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Politics
2:29 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Congress Is On Pace To Be The Least Productive Ever

The Capitol in Washington, D.C., seen on a cloudy day two weeks into the partial government shutdown.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 6:24 am

We're only at halftime for the 113th Congress, but if current trends hold, it's well on track to being the least productive lawmaking effort in the nation's history.

During this Congress' first yearlong session, just 58 bills became law — and many that did were about naming post offices or transferring federal lands. In fact, the most memorable act of Congress this year may well have been its failure to act in time to avoid a government shutdown.

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Humans
1:57 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Tired Of Doom And Gloom? Here's The Best Good News Of 2013

A Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner concludes its first flight in September. Overall, plane-related fatalities have decreased dramatically this year.
Stephen Brashear Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 6:24 am

Being a news consumer means you're constantly on the receiving end of bad news. War, unemployment, crime, political dysfunction — it can be enough to make you think we humans aren't doing anything right. But good news: We are. As the year draws to an end, here's a look at a few areas of real progress in the U.S. and around the world.

Air Safety

Let's start with flying. It's not a lot of fun: baggage fees, pat-downs, cramped seating, disappointing snacks.

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All Tech Considered
1:56 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Check Out These Gorgeous, Futuristic Tech Company Headquarters

Architect's rendering of Apple's new facility
Courtesy of City of Cupertino

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 6:24 am

This past year, many of the best known technology firms were actively designing and building new corporate offices. It's the first time Silicon Valley giants like Apple, Google and Facebook have done so from the ground up. The same is true for Amazon, which is building in Seattle.

All of these projects are still in their early stages, but perhaps the most talked about and architecturally ambitious project that broke ground this year is the Apple headquarters building in Cupertino, Calif. It was a project near and dear to the late Steve Jobs.

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National Security
1:55 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Air Force's Beloved 'Warthog' Targeted For Retirement

The U.S. Air Force could retire the A-10 "Warthog," despite support for the plane from infantrymen and pilots. These types of clashes occur whenever the military tries to mothball a weapon.
Staff Sgt. Melanie Norman U.S. Air Force

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 6:04 pm

Jeff Duford is standing next to an A-10, one of the most beloved planes of all time. It's painted green, a clue that it was designed for a threat that has disappeared — it was built at the height of the Cold War.

"The reason why it's painted this way is because at that time, this airframe was expected to stop Soviet tanks from rolling through Germany," says Duford, curator of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. "So it's painted to kind of match the terrain that one would find in Central Europe."

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Music
8:51 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

After Hard Times At Home, Afghan Musicians Seek To Be Heard In America

Rubab master Homayoun Sakhi and legendary Afghan singer Mahwash perform together as members of the group Voices of Afghanistan.
Courtesy of the artists

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 5:53 pm

Voices of Afghanistan is an ensemble of Central Asian musicians from different generations and varied musical backgrounds. They share a passion for the music of Afghanistan, as well as a desire to introduce it to audiences in their present home in the U.S. Banning Eyre recently spent time with these musicians as they created their debut album, Love Songs for Humanity.

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Code Switch
8:51 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

The Extraordinary Story Of Why A 'Cakewalk' Wasn't Always Easy

Cakewalk dances were an integral part of minstrel shows for decades.
Minstrel Poster Collection (Library of Congress)

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 1:44 pm

Anything that can be done with straightforward ease is said to be a "cakewalk." Any action that is "not a cakewalk" is, of course, difficult and complicated.

No surprise, right? But stay with me a little longer.

The cakewalk was a pre-Civil War dance originally performed by slaves on plantation grounds. The uniquely American dance was first known as the "prize walk"; the prize was an elaborately decorated cake. Hence, "prize walk" is the original source for the phrases "takes the cake" and "cakewalk."

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The Two-Way
7:52 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

Alan Turing, Who Cracked Nazi Code, Gets Posthumous Pardon

Detail of a Turing Bombe machine in Bletchley Park Museum in Bletchley, central England. The device, the brainchild of Alan Turning, was instrumental in cracking the German code during World War II.
Alessia Pierdomenico Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 3:18 pm

British mathematician Alan Turing, who helped crack Nazi Germany's 'Enigma' code and laid the groundwork for modern computing, was pardoned on Tuesday, six decades after his conviction for homosexuality is said to have driven him to suicide.

Following his singular contributions toward winning the war against Adolph Hitler, Turing's 1952 conviction is believed to have led two and a half years later to him taking his life by ingesting cyanide.

The Associated Press reports:

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Parallels
5:54 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

With Its Economy Hobbled, Greece's Well-Educated Drain Away

Laura and Thanos Ntoumanis recently moved from Greece to Germany, where Thanos, a psychiatrist, got a job.
Joanna Kakissis NPR

Thanos Ntoumanis and his wife, Laura, are crashing at his parents' apartment in Greece's northern city of Thessaloniki.

The couple have packed their home and are moving to Germany. Thanos, a 38-year-old psychiatrist, is joining some 4,000 Greek doctors who have left the austerity-hit country for jobs abroad in the past three years. It's the largest brain drain in three decades.

"I won't say that I'm never coming back," he says. "I do need some distance, though. I don't want to get to that tipping point. I don't want to get to that point where I hate it here."

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The Two-Way
4:06 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

On Anniversary Of Apollo 8, How The 'Earthrise' Photo Was Made

The iconic "Earthrise" photo taken by astronaut Bill Anders through a window on the Apollo 8 command module on Dec. 24, 1968.
Bill Anders NASA

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 6:24 am

The first humans to catch a glimpse of the Earth rising over the moon nearly missed seeing it at all, let alone capturing the snapshot that became one of the most iconic photos of the 20th century.

NASA has released an animation commemorating the 45th anniversary of Apollo 8, the first manned mission to orbit the moon. The famous "Earthrise" photo was taken on Christmas Eve 1968.

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The Two-Way
3:47 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

Obama Gives Federal Workers A 1 Percent Raise

People exit a Metro subway station, by escalator, along Pennsylvania Ave., NW, in Washington.
Cliff Owen AP

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 4:46 pm

President Obama signed an executive order on Monday, giving federal workers and military personnel a 1 percent raise.

As Government Executive reports, the pay raise is the first across-the-board increase the federal workforce has gotten since 2010. The publication reports:

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