We're going to remember now the acerbic, controversial and always compelling writer and cultural critic Christopher Hitchens. Vanity Fair, where he was a contributing editor, announced last night that he had died from complications of cancer. He was 62 years old.
Newt Gingrich stood center state Thursday night in the Sioux City Convention Center. The sharpest elbows did not come from his close rivals, Mitt Romney or Ron Paul. Instead, it was Michele Bachmann who repeatedly went after Gingrich.
A $5 billion federal program to pay for the health benefits of early retirees is proving to be more popular than expected. So popular that it's running out of money earlier than planned. The fund, part of the health care overhaul, was to provide a bridge of insurance coverage until 2014 when early retirees would have many more options under the health care law.
This report is part of a collaboration between Minnesota Public Radio, NPR, and Kaiser Health News.
Andreas Georgiou is the technocrat charged with running the Greek statistics office — the same office that, in the years leading up to the financial crisis, produced wildly distorted reports of Greece's finances.
"My goal is to make this a competent, boring institution and not to be in the limelight," Georgiou told me recently. "Not to have to give an interview like this one."
So far, though, his efforts have been met with resistance, strikes and a criminal investigation that could lead to life in prison for Georgiou.
Mitt Romney returned to form in the final Republican presidential debate before the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses.
Romney, who had perhaps his shakiest debate performance in Des Moines over the weekend, appeared to regain his composure in Thursday night's debate in Sioux City, Iowa.
He managed to once again convey the sense that he was the one GOP candidate of the seven remaining who could credibly stand on the same stage with President Obama next fall, the most electable of the candidates running for the Republican presidential nomination.
Charlize Theron is ugly in Young Adult, the new film from the Juno team of director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody — both literally and personally. In parts of the film, she still looks like her knockout movie-star self, but in other parts, she looks like she's aged a year for every day since her character, Mavis Gary, left high school.
Queen Jackson has been homeless for about a year. As she recently told her case manager, Debra MacKillop, it all started in 2009, when she was laid off from her job as an administrative assistant.
"I was working for the state of Colorado," says Jackson, 60. "I had all these great ideas of retiring and sitting back and enjoying my life. But, as the budget was becoming very strained, I was one of the first to be laid off."
At the time, Jackson wasn't worried. She had saved some money, and she was sure she'd be able to find another job quickly.
Federal income tax time is still a few months away, but there are some things you can do before Dec. 31 to save money on April 15.
"The biggest thing is, if you have a 401(k) retirement plan at work and you have not yet maxed it out, that is a great way to kick some extra dollars into your retirement account," Mary Beth Franklin, a senior editor at Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine, tells NPR's Renee Montagne.
Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 3:23 pm
Supporters say Army Pfc. Bradley Manning doesn't belong in a courtroom at all. They think he's a whistle-blower — and a hero.
Eighteen months after his arrest on suspicion of leaking national secrets, Manning will finally make his first appearance in court Friday at Fort Meade, Md., just north of Washington, D.C.
When he worked in Iraq, Manning allegedly downloaded thousands of war logs and diplomatic cables and shared them with the website WikiLeaks. He faces 22 criminal charges that could keep him behind bars for life.
Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 3:06 pm
The influential writer and cultural critic Christopher Hitchens died on Thursday at the age of 62 from complications of cancer of the esophagus. Hitchens confronted his disease in part by writing, bringing the same unsparing insight to his mortality that he had directed at so many other subjects.
Over the years, Hitchens' caustic attention was directed at a broad range of subjects, including Henry Kissinger, Prince Charles, Bob Hope, Michael Moore, the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa.
We are late to this news, but because it's just now picking up steam in the mainland United States, we'll share it. This was the official Christmas card of Jorge Santini, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, this year:
Iowa's popular Gov. Terry Branstad hasn't endorsed any of the Republican presidential candidates crisscrossing his state yet.
Which means he can at least claim to be above the intramural GOP fray scheduled to end in a few weeks when his state's Republican voters attend caucuses to choose their preference for their party's White House nominee.
For the first time in more than a decade running Russia, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is facing serious opposition to his rule. And that meant he faced tougher than usual questions Thursday at his annual question-and-answer session that lasted more than four hours on Russian television.
"Do you think the elections are honest and their results are fair?" the TV moderator asked him, reading an emailed question.
"The election results absolutely reflect the balance of power in the country," Putin said.
After nearly nine years of war in Iraq, a subdued flag-lowering ceremony in Baghdad on Thursday marked the official end of one of the longest U.S. military missions in American history.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta watched over what's known as the casing of the colors — when the U.S. military flag is put away and sent back to the United States. The flag will then be retired and perhaps later go on display at the Pentagon.
The U.S. Congress has approved legislation that targets the Central Bank of Iran and is intended to make it more difficult for that country to sell its oil abroad.
But the latest sanctions could backfire. Reduced oil supplies on the world market could mean higher prices, and therefore Iran could actually make more money from its oil even if it sells fewer barrels.
It's a big night in Iowa: The Republican presidential candidates are holding their final big debate prior to the Iowa caucuses, which take place on Jan. 3. Melissa Block talks with Iowa Republican Gov. Terry Branstad about various candidates' strengths and weaknesses. In short, he says there's a lot of excitement, and he's reserving judgment on who the winner will be.
There's a world of activity between the time online shoppers click the "place order" button and when a holiday package is delivered to their doorsteps. The National Retail Federation estimates that 38 percent of holiday purchases will be made online this year, which is keeping fulfillment centers large and small very busy.
Target.com runs five fulfillment centers. One of them, in Tucson, Ariz., stretches the length of 16 football fields.
If you're unemployed, it can be painfully clear when you don't have the right skills to land a good job.
With unemployment at 8.6 percent, upwards of 13 million Americans are without a job and looking for work. A recent NPR/Kaiser Family Foundation poll surveyed hundreds of long-term unemployed and underemployed people, asking whether they thought they had the skills required to find a job.
Federal money for active duty students is particularly attractive to for-profit schools, which have been signing up members of the services in record numbers.
So, the Pentagon has developed new rules to ensure that service members are treated fairly when they use government money to attend college. Those rules are set to go into effect Jan. 1, but many of the nation's best-known schools say they cannot accept those requirements.
The dispute puts at risk millions of dollars in federal assistance.
President Obama doesn't have to worry about winning the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses. He's almost sure to be the only Democrat in the first-in-the-nation contest. Yet that hasn't stopped the Obama campaign from organizing its own effort to get out the vote.
While Republican candidates have been hogging the Iowa spotlight, a small army of Obama volunteers has been busy behind the scenes. They've opened eight campaign offices around the state, hosted dozens of house parties, and logged tens of thousands of telephone calls.
Former President French President Jacques Chirac was found guilty of misusing public funds while he was the mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995. Chirac will serve a two-year suspended sentence after a court found that he had architected a system in which political allies were handed municipals salaries for fake jobs. The scheme, said the court, cost Paris about $1.8 million.
Joe Simon, who together with illustrator Jack Kirby created the iconic Captain America comic book hero in 1940, has died.
According to The Associated Press, "Simon's family relayed word of his death Thursday, posting a short statement on Facebook and telling The Associated Press through a spokesman that the 98-year-old Simon died Wednesday night in New York City after a brief illness."
The founder of a venerable literary institution in Paris has died at 98. George Whitman founded the Shakespeare & Co bookstore, across from the Notre Dame cathedral. The shop was a magnet for English speakers in the French capital.
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
LYNN NEARY, HOST:
And I'm Lynn Neary.
The Republican candidates gather for yet another debate tonight. This one is in Sioux City, Iowa. It's the last debate before the Iowa caucuses on January 3rd. And it comes as Mitt Romney and other candidates try to stop the surge of Newt Gingrich. Romney and his allies have been launching a furious assault on the former House speaker.
They're just everywhere. That's how a wildlife manager describes the mass casualties of Eared Grebes that crash landed in southern Utah on Monday night. Some 1,500 grebes died, another 3,000 have been rescued. The small water birds were migrating and apparently mistook a Walmart parking lot, highways and football fields covered with snow for bodies of water.
Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 2:46 pm
Google's co-founder Sergey Brin unleashed perhaps the most stinging criticism of the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act that is working its way through Congress.
In a Google+ post, Brin said if the U.S. passed either SOPA, the House version of the bill, or the Protect IP Act, the Senate version, it would put the country in same league as China and Iran as far as Internet censorship is concerned. Brin said the bills were a "threat to free speech."
When Mark Kelly and Gabrielle Giffords were dating, Gabby did most of the talking. Kelly describes her as "the most positive person I'd ever met." But since the Congresswoman was shot, speaking is a challenge. In their book, Gabby, they share their low points and the amazing progress she has made.