NPR News

U.N. Says Death Toll In Syria Has Surpassed 4,000

Dec 1, 2011

Despite international condemnation and tough sanctions from the Arab League, the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad has continued clashing with protesters.

The United Nation's top human rights official said today that the death toll during the eight-month conflict has reached at least 4,000 and he characterized the conflict as a civil war.

The AP reports:

An Afghan woman who was sentenced to prison after being raped by a relative — because in the eyes of authorities she had committed adultery — has been pardoned by President Hamid Karzai.

But her freedom comes with a price, according to news reports: She must become the second wife of the man who attacked her. Karzai's office says the woman and her attacker both have agreed to the marriage.

If your doctor says you need an MRI, your health may not be the only thing on his mind. Doctors who have a financial interest in the imaging equipment are more likely to send patients for scans when they don't have anything wrong with them. That's the conclusion of a researcher who combed through hundreds of patient records to examine MRI referral patterns.

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NEAL CONAN, HOST:

Forty years and a few days ago, an eight-and-a-half-minute song broke on to the record charts, soon drenched the radio and claimed a permanent place in the lives of millions.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AMERICAN PIE")

NPR CEO Gary Knell's First Day At Work

Dec 1, 2011

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NEAL CONAN, HOST:

Some of the most talented and temperamental athletes and coaches in the world have opened up to John Feinstein.

The acclaimed sportswriter's latest book One on One: Behind the Scenes with the Greats of the Game details his conversations over the years with notoriously difficult coaches like Bobby Knight and star athletes like Tiger Woods and John McEnroe.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is set to deliver a speech that will set out his vision for Europe. This is a big speech: First because Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have been leading the efforts to save the euro and contain the European sovereign debt problems. Secondly, Sarkozy is facing a tough reelection campaign next spring and he is expected to make the case that he's the best person to take the country forward.

By now, I hope my position on spoiler alerts is firmly established. My feeling is that once something has been televised, it's fair game for discussion. I feel it's the responsibility of the person who's delaying his or her enjoyment of a TV show to avoid mentions of it, rather than putting the onus on critics. And believe me, I know that's not always easy. I have to do some time-shifting myself — there are so many good shows presented on Sundays this season that it sometimes takes me the whole week to catch up on the episodes I've recorded.

End Of An Era: Lipitor Goes Generic

Dec 1, 2011

Medication used for lowering cholesterol should also be lower in price now that two generic brands have entered the ring.

Back in 1996, cholesterol-fighter Lipitor became the fifth drug of its kind to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This week, the biggest hit in the history of the pharmaceutical industry lost its patent protection in the U.S., opening the door to generic versions to replace the iconic brand.

There are calls for Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson to be fired by the BBC because he said on the air last night that the U.K. public sector workers who staged a massive strike Wednesday should be shot "in front of their families."

Our new boss started work today and if you're interested in what NPR CEO and President Gary Knell is thinking as he settles into the job:

-- He's due on Talk of the Nation just after 2 p.m. ET, and will be answering questions from callers. When we get closer to the time he's scheduled to be on, we'll embed an audio player in this post so that we can stream the conversation. To find a station that broadcasts or streams the show, click here.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said it will consider setting a standard for how much arsenic should be permitted in apple juice after a consumer group found high levels of the carcinogen in samples of apple juice it tested.

The National Weather Service has clocked winds above 90 mph around Centerville, Utah, today — "monster winds" that are blowing with hurricane-force and have overturned semi-trailer rigs, toppled trees and knocked out power, The Salt Lake Tribune reports.

The newspaper adds that:

The number of Americans filing first-time claims for jobless benefits rose by 6,000 last week, to 402,000, the Employment and Training Administration just reported.

They've basically been hovering around that 400,000 mark all year — another sign that while the economy appears to be growing slowly, it isn't advancing fast enough to boost job growth.

The ONE Campaign will be live-streaming at 10 a.m. ET as President Obama, former President Bill Clinton, former President George W. Bush and others take part in a forum on "The Beginning of the End of AIDS" at George Washington University.

It's one of many events marking World AIDS Day.

Charged this week with trying to trade methamphetamine for sex with a man, former Arapahoe County (Colo.) sheriff Patrick Sullivan is now sitting in jail.

More specifically, he's being held in the county's Patrick J. Sullivan Jr. Detention Facility. That's right. It's named after him. His bail has been set at $500,000.

Three days of big gains, including the best day for the Dow Jones industrial average in more than two years, look like they'll be followed today by a bit of a pause in the latest stock market rally on Wall Street.

Next week, leaders of the euro area countries will gather in Brussels in an effort to take a bigger step toward ending the region's sovereign debt crisis. They hope that by agreeing to tougher penalties for countries that break the euro area's budget rules, they can entice the European Central Bank to do more to stem the crisis.

But the question is whether the eurozone countries are willing to give up control of their budgets.

Launching a new company is never easy. But in the beginning, the founders of Web-based marketing firm Bluebox Now felt they were on track. The Seattle startup lined up a large paying customer, had a lot of other great leads and was reasonably confident it would get a sizable amount of outside funding. A lot has happened since then.

The jobless rate has declined a bit in the last year, but among veterans who served in conflict since 2003, it is increasing. The unemployment rate for vets serving since the Iraq war began has risen 1.5 percentage points to more than 12 percent in the past year.

Many veterans say they face a tougher job market than civilians. Tom Tarantino spent a decade in the military, where he served in Iraq and led a platoon. But when he separated from the military in 2007, he spent nearly a year looking for a job.

What A Lack Of AIDS Funding Could Mean For Africa

Nov 30, 2011

The world's largest supporter of AIDS programs has made an ominous announcement: Due to the global financial crisis, it is well short of its fundraising goals.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria pays for more than half of the world's HIV medicine, and supports hundreds of education and advocacy programs worldwide. With World AIDS Day on Thursday, many are worried about what that means for the future of the war on AIDS.

Keeping Momentum In South Africa

A new survey finds a big disconnect when it comes to fertility. The age women think they can conceive a baby is far different from what their bodies are actually capable of. This poses an increasing problem, as more women wait longer than ever to have children.

Kate Donnellon Nail never imagined she'd have trouble conceiving. For one thing, people always tell the San Francisco musician she looks much younger than her 43 years.

"I work out regularly, I have a personal trainer," she says. "I've been doing yoga for 15 years."

Is NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly Bulletproof?

Nov 30, 2011

New York City is safer than it's been in generations, but there does seem to be an alarming jump in the crime rate inside the New York Police Department.

In the past two months, members of the country's biggest police force have been accused of fixing parking tickets, smuggling guns and even planting drugs on innocent people.

In October, the U.S. attorney in New York, Preet Bharara, charged five current NYPD officers with smuggling what they thought were stolen cigarettes and firearms as part of an FBI sting.

Too many states still inadvertently provide safe havens when it comes to sex trafficking — even when children on the streets bear the consequences. That's the conclusion of a new report released Thursday by the advocacy group Shared Hope International.

The study grades each state on whether it has laws to protect children who are pushed into the sex trade — and to punish the adults who seek out those services. Leaders of the group say there's lots of room for improvement. More than half of the states they examined got grades of D or F.

Occupy Wall Street protesters have been removed by police from public spaces in Los Angeles and Philadelphia this week. Some cities still have active 24-hour protests in place, though earlier this month the original Occupy encampment — on Wall Street — was also shut down.

Now activists in New York and elsewhere are talking about the movement's next phase, including the degree to which Occupy activists should get involved in the 2012 election.

A high-stakes gamble is playing out in Miami, where a Malaysian developer, the Genting Group, plans to spend more than $3 billion to build what it touts as the world's largest casino.

And that's just the opening bid. Other big names in the gaming industry have joined an effort to persuade Florida to approve what are being called "destination casinos."

But there are many opponents to expanding gambling in the state, including religious groups, hotels and restaurants, and The Walt Disney Co.

For Iranian-Americans, Sanctions Can Be A Minefield

Nov 30, 2011

At the beginning of last year, Mahmoud Reza Banki's future looked bright. He was a senior associate at the prestigious consulting firm McKinsey and Co., and had been accepted to the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

But Banki, 35, was arrested in January 2010 and charged with accepting large money transfers from Iran that violated U.S. sanctions against that country.

This upcoming weekend, a team of German explosive experts and members of the army are scheduled to defuse an unexploded bomb found in the city of Koblenz in Germany. The bomb — with 3,000 pounds of explosives — is a remnant of World War II that emerged in the Rhine River because of low water levels.

As if that wasn't curious enough, authorities ordered half of the city's residents — 45,000 people — to leave, while they get the job done.

Der Spiegel reports:

Keeping off the pounds is tough at any age. Now seniors are getting a helping hand from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which has announced that it will cover screening and counseling for obesity as a free preventive service for Medicare beneficiaries.

Coverage is effective immediately.

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