This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. The metaphors become unbearably trite: the debt ceiling; the fiscal cliff and now the meat cleaver of the sequestration. Details are important, we'll get to those in a moment, but underlying the repeated rounds of budgetary crisis, lies a deeper political paralysis.
Originally published on Thu February 28, 2013 4:31 pm
A roaming chicken's close inspection of a transformer caused a power outage and brief delays at Maui's Kahului Airport this week. The incident occurred Tuesday afternoon, when the bird wandered into a transformer at the airport's rental car area, leaving parts of the facility without power for more than an hour.
Brad Leithauser likes to look for poetry in graveyards. A novelist and poet himself, there's something he values greatly in tombstone epitaphs: brevity.
"You really don't want to go on at great length," he tells NPR's Neal Conan. "There's something very touching ... in seeing how they are meant to be commemorated, often in little bits of verse here and there."
Originally published on Thu February 28, 2013 3:13 pm
After years of legal wrangling, the Defense of Marriage Act — the law that prevents the federal government from recognizing marriage as anything but a "legal union between one man and one woman" — comes before the Supreme Court next month.
Marco McMillian, thought to be one of the first openly gay men to seek political office in Mississippi, was found dead near a levee, yesterday.
McMillian was running for mayor of the town of Clarksdale, a town known for its rich artistic history. (At one point or another it was home to the likes of Sam Cooke and Tennessee Williams.) The AP reports that McMillian was considered to be "a man on the rise."
Six former heads of the Shin Bet — Israel's security agency — speak to director Dror Moreh in his Oscar-nominated documentary The Gatekeepers. They are men who have signed off on brutal interrogations and targeted killings. They have given their lives to the cause of Israeli security.
What is striking is that all articulate their shared conviction that the continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories will not lead to peace or a political solution for the future of the state of Israel.
Originally published on Thu February 28, 2013 5:34 pm
How's this for a tough assignment?
A group of Italian researchers forced 21 surgical residents to play video games on a Nintendo Wii for an hour a day, five days a week, for four weeks. Whew!
Then the researchers had the residents perform a simulated keyhole surgery. They found that the gamers performed significantly better than another group of residents who didn't undergo this grueling video game training.
"Chrysler will hire 1,250 new workers and spend $374 million to upgrade transmission plants in central Indiana — the only place in North America where the automaker makes transmissions," the Detroit Free Press reports from Kokomo.
Ben Goldberg has been a staple of San Francisco's improvisational-music scene ever since he helped put together the New Klezmer Trio two decades ago. More recently, as a member of the quartet Tin Hat, he's set e.e. cummings poems to music. In between, he's recorded in a wide variety of settings, sometimes including other prominent Bay Area players — as on two new albums for different quintets.
Originally published on Thu February 28, 2013 1:33 pm
China's answer to accusations of cyber-espionage against the U.S.? The Americans are doing it to us, too.
Barely a week after a report from security firm Mandiant that an arm of the People's Liberation Army was behind the theft of "hundreds of terabytes" of data from U.S. companies, China's Defense Ministry said Thursday that U.S. hackers were penetrating Chinese military websites.
French workers burn tires outside the Goodyear tire factory in Amiens, France, on Tuesday, after Titan CEO Maurice Taylor criticized French workers in a letter addressed to Industrial Renewal Minister Arnaud Montebourg.
Credit Charlie Neibergall / AP
Titan CEO Maurice Taylor, shown here in 2009, is known as a tough negotiator and an outspoken free-market capitalist.
Credit Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP/Getty Images
France's socialist Minister for Industrial Renewal Arnaud Montebourg, shown here on Feb. 18, responded strongly to Taylor's criticism.
The battle between an American capitalist and a French socialist official has prompted chuckles — and heated debate — on both sides of the Atlantic. The exchange highlights some humorous stereotypes and reveals real differences between the economic cultures of France and the United States.
A leaked letter from Maurice Taylor, CEO of the Illinois-based Titan tire company, ignited the controversy. In it, Taylor, regarded by the French as a hardcore capitalist, addressed Arnaud Montebourg, France's flamboyant, leftist industrial renewal minister.
Gun violence devastates many predominantly African-American neighborhoods in places across the country. But some faith leaders feel that legal access to guns is part of the solution, not the problem. Host Michel Martin speaks with Reverend Kenn Blanchard about why he wants his congregation to have wider access to guns.
South Africa is still reeling from the recent deaths of two women: Reeva Steenkamp, shot by her sports hero boyfriend, Oscar Pistorius, and Anene Booysens, who was brutally raped and murdered at 17. Host Michel Martin talks to independent researcher Lisa Vetten about what the cases may say about violence against women in South Africa.
For the first time, Kenya recently aired presidential debates, ahead of its election. But despite the wide audience, many people doubt the country can get through the election without violence. Host Michel Martin catches up with journalist and debate moderator Uduak Amimo.
You might think you know all there is to know about Martin Luther King Jr. But author Andrea Davis Pinkney digs deeper. She talks with host Michel Martin about her award-winning book, Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America.
Tell Me More has been honoring Black History Month by speaking with African-Americans who've excelled in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math. Sylvester James Gates Jr. spent his career researching string theory. He explains to host Michel Martin that, while it seems like science fiction, it's really anything but.
We're hearing this morning that Pope Benedict has left the Vatican. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli is covering the first papal retirement in 600 years, and she joins us now from Rome. And Sylvia, describe the scene for us there.
I shied away from Marisa Silver's new novel because of its book jacket: a reproduction of Dorothea Lange's iconic Depression-era photograph called "Migrant Mother." You know it: the woman's strong face is worn and worried; her children lean protectively into her. Lange took the photo at a pea-pickers' camp in California in 1936; the name of the destitute mother of seven, who wasn't identified till the 1970s, is Florence Owens Thompson. The photo on Silver's book jacket is colorized.
It may never have been intended to play out in quite this way, but the automatic spending cuts set to take effect for most federal programs Friday leave little room for preserving the most visible and popular programs.
"The law basically says the cuts have to be across-the-board by 'project, program and activity,' " says Stan Collender, a federal budget expert with the communications firm Qorvis. "That was specifically written to take away flexibility from the administration."
Originally published on Thu February 28, 2013 12:15 pm
China isn't a good place to be a horse, if your goal is to avoid ending up as the Russian kabobs known as shashlik.
China exports the most horse meat to the global market, while Russia has the biggest appetite for horseflesh, according to a new infographic on the continuing European scandal over horse meat sold as beef.
Originally published on Thu February 28, 2013 12:26 pm
Bruce Reynolds, the brains behind the Great Train Robbery of 1963, has died at the age of 81, nearly five decades after he and his partners in crime made off with 2.6 million pounds at Ledburn, Buckinghamshire, England.
Reynolds was part of the gang that executed an elaborate scheme to swipe the cash from the Glasgow-to-Euston mail train. The clockwork nature of the crime, along with the fact that the bulk of the loot was never recovered and some of the robbers never captured, has made it a favorite subject of television and films, as well as popular music.
Should students who want to attend medical school have to slog through a year of physics, memorize the structures of dozens of cellular chemicals or spend months studying for the MCAT? Not necessarily.
Originally published on Thu February 28, 2013 10:39 am
It all depends on how you interpret the phrase "you will regret doing this." That piece of advice coming from a parent might be taken far differently than it would as a line from a Joe Pesci movie.
Where it falls on a spectrum from friendly advice to outright threat is apparently a matter of opinion. Bob Woodward, The Washington Post reporter of Watergate fame, and the Obama White House disagree on more than just the sequester story.
The "it" is sequestration — $85 billion worth of across-the-board federal spending cuts that are due to start kicking in at the end of Friday unless Republican and Democratic leaders somehow bridge their differences.
(We last updated the top of this post at 2 p.m. ET.)
Precisely on time, under dark skies but with the lights of cameras from news outlets around the world illuminating the scene, Swiss Guards on Thursday closed the doors of the palazzo at Castel Gandolfo south of Rome — marking the official end of Pope Benedict XVI's time as head of the Roman Catholic Church.
For the first time in about 600 years, a pope has voluntarily stepped down. His final moment as leader of the church came at 8 p.m. local time (2 p.m. ET).