Melissa Block

Melissa Block joined NPR in 1985 and has been hosting All Things Considered since 2003, after nearly a decade as an NPR correspondent.

Frequently reporting from communities in the center of the news, Block was in Chengdu, China, preparing for a weeklong broadcast when a massive earthquake struck the region in May 2008. Immediately following the quake, Block, along with co-host Robert Siegel and their production team, traveled throughout Sichuan province to report extensively on the destruction and relief efforts. Their riveting coverage aired across all of NPR's programs and was carried on major news organizations around the world. In addition, the reporting was recognized with the industry's top honors including a Peabody Award, a duPont-Columbia Award, a National Headliner Award and the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi Award.

Throughout her career, Block has covered major news events for NPR ranging from on-the-scene reporting from the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the days following Hurricane Katrina to a series from Texas gauging the impact of the Iraq War on the surrounding communities. Her reporting after the September 11, 2001 attacks was part of coverage that earned NPR a George Foster Peabody Award. Block's reporting from Kosovo in 1999 was cited among stories for which NPR News won an Overseas Press Club Award.

On July 1, 15 California state parks are slated to be closed permanently to the public — the first such closures in the state's history. They're the victim of budget cuts in a state with a $16 billion shortfall.

Over the past year, park enthusiasts have scrambled to save dozens of parks from closure, including Henry W. Coe State Park, California's second-biggest state park, located about 30 miles south of San Jose.

Meet Jake. At 500 pounds, he stands 4 feet 4 four inches tall, with a spine that stretches another foot. He has white urethane skin, a flat head sporting an array of camera lenses, and a laser scanner in his throat.

And he may be coming to a home near you.

Earlier this year, on Jan. 8, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was shot in the head as she met with constituents in Tucson, Ariz. She was one of 13 people injured that day. Six people were killed.

It had been four years since Giffords arrived in Washington as a wide-eyed freshman and told NPR: "Life's good and [I'm] very, very excited — so optimistic about taking our country in a new direction."

One of the earliest primary states is South Carolina, which holds its primary on Jan. 21. South Carolina is a Republican stronghold — with a strongly conservative voting base.

In Spartanburg, S.C., a handful of Republican voters share what's on their minds — and many are leaning toward Herman Cain.

Perry Aims To Win Voters

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is trying to win hearts and minds in the Palmetto State right where it counts — with food.

The job market is barely treading water. The Labor Department Thursday reported that 404,000 people filed for unemployment benefits last week — pretty much unchanged from the week before. Overall, there are 14 million people looking for work in the U.S.

One of those places where jobs are especially hard to find is Spartanburg, S.C.

On Thursday, the Occupy Wall Street protests spread to the heavily conservative corner of the heavily conservative state. It was a small turnout — about 20 people got some honks of support and some catcalls from people who shouted, "Get a job!"

"I was born inside the movie of my life."

Those words open the new memoir Life Itself from the film critic Roger Ebert, who has made movies his life for more than four decades now. He and his sparring partner, the late Gene Siskel, had the most famous thumbs on television. Now, at age 69, Ebert depends on the same thumbs-up that he and Siskel made famous to help him communicate in daily life. Five years ago, after multiple cancer surgeries, he lost the ability to speak.

A federal appeals court in Atlanta has ruled against the individual mandate contained in the new health care law, saying it is unconstitutional to require citizens to buy health insurance.

Rupert Murdoch is expected to take questions from analysts, investors and reporters during a conference call Wednesday. The call follows Tuesday's meeting of the News Corp. board — the first such meeting since the phone hacking scandal that has roiled the company.

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