs PBS/Masterpiece

It's almost here. And by "it," we mean the new season of Downton Abbey, the UK-produced drama about the Crawley family and their servants that PBS imported for Masterpiece Classic with great success. Series two has already run in the UK, but if you've been good and patient and resisted the urge to obtain it by illicit means, your wait is nearly over: the new season begins on PBS on January 8th.

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3:50pm

Fri December 23, 2011
Science

Taj Hotel Staff Were Mumbai's Unlikely Heroes

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 10:18 pm

Indian firefighters attempt to put out a fire as smoke billows out of the historic Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, which was stormed by armed gunmen in November 2008.
Indranil Mukherjee AFP/Getty Images

On Nov. 26, 2008, terrorists simultaneously attacked about a dozen locations in Mumbai, India, including one of the most iconic buildings in the city, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.

For two nights and three days, the Taj was under siege, held by men with automatic weapons who took some people hostage, killed others and set fire to the famous dome of the hotel.

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3:30pm

Fri December 23, 2011
Music Interviews

Songs To Annoy You This Holiday Season

Twisted Sister in 2008, posing backstage at a live performance of its holiday album, A Twisted Christmas.
Mark Weiss WireImage

This is the time of year that either has you humming about a one-horse open sleigh or bah-humbugging the various versions of "Jingle Bells" you've heard in stores, on hold and in commercials. Wherever you reside on the Christmas cheer spectrum, we have something to annoy even those who wear reindeer sweaters.

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3:13pm

Fri December 23, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Poked and Prodded For 65 Years, In The Name Of Science

Experiences in youth shape our health in old age. That's the key lesson from the world's longest-running medical study.
iStockPhoto.com

One night in early March, well over a hundred people gathered together in the British Library in central London to celebrate their collective 65th birthday.

I was lucky enough to tag along.

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2:48pm

Fri December 23, 2011
The Impact of War

Marines Say Afghanistan Forever Changed Their Lives

Josh Apsey, then an 18-year-old lance corporal, bumps fists with his dad through a bus window as he begins his trip to Afghanistan in 2009. Apsey is still in the Marines, serving in Virginia, and says the war in Afghanistan made him a different person.
John W. Poole NPR

Daron Diepenbruck and Josh Apsey were members of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment — called "America's Battalion." NPR followed that battalion in 2009, on the homefront and in battle in Afghanistan. The two Marines are back home now. One left the military; the other stayed in. Their lives have changed dramatically, as Catherine Welch found out.

Daron Diepenbruck was on his last deployment when something happened that changed his life. One of his good friends was out on patrol.

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2:43pm

Fri December 23, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Two Strengths Of Infant Acetaminophen Boost Confusion, Risk

At first glance, the new safer concentration looks like the old.
Melissa Forsyth NPR

When makers of acetaminophen for infants said back in May that they were reducing the strength of the medicine so it would be less likely that babies would be accidentally given too much, it all made sense.

Some infant acetaminophen had as much as 80 milligrams of acetaminophen in a milliliter, while products for older children had less than half that.

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2:40pm

Fri December 23, 2011
The Two-Way

Turns Out, Pigeons Are Just As Good As Monkeys When It Comes To Math

A pigeon counting.
William van der Vliet University of Otago

Scientists have found that pigeons are much smarter than we give them credit for and can be taught some complex abstract math. This is stunning because it's trait that has only been shown in primates. But according to a report in the current issue of the journal Science, researchers were able to teach pigeons abstract rules about math.

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2:00pm

Fri December 23, 2011
Remembrances

Remembering Some Remarkable Lives Lost In 2011

Originally published on Thu January 3, 2013 12:22 pm

Clockwise From Top: Courtesy Sondra Russell; Al Pereira/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images; Martin Cohen; kaiscapes via Flickr.

Each year, Talk of the Nation reaches out to colleagues and friends at NPR for their help in remembering some of the men and women who died during the previous 12 months. They responded with personal stories about the people who inspired them.

In our sixth annual obituary show, we talk about the lives and careers of remarkable men and woman who did not make headlines when they died, but whose lives still made an indelible impact. NPR's Neda Ulaby, Sonari Glinton and Andy Carvin are among those who share their remembrances.

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1:11pm

Fri December 23, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Critics Say Obama's Efforts To Protect Science Are Slow and Weak

Originally published on Tue December 27, 2011 11:00 am

Did politics trump science when it came to Plan B?
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Critics cried foul when Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the Food and Drug Administration earlier this month, saying that teenage girls can't buy the emergency contraceptive plan B without a prescription. Their complaint: That the move went against the Obama administration's stated goal of protecting science from the taint of politics.

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1:11pm

Fri December 23, 2011
The Salt

Feds Trash Old Proposal on Animal Antibiotics

Adrian Mesa protests the overuse of antibiotics in meat production outside a Burger King in Coral Gables, Fla. in 2003.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Have you ever come across a dust-covered "to-do" list, filled with tasks that you never actually finished because they were unpleasant, you just weren't in the mood, or you found something easier to do instead?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has one of those lists. It's 34-years-old. And the agency decided this week to throw it in the garbage.

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1:10pm

Fri December 23, 2011
The Two-Way

Dozens Killed In Syria: Regime Blames Terrorists, Opposition Blames Regime

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 4:59 pm

A crater left by an explosion at the site of a suicide attack today in Damascus.
Louai Beshara AFP/Getty Images

"Twin suicide car bomb blasts ripped through an upscale Damascus district Friday, targeting security and intelligence buildings and killing at least 40 people" according to authorities, The Associated Press writes.

NPR's Deborah Amos says it's the "first such attack since the beginning of a 10-month revolt" against President Bashar Assad's regime.

Now there's the question of who is responsible.

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1:02pm

Fri December 23, 2011
The Two-Way

In Tough Times, A Simple Request From Santa

A letter to Santa from six-year-old Jaelynn Riden.
Salvation Army

With the economy the way it is, we've heard plenty of stories about the heartbreaking requests children are making to Santa.

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1:00pm

Fri December 23, 2011
NPR Story

Kepler Telescope Narrows Hunt For Earth's Twin

Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 1:33 pm

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. If you're scanning the Milky Way for life, where do you look? Well, probably someplace not too different from planet Earth, right? So you want to find a planet about the same size as Earth to increase the chance it has a rocky surface, with oceans of course rather than being a giant ball of gas like Jupiter, and it should be just the right distance from its star, in what they call the Goldilocks Zone: hot enough to have liquid water but not so hot that the surface has completely scorched.

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1:00pm

Fri December 23, 2011
NPR Story

Birders Fan Out to Count Feathered Friends

The 112th Audubon Christmas Bird Count is underway. Citizen scientists armed with binoculars are recording data vital to monitoring bird health and conservation. But before you can count a Snowy Owl or a Rufous Hummingbird, you need to identify it. Birder Richard Crossley has some tips.

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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