NPR News

GM To Modify Chevy Volt To Protect Battery

Jan 5, 2012

General Motors is advising Chevrolet Volt owners to return their electric cars to dealers for repairs that will better protect the vehicles' batteries, which have caught fire after crash tests.

The repairs fall under a "customer service campaign," which is similar to a safety recall but allows GM to avoid the bad publicity and federal monitoring that come with a formal recall.

This Tea Party ROCKS! And Wants To Cash In

Jan 5, 2012

If you direct your browser to TeaParty.com, you will not find a site devoted to the political movement of the same name. What you will find is the Internet home of The Tea Party, a Canadian rock band that has owned the domain name since the early '90s.

Now, with seemingly no shortage of would-be buyers, the band is hoping to cash in.

Facing the prospect of a recall election in June, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker came to Washington on Thursday to talk up the merits of the anti-union legislation that has landed him in hot water — and to raise funds to save his job.

Walker said he's certain his opponents will gather the 540,000 signatures they need in time for the Jan. 17 deadline, setting up a recall election in June.

How much lead does it take to ruin a brain? Not much, according to a new standard proposed for lead poisoning in children.

The amount of lead in a child's blood that determines dangerous lead exposure should be cut in half, from the current standard of 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood to 5 micrograms for ages 5 and below, a federal advisory committee said Wednesday.

That in itself would be a big step, and would double the number of young children in the United States officially considered to have lead poisoning to almost 500,000.

This is, no doubt, a local story. But bear with us because it's pretty fascinating. Yesterday, the Florida Highway Patrol issued a final report on an incident that sparked a battle between the state troopers and Miami-Dade Police.

Here's a twist. You know how you keep hearing that the Affordable Care Act is doing little more than raising health care costs?

Well, the Obama administration says a new rule it's issuing under the law could result in a savings of as much as $4.5 billion over the next decade.

What The Camembert Rind Does For The Cheese Inside

Jan 5, 2012

For lovers of Camembert, the downy white rind is the tart bite that balances out the fat-laden, oozing, pungent layer inside.

For a group of Swiss bioengineers, that moldy rind is one of nature's greatest living surfaces, doing double duty as a shield and a cleaner. The rind allows the cheese's deep flavor and aroma to mature, but also defends it against microorganisms that could spoil it. The cheese repays the fungi on the rind by supplying it with nutrients.

This is why we created a category called The No-Way:

"A family in Northwest Fresno was stunned Wednesday morning to find a car on the roof of their apartment," KFSN-TV reports.

Police say a 26-year-old man who allegedly stole a car was apparently driving it way too fast when he missed a turn, went on to some rocks and the vehicle launched into the air.

In its February issue, Vanity Fair has a long report on Jon Corzine, the former head of Goldman Sachs and former Democratic governor of New Jersey. Corzine has been in the news lately for his role in MF Global, which last year collapsed spectacularly and left $1.2 billion in client money missing.

The piece talks to friends and former associates of Corzine and paints a picture of a CEO who took great risks and micromanaged.

A Changing Picture For Cancer Deaths In The U.S.

Jan 5, 2012

This year, there will be 1.6 million new cases of cancer in the U.S. And, the American Cancer Society estimates, more than 577,000 people will die from the disease.

As the trial of Egypt's former dictator continued in Cairo, today, one of the prosecutors said Hosni Mubarak should face the death penalty for his role in the killing of protesters during the uprising that toppled his regime, last year.

"Retribution is the solution," Mustafa Khater said on the final day of the prosecution's opening statements. "Any fair judge must issue a death sentence for these defendants."

The long-awaited trial of five men accused of helping plan the Sept. 11 attacks is scheduled to begin early this year in a revamped trial process at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Initially, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men charged with planning the attacks were going to be tried in a New York federal court, but congressional opposition forced the Obama administration to reverse course.

The theme of the 2012 GOP presidential contest has been dissatisfaction with the candidates, and a rollicking battle for the honor of being the anti-Mitt Romney alternative.

We were curious about what young conservatives have been thinking about the race, which moved to New Hampshire Wednesday after Iowa's decidedly non-decisive caucuses.

So NPR photographer John Poole and I, after a night at former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum's headquarters in Bedford, N.H., decided to head west to Dartmouth College in Hanover.

Joseph P. Kennedy III, the son of former Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II and grandson of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, "is taking the final steps to launch a run for Congress this year, hoping to succeed [the retiring] U.S. Rep. Barney Frank," the Boston Globe reports.

In 2014, when expansion of the Panama Canal is complete, a new generation of superlarge cargo ships will begin calling on the East Coast. Cities like New York; Savannah, Ga.; and Miami are vying for the new business, as they race to deepen their ports and expand their facilities to accommodate the new ships.

But some of the cities are running into significant challenges. In Miami, where plans are under way to deepen the port to 50 feet, dredging is a hot topic. Some see it as a great business opportunity. To others, it's a threat to the environment.

Saying that "the size and structure of our military and defense budget have to be driven by a strategy — not the other way around," President Obama just gave a broad overview of his administration's new military strategy.

Speaking at the Pentagon, Obama said that:

You may have heard about that Canadian man who says he got into the U.S. by showing a Customs and Border Protection officer an image of his passport on an iPad.

Well, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has this to say about that:

If you haven't seen it yet, take a few seconds to watch something that's now happened just four times in English Premier League history.

Everton goalie Tim Howard scored from about 90 yards away last night when his clearing kick bounced over the head of opposing goalie Adam Bogdan.

Fortunately for Bogdan, his Bolton Wanderers team went on to defeat The Toffees 2-1.

It may be the most insulting snub in Olympic history. After seeking and winning the right to host the 1976 Winter Olympics, the city of Denver backed out of the games. Colorado voters rejected public funding of the Olympics in 1972 and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was forced to turn to Innsbruck, Austria, the host city eight years earlier.

The GOP candidates have left Iowa, but number crunchers are starting to dig deeper into the data behind Tuesday night's vote. The Washington Post has this post-game analysis tracking where each candidate's supporters live and how they stack up by age, income, religion and Tea Party affinity.

There was a 325,000-gain in the number of jobs on private employers' payrolls last month, according to the widely watched ADP National Employment Report, which was just released.

Among the stories about today's unveiling of the Obama administration's new defense strategy is a New York Times report that says projected cuts in the number of Army troops would mean the military would no longer "be able to carry out two sustained ground wars at one time, as was required under past national military strategies."

The death toll is rising in Baghdad from another series of deadly bombings apparently aimed at Shiite Muslims.

About 30 people were killed today and more than 60 wounded, according to authorities, by explosions near two sites where day laborers were gathering to look for construction work.

How The Russians Saved America's Sunflower

Jan 5, 2012

Next time you buy some potato chips, take a look at the list of ingredients. There's a good chance that, right after potatoes, you'll see this: "Sunflower oil."

You might think nothing of it. After all, the sunflower is the state flower of Kansas. Why wouldn't the potato chip industry use this home-grown oil?

But before the sunflower ended up helping to fry potatoes, it had to take a long detour through, of all places, the Soviet Union.

Let's follow this trail from the beginning.

The New Year is almost always happy for the weight-loss industry. When the holiday gorging ends, the resolutions to shed those extra pounds begin.

Weight Watchers North America president David Burwick says the first week of the year is the biggest week in what is typically his company's most profitable quarter.

"This is our Super Bowl," he says. "The first week of January is our Super Bowl for Weight Watchers."

For two decades, the Pentagon has maintained that it could fight two wars at the same time. But as the Obama administration releases its new military strategy Thursday, some question whether the Pentagon will abandon that long-held commitment.

An early draft of the Pentagon's new strategy, The New York Times reported, said the military would only be able to win one war and spoil an adversary's efforts in a second war.

Renewable energy is growing rapidly in the U.S., with wind and solar industries enjoying double-digit growth each year. Part of that growth comes from more homeowners choosing to install solar panels.

With government subsidies, some people can even make a financial argument for installing the panels. But in recent years, the price of one fossil fuel — natural gas — has declined so much that solar panels are having difficulty competing.

Arab revolts against secular leaders have been much more successful over the past year than those against monarchs. The one monarchy that faced a serious threat was the tiny Persian Gulf island of Bahrain. But after weeks of protests, troops from Saudi Arabia rolled into the country, the Bahraini regime imposed martial law, and a government crackdown followed. Kelly McEvers made several trips to Bahrain this past year and filed this report as part of NPR's series looking at the Arab Spring and where it stands today.

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