Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 4:24 am
The panel has approved 18 recommendations it hopes will make things safer at the state's prisons. The proposals by a legislative task force come on the heels of recent indictments of corrections officers and inmates at the Baltimore City jail that involved drug smuggling and sexual impropriety.
It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And I'm David Greene. Despite some very loud grumbling, both chambers of Congress have approved a two-year federal budget plan. This drops the odds of a federal government shutdown early next year, but it certainly does not end the debate over federal spending.
INSKEEP: NPR's Tamara Keith is on the line this morning to talk about one figure from the agreement, which suggests the scale of budget fights ahead. And Tamara, what's the figure?
If you ever fly, you've heard it countless times: You cannot use your cellphone while en route to your destination. Federal rules will not allow it. That could change now, as the FCC considers relaxing those rules. But in advance of that decision yesterday, Delta Airlines said it plans to remain committed to high altitude quiet time.
The two-year budget deal approved by the Senate on Wednesday is aimed at preventing another government shutdown.
It also includes a familiar annual rider — language to avert a steep pay cut to doctors who treat Medicare patients. But this time might be different, with a fix that lasts. After more than a decade of temporary solutions, it appears Congress might be on the verge of permanently solving its persistent problem in the way it makes Medicare payments to doctors.
Volunteers look through children's letters to Santa at a post office in Salvador in northeastern Brazil's Bahia state. The campaign is part of a more than 20-year tradition to help those less fortunate to have gifts for the holiday.
Credit Erik Salles / DPA /Landov
A man dressed as Santa Claus, representing the Brazilian postal service, distributes gifts donated to needy children in a public elementary school in Salvador, Brazil.
"Dear Father Christmas," the letter reads, "my name is Larissa. I know that you are very busy and that you live a long way away in the North Pole, but I'd like to ask you for a gift because my mother doesn't have enough money to buy what I want."
There are piles of similar letters — many decorated with stickers, drawings and hand prints — lying on makeshift tables in the main hall of the post office in downtown Sao Paulo.
Not in North America, necessarily, but "you can't keep fur in stock in Russia," says furrier Greg Tinder. "The higher the price tag you put on it, the faster it sells."
Tinder, who left Saks Fifth Avenue to start his own label, says the East has always been a furrier's dream — think big, plushy Soviet-era hats. But now, with Russia's economy on the rise, there's some new money on the block, and designers know that.
When Benta Odeny was diagnosed with HIV, she started to protect her husband Daniel from the virus by taking antiretroviral medications. The same drugs also helped her give birth to an HIV-negative daughter, Angelia.
Whether you love buying gifts or dread trips to the mall, good luck avoiding some kind of shopping during the holiday season. But I don't need the excuse of a holiday to get me to the stores. I'm obsessed with shopping.
The question is, am I a shopaholic? The technical term is "compulsive buyer," according to psychologist April Benson.
"Simply put," says Dr. Benson, compulsive buying is "when we spend so much time, energy and/or money shopping ... or even thinking about shopping and buying that it is impairing our life in a significant way."
For more than a year, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA have been engaged in a tug of war over the release of the so-called torture report.
Chairman Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, says the $40 million, 6,000-page report demonstrates that CIA treatment of detainees was all but useless in terms of gathering actionable intelligence.
For its part, the CIA says the classified committee report contains significant errors and that no one at the agency was interviewed by Senate investigators.
Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 6:42 pm
Michael Steinberg, a top portfolio manager at SAC Capital Advisors, has been found guilty of insider trading — the latest conviction stemming from a years-long federal investigation into the hedge fund's activities.
Steinberg was found guilty on five counts of conspiracy and securities fraud.
"Prosecutors said he traded on confidential information that was passed to him by an employee, who later admitted to swapping illegal tips with friends at other firms."
Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 5:24 pm
The Senate passed a two-year bipartisan budget deal aimed at easing automatic spending cuts and avoiding a government shutdown, following a House vote on the measure last week.
The vote by a simple majority was absent the partisan brinksmanship that has become a hallmark of budget deals in recent memory.
The appropriations committees in both chambers must now set in stone a $1.012 trillion fiscal 2014 spending bill before current spending authority expires. Congress also faces a spring 2014 to raise the debt ceiling — another potential partisan standoff.
Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 6:12 pm
In a year that featured divisive fights over the budget, health care and presidential nominations, the United States Senate took a break from partisan bickering Tuesday night to get in the Christmas spirit.
Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 6:31 pm
(This post was updated at 6:30 p.m. ET)
A panel looking into U.S. electronic surveillance activities in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations has recommended removing the NSA's authority to collect and store Americans' telephone data.
The key recommendation was one of dozens that the panel put forward; however, it did not propose a wholesale scaling back of domestic spying by the National Security Agency and other intelligence branches.
The Obama administration's ambassador to the U.N. says this is a pivotal moment for the Central African Republic and time for the international community to take steps to prevent further atrocities there.
Samantha Power, a former journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, is well-known as an advocate for humanitarian intervention. How she and the Obama administration handle the conflict in the CAR is a major test of that.
There are seven shopping days left until Christmas. But there are just five days until another important deadline — the last day to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act if you want coverage to start January 1.
After a slow start, activity on the federal website HealthCare.gov has been heavy all month. And with the deadline approaching, some people are getting worried that they won't get signed up in time.
And this being the health care law, it's complicated. There is more than one deadline.
Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 3:56 pm
Secretary of State John Kerry has telephoned a top official in New Delhi to express regret for the strip-search of an Indian diplomat after her arrest last week in New York on charges of visa fraud.
"As a father of two daughters about the same age as [Indian diplomat] Devyani Khobragade, the Secretary empathizes with the sensitivities we are hearing from India about the events that unfolded after Ms. Khobragade's arrest," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a written statement, relating Kerry's conversation.
When Michele Rosewoman was growing up in the Bay Area, she played piano from childhood and congas from her teens. After moving to New York in the late 1970s, she began making music in two areas: modern jazz and traditional Cuban music. Before long, she started combining the two in her New Yor-Uba band.
Pope Francis began his papacy in March. In his first year as pope, columnist James Carroll says, Francis has put unprecedented focus on "the dilemma of the vast majority of human beings who simply don't have enough to live decently."
Credit Felipe Dana / AP
Pilgrims and residents gather on Copacabana beach before the arrival of Pope Francis for World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in July.
Credit Gregorio Borgia / AP
Pope Francis blesses a child during the weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican in October.
"Who am I to judge?" With those five words, Pope Francis "stepped away from the disapproving tone, the explicit moralizing typical of popes and bishops," writes columnist James Carroll. Francis made that statement in July, in response to a reporter's question about the status of gay priests in the Church.
Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 11:05 am
Each week for the past six months, we've written about an invention that either solves a unique problem or solves a common problem in a unique way. We thank you, readers, for pointing us toward innovative solutions. Many of our weekly posts have featured your submissions. Who can forget the Case Coolie, which keeps your beers cold without ice?
Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 4:17 pm
We're all supposed to be eating right, but most of us are not doing a very good job of that.
Could you eat an apple a day?
Adding in that one piece of fruit could improve cardiovascular health on a par with prescribing of cholesterol-lowering statins for everyone over age 50, according to a report published Tuesday in BMJ.
Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 6:31 pm
(This post was last updated at 3:50 p.m. ET)
Citing an improving economy, the Federal Reserve announced Wednesday that it would begin gradually paring back an $85 billion-a-month bond-buying program aimed at stimulating growth.
The move was seen as a tentative vote of confidence and comes amid an improving jobs picture and other positive signs as the U.S. continues struggles to emerge from the worst downturn since the Great Depression.
Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 1:34 pm
China has confirmed that one of its warships — reportedly the newly deployed aircraft carrier Liaoning — had an "encounter" with a U.S. guided missile cruiser in the South China Sea earlier this month.