Mark Memmott

Mark Memmott is one of the hosts of NPR's "The Two-Way" news blog.

"The Two-Way," which Memmott helped to launched when he came to NPR in 2009, focuses on breaking news, analysis, and the most compelling stories being reported by NPR News and other news media.

Before joining NPR, Memmott worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor at USA Today. He focused on a range of coverage from politics, foreign affairs, economics, and the media. He's reported from places across the Unites States and the world, including half a dozen trips to Afghanistan in 2002-2003.

During his time at USA Today, Memmott, helped launch and lead three USAToday.com news blogs: "On Deadline," "The Oval" and "On Politics," the site's 2008 presidential campaign blog.

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The Two-Way
11:52 am
Fri December 16, 2011

'Layaway Santas' Are Spreading Cheer This Year At Kmarts

We need a heart-warming story and this fits the bill:

"At Kmart stores across the country," The Associated Press writes, "Santa is getting some help: Anonymous donors are paying off strangers' layaway accounts, buying the Christmas gifts other families couldn't afford, especially toys and children's clothes set aside by impoverished parents."

We're seeing stories about this happening in:

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The Two-Way
11:04 am
Fri December 16, 2011

SEC Files Civil Fraud Suit Against Former Fannie And Freddie Execs

Six former top executives of the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) "knew and approved of misleading statements claiming the companies had minimal holdings of higher-risk mortgage loans, including subprime loans" and have now been accused of securities fraud in a civil suit, the Securities and Exchange Commission just announced.

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The Two-Way
10:30 am
Fri December 16, 2011

At Bradley Manning Hearing, His Attorney Challenges Judge

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 11:20 am

An "astonishing" scene has already played out at the just-opened military court hearing about the case against Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who stands accused of giving classified information to WikiLeaks, The Guardian reports.

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The Two-Way
9:30 am
Fri December 16, 2011

McQueary Repeats Allegation About Sandusky

(Note: There is graphic testimony about the alleged sexual abuse of a young boy in this post.)

Mike McQueary, a key witness in the case against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky — who stands accused of sexually abusing at least 10 young boys over more than a decade — is testifying this morning at a court hearing about the scandal that has rocked the university.

NPR's Jeff Brady is covering the Pennsylvania court proceeding and is posting updates on his Twitter page.

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The Two-Way
9:05 am
Fri December 16, 2011

Occupy? Humble Brag? What's Your 'Word Of The Year?'

"Humble brag" is linguist Ben Zimmer's personal favorite for 2011 Â word of the year.
Twitter.com/Humblebrag

Merriam-Webster may think that "pragmatic" was 2011's word of the year, as we reported Thursday, but there's certainly lots of room to debate that choice.

And the American Dialect Society has put out its annual call for help in deciding what word it should bestow with the honor.

Last year, the society decided "app" was 2010's top word.

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The Two-Way
7:40 am
Fri December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens: 'Atheist Intellectual,' 'Noble Contrarian'

Christopher Hitchens.
Brendan Banaszak NPR

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 9:08 am

The life of often controversial writer and cultural critic Christopher Hitchens, who died Thursday after a long battle against cancer of the esophagus, as told in some of today's headlines:

-- "Christopher Hitchens, Author and Contrarian, Dies at 62." (The Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy blog)

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The Two-Way
7:05 am
Fri December 16, 2011

Congress Averts Government Shutdown, But Still Divided On Payroll Tax Cut

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 1:59 pm

Update at 1:50 p.m. ET. Government Will Not Shutdown:

The House of Representatives just passed a $1 trillion spending bill that will keep the government running through the fall. Congress, however, is still deadlocked on two major pieces of legislation. The extension of the payroll tax cut, which is a priority for the Obama administration and an extension of jobless benefits to to the long-term unemployed.

Our Original Post Continues:

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The Two-Way
6:30 am
Fri December 16, 2011

Japanese Officials Declare 'Cold Shutdown' Of Crippled Reactors

Workers in protective suits and masks wait to enter the emergency operation center at the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station on Nov. 12, 2011.
David Guttenfelder AFP/Getty Images

Nuclear reactors crippled in Japan's March 11 earthquake and tsunami are now in a "cold shutdown," Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced today.

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The Two-Way
3:25 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Joe Simon, Co-Creator Of Captain America, Has Died

Joe Simon, who together with illustrator Jack Kirby created the iconic Captain America comic book hero in 1940, has died.

According to The Associated Press, "Simon's family relayed word of his death Thursday, posting a short statement on Facebook and telling The Associated Press through a spokesman that the 98-year-old Simon died Wednesday night in New York City after a brief illness."

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The Two-Way
1:30 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

A New Reason To Beat Your Own Chest: 'Drum Machine Shirt'

Think Geek

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 1:36 pm

The Two-Way doesn't endorse products. But we do like to pass on things we see about weird and unusual things.

So a Los Angeles Times story about a "drum machine T-shirt" caught our eye. (Since there's a drummer or two in our lives, we may be biased.)

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The Two-Way
12:25 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Sheriff Arpaio Violates Latinos' Rights, Justice Department Says

Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Ross D. Franklin AP

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 12:29 pm

The U.S. Justice Department says Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has become a national figure thanks to his tough treatment of inmates and his tough talk on immigration, engages in "a pattern or practice of misconduct that violates the Constitution and federal law," NPR's Carrie Johnson reports.

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The Two-Way
11:40 am
Thu December 15, 2011

Starting At Noon: Salvation Army Volunteers Go For Bell-Ringing Record

In Chicago: Antionette Levi rings her bell as she solicits donations for the Salvation Army.
Scott Olson Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 11:44 am

They can't sit down. They can't eat. And they have to keep ringing their bells.

The Salvation Army says 24 of its volunteers will be going for a record starting at noon ET when they see just how long they can keep ringing their bells as they stand by collection kettles in cities across the nation.

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The Two-Way
11:00 am
Thu December 15, 2011

Politicians Take Note: 'Pragmatic' Was 2011's Word Of The Year

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and President Obama in July, during the negotiations over raising the federal debt ceiling and reducing future federal deficits. Americans say they want pragmatic leaders who will worth together.
Jewel Samad AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 11:02 am

Americans put members of Congress at the very bottom of those they consider to be honest and ethical. They tell pollsters that they want politicians in Washington to "compromise in order to get things done."

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The Two-Way
8:45 am
Thu December 15, 2011

Jobless Claims Drop To Lowest Level In More Than Three Years

The number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment insurance dropped by 19,000 last week, to 366,000, the Employment and Training Administration reports. And that's the lowest level since May 2008.

Bloomberg News says the decline was not expected — most economists thought we would hear they remained around 390,000.

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The Two-Way
8:30 am
Thu December 15, 2011

Report: 'Marines Promoted Inflated Story For Medal Of Honor Recipient'

President Obama presents the Medal of Honor to Marine Corps Sgt. Dakota Meyer.
Jim Watson AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 6:10 pm

"Crucial parts" of the story that Marine Corps officials told about Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer's bravery in Afghanistan are "untrue, unsubstantiated or exaggerated, according to dozens of military documents" that McClatchy Newspapers has examined and reporting done by a McClatchy correspondent who survived the ambush in which Meyer performed heroically.

In a long report based on extensive research, correspondent Jonathan S. Landay writes that:

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The Two-Way
7:50 am
Thu December 15, 2011

Republicans Unveil $1 Trillion Spending Bill, Possible Shutdown Still Looms

The political wrangling continues in Washington as Republicans and Democrats try to get their priorities enacted even as several key deadlines fast approach.

Overnight, as The Associated Press reports, Republicans in the House "unveiled a massive $1 trillion-plus year-end spending package despite a plea from the White House for additional talks over a handful of provisions opposed by President Barack Obama."

The wire service adds that:

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The Two-Way
7:25 am
Thu December 15, 2011

As Flag Is Put Away, America's Mission In Iraq Symbolically Ends

America's colors have been cased in Iraq — the flag was just symbolically put away at a ceremony marking the end of a war that lasted nearly nine years.

At the Baghdad airport a short time ago, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other officials were there to mark the occasion, NPR's Kelly McEvers reports. It was, she said on Morning Edition, a "quiet, small ceremony."

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The Two-Way
3:35 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Christmas Stamps Are OK; Christmas Carols? Not At The Post Office

There's been some consternation on the Web about what happened this weekend at a post office in Silver Spring, Md., when three Christmas carolers — all decked out in shawls, bonnets and a top hat (for the guy) — popped in and started singing.

It seems that one of the USPS managers on duty jumped into action, telling the trio that they couldn't do that because they were on government property.

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The Two-Way
12:08 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Obama To Troops: 'Welcome Home'

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama with troops at Fort Bragg, N.C., today (Dec. 14, 2011) after his address.
Gerry Broome AP

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 1:12 pm

"On behalf of a grateful nation, I'm proud to finally say these two words and I know your famlies agree:

"Welcome home."

With that, President Obama began an address today at North Carolina's Fort Bragg, where he continued to mark the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq by talking with some of the troops who served in that nearly nine-year conflict.

We updated this post with more from his address.

Update at 12:25 p.m. ET. "Because Of You":

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The Two-Way
11:35 am
Wed December 14, 2011

Reports: Afghan Rape Victim Freed, Unclear If She Must Marry Attacker

Burqa-clad Afghan women wait to buy chickpeas from a shop in Kabul earlier this year.
Shah Marai AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 11:37 am

Gulnaz, the young Afghan woman whose story has spread around the world because she was imprisoned after being raped by a relative, is now free, CNN and the BBC are reporting.

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The Two-Way
10:55 am
Wed December 14, 2011

Jiminy Cricket! Just What We Need: A Cockroach That Jumps

We should have jumped on this story earlier, but it's too creepy not to mention:

Scientists have discovered a cockroach in South Africa that leaps to get around, according to Biology Letters.

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The Two-Way
9:50 am
Wed December 14, 2011

Hezbollah's Alleged Ties To South American Cocaine Trade Detailed

Hezbollah members listen to a speech by the group's leader, Â Hassan Nasrallah, via video-link in the southern suburbs of Beirut on Nov. 11, 2011.
Anwar Amro AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 9:55 am

There are "new insights into the murky sources of Hezbollah's money," The New York Times reports this morning, that point to "the direct involvement of high-level Hezbollah officials in the South American cocaine trade."

Here's the story's money quote:

"One agent involved in the investigation compared Hezbollah to the Mafia, saying, 'They operate like the Gambinos on steroids.' "

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