This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.
Greek Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter at midnight tonight. It's traditionally the biggest holiday in Greece. But there is a cloud over the celebration. Reporter Joanna Kakissis sends us this postcard from Athens and the inner-city cathedral of Saint Lucas.
It's been a rough stretch for Pennsylvania's state Legislature. Within the past two months, four onetime floor leaders have been sentenced, pleaded guilty or found guilty of corruption charges. But a jury verdict isn't stopping one of those legislators from running for re-election.
Former state House Speaker Bill DeWeese is campaigning for another term, though earlier this month, he gave a farewell address on the Pennsylvania House floor.
Philip Kerr is a British novelist, born a decade after the end of World War II, who has written a series of compelling thrillers about crime in wartime Nazi Germany. His hero — mostly a hero — is a tough and cynical Berliner, a cop named Bernie Gunther. The newest book is the eighth in the series; it's called Prague Fatale.
The United States ranks as the most religious country in the developed world. And New York Times columnist Ross Douthat says that despite our politics, debates and doubts, this country is as God-besotted today as ever.
But in his new book, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, Douthat argues that religion has fallen into heresy (hence the feisty subtitle). Douthat recently spoke with NPR's Linda Wertheimer about why he thinks American Christianity has become distorted.
Many famous names went down with the Titanic, like the American millionaire John Jacob Astor IV, the wealthiest person on the ship, and Macy's department store owner Isidor Straus.
But you may not know about one of the ship's doctors — John Edward Simpson. Aboard the Titanic, Simpson wrote a letter to his mother back home in Belfast. It was mailed from the great ship's last port of call before it made its disastrous turn across the North Atlantic.
North Korea's decision to launch a rocket early Friday drew swift and widespread condemnation by the international community. The White House suspended a shipment of 240,000 tons of food aid to North Korea, and the U.N. Security Council, which quickly met, called the launch deplorable and said it violated two council resolutions.
This weekend, the Farrelly Brothers' version of The Three Stooges arrives in theaters. You'll see plenty of Larry, Moe and Curly. But who won't you see? Shemp. Or, as NPR's Sue Goodwin calls him, "Uncle Shemp."
To get elected in southwestern Pennsylvania as a Democrat, it helps to be a conservative one. And because of congressional reapportionment, two conservative Democratic incumbents are facing off for a single seat in their party's primary later this month.
Rep. Jason Altmire and Rep. Mark Critz, who are vying for the state's 12th District seat, each oppose abortion rights and favor gun rights. Their race on April 24 may come down to the few issues that do distinguish the two congressmen.
Surrogate Whitney Watts had her son, J.P., while her husband, Ray Watts, was at sea with the Navy. Surrogacy experts say it's crucial for surrogates to have their own children because they'd presumably understand the emotions involved in bearing a child. The couple for whom Whitney carried twins paid for all expenses during the pregnancy, including private health insurance.
Credit Marisa Peñaloza / NPR
Bob and Susan de Gruchy had been through several failed rounds of in vitro fertilization before meeting the surrogate who would ultimately deliver their twins, Owen and Elle.
Credit Courtesy of Whitney Watts
At 16 weeks, Whitney Watts' pregnancy was still perfectly normal. It wasn't until 23 weeks in that doctors noticed abnormalities and put her on bed rest.
As she approached her sixth month of pregnancy last year, Whitney Watts' cervix had started to shorten. It's a common problem with twins. Watts was concerned, and was taking care not to overexert herself.
But it's probably fair to say her condition was far more frightening for Susan de Gruchy, the woman who had hired Watts to be a surrogate because she and her husband were unable to conceive. Nearly 400 miles away, de Gruchy was obsessed with worry.
Originally published on Tue January 29, 2013 5:55 pm
One doesn't necessarily associate spring travel with heavy reading. For one, books are bulky luggage, the weighty enemies of economical packers; even an e-reader takes up precious space in one's overflowing duffel. And two, escapist migration to mountaintops or flowery fields or seaside locales for sun worship and meditative communion with nature connotes a markedly book-free environment, an escape from the office or the solemn halls of academe.
For more than 20 years, the indie-pop group The Magnetic Fields has been singing songs about love, though not always in the traditional sense. With a style that ranges from bitter to sincere to ironic, Stephin Merritt — the group's frontman, writer and producer — has created a growing cast of characters surviving love's vicissitudes.
In his characteristic deadpan, Merritt tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer that he owes the inspiration for many of those characters to a particular ritual of his.
In 2009, jazz pianist Alfredo Rodriguez showed up in Laredo, Texas, with only a suitcase, some sheet music and one aim: to collaborate with Quincy Jones. A Cuban seeking amnesty in the U.S., Rodriguez ended up arrested by Mexican border officials. He says they questioned him for hours and demanded money.
These days it can take a village to create a child. Technology means someone who never thought they'd be able to conceive can use a sperm donor, an egg donor and a surrogate — a woman who bears a child for someone else. But the law has not kept pace with technology, and with so many people involved, a key question remains: Who is a legal parent?
After a financial bailout earlier this year, fees in Portugal's health system have risen substantially. As a result, nongovernmental organizations say, the poor and elderly in Western Europe's poorest country can no longer afford essential care. Some Portuguese fear that austerity measures are threatening not only their livelihoods, but their lives.
Alfredo Silva, 67, showed up at an anti-austerity protest in Lisbon last month dressed as a skeleton. He says the costume shows the effect of Portugal's $100 billion bailout on retirees like him.
Originally published on Wed December 12, 2012 8:14 am
North Korea this week quite literally demonstrated an old truism, with the world as an anxious witness. It turns out that reaching space is, as the saying goes, as tough as rocket science.
The much hyped launch of the Unha-3 rocket, which North Korea said was meant to place a satellite into orbit to celebrate the centenary of the country's "Great Leader" Kim Il Sung, apparently failed Friday shortly after launch. It was the fourth time North Korea had tried and failed to do it, adding to the growing worldwide history of failed rocket launches.
When M. Night Shyamalan's fantasy film The Last Airbender — panned by both critics and fans of the wildly popular TV series on which it was based — flopped majestically at the box office, it looked like the end of a valuable franchise.
But now, with The Legend of Korra, which premieres Saturday on Nickelodeon, the creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender have been given a rare chance to rebuild a world that was taken away from them.
Imagine an era when mainstream music wasn't filled with synthesizers. When electronic music wasn't a force propelling everything from pop and hip-hop to music from the underground. There was a time when this world existed. Then Kraftwerk emerged, and the world we knew changed.
After rescuing his neighbor from a burning building, Newark Mayor Cory Booker joins an elite list of politicians who have performed heroic acts while in office. While it's inspiring anytime a stranger reaches out to help someone, it's not often that the person risking his or her life happens to be an elected official.
We've compiled a partial list of past heroic feats performed by pols.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran, Iran, in March. Relations between the two countries have deteriorated over Iran's continued support of the Syrian regime.
Iran's suspect nuclear program will again be in the spotlight this weekend when negotiators from Iran and six international powers meet in Istanbul.
Iran was reluctant to have Turkey host the meeting, reflecting Iran's growing unhappiness with Turkish foreign policy moves, especially its call for regime change in Syria, Iran's key ally in the Arab world.
Analyst and columnist Yavuz Baydar says Turkey has stuck its neck out for Iran in the past, defending what it calls Iran's peaceful nuclear energy program and even voting against U.N. sanctions on Iran two years ago.