All Things Considered

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All Things Considered is an NPR radio newsmagazine that delivers in-depth reporting and transforms the way listeners understand current events and view the world. The program presents breaking news mixed with compelling analysis, insightful commentaries, interviews, and special -- sometimes quirky -- features.

Okfuskee County in Oklahoma is the birthplace of Woody Guthrie, who would have turned 100 this year. Much of the economic problems Guthrie sang about were from what he saw in the county, which was once the largest all-black community in the country. Guthrie's music still resonates there, especially in the town of Boley, where hope is hard to come by. Logan Layden of State Impact Oklahoma reports.

President Obama's latest proposed change in how contraceptives are covered by employer health insurance may not have ended the controversy that has raged for the past three weeks. But what the administration is calling an "accommodation" for religious employers has apparently mollified key allies who had opposed his original plan.

Reaction from the Catholic community to the Obama administration's decision to revise its birth control policy was swift and mixed.

Under the new rule, employers with a religious objection to offering contraceptive coverage as part of their health care plans wouldn't have to provide it directly. Instead, the requirement to provide that coverage free of charge would fall on the insurance companies.

Some Catholics believe the president's new rule resolves the religious liberty issues. But others, including key bishops, say it is smoke and mirrors.

It's appropriate that Darwin, the tropical capital of Australia's Northern Territory, is named for the English naturalist.

The massive, powerful and deadly saltwater crocodile — the world's largest living reptile — is the evolutionary triumph of 50 million years of natural selection. And in Darwin, the crocodile is equally dreaded and beloved.

Crocodylus porosus was hunted to near extinction in the last century. But in 1974, the Australian government put the species, known affectionately as the "Australian salty," under federal protection.

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The nation's big banks are writing death plans — living wills that spell out how, in a future crisis, they could be safely dismantled. The idea is that the death plans will help avoid another government bailout of the banks.

"You're technically writing your own funeral, down to the color of the flowers" says Dolores Atallo.

From the beginning, Florida lawyer Tom Ice says he realized the mass signing of mortgages was more than just a paperwork problem.

"I suspected then, and I suspect now, that we were really just touching the tip of the iceberg," he says.

Sharon Van Etten: Hypnotically Complicated

Feb 9, 2012

Like most pop singers, Sharon Van Etten seems to love repetition — a technique used aggressively in ad jingles and Top 40 hits, but also in more hypnotic and emotionally complicated ways. Van Etten's new record, Tramp, is full of repeated riffs, drones and phonemes, and they're more intense and emotionally packed than ever. Songs like "Serpents" display her expansive voice and coiled songwriting, and are earning Van Etten a good deal of attention.

Cutting taxes is part of the DNA of the modern Republican Party. All four of the remaining GOP candidates for president have proposed steep cuts in business and personal taxes, and it sometimes seems like Republicans are competing to show the most enthusiasm for tax cuts.

At a debate last month, former Sen. Rick Santorum said tax cuts were needed to get the economy thriving again — even if they benefit the wealthy.

In the 11 years since the Oscars introduced an award for Best Animated Feature, the category has been dominated by children's movies, often with computer-animated pandas, penguins and ogres at their center. This year's a little different. Two of the animated films are subtitled, and one is definitely aimed at adults: the Spanish film Chico and Rita, an animated love story steeped in jazz.

George Clooney is nominated for two Oscars this year — for his lead role in The Descendants and for co-writing the adapted screenplay for The Ides Of March, which he also directed. He speaks to Robert Siegel on today's All Things Considered about film, but also about the life he lives as one of Hollywood's most famous men.

Paul Simon, The Bard Of Bad Weather

Feb 9, 2012

The Earth's continents are in constant motion. On at least three occasions, they have all collided to form one giant continent. If history is a guide, the current continents will coalesce once again to form another supercontinent. And a study in Nature now shows how that could come about.

You can think of continents as giant puzzle pieces shuffling around the Earth. When they drift apart, mighty oceans form. When they come together, oceans disappear. And it's all because continents sit on moving plates of the Earth's crust.

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Santorum Takes His Victory Lap In Texas

Feb 8, 2012

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum won Tuesday's caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado, as well as the non-binding primary in Missouri. On Wednesday, he took a victory lap in Texas.

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Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has joined the chorus criticizing President Obama over a controversial policy that would require most employers, including Catholic hospitals and universities, to include birth control in their employees' health insurance.

Catholic opinion leaders have denounced the policy as an assault on their religious freedom.

Cabaret Wanes As The Oak Room Is Felled

Feb 7, 2012

One of New York City's most famous cabaret clubs, the Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel, is closing. At least one person will feel the loss — Murray Horwitz, the author of two Broadway musicals and numerous cabaret acts.

Welsh composer Paul Mealor, who scored the music for Prince William and Kate Middleton's royal wedding, has a new composition in the works. For it, he's seeking a rich and low singing voice — one capable of reaching the "low E" note. And as he's learning, reaching the low E is no easy feat. To find a singer up to the task, Mealor has had to embark on an international search. Robert Siegel catches up with Mealor to hear how his search is going.

Roger Boisjoly was a booster rocket engineer at NASA contractor Morton Thiokol in Utah in January, 1986, when he and four colleagues became embroiled in the fatal decision to launch the Space Shuttle Challenger.

Boisjoly was also one of two confidential sources quoted by NPR three weeks later in the first detailed report about the Challenger launch decision, and the stiff resistance by Boisjoly and other Thiokol engineers.

Robert Siegel talks to Charles Murray about his book, "Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010." Murray says the greatest source of inequality in America isn't economic, it's cultural. He contends that a large swath of white America — poor and working-class whites, who make up approximately 30-percent of the white population — is turning away from the core values that have sustained the American experiment.

According to the libertarian social scientist Charles Murray, America is "coming apart at the seams." Class strain has cleaved society into two groups, he argues in his new book Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010: an upper class, defined by educational attainment, and a new lower class, characterized by the lack of it. Murray also posits that the new "lower class" is less industrious, less likely to marry and raise children in a two-parent household, and more politically and socially disengaged

Singer-songwriter Jill Sobule is probably best known for her 1995 hit single, "I Kissed a Girl." These days, she's taking on a new musical project: the gender-bending play by Isaac Bashevis Singer, Yentl.

Barbra Streisand turned Singer's play into her 1984 hit movie musical of the same name. Although Sobule's version features music, it's a little more Singer and a little less Streisand.

"She changed the ending and made it kind of Funny Girl coming to America. ... We keep to the word," Sobule tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz.

When Whitey Bulger was captured last year, he'd spent close to 20 years on the run — and on the FBI's Most Wanted list.

Bulger was the head of an Irish gang terrorizing the streets of South Boston. The Massachusetts State Police wanted him gone, but curiously couldn't touch him.

Why? Bulger was a confidential FBI informant, and the bureau shielded him for years.

Robert Fitzpatrick, the author of Betrayal: Whitey Bulger and the FBI Agent Who Fought to Bring Him Down, says Bulger was widely known to be an unsavory character.

Last semester, Brown senior Malcolm Burnley took a narrative writing course. One of the assignments was to write a fictional story based on something true — and that true event had to be found inside the university archives.

"So I went to the archives and started flipping through dusty compilations of student newspapers, and there was this old black-and-white photo of when Malcolm X came to speak," Burnley says. "There was one short article that corresponded to it, and very little else."

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In Nev., Solid Showing Expected For Romney

Feb 4, 2012

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It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

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Turning now to Russia. In Moscow, tens of thousands of people took to the streets today in dueling demonstrations for and against the government of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Putin is seeking to return to the presidency in next month's elections.

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