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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Now it's time for Sports, which can get caught up in real life, too.

The soccer coach is giving his team a pep talk: "This is not an ordinary game," he declares as he paces in the locker room. "This is life or death. Ebola has defeated thousands in West Africa. Its key strength is passing."

Updated at 12:30 p.m. ET

American journalist Luke Somers, held captive by militants from al-Qaida's branch in Yemen for more than a year, has been killed by his captors during a failed U.S. rescue attempt.

A South African held along with Somers was also killed.

Update at 9:00 p.m. ET

Typhoon Hagupit slammed ashore in the Philippines, making landfall on the country's east coast with ferocious winds gusting to 155 mph.

The storm went on to weaken somewhat, with gusts reaching 120 mph.

J.G. Ballard didn't exactly predict California's current drought in his 1964 novel The Burning World (later renamed The Drought). But like so many of his books, it does carry eerie hints about humanity's accelerating race to stay ahead of nature.

The Burning World is part of a series of dystopian science-fiction novels that Ballard wrote in the 1960s before he became famous for works like Crash and Empire of the Sun.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf hopes to ring in the holidays with an ambitious goal: no new cases of Ebola in her country by Dec. 25.

"We believe we had to set a target that gave our people hope, a target that would make them more committed to taking all the precautionary measures," she says. "Yes, it's called ambitious, but sometimes you have to take a risk in being ambitious."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez joins me here in the studio to talk about those new jobs numbers. Welcome back to the program.

U.S. LABOR SECREATRY THOMAS PEREZ: Melissa, it's always a pleasure to be with you.

The photo above isn't from the archives. It was taken this week in Oklahoma City, where the price of regular gas has fallen under $2 a gallon. The last time that happened anywhere in the U.S. was in July 2010.

The OnCue filling station is the first in the country to drop its price below the $2/gallon threshold.

What happens when you break a leg and you live hundreds of miles from the nearest hospital? Or when you can't afford to get a new pair of glasses because you don't have health insurance?

Remember when Cheerios and Grape-Nuts went GMO-free? That was about a year ago, when their corporate creators announced that these products would no longer contain ingredients made from genetically modified organisms like common types of corn, soybeans or sugar beets.

As 2014 winds down, you might want to save that calendar hanging next to the fridge.

Maybe even frame it.

After so many years of misery for the middle class, 2014 is now looking like the one that finally brought relief. The November jobs report, released Friday by the Labor Department, had blowout numbers showing a surge in job creation, an upturn in work hours and a meaningful boost in wages.

The European Court of Human Rights has ordered France to pay up to 7,000 euros in compensation to each of nine Somali pirates who were detained after hijacking two French yachts in the Gulf of Aden in 2008.

The Elgin Marbles, a collection of classical Greek sculptures that has been housed by the British Museum in London for nearly 200 years, will go on loan to Russia in a move Athens, which has long demanded their return, has called "an affront."

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said in a statement, according to the BBC: "We Greeks are one with our history and civilization, which cannot be broken up, loaned out, or conceded."

A white police officer killed an unarmed black man in Phoenix on Tuesday, echoing similar recent incidents in New York and Missouri.

According to The Arizona Republic, Phoenix police received a tip that a man in a car was dealing drugs. They tried to apprehend Rumain Brisbon outside his Phoenix apartment complex and Brisbon ran. According to police, the officer gave chase, caught up with him and saw him dig into his pocket, before tumbling into an apartment where Brisbon's two children lived.

Updated at 6:05 p.m. ET.

Rolling Stone magazine says "there now appear to be discrepancies" in its story about a University of Virginia student who said she was gang-raped during a fraternity party in 2012, adding it had "come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced."

The stabbing death of an American schoolteacher in a bathroom at an upscale mall in Abu Dhabi this week has shocked the United Arab Emirates, citizens and international residents alike. Violent crime is rare in the Emirates, a place where glitzy shopping centers are the hub of social life.

We have more news today on The New Republic, which on Thursday announced that it was cutting its publication schedule, moving its headquarters from Washington, D.C., to New York and rebranding as a digital media company — decisions that prompted the departure of editor Franklin Foer and longtime literary editor Leon Wieseltier.

A former Chinese domestic security chief has been arrested and expelled from the Communist Party on charges of bribery and leaking state secrets. Zhou Yongkang, who has been under investigation for months, becomes the highest-ranking leader to become ensnared in the country's high-profile crackdown on corruption.

While many know gin for its light, bright and dry characteristics — citrusy, herbal flavors that go so well with tonic water — another gin sits at the opposite end of the spectrum. Malty, lightly tannic, and with the subtle sweetness and spice of a young whiskey, dark, barrel-aged gin is pushing the frontiers of this spirit forward.

Surely I'm not the only person who has gone to the orthopedist figuring that the radiologist sent over the MRI, only to find out that I was supposed to have asked for a CD and a paper copy of the report. Really? That is so last century.

Since I can Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest images with ease, shouldn't I also be able to get my MRI online and share it with my doctors?

Fooling the eye — with trick-niques like anamorphic sculpture, trompe l'oeil paintings and other optical illusions — is a centuries-old artistic pursuit.

Super Typhoon Hagupit, briefly downgraded before regaining strength, is set to smash into the Philippine coast on Saturday. The massive storm is already forcing tens of thousands of people to flee its predicted path, which might include a direct hit on the capital, Manila.

Updated at 11:19 a.m.

President Obama named Ashton Carter, a former No. 2 Pentagon official, as his pick to succeed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Obama described Carter today as one of the "nation's foremost national security leaders."

"He was at the table in the situation room. He was by my side navigating complex security challenges that we were confronting," Obama said. I relied on his expertise and I relied on his judgment."

Carter called the nomination an "honor and a privilege."

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