NPR News

The special tool-wielding power of human hands may go back farther in evolutionary history than scientists have thought.

That's according to a new study of hand bones from an early relative of humans called Australopithecus africanus. Researchers used a powerful X-ray technique to scan the interior of the bones, and they detected a telltale structure that's associated with a forceful precision grip.

The NASCAR season that begins next month will bring the last run at a championship for Jeff Gordon, who announced today that he won't race full-time after this year. Now 43, Gordon has been part of competitive racing since he was 5 years old.

But don't call it a retirement. Gordon says he'll stay involved in both NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports, the team he's been affiliated with for more than two decades.

What would incomes look like for U.S. families today if the income distribution were the same as it was in 1979?

Larry Summers recently made this really intriguing calculation in the FT.

His conclusions:

  • Families in the bottom 80 percent of the income distribution would be making $11,000 more per year, on average, than they're earning today.

A bill that would prohibit using federal money to pay for "any abortion" or for "health benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion" has been approved by the House.

The bill passed by a vote of 242-179. Titled the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2015, it was introduced by Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., and others, including Speaker John Boehner.

Its stipulations include:

When the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots meet in the 2015 Super Bowl on Feb. 1, the broadcast booth will be anchored by a man who has done the play-by-play for eight previous Super Bowls. Al Michaels, the announcer for NBC's Sunday Night Football, knows how to put emotion into his broadcasts.

In 2005, jazz composer and french horn player Tom Varner left New York for Seattle, where he put together a nine-piece band of local players. Their new album is called Nine Surprises. Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says that Varner can really write, and they can really play.

The measles outbreak that started at Disneyland and one other California theme park is expanding, with 59 confirmed cases in patients ranging in age from 7 months to 70 years. The California Department of Public Health has linked 42 of these cases to people who visited Disneyland or Disney's California Adventure Park.

Initially, cases were linked to people who visited the parks in mid-December, but health officials now say that other people with measles were at the parks in January while infectious and also have spread the disease.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Updated at 12:40 p.m.

The White House says President Obama won't meet with Israel's prime minister in March when Benjamin Netanyahu will be in Washington to address a joint meeting of Congress.

Hello, I Must Be Squatting

Jan 22, 2015

I'm trying to sleep on a straw mat in the village in Northern Ghana where I'm a Peace Corps volunteer. It's the best way to keep cool when there's no air-conditioning and nighttime temps are in the 80s.

Lots of people are outside sleeping in the center of the compound where I'm living. They're talking. Their babies are crying. I try to tune them out and am almost at the dream state. Then I hear "aninwula."

That's the evening greeting.

No matter the time of day or night, most Ghanaians would be seriously insulted if you ignored their greeting.

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick says he had "no knowledge" about the controversy surrounding his team and deflated footballs.

"In my entire coaching career, I have never talked to any player or staff member about football air pressure," he said in an opening statement at a news conference today.

Belichick added that he had "no knowledge of this situation until Monday morning."

The European Central Bank has unveiled a massive bond-buying stimulus program to kick-start the region's economy and battle deflation.

"The combined monthly purchases of private and public sector securities will amount to 60 billion euros," ECB President Mario Draghi said today at a news conference in Frankfurt, Germany.

Officials in Newtown, Conn., have voted to demolish the home of Adam Lanza, the gunman who killed 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

The Newtown Legislative Council voted 10-0 Wednesday night to approve a proposal to tear down the 3,100-square-foot home where Lanza lived with his mother. The land on which the home stands will be kept as open space for now.

Late last year, London Mayor Boris Johnson said he owed money to the IRS — but wasn't going to pay it.

Johnson, who holds dual U.S.-U.K. citizenship by virtue of having been born in New York, owed capital gains tax from the sale of his first house in the U.K. — a sum that is not taxable in the U.K.

What Medicare gives with one hand, it's taking away with another. Most government quality bonuses to hospitals this year are being wiped out by penalties issued for other shortcomings.

The government is taking performance into account when paying hospitals, one of the biggest changes in Medicare's 50-year-history and one that's required by the Affordable Care Act.

Updated at 7:15 p.m. ET

A senior State Department official announces:

"In response to the changing security situation in Yemen, the United States Embassy in Sana'a has further reduced its American personnel working in Yemen. Our Embassy in Sana'a has been on ordered departure since last September.

"While the Embassy remains open and is continuing to operate, we may continue to re-align resources based on the situation on the ground."

Updated at 5 p.m. ET

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2015 Nashville Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.wpln.org/.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR — along with seven public radio stations around the country — is chronicling the lives of America's troops where they live. We're calling the project "Back at Base."

At a time when the Department of Defense budget is under pressure, some military bases are re-examining how they operate to find ways to save.

After a long stretch as the law of the land, annual standardized tests are being put to, well, the test.

This week, the Senate education committee held a hearing on the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law and, specifically, on testing. The committee's chairman, Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., has released a draft bill offering a lot more leeway to states in designing their own assessment systems.

Researchers in Europe have managed to read from an ancient scroll buried when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. The feat is all the more remarkable because the scroll was never opened.

The Vesuvius eruption famously destroyed Pompeii. But it also devastated the nearby town of Herculaneum. A villa there contained a library stacked with papyrus scrolls, and the hot gas and ash preserved them.

Sort of.

NPR and ProPublica have been reporting about nonprofit hospitals that seize the wages of lower-income and working-class patients. Now, Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says hospitals could be breaking the law by suing these patients and docking their pay. And he wants some answers.

Hundreds of elementary schools were protesting the illegal seizure of their playground by a private developer in Nairobi, Kenya, when police fired tear gas into the crowd.

The incident sparked outrage across the city — and on social media, where Kenyans tweeted with the hashtag #OccupyPlayGround.

For thousands of years, city planners have engineered water into submission — think aqueducts.

There's an inconspicuous metal box mounted on the wall of the gym at San Francisco County Jail No. 4.

When Kate Monico Klein turns a knob, the machine releases a condom in a small cardboard packet. Machines like this one — dispensing free condoms — are installed in all of the county's male jails.

"We set [the machine] off to the side, so that people would have a minor amount of privacy," explains Monico Klein, director of HIV services for Jail Health, a division of the county's health department.

In Tuesday night's State of the Union address, President Obama offered a number of ideas for improving the economy. Among them was a nod to the role the Internet plays in economic development.

"I intend to protect a free and open Internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks," Obama said.

Pages