The mountains along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan would be cruel enough without the war raging on below — cliffs drop from 8,000-foot peaks that are spotted with only a few trees among the rocks.
But Afghanistan's eastern border has become the focus of the conflict as militants plot their attacks inside Pakistan, then slip across the rugged frontier to carry them out.
In Afghanistan's southeast Paktika province, Forward Operating Base Tillman looks across toward Pakistan over craggy peaks that American troops have nicknamed "Big Ugly" and "Big Nasty."
Originally published on Tue December 13, 2011 4:26 pm
Remember when the space shuttle — aka "space truck" — was going to make make trips into Earth orbit a routine thing? It really didn't turn out the way people had hoped. Now there's a new pretender to throne, another team ready to try and make bring flights into space a little closer to an everyday reality.
This time of year, you might be thinking about what sort of gift or tip you'd like to offer your child's teacher for Christmas.
In Alabama, they won't let you get away with that kind of illegal behavior.
Alabama's new ethics law, which took effect in March, bans nearly all gifts to government workers — not just elected officials, but all state, county and municipal employees. That includes schoolteachers, as a lengthy opinion from the state ethics commission makes clear.
Originally published on Tue December 13, 2011 3:32 pm
"No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life."
That's the message from the National Transportation Safety Board, which today recommended that states "ban the nonemergency use of portable electronic devices (other than those designed to support the driving task) for all drivers."
Srdja Popovic, a lanky biologist from Belgrade, helped overthrow a dictator in Serbia a decade ago. Since then, he's been teaching others what he learned, and his proteges include a host of Arab activists who have played key roles in ousting Arab autocrats over the past year.
"This is a bad year for bad guys," Popovic says with a broad grin in a New York cafe.
Human rights advocates are calling on the Obama administration to do more to protect people in immigration detention centers from sexual assault. A new federal rule that will take effect next year covers inmates in jails and prisons, but some Homeland Security officials want an exemption for facilities that house illegal immigrants.
Physicists have a grand theory that describes how tiny particles interact to form all the stuff we see in the universe — everything from planets to toasters to human beings.
But there is one particle predicted by this theory that has never been detected in experiments. It's called the Higgs boson. Scientists are dying to know if it really exists — and now researchers are closer to finding out than ever before.
If you're considering suicide, Facebook now stands ready to get you some help.
The gigantic social-networking site said Tuesday that if any of its 800 million users type a post saying they are contemplating suicide, the site will offer to connect them to a crisis counselor through the site's chat system.
According to many polls, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is now leading the Republican pack. His plan to rewrite the nation's tax policy hasn't gotten as much attention as some of his other proposals, but, according to a new analysis, it would require sweeping changes to the government.
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. The Department of Agriculture reports that the number of students receiving free or reduced lunch soared by 17 percent last year. That's up to 21 million. Given the state of the economy, the statistics may come as no surprise, but each new child who qualifies for free lunch means another family fallen out of the middle class.
Originally published on Tue December 13, 2011 2:40 pm
One day after the United Nations said that more than 5,000 people have died in nine months of protests and clashes against the Syrian government, the AP quotes activists saying that at least 28 more people died Tuesday at the hands of Syrian security forces.
Fighting between the government and the opposition was heaviest along the country's northwestern border with Turkey.
Originally published on Tue December 13, 2011 2:51 pm
A bill before Congress that would allow some types of "robocalls" to be made to cellphones if consumers have given companies their numbers doesn't have many sponsors and wouldn't seem to be the kind of legislation that would stand much of a chance of passing when an election year looms.
But it's getting an increasing amount of attention this week thanks to something that's very rare these days — bipartisan opposition.
The federal government will stop minting unwanted $1 coins, the White House said Tuesday. The move will save an estimated $50 million a year.
Earlier this year, we reported on the mountain of $1 coins sitting unused in government vaults. The pile-up — an estimated 1.4 billion coins — was caused by a 2005 law that ordered the minting of coins honoring each U.S. president.
You can talk about the global village, a mobile society and the World Wide Web all you want, but many in our country seem to be turning toward a New American Localism.
These days, we are local folks and our focus is local. We are doing everything locally: food, finance, news, charity. And maybe for good reasons.
"One bedrock thing that is going on," says Brad Edmondson, founder of ePodunk and former editor of American Demographics magazine, is that "because of aging and the recession, people aren't moving around as much."
And now the Opinion Page, which was moved - which we moved from its regular Monday slot this week because of our special broadcast yesterday from National Geographic. After big demonstrations in Moscow and other cities in Russia over the weekend, we heard comparisons to the Arab Spring. Some predicted the protests could herald sweeping change. In an op-ed for The New York Times, Kathryn Stoner-Weiss argues that the protests are not completely meaningless, but she concluded that things will go on, much as they did before.
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. About 5,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, and they will all leave by the end of this month. Yesterday, President Obama marked the end of the nearly nine-year-long war as a campaign promise kept. He stood beside Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki yesterday and reflected on the costs and said U.S. troops will leave with their heads held high.
Until the beginning of this month, Donald Berwick served as administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Dr. Berwick's nomination got caught up in the partisan politics that accompany passage of the health care law, and he took office under a controversial recess appointment. His mission was to make the centers more efficient, to cut costs and to deliver more patient-centered care. On his way out of office, he said that as much as a third of the money spent on Medicare and Medicaid is wasted.
In the FX TV series Louie, comic Louis C.K. plays a divorced father of two struggling to balance his comedy career with being a single dad. The show, which has just been picked up for a third season, is often based on events that have happened to C.K. in his own life.
Originally published on Tue December 13, 2011 4:07 pm
The overwhelming majority of Latino voters believe that the Republican Party ignores them or is outright "hostile," and that nominating Hispanic Sen. Marco Rubio as a vice presidential candidate might do little to change it, according to a national poll released Monday.
The December survey, conducted by impreMedia and the polling group Latino Decisions, is the first to test the popularity of the freshman senator from Florida with America's Hispanics.
As protesters in the Middle East use social media to organize and communicate, the regimes they're battling are using sophisticated technology to intercept their emails, text messages and cellphone calls.
On Wednesday's Fresh Air, journalist Ben Elgin talks about a Bloomberg News series, "Wired for Repression," which details how Western companies are selling surveillance technology to regimes including Iran, Syria, Bahrain and Tunisia.
Originally published on Tue December 13, 2011 12:48 pm
A Dutch architectural firm says its designers didn't see the resemblance.
But many, many others certainly do think the two buildings — linked by a "cloud" of skybridges — that MVRDV has proposed for a project in Seoul look very much like the haunting images of the World Trade Center's twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001, after they were hit by high-jacked passenger planes.