A skeleton dressed in a Santa Claus costume is part of the holiday displays at the Loudoun County Courthouse in Leesburg, Va. Many local residents are not pleased with the "Skele-Claus" or other displays by secular activists and atheists.
Credit Courtesy of FFRF
An "alternative Nativity scene" was set up at the Wisconsin State Capitol by the secular, nontheist organization Freedom from Religion Foundation when its request that a traditional creche be removed was not met.
Joseph, Mary, and ... the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
Nativity scenes have long been a part of holiday displays at city halls and small-town courthouses across the country. This year, some proponents of secularism are finding new ways to protest the time-honored tradition. They're putting up their own versions of the creche — and causing quite a commotion in places like Leesburg, Va.
This year has something unpleasant in common with the years 1979 and 1986. In 1979, a nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania melted down. In 1986, the Soviet reactor at Chernobyl blew up and burned.
This year's meltdown occurred in Fukushima in Japan, and nuclear power isn't likely to be the same as a result.
Nuclear power had enjoyed 25 years of relative quiet, but the Fukushima accident reminded people that despite improvements in safety, nuclear plants could still go horribly wrong.
Japanese shoppers remain concerned about radiation levels in food following the country's nuclear accident in March. Shoppers are shown here in a Tokyo supermarket.
Credit David Guttenfelder / AP
An official from the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (right), wearing a protective suit and mask, rides on a bus taking journalists by the crippled Fukushima nuclear power station in northeast Japan in November. Japanese officials say the plant is stable, but concerns about radioactivity remain a constant worry in many parts of Japan.
Nine months after Japan's nuclear accident, life in Tokyo seems to have snapped back to normal, with a vengeance. The talk shows are back to their usual mindless trivia about pop stars and baseball contracts. The date of the tsunami and nuclear accident, March 11 — known here as just 3/11 — has faded into the background.
But while the horror has receded, for many of us, particularly women with families, things will never be the same.
There's no getting past the fact that the nuclear accident dumped radioactive particles into the atmosphere, soil and sea.
The Justice Department has blocked a new South Carolina voting law, saying it violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The state law requires voters to present a photo ID in order to vote. The Justice Department says the law disenfranchises minorities, but the state says it protects against voter fraud. For more, Robert Siegel talks to NPR's Pam Fessler.
If you happen to spend Christmas Eve in Canada — especially Québec — you might lucky enough to be invited to a festive dinner after midnight mass. The feast is an old tradition from France called revellion, and it's something to look forward to after a long day of fasting.
"They'll have a huge feast, with sweets and lobster and oysters, everything," says Thomas Naylor, executive chef to the Canadian ambassador to the U.S. "But, in Quebec at least, you'll always have tourtière. It will be the center of the reveillon."
Prince Philip, 90, was taken from Sandringham, the queen's sprawling estate in rural Norfolk, to the cardiac unit at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge for "precautionary tests," a spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace said.
Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 4:15 pm
Tens of thousands are expected on the streets of Moscow tomorrow. As The Guardian reports, 50,000 have said they will show up on "Moscow's Sakharov Prospect, named after the late leading Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov," and thousands more will march across the country.
As we've reported, the protests stem from disputed parliamentary elections and come months before a crucial presidential election that will test Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's 12-year hold on power.
It's almost here. And by "it," we mean the new season of Downton Abbey, the UK-produced drama about the Crawley family and their servants that PBS imported for Masterpiece Classic with great success. Series two has already run in the UK, but if you've been good and patient and resisted the urge to obtain it by illicit means, your wait is nearly over: the new season begins on PBS on January 8th.
This is the time of year that either has you humming about a one-horse open sleigh or bah-humbugging the various versions of "Jingle Bells" you've heard in stores, on hold and in commercials. Wherever you reside on the Christmas cheer spectrum, we have something to annoy even those who wear reindeer sweaters.
Josh Apsey, then an 18-year-old lance corporal, bumps fists with his dad through a bus window as he begins his trip to Afghanistan in 2009. Apsey is still in the Marines, serving in Virginia, and says the war in Afghanistan made him a different person.
Credit Catherine Welch for NPR
Daron Diepenbruck and his father, Jim Diepenbruck. Daron, who has lost more than 20 friends in the Afghan war, has left the Marines and is trying to figure out what he wants to do.
Daron Diepenbruck and Josh Apsey were members of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment — called "America's Battalion." NPR followed that battalion in 2009, on the homefront and in battle in Afghanistan. The two Marines are back home now. One left the military; the other stayed in. Their lives have changed dramatically, as Catherine Welch found out.
Daron Diepenbruck was on his last deployment when something happened that changed his life. One of his good friends was out on patrol.
When makers of acetaminophen for infants said back in May that they were reducing the strength of the medicine so it would be less likely that babies would be accidentally given too much, it all made sense.
Some infant acetaminophen had as much as 80 milligrams of acetaminophen in a milliliter, while products for older children had less than half that.
Scientists have found that pigeons are much smarter than we give them credit for and can be taught some complex abstract math. This is stunning because it's trait that has only been shown in primates. But according to a report in the current issue of the journal Science, researchers were able to teach pigeons abstract rules about math.
Each year, Talk of the Nation reaches out to colleagues and friends at NPR for their help in remembering some of the men and women who died during the previous 12 months. They responded with personal stories about the people who inspired them.
In our sixth annual obituary show, we talk about the lives and careers of remarkable men and woman who did not make headlines when they died, but whose lives still made an indelible impact. NPR's Neda Ulaby, Sonari Glinton and Andy Carvin are among those who share their remembrances.
Originally published on Tue December 27, 2011 11:00 am
Critics cried foul when Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the Food and Drug Administration earlier this month, saying that teenage girls can't buy the emergency contraceptive plan B without a prescription. Their complaint: That the move went against the Obama administration's stated goal of protecting science from the taint of politics.
Have you ever come across a dust-covered "to-do" list, filled with tasks that you never actually finished because they were unpleasant, you just weren't in the mood, or you found something easier to do instead?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has one of those lists. It's 34-years-old. And the agency decided this week to throw it in the garbage.
Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 4:59 pm
"Twin suicide car bomb blasts ripped through an upscale Damascus district Friday, targeting security and intelligence buildings and killing at least 40 people" according to authorities, The Associated Press writes.
NPR's Deborah Amos says it's the "first such attack since the beginning of a 10-month revolt" against President Bashar Assad's regime.
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
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And I'm Linda Wertheimer.
A bitter fight in Congress is come to an end just in time for Christmas. The House and the Senate this morning, approved an extension of payroll tax cuts for every worker and benefits for the long-term unemployed. This required a major reversal for House Republicans who, earlier this week, voted to reject a nearly identical compromise.
As Eater reported this week, some politicians believe this country is awash in food waste. But this isn't the stuff in the garbage — it's the way we pour money into building restaurants, promoting American food products abroad, and encouraging the purchase of local foods.
Originally published on Mon December 26, 2011 12:09 pm
When the histories of the current 112th Congress are finally written, maybe it all will become clear.
But for right now, there seem to be many more questions than answers.
For instance, why did House Republicans ever think it was a good idea to stake out a position on the payroll-tax issue that would leave them holding the bag for a new year's tax increase for 160 million workers? That has now been averted with Congress' passage Friday morning of a two-month extension of the current payroll-tax holiday.