An unmarked New York State Police SUV pulls over a motorist for distracted driving. Troopers are using a fleet of the tall vehicles to crack down on texting while driving.
Credit Jim Fitzgerald / AP
New York State Trooper Clayton Howell checks a screen that displays driving records inside his patrol SUV. The vehicle allows him to see whether passing drivers are on their phones. "It's a bird's-eye view," he says.
Forty-one states and the District of Columbia have laws that make it illegal to text while driving. Six others forbid new drivers from texting behind the wheel.
But that doesn't stop drivers from doing it — and enforcing those laws can be difficult.
On a highway north of New York City, state Trooper Clayton Howell is in an unmarked SUV. He's looking for drivers who are texting or using hand-held phones, which is banned in New York, along with 11 other states.
In Mexico, lawmakers are debating one of the touchiest subjects in the country today, whether to open up the nation's state oil monopoly to foreign investors. Ever since the oil industry was nationalized back in the 1930s, Mexico's control of this precious resource has been a symbol of national pride. But with oil prices rising and revenues down, the president has made modernizing the oil company Pemex his number one priority.
As NPR's Carrie Kahn reports, not everyone is happy about it.
Seleka fighters pose for a photograph in Bossangoa, Central African Republic, on Nov. 25. The landlocked country has been gripped by violence since the mainly Muslim rebels seized power in the majority Christian country in March.
Credit Florence Richard / AP
Displaced people fleeing Seleka fighting regroup in a camp in Bossangoa, Central African Republic, on Nov. 26.
Credit Florence Richard / AP
Fighters from a Christian militia known as the anti-balaka have emerged to defend towns and in some cases attack Muslim communities. These men display their makeshift weaponry in Boubou, Central African Republic, on Nov. 26.
After months of worsening violence, the United Nations voted Thursday to send French and African troops to the Central African Republic in an attempt to restore stability.
Brutal sectarian violence has engulfed the mostly Christian country since March, when the first Muslim leader assumed power after a coup.
Armed gangs of Muslim extremists joined by mercenaries from neighboring countries now control most of the country. Armed Christian forces are fighting back. Slaughter, rape and torture are widely reported.
On Feb. 11, 1990, upon his release from prison, Nelson Mandela stood on the steps of City Hall in Cape Town, South Africa. He told the gather crowd of more than 100,000 people to seize what he called "a decisive moment." In the audio above, you can listen to a segment of that speech.
For 27 years, Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island for his fight against South Africa's apartheid regime. Saki Macozoma served time on Robben Island alongside Mandela in the 1970s, and he joins Robert Siegel to remember Mandela, who died Thursday at age 95.
NPR's former longtime correspondent in South Africa, John Mattison, knew Nelson Mandela. He covered him, and later, he actually worked for him. He's just outside Cape Town and joins us now. John, tell me what your most vivid memory of this great historic figure is.
Tributes are pouring in from around the globe on news that Nelson Mandela, the man who led South Africa out of apartheid, has died. He was 95 and had been ill for a long time. His death marks the passing of an era and President Obama spoke a short time after hearing the news. President Obama held Mandela up as an inspiration to his own leadership.
And we end this hour with a very different kind of ecstatic voice.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HAPPY")
PHARRELL WILLIAMS: (Singing) Because I'm happy, clap along if you feel like a room without a roof. Because I'm happy, clap along...
SIEGEL: This is the song "Happy" from Pharrell Williams. He sings. He writes. He produces. Williams is also the creative force behind an ambitious new music video, though calling it just a video hardly does it justice.
Egyptians are preparing to vote on a new constitution, again. When the last constitution was approved, President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was in power. He was ousted in July. The latest constitution was drafted by the military-backed government that ousted Morsi. Nathan Brown, who studies constitutionalism and rule of law in the Arab world, talks to Robert Siegel about what's at stake in the process, and the criticism the draft constitution has received. Brown is a professor at George Washington University and a scholar with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
As it has done for the past 16 years, the Embassy of Norway decorated a Christmas tree at Union Station in Washington, D.C. — a gift to the American people to say thanks for helping Norway during World War II.
This year is no different. The tree was lit in a ceremony Tuesday evening, but what stands out is the nature of the ornaments that adorn the artificial tree: In addition to small American and Norwegian flags, the tree is decked out with 700 shining decorations with the iconic image from Norwegian Edvard Munch's painting The Scream.
A train leaves the Rangeland Energy company's crude oil loading terminal near Epping, N.D. So far this year, 60 percent of all oil produced in North Dakota left the state by rail. One economist says there aren't enough oil tankers to fill the demand.
The oil boom in the United States is creating another boom — for the railroad industry.
So far this year, in North Dakota alone, 140 million barrels of oil have left on trains. Shipments of crude oil by rail are up almost 50 percent over last year — and this upward trend is expected to continue.
A visit to the world-famous Tehachapi Loop, part of a winding mountain pass in Southern California, demonstrates the scale and reach of the oil boom in the middle of the country. As a train full of oil tanker cars rumbles past, it's hard not to think of it as a pipeline on wheels.
It's lunchtime at Oakland High School in Oakland, Calif., and that means fence hoppers. Several kids wear mischievous grins as they speedily scale a 12-foot-high metal perimeter.
In theory, anyway, Oakland High is a "closed campus." That's done in the interest of safety and security and to cut down on school-skipping. It means kids can't leave during school hours without parental consent, especially at lunchtime. But it doesn't stop several students from breaking out.
Colorado's ski resorts are looking far and wide for potential customers, including emerging markets like China. About 12 percent of visitors to the state's ski areas come from overseas. And with China's middle class growing, Colorado resorts are looking to profit. Aspen Public Radio's Marci Krivonen reports.
MARCI KRIVONEN, BYLINE: Inside the offices of the Aspen Skiing Company, Candace Sherman is learning Mandarin Chinese...
Robert Siegel talks with Peter Wallsten of The Washington Post about the story of Alan Gross, a USAID contractor held in a Cuban prison for the last four years. Gross had been working on a covert project installing internet in a Jewish community in Cuba.
The Planet Money men's T-shirt was made in Bangladesh, by workers who make about $3 a day, with overtime. The Planet Money women's T-shirt was made in Colombia, by workers who make roughly $13 a day, without overtime.
The wages in both places are remarkably low by U.S. standards. But the gap between them is huge. Workers in Colombia make more than four times what their counterparts make in Bangladesh. In our reporting, we saw that the workers in Colombia have a much higher standard of living than the workers in Bangladesh.
For years, sports broadcasts were a staple of AM radio. But now, AM seems to be mostly a mix of talk shows and infomercials, and the Federal Communications Commission wants the band to be relevant again.
AM radio once played a central role in American life. The family would gather around the Philco to hear the latest Western or detective drama. The transistor radio was where baby boomers first heard the Beatles and other Top 40 hits. And, of course, there's no better way to take in a ballgame.
President Obama has made it a priority to choose federal judges who are diverse in terms of race or gender. But for the most part, he's avoided controversy for those lifetime appointments.
That's why the nomination of a Missouri lawyer named Ronnie White has raised the eyebrows of experts who've been around Washington for a while. Old hands remember that White was rejected for a federal judgeship back in 1999 after a party line vote by Senate Republicans.
Now, in what experts say could be an unprecedented step, he's getting another chance.
Keith Jarrett is a jazz legend. His catalog of recordings includes solo piano improvisations, trio and quartet works, classical performances, early sessions with Charles Lloyd and late ones with Miles Davis. But there's nothing quite like Jarrett's new double-CD set No End: It was recorded in his home studio in 1986, and he plays all the instruments — notably drums, bass and electric guitar.
The U.S. and other major powers have been holding historic negotiations with Iran to try to curb that country's nuclear program. But Washington still has many other concerns about Iranian behavior. And while some diplomats may hope to build on the nuclear talks to push Iran to play a more constructive role in the region, experts remain skeptical.
Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace says there are a couple of ways to look at the negotiations with Iran.