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The Two-Way
4:31 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

In High Profile Case, Two Romanian 'Witches' Arrested

Witches. Police. Blackmail. And TV celebrities.

Yep, that caught our attention, too, so we had to pass along a strange case that has made its way to court in Romania. The government has arrested two self-professed witches who are accused of blackmailing their clients. The AP reports:

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Africa
4:20 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

South Sudan: Will Oil Lead It Out of Poverty?

South Sudanese security forces stand outside the control room of the Petrodar oil facility in Paloich, South Sudan. Sudan was once sub-Saharan Africa's third-largest oil producer, but much of that oil came from what is now South Sudan.
Pete Muller AP

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 7:12 pm

South Sudan, the world's newest nation, is still trying to find its feet, and private companies, international aid experts and diplomats have gathered in Washington this week to see if they can help.

The 5-month-old country is one of the most underdeveloped places in the world, and it still has many lingering disputes with its former rulers in Sudan — disputes that could scare off potential investors.

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Middle East
4:14 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Mysterious Events Leave Tehran Feeling Under Siege

A picture released by the official website of Iran's Revolutionary Guard on Dec. 8 shows Iranian Revolutionary Guard Brig. Gen. Amir-Ali Hajizadeh (right) looking at a U.S. spy drone that crashed in Iran on Dec. 4.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 7:12 pm

It's never easy trying to figure out just what is going on in Iran.

But it has been especially difficult of late — after an explosion that reduced a missile base to rubble, another blast that was heard but not seen, and the mysterious case of the downed American stealth drone.

These events have left a slew of questions and very few answers.

The huge explosion at the missile base outside Tehran on Nov. 12 was heard in the capital, about 30 miles away, and, satellite pictures show, it devastated the base.

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It's All Politics
3:56 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Not So Fast, Newt: Gingrich As Polling Phenomenon

Republican presidential candidates Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich laugh at a presidential debate at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., in October.
Scott Eells AP

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 6:32 pm

Poll after poll shows Newt Gingrich with a commanding lead for the Republican nomination for president.

The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll is the gaudiest yet, giving the former speaker of the House 40 percent among Republicans across the country, nearly double the number for erstwhile front-runner Mitt Romney.

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Iraq
3:39 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

How Much Influence Will Iran Have In Iraq?

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (left) shakes hands with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during an official meeting in Tehran last year.
STR AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 9:36 am

Earlier this month, a ceremony took place in Baghdad that was unthinkable under Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein: Ashura, the annual Shiite ritual marking the slaying of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and one of the most revered figures in Shiite Islam.

As the trumpets sounded in Baghdad's notorious Shiite slum of Sadr City, boys and men wearing white shrouds brought swords down onto their shaven heads. Thick red blood gushed onto their faces. Hussein sacrificed for us, the belief goes, and devoted followers are ready to sacrifice for him.

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The Two-Way
3:35 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Christmas Stamps Are OK; Christmas Carols? Not At The Post Office

There's been some consternation on the Web about what happened this weekend at a post office in Silver Spring, Md., when three Christmas carolers — all decked out in shawls, bonnets and a top hat (for the guy) — popped in and started singing.

It seems that one of the USPS managers on duty jumped into action, telling the trio that they couldn't do that because they were on government property.

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Shots - Health Blog
3:15 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Hospitals Torn On Reducing Repeat Admissions

Joseuly Claudio, 53, gets weekly checkups from nurse practitioner Mary McDonagh at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York.
Fred Mogul WNYC

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 5:01 pm

What doesn't kill you, only makes you a repeat customer.

So says Prescott Pharmaceuticals, fictional and macabre sponsor of The Colbert Report.

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Latin America
3:04 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

In Cuba, Dial-Up Internet Is A Luxury

Cuba is one of the least-connected countries in the world, a time-warped place where millions of young people have never been online and a dial-up Internet account is the stuff of dreams.

An undersea fiber-optic cable linking the island to Venezuela was supposed to change that this year. But six months after its completion, frustrated Cubans are still starved for web access.

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NPR Story
3:00 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Norwegian Bakery Gets By During Butter Shortage

Norwegians are suffering a butter shortage. The Nordic country has to go without, supposedly because of trade barriers imposed by the country's dairy cooperative Tine. And of course, this comes right as the holiday baking season is heating up. Lynn Neary talks with Lovisa Morling, of the Apent Bakeri in Oslo, about how the bakery is getting by.

The Two-Way
2:59 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Putin Loyalist Resigns As Russia's Speaker Of Parliament

Tens of thousands of protesters turned out in Moscow and other major cities across Russia in open defiance to strongman Vladimir Putin's 12-year rule.
Dmitry Chistoprudov AFP/Getty Images

The protests that have spread across Russia took a big political toll today, when the speaker of parliament announced his resignation. As the AP reports, the move appears to be tailored by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as an attempt to "stem public anger."

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Economy
2:47 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Michigan Town Grapples With Shrinking Public Sector

Inkster, Mich., resident Darrel Osborne says he's noticed the reduced police presence in the city.
Sarah Hulett for NPR

Tammi Warren has lived on the same winding street in the Detroit suburb of Inkster, Mich., all her life. But as she drives down the block in her Ford pickup, Warren points to several houses on her street that stand vacant, casualties of the housing market collapse.

Vacant houses mean less tax revenue for the city, and less revenue makes it harder for Inkster to provide basic city services.

"[The] city of Inkster has eliminated 38 positions," says City Treasurer Mark Stuhldreher. "It's about 25 percent, roughly, of the workforce."

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The Two-Way
1:26 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Scientists Set New Internet Speed Record

Now, we all have reason to complain about the speed of our Internet connection. Scientists announced yesterday that they have broken the Internet speed record by transferring data at 186 Gbps between two cities.

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Rick Perry
1:17 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

5 Things You May Not Know About Rick Perry

Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition 2012 Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington, D.C., last week.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 11:36 am

The eyes of Texas have been upon James Richard "Rick" Perry ever since he boot-scootin' boogied onto the public-service stage. Now political observers are watching Perry's fortunes fluctuate as a Republican candidate for president.

Political junkies have followed the career of Perry — an Eagle Scout, veterinary student and son of a farmer and a bookkeeper — from his initial election as a Democrat to the state House of Representatives in 1984. They have studied his endorsement of Al Gore for president in 1988. They watched him as he changed parties in 1989.

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Politics
1:00 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

2012 Campaign Ads Owe Debt To 'Daisy Petals'

The GOP presidential hopefuls are airing ads in nearly all of the early voting states. NPR's Ken Rudin, political ad expert Ken Goldstein and Robert Mann, author of Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds: LBJ, Barry Goldwater, and the Ad that Changed American Politics talk about ads past and present.

Your Money
1:00 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Money Scams Snare Desperate Investors

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 2:40 pm

Transcript

NEAL CONAN, HOST:

'Tis the season for scams. The suspicious email asking for a helping hand, the website that promises a free product in exchange for a credit card number, or the bogus charity. This year, there's been a significant increase in investment scams, Ponzi schemes, fraudulent promissory notes and worthless investment contracts targeting especially at baby boomers. Kelly Greene is a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal, and joins us now from her office in New York. Nice to have you with us today.

KELLY GREENE: Thank you for having me.

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Education
1:00 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Does A College Education Have To Cost So Much?

Originally published on Fri August 3, 2012 2:17 pm

Transcript

NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. College tuition and fees rose over 400 percent between 1982 and 2007. Let me repeat that: 400 percent in 25 years. Many students get help from financial aid and scholarships, not to mention their parents.

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Television
1:00 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Crowd-Sourced Giving Changes Philanthropy

Websites like Kickstarter, Kiva and Giving Tree are changing how people donate money. With what's known as microphilanthropy, individuals, non-profits and even small businesses raise money directly from individual donors. Journalist and author Laura Vanderkam explains how crowd funding works.

The Two-Way
12:40 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Voyager 1 Speeds Toward The Brink Of Interstellar Space

An artist's conception shows Voyager 1 encountering a stagnation region. To the left is interstellar space.
NASA/JPL-Caltech

Originally published on Tue December 27, 2011 1:09 pm

(Note: This post was first published on Dec. 14. It was reposted Monday — the 26th — because that's when it was broadcast on Morning Edition.)

The Voyager 1 spacecraft is 11 billion miles from the sun. And every minute, it gets 636 miles closer to its destination: the frontier of interstellar space.

The craft is currently in what NASA calls, not undramatically, "the boundary between the solar wind from the Sun and the interstellar wind from death-explosions of other stars," an area that astrophysicists also call, less dramatically, a stagnation layer.

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All Tech Considered
12:32 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Voyager Probes Aim For Interstellar Space, Four Decades Of Travel

Artist's concept of NASA's Voyager spacecraft. For 35 years, the probes have been beaming images and information back to Earth via a 23-watt transmitter.
NASA/JPL-Caltech

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 12:57 pm

NASA is on the brink of putting a man-made craft into interstellar space for the first time, as Voyager 1 speeds toward the outer edge of our solar system. The Voyager program's chief scientist, Dr. Ed Stone, spoke with NPR's Steve Inskeep about that feat, and what it means for NASA.

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The Two-Way
12:08 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Obama To Troops: 'Welcome Home'

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama with troops at Fort Bragg, N.C., today (Dec. 14, 2011) after his address.
Gerry Broome AP

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 1:12 pm

"On behalf of a grateful nation, I'm proud to finally say these two words and I know your famlies agree:

"Welcome home."

With that, President Obama began an address today at North Carolina's Fort Bragg, where he continued to mark the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq by talking with some of the troops who served in that nearly nine-year conflict.

We updated this post with more from his address.

Update at 12:25 p.m. ET. "Because Of You":

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Religion
12:02 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

New York Hasidic Women Want Separate EMT Unit

A Hatzolah ambulance crew at the scene of a fire at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun synagogue in New York City last summer. Some Hasidic women want to form their own EMT unit within the Orthodox Jewish ambulance service to help women keep their modesty during emergency baby deliveries.
Daniel Barry Getty Images

If you live in New York City, you will often see the Orthodox Jewish ambulance service known as Hatzolah on the street. Hatzolah has some 1,200 volunteers — all men — in New York City and is known for its quick response time.

Now, a group of Hasidic female EMTs wants to create a women's division within Hatzolah, to help deliver babies in emergencies.

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The Two-Way
11:35 am
Wed December 14, 2011

Reports: Afghan Rape Victim Freed, Unclear If She Must Marry Attacker

Burqa-clad Afghan women wait to buy chickpeas from a shop in Kabul earlier this year.
Shah Marai AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 11:37 am

Gulnaz, the young Afghan woman whose story has spread around the world because she was imprisoned after being raped by a relative, is now free, CNN and the BBC are reporting.

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Shots - Health Blog
11:34 am
Wed December 14, 2011

Medicaid Takes Growing Slice Of States' Spending

Medicaid enrollment climbs.
Kaiser Family Foundation

Medicaid sure is popular. And that's a big problem for state budgets.

These days the health program for the poor is claiming a bigger slice of states' spending than even K-12 education, says a report from the National Association of State Budget Officers.

All told, Medicaid is expected to grab 23.6 percent of states' spending in fiscal 2011, up from 22.3 percent the year before.

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The Salt
11:29 am
Wed December 14, 2011

Putting Farmland On A Fertilizer Diet

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a document yesterday that got no attention on the nightly news, or almost anywhere, really. Its title, I'm sure you'll agree, is a snooze: National Nutrient Management Standard.

Yet this document represents the agency's best attempt to solve one of the country's — and the world's — really huge environmental problems: The nitrogen and phosphorus that pollute waterways.

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The Two-Way
10:55 am
Wed December 14, 2011

Jiminy Cricket! Just What We Need: A Cockroach That Jumps

We should have jumped on this story earlier, but it's too creepy not to mention:

Scientists have discovered a cockroach in South Africa that leaps to get around, according to Biology Letters.

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The Salt
10:12 am
Wed December 14, 2011

Norway Braces For A Christmas Without Butter

Because of a butter shortage, there will be fewer krumkake cookies eaten in Norway this Christmas.
iStockphoto.com

Christmas without cookies sounds like something the Grinch would dream up. But that may be the sad fate of many Norwegians, with a national butter shortage less than two weeks before the holiday. No krumkaker. No Berlinerkranser. No sandbakkel. In short, no delicious, butter-infused treats.

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Iraq
10:03 am
Wed December 14, 2011

As U.S. Departs, Iraq Faces An Uncertain Future

U.S. Army Lt. Adam Wilson from Ontario, Calif., shakes hands with Sheik Mahmood Al-Ghizzi, possibly for the last time, on Dec. 5 in Nasiriyah, Iraq. The two men met for a final lunch as the U.S. military prepares to leave Iraq after a nearly nine-year presence.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 9:35 am

As the last U.S. troops prepare to leave Iraq this month, what kind of country are they leaving behind?

Iraq's economy, the security system and the political structure are all functioning to varying degrees, yet all appear fragile.

No one expects Iraq to serve as a beacon of Jeffersonian democracy to the region or the world. The more relevant question at this point is how well it will function as a democracy, period.

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Music Reviews
9:57 am
Wed December 14, 2011

'Three Views' Of Trumpeter Dave Douglas

Dave Douglas' Three Views box set collects three very different quintet albums, featuring So Percussion, his Brass Esctasy band and a group featuring Ravi Coltrane and Vijay Iyer.
Zoran Orlic

Originally published on Fri August 3, 2012 2:18 pm

There's a nice contrast among the three quintets heard on Dave Douglas' Three Views, sketching out some of his interests. There's no overlapping repertoire or personnel. The Orange Afternoons session features the elastic rhythm trio of pianist Vijay Iyer, Linda Oh on bass and drummer Marcus Gilmore.

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The Two-Way
9:50 am
Wed December 14, 2011

Hezbollah's Alleged Ties To South American Cocaine Trade Detailed

Hezbollah members listen to a speech by the group's leader, Â Hassan Nasrallah, via video-link in the southern suburbs of Beirut on Nov. 11, 2011.
Anwar Amro AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 9:55 am

There are "new insights into the murky sources of Hezbollah's money," The New York Times reports this morning, that point to "the direct involvement of high-level Hezbollah officials in the South American cocaine trade."

Here's the story's money quote:

"One agent involved in the investigation compared Hezbollah to the Mafia, saying, 'They operate like the Gambinos on steroids.' "

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