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The Two-Way
10:24 pm
Wed December 19, 2012

Maya Expert: The 'End Of Times' Is Our Idea, Not The Ancients'

Tourists are seen in front of the "Gran Jaguar" Mayan temple at the Tikal archaeological site in Guatemala, where ceremonies will be held to celebrate the end of the Mayan cycle known as Baktun 13 and the start of the new Maya Era on December 21.
Johan Ordonez AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 11:05 am

Update at 7 a.m. ET, Dec. 21: We're Still Here.

Our original post continues:

It is Dec. 20, 2012 — and citizens of Earth are panicking, consumed by the idea that the world will end Friday, something they say was predicted by Mayan astronomers. Of course, most people are not panicking, and Maya expert David Stuart says no one should. The calendar, he says, has plenty of room to go.

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It's All Politics
10:23 pm
Wed December 19, 2012

FAA Pressured To Give E-Readers A Pass During Takeoff, Landing

The Federal Aviation Administration is under pressure to allow more widespread use of e-readers on commercial flights — including during takeoff and landing.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 6:37 am

As the holiday travel season approaches, the Federal Aviation Administration is under pressure to allow more widespread use of e-readers on commercial flights.

Passengers can now use devices such as Kindles, iPads and Nooks while in flight, but not during takeoffs and landings. The FAA says it is studying the matter, but the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and a U.S. senator say it's time to act.

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The Salt
1:44 pm
Wed December 19, 2012

Unitaskers And Other Foodie Gifts We Don't Need Or Want

A man takes a closer look at kitchen appliances while shopping at a Bed Bath & Beyond store in New York.
Lucas Jackson Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 3:59 am

Call us Grinchy, but as Christmas rushes towards us, we at The Salt have been overwhelmed with foodie gift ideas that frankly give us pause. So if you're confronting a long Christmas list that will have to be dealt with at the last minute, we have some advice.

Resist the food baubles and frippery that await you on Amazon.com and in nearly every retail outlet.

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The Two-Way
1:22 pm
Wed December 19, 2012

News Of Sandy Hook's New Principal Brightens Parents' Day

Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 1:44 am

When the students of Sandy Hook Elementary return to class after the holiday break, they'll be attending a different school. They'll also have an interim principal who will be a familiar face to some: Donna Page, who retired from Sandy Hook two years ago.

As NPR's Zoe Chace reports, the news was announced by a voicemail sent to the parents of Sandy Hook's students, in which Page (pronounced Pa-jhay), told them, "It is with a heavy heart full of love that I connect with you today. You may not know me, but I know you. I was principal of Sandy Hook School for 14 years."

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It's All Politics
1:20 pm
Wed December 19, 2012

With Nation's Eyes On Newtown, Washington Distracted By Fiscal Cliff

President Obama, with Vice President Biden at his side on Wednesday, at a news conference about gun violence that became dominated by questions of the fiscal cliff.
Mandel Ngan AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 1:34 pm

Anyone hoping that the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre might change dynamics in the nation's capital when it comes to the issue of guns met some level of Washington reality on Wednesday.

President Obama held a news conference to announce his response to the Connecticut killings of 26 grade-schoolers and educators, including his naming of Vice President Joe Biden to head a team that will recommend in a month actions that might help prevent future Sandy Hooks.

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Shootings In Newtown, Conn.
12:51 pm
Wed December 19, 2012

In Faith, Finding Answers To 'The Mystery Of Evil'

People gather for a prayer vigil at St. Rose Church in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14. In the aftermath of such tragedies, many people ask how a benevolent God and suffering can coexist.
Emmanuel Dunand Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 1:47 pm

When a human tragedy occurs on the scale of the Newtown shootings, clergy are invariably asked an ancient question: If God is all-knowing, all-powerful and benevolent, why does he allow such misfortunes?

There's even a word for reconciling this paradox: theodicy, or attempting to justify God's goodness despite the existence of evil and suffering.

A World Both Beautiful And Shattered

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Around the Nation
12:50 pm
Wed December 19, 2012

What Are The Odds Of Gun Control Changes?

A clerk peers out from a gun shop in Seattle on Wednesday.
Elaine Thompson AP

Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 2:35 pm

Advocates of stricter gun control legislation are hoping that history will not repeat itself.

Last Friday's shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., have shaken the country, but it's unclear whether the intense feelings of the moment will translate into legislative action. Many times in the past, outrage over gun violence has dissipated before Congress has chosen to act.

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The Salt
12:41 pm
Wed December 19, 2012

Mealworms Beat Meat For A Place On The Menu In Environmental Study

A woman takes a bite of a mealworm pie in the Hague, Netherlands.
Ed Oudenaarden AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 4:04 am

Want to eat sustainably? Then eat bugs.

That's the word from the Dutch, who are doing their best to make a scientific case for the environmental benefits of insect proteins. Reduce greenhouse gases? Check. Produce more edible protein while using less land than more traditional livestock? Check.

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The Two-Way
12:36 pm
Wed December 19, 2012

Newtown Teacher And Students Remembered For The Light They Brought

A child peers through firefighters standing as the procession heads to the cemetery outside the funeral for school shooting victim Daniel Barden at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newtown, Conn.,
Charles Krupa AP

Mourners attended funerals for three children and a first-grade teacher in Newtown, Conn., Wednesday, the third day of services for the victims of a mass shooting that has reignited debate over gun control in the U.S.

Victoria Leigh Soto, 27, is the first Sandy Hook Elementary School teacher to be laid to rest.

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It's All Politics
11:42 am
Wed December 19, 2012

Robert Bork's Supreme Court Nomination 'Changed Everything, Maybe Forever'

Robert Bork, nominated by President Reagan to the Supreme Court, is sworn in before the Senate Judiciary Committee at his confirmation hearing, Sept. 15, 1987.
John Duricka AP

Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 3:31 pm

Robert Bork, whose failed Supreme Court nomination provoked a lasting partisan divide over judicial nominations, died Wednesday at age 85.

A former federal judge and conservative legal theorist, he subsequently became a hero to modern-day conservatives. And as solicitor general in the Nixon administration, he played a small but crucial role in the Watergate crisis. In what came to be known as the Saturday Night Massacre, he fired Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox after the attorney general and deputy attorney general refused President Nixon's firing order and quit.

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Shots - Health News
11:35 am
Wed December 19, 2012

How The U.S. Stopped Malaria, One Cartoon At A Time

The U.S. Army distributed a monthly pinup calendar to GIs, which encouraged them to protect themselves from malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
Cartoon by Frank Mack for the U.S. Army. Courtesy of the Images from the History of Medicine.

Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 8:28 am

"Her business is robbery and coldblooded murder ... they call her Annie Awful ... She's a thief and a killer. She stops at nothing."

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Planet Money
11:31 am
Wed December 19, 2012

Without Magic, Santa Would Need 12 Million Employees

Lam Thuy Vo / NPR

Originally published on Fri December 21, 2012 11:31 am

There are 760 million Christian children in the world, according to the Pew Research Center. Suppose Santa delivers one gift to each child. What kind of delivery workforce would Santa need?

We couldn't get an interview with Santa. But we did get Paul Tronsor from FedEx and Mike Mangeot from UPS. They helped us go through the numbers.

Here are just a few of the positions Santa would need to fill to pull off Christmas. (Note: For the complete list, see the graphic at the bottom.)

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World
11:29 am
Wed December 19, 2012

In Pakistan, Tax Evaders Are Everywhere — Government Included

An investigative report found that less than a third of Pakistani lawmakers filed tax returns for 2011. The report said Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari, photographed in Paris in December, did not file a return, though his spokesman says he did.
Kenzo Tribouillard AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 3:32 pm

Tax evasion is a chronic problem in Pakistan — only about 2 percent of the population is registered in the tax system, and the government collects just 9 percent of the country's wealth in taxes, one of the lowest rates in the world.

But now a new investigative report is making headlines. It says that just a third of the country's 446 federal lawmakers bothered to file income tax returns last year.

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Music Reviews
11:19 am
Wed December 19, 2012

Homeboy Sandman: A Rapper Leaves Law Behind

Homeboy Sandman's fourth album is called First of a Living Breed.
Gavin Thomas Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 12:43 pm

The bare facts of Homeboy Sandman's back story don't sound very hip-hop: prep school in New Hampshire, Ivy League B.A., even some pieces for The Huffington Post. But, as is often the case with class and race in America, bare facts don't tell the whole story.

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Commentary
11:06 am
Wed December 19, 2012

When Someone You Know Loses A Child

The grief a bereaved parent feels resides deep within and is individually expressed. Different people respond in different ways.
Brendan Smialkowski Getty Images

Originally published on Fri December 21, 2012 4:21 pm

Amid the aftershocks of the senseless shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., our ever-more-complex society goes on to publicly discuss what happened and how to avoid such tragedy in the future.

But there are also private considerations and quieter questions of how to respond — on a personal level — to suffering parents.

What can you say to parents who have lost a child? What can you do?

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NPR's Backseat Book Club
10:58 am
Wed December 19, 2012

In 'Red Pyramid,' Kid Heroes Take On Ancient Egypt

Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 12:43 pm

If there was a recipe for the best-selling writer Rick Riordan, it would go something like this — start with a love of storytelling, fold in more than a decade of teaching middle school English, combine that with two sons of his own who don't quite share their dad's love of literature, and marinate all of that with a deep passion for mythology.

Riordan has sold tens of millions of kids' books. He hit pay dirt with the Percy Jackson series — it's about an everyday kid who has superhero powers because he's the secret son of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea.

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The Two-Way
9:53 am
Wed December 19, 2012

South Korea To Get Its First Woman Leader

South Korea's Park Geun-hye claimed victory Wednesday in the country's presidential election. Park, the daughter of a former military dictator, will be the first female leader of the country. Here, she greets supporters at party headquarters.
Kim Jae-hwan AP

Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 1:47 am

Conservative candidate Park Geun-hye claimed victory Wednesday in South Korea's closely contested presidential election, an outcome that will make her the first woman to lead the Asian nation.

In addition, Park boasts a fascinating personal history that's deeply intertwined with South Korea's evolution in recent decades.

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The Two-Way
9:29 am
Wed December 19, 2012

Death Penalty Possible In Court Martial Of Army Sgt. Accused Of Afghan Killings

Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales during an August 2011 training exercise at Fort Irwin, Calif.
Spc. Ryan Hallock AFP/Getty Images

The Army staff sergeant accused in the March 11 murders of 16 Afghan civilians and shooting of six others could be given the death penalty if he's convicted of all the charges officially filed against him this week, a General Court-Martial Convening Authority announced Wednesday.

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, 39, prosecutors say, attacked two villages near his base in southern Afghanistan. Among the 16 people killed, nine were children.

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Shots - Health News
8:44 am
Wed December 19, 2012

NIH Moving To Revamp Funding Process For Bird Flu Research

A health official culls chickens on a poultry farm in a village on the outskirts of Katmandu, Nepal. Chickens suspected of being infected with H5N1 bird flu were found in the area in October.
Prakash Mathema AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 10:32 am

Flu researchers may be close to ending an unusual moratorium on some controversial scientific work that has lasted almost a year.

That's because officials at the National Institutes of Health say they will be moving swiftly to finalize a new process for deciding whether or not to fund proposed experiments that could potentially create more dangerous forms of the bird flu virus H5N1.

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The Two-Way
8:19 am
Wed December 19, 2012

Let Teachers Carry Guns? Some State Lawmakers Say Yes

A sign some would like to see amended at schools.
Dave Kaup Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 9:52 am

There are reports from a variety of states about local lawmakers who want to give teachers the right to bring guns to school. They're making the case that school shootings such as the one Friday in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 small children and six adults dead could be prevented or stopped if some school staffers were armed.

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The Two-Way
8:09 am
Wed December 19, 2012

Three State Department Officials Resign Following Benghazi Report

Chris Stevens speaks to the media in Benghazi, Libya, in 2011. Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, was killed on Sept. 11 of this year. Three U.S. government officials resigned Wednesday following a report that cited inadequate security.
Ben Curtis AP

Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 4:28 am

Update at 9:25 a.m. ET, Dec. 20: Four Officials Disciplined, One Has Resigned:

A sharply critical report about the State Department's handling of security at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, has led to disciplinary action against four of the department's officials. One of them, the head of the Diplomatic Security Bureau, has resigned.

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The Two-Way
7:50 am
Wed December 19, 2012

'Take Me Out Of It,' President Urges GOP, And 'Take The Deal'

Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 9:32 am

With the end-of-year deadline looming on automatic tax increases and spending cuts, President Obama on Wednesday made the case that Republicans should recognize "I have met them at least halfway in order to get something done for the country."

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The Two-Way
7:29 am
Wed December 19, 2012

Obama Asks Biden To Draft 'Concrete Proposals' On Guns By January

Vice President Biden watched as President Obama spoke earlier today in the White House briefing room.
Mandel Ngan AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 8:28 am

Saying the nation has a "deep obligation" to take steps to reduce gun violence, President Obama confirmed Wednesday that he's asked Vice President Biden to head a task force charged with drafting "concrete proposals, no later than January."

And, Obama said, he will push them "without delay."

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Shots - Health News
7:14 am
Wed December 19, 2012

A Question About Aspirin And Age-Related Vision Loss

This image shows how macular degeneration affects a person's vision.
National Eye Institute, NIH

Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 8:28 am

About 20 percent of adults take aspirin regularly, either to ease pain or to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

But taking aspirin might increase the risk of macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in old age, according to a study of nearly 5,000 people in Wisconsin.

Nobody wants to go blind. So does this mean it's time to give up on aspirin? Not at all, say ophthalmologists.

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Can I Just Tell You?
6:58 am
Wed December 19, 2012

What Do Polio And Gun Violence Have In Common?

Charles Krupa ASSOCIATED PRESS

Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 11:22 am

In thinking about the last week's tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, I keep coming upon the word epidemic. While the death of one child is too many, the death of nearly two dozen in one place, of hundreds in the span of a year — especially by violence, is intolerable. Or at least it should be.

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Economy
6:58 am
Wed December 19, 2012

Why Not Go Over The Fiscal Cliff?

The White House is promising to veto a new tax proposal from House Speaker John Boehner. But who's bluffing and what's believable when it comes to fiscal negotiations? And what happens if talks break down? For Tell Me More's 'Why Not?' series, host Michel Martin takes a look at what might be on the other side of the fiscal cliff.

Beauty Shop
6:58 am
Wed December 19, 2012

Newtown: How Much Media Coverage Is Too Much?

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, when rap pioneer Run from the group Run-DMC decided to get active in church, he had no idea how far it would go. We'll talk with him about his transition from rapping to preaching. That's later in the program.

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Wisdom Watch
6:58 am
Wed December 19, 2012

Reverend Run: From Rapper To Preacher

Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 8:38 am

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Later in the program I will share a few thoughts in my Can I Just Tell You essay but now it's time for our Wisdom Watch conversation. That's the part of the program where we speak with those whose work has made a difference. Today we are speaking with a hip-hop pioneer.

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The Salt
6:02 am
Wed December 19, 2012

Peak Farmland? Some Researchers Say It's Here

A soybean field near Campo Verde in western Brazil in January 2011. Researchers argue that enough arable land is already under cultivation to feed the planet for the next several decades.
Yasuyoshi Chiba AFP/GettyImages

Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 11:34 am

If you're looking for a dash of optimism about the future — and who isn't, these days? — you can find it in a rosy new prediction about the planet's ability to produce food for the next half-century.

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The Two-Way
5:42 am
Wed December 19, 2012

White House Says Obama Would Veto GOP's 'Plan B' For Avoiding 'Fiscal Cliff'

The president would use his pen to just say no, White House promises.
Kristoffer Tripplaar/Pool Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 6:22 am

Making the case that the "Plan B" proposed by House Republicans to keep the federal government from going over the so-called fiscal cliff at the end of the year "does not meet the test of balance," the White House announced this morning that President Obama would veto such legislation if it came to his desk.

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