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This is just a guess, but the single part of America's food system that inspires the most horrified fascination is probably the slaughterhouse. One reason may be that these factories that turn cattle, hogs and chickens into packaged meat are generally off-limits to the public and photographers.

Once upon a time, the Republican presidential contenders seemed to be mostly on the same page. They agreed on who the real enemies were — as Newt Gingrich explained at a debate in September.

"All of my friends up here are going to repudiate every effort of the news media to get Republicans to fight each other to protect Barack Obama, who deserves to be defeated," he said. "And all of us are committed as a team — whoever the nominee is, we are all for defeating Barack Obama."

The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera called it a "comedy of errors."

Indeed.

Imagine you're a professor in Canada, 28 years removed from Italy and one day you get a call: While forming its new government, Italy wants you to be its junior agriculture minister.

Despite boasting one of the highest per capita incomes in the country, San Jose, Calif., is running large and growing deficits. And on Dec. 6, the City Council is expected to declare a state of "fiscal emergency." The main reason is pensions and other benefits for retired city workers, such as health insurance.

San Jose's problems are severe, but hardly unique. In recent years, pension costs have become a central concern both in the U.S. and in Europe.

Sometimes a picture does indeed tell the story.

In this case, a photo taken today when Hillary Rodham Clinton had a private dinner in Myanmar with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi speaks volumes about the purpose and meaning of the first visit to the country by an American secretary of state in more than five decades.

In a highly anticipated speech Thursday night, French President Nicolas Sarkozy laid the groundwork for tighter French-German cooperation.

He made an ambitious call for a rewrite of European treaties, but his speech — billed as his last-ditch plan to save the euro — offered no concrete emergency measures to contain Europe's debt crisis.

Yesterday, we reported about the tempest brewing about Carrier IQ, a secret software a researcher says has been installed on millions of phones and is capable of logging websites a user visits, the contents of voice and text messages and even the content of online searches.

Today Sen. Al Franken, a Democrat for Minnesotta, sent a letter to the company asking for a detailed explanation of the kind of information the company's software logs.

Park Jong-kun's Twitter profile picture shows him inspecting a bottle of Johnnie Walker whisky against a backdrop of the North Korean flag.

The 24-year-old South Korean photographer thought it would be funny, a visual parody of North Korea's news programs. But it turns out this profile picture could violate South Korea's strict six-decade-old National Security Law, which punishes those who "praise, disseminate or cooperate with anti-state groups" if such acts endanger democracy and national security.

Even as a teenager, Nikky Finney knew she wanted to become a poet. She published her first book in 1985, and has taught writing for years at the university level. In November, her collection Head Off & Split received the National Book Award for poetry.

Finney talks with NPR's Neal Conan about how her life has changed since receiving the award, and about her life spent pursuing her dream of becoming a poet.


Interview Highlights

On how life is different since winning the National Book Award

Richard Branson has built a global business empire around the philosophy "have fun and the money will come."

As the founder of Virgin Group, he grew a mail-order record company into a major record label and a chain of record stores; he started an airline; he created a space tourism company; and he has been actively involved in humanitarian efforts.

Joining the NPR Team

Dec 1, 2011

You could say I might be a bit overeager about getting started. That would explain my 4:45am arrival – with extra coffee – at 635 Massachusetts Avenue this morning to sit in on the first feed of Morning Edition. For millions of listeners, morning sounds like Steve and Renee, and it was invigorating to actually watch this team put on a live broadcast that connects millions of Americans to a whole world of events, ideas, places and cultures – and to each other.

There are basically two solutions to the European debt crisis. One, someone can show up with really deep pockets and bail out all the countries. Or, two, the European Central Bank can create a bunch of money and loan it to the countries who need it. The problem is there's a barrier blocking both these potential solutions — a certain European country known for its beer and brats: Germany.

We're a day late, but some stories just beg to be passed along:

"Utah Duck Hunter Shot In Buttocks By His Dog." (The Salt Lake Tribune)

It seems two guys and a dog were out hunting on Sunday. One man was in their boat with the canine. A loaded shotgun was lying across the bow pointed toward the other guy, who was in the water. Fido got excited, stepped on the gun and ... a little while later doctors were plucking 27 pieces of birdshot out of a butt.

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.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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 2018 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.

Sarkozy: We Need To 'Overhaul Europe'

Dec 1, 2011

Update at 1:32 p.m. ET. An 'Overhaul' of Europe:

In a highly-anticipated, 50-minute speech, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the Europe needed to "overhaul" its monetary union.

"Europe is no longer a choice, it is a need" Sarkozy said according to the English translation of the speech aired by France 24. "If Europe doesn't change quickly enough, global history will be written without Europe."

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 was on Talk of the Nation this afternoon, and took questions from callers. We hit some of the highlights in updates below, and we're embedding a copy of the audio in this post.

(Our apologies if you're on a device that doesn't show our audio player. To find a station that 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.

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