Scientists have discovered a planet not too much bigger than Earth that's circling a distant star that's much like our own Sun. What's more, this planet is in the so-called "Goldilocks zone" around that star β a region that's not too hot and not too cold. That's the kind of place that could be home to liquid water and maybe even life.
The planet, known as Kepler-22b, is the first near-Earth-sized planet to be found smack dab in the middle of the habitable zone of a twin to our Sun.
A little-noticed trial in Maryland could affect how many dirty tricks voters will see in the upcoming elections β things like anonymous fliers or phone calls telling people to vote on the wrong day, or in the wrong precinct, or that they can't vote at all if they have an outstanding parking ticket.
The tactics are often illegal, but it's rare for anyone to get caught, let alone end up in court.
Today it is widely understood that slavery is a stain on American history β indelible and regrettable. But on the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, a new issue of The Atlantic magazine reaches back to a time when this matter wasn't yet settled, and monumental questions were still up in the air: Would slavery continue? Would America remain united?
Originally published on Wed December 7, 2011 10:49 am
Hidden in the soil of Illinois and Iowa, a new generation of insect larvae appears to be munching happily on the roots of genetically engineered corn, according to scientists. It's bad news for corn farmers, who paid extra money for this line of corn, counting on the power of its inserted genes to kill those pests. It's also bad news for the biotech company Monsanto, which inserted the larvae-killing gene in the first place.
When businessman Herman Cain left the Republican presidential race over the weekend, he said he would endorse one of his former rivals.
One likely recipient of that endorsement: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Like Cain before him, Gingrich is trying to establish himself as the conservative alternative to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. And Cain and Gingrich share a long history of mutual admiration.
In the past two weeks, Russia's president has once again slammed the U.S. for its missile defense plans in Europe. President Dmitry Medvedev told his nation Russia would aim its missiles at U.S. missile interceptors when they are deployed in Europe. He also said Russia might even pull out of the new START agreement, which limits both sides' strategic nuclear warhead deployments. We've heard these complaints and threats before from Moscow. Nevertheless, the tone of the Medvedev's remarks was quite sharp.
Congress returned to Washington Monday with a pile of unfinished business, and no clarity on a path to getting it done. At the top of the congressional to-do list this week is extending a payroll tax holiday that meant about $1,000 in extra take-home pay for the typical family this year. It is set to expire at the end of the month.
Congressional leaders from both parties say the payroll tax cut is a must-pass measure. It's just not entirely clear how it's going to happen.
Using 54,000 feet of toilet paper and the 825-foot long "Infinite Corridor" at MIT as a workspace, students from a small boarding school in Massachusetts say they broke an unofficial record for folding paper on Sunday.
Soul music lost one of its great voices last week. Singer Howard Tate died Friday after a battle with cancer at the age of 72. Tate had made his name with a string of classic records including "Get It While You Can," before sliding into obscurity and addiction. But Tate got sober, found religion and he enjoyed a successful encore career over the past decade.
Tate's first turn at the music business came in 1966, when the single "Ain't Nobody Home" hit the R&B charts.
Originally published on Mon December 5, 2011 3:21 pm
We don't usually share local crime stories, but two of them stuck out today. And one of them provides some hope. We'll start with the sad one:
Fox 8 Cleveland reports that a burglar has "ruined" Christmas for a Painesville, Ohio family. The burglar allegedly broke into the home, took their TV, an Xbox, a laptop and worst of all perhaps, then took all the newly-bought presents underneath the Christmas tree:
After 12 years with his authority virtually unchallenged, Vladimir Putin now appears to be facing an electorate that's showing signs of weariness with his rule.
Putin still seems to have a lock on another presidential term as the country prepares for that election in March. Nevertheless, his party β United Russia β received a clear rebuke in parliamentary elections held Sunday.
Robert Siegel speaks with Jack Stripling, a senior reporter at The Chronicle of Higher Education, about its analysis of executive compensation at private colleges. Among the findings, 36 presidents earned more than $1 million in 2009 β that's three presidents more than the previous year.
New rules set to go into effect later this month could make it harder to stage demonstrations at Wisconsin's state capitol. The move comes after thousands gathered there earlier this year to protest a new law curbing the power of public employee unions. Governor Scott Walker has issued guidelines that limit the size of crowds both inside and outside the capitol building. Demonstrators would also be responsible for the costs of cleanup and police security.
Originally published on Mon December 5, 2011 2:28 pm
The head of the Federal Aviation Administration, who among other duties is in charge of the nation's air traffic controllers, was charged with driving while intoxicated Saturday night in Fairfax, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C.
And Federal News Radio says Jerome "Randy" Babbitt has now been "placed on a leave of absence." The Associated Press reports that the leave was "at Babbitt's request."
John Lithgow was born into a theater family, but he never intended to become an actor; he wanted to paint. But ever since he first took the stage as a toddler, he was a hit β and he's gone on to win numerous awards for his work in television, theater and film.
In his memoir, Drama: An Actor's Education, Lithgow focuses on the years before the fame β from his stage debut at the age of 2 and his college years at Harvard, right up to the moment when he moved out West and became a star.
Over the weekend, the company that runs the Japanese nuclear plant crippled by the earthquake and tsunami in March said they had detected another leak of radioactive water. This time, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) said, 45 tons of contaminated water had been found outside the cooling system and about 300 liters of it had leaked into the Pacific Ocean.
In between his speakership and his presidential candidacy, Newt Gingrich built a network of organizations to promote his causes β and himself.
Informally known as Newt Gingrich Inc., those entities have flourished. But questions linger, especially about two of them: the Gingrich Group, a for-profit consulting firm; and a unit of the Gingrich Group called the Center for Health Transformation.
Five months after the implosion of Enron, Feb. 12, 2002, the company's chief executive, Ken Lay, finally stood in front of Congress and the world, and placed his hand on a Bible.
At that point everyone had questions for Lay. It was clear by then that Enron was the product of a spectacular ethical failure, that there had been massive cheating and lying. The real question was: How many people had been dishonest? Who was in on it?
She'll still get about $50 million a year in taxpayers' money to run her palaces and travel the world, but there's word from the U.K. that Queen Elizabeth II has had her "pay" frozen until at least 2015.
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Over the weekend, as the number killed rose over 4,000, one U.N. official took the considered step of describing the situation in Syria as a civil war. While much of the opposition to the government of Bashar al-Assad remains peaceful, defectors from the military have taken up arms, neighborhoods have formed ad-hoc militias, political and military opposition groups have established a presence across the border in Turkey.
Herman Cain quit the presidential primary over the weekend and an Atlanta TV station reports that he may endorse his former rival, Newt Gingrich. NPR's Ken Rudin talks about Cain's decision to quit, and how it will change the primary field.
When Freeman Hrabowski became president of The University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 1992, he made it his mission to close the achievement gap. UMBC now sends more African-African students to graduate school in science and technology than any other predominantly white university in the U.S.
Many doctors complain that the few patients who refuse immunizations put all patients at risk, and some refuse them treatment. New York Times Ethicist Ariel Kaminer addresses the question of whether it's ethical for pediatricians to refuse routine care to families with unvaccinated children.