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Planet Money
3:44 am
Fri July 20, 2012

Public Pensions Are About To Look Less Healthy

Originally published on Sat July 21, 2012 11:06 am

The health of public pension plans — the retirement plans for teachers, firefighters, police officers and other state and local governments — has gotten plenty of attention lately.

Some plans are hurting, and numbers from state and local governments suggest their public pension plans are underfunded by about $1 trillion.

But that gap between what they owe and what they have on hand today is about to look bigger — much bigger, in some cases.

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The Veepstakes
3:41 am
Fri July 20, 2012

Jindal's Story Intrigues, But Can It Get Him A VP Nod?

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks during the 2011 Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Originally published on Fri July 20, 2012 2:42 pm

Mention Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and a lot of people still remember his 2009 Republican response to President Obama's first address to Congress. In a voice often compared to Kenneth the Page on 30 Rock, Jindal addressed viewers across the nation as if they were primary school students.

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U.S.
3:40 am
Fri July 20, 2012

Rain Over Texas Quenches Dry Lone Star State

Pedestrians stand along the River Walk in San Antonio, Texas, in May. The state has gotten a reprieve from more than a year of drought.
Eric Gay AP

Originally published on Fri July 20, 2012 2:42 pm

While severe drought is taking hold in the Midwest, Texas is doing better. At this time last year, the state was on fire, crops were desiccated in the field and livestock were slowly starving. But recent rains have almost ended more than a year of record drought.

"If you look at the way we were thinking and feeling on the last July 16, that was desperation. That was despair," says Gene Hall, public relations director for the Texas Farm Bureau.

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London 2012: The Summer Olympics
3:35 am
Fri July 20, 2012

Olympians' Dilemma: 'Starve My Soul' For Ramadan?

Mohammed Ahmed runs at the NCAA championships in June in Des Moines, Iowa. He's representing Canada at the Olympics and had to decide whether to fast for Ramadan this year.
Charlie Neibergall AP

Originally published on Wed July 25, 2012 8:12 am

Mazen Aziz, representing Egypt in the 2012 Summer Olympics, has trained for the 10,000-meter, open-water swim for years. It's a grueling race that can take upwards of 1 hour and 45 minutes, depending on the waves, current or water temperature.

But Aziz is Muslim, and with the Olympics falling during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the 22-year-old athlete had to make a choice: be in top physical condition or maintain a primary tenet of his faith.

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Shots - Health Blog
3:25 am
Fri July 20, 2012

Activists Fear Brazil's Triumph Over HIV Has Fizzled

Drag queens at an outdoor restaurant in Copacabana incorporate safe sex messages into a show of lip-synced songs and risque jokes.
Jason Beaubien NPR

Originally published on Fri July 20, 2012 2:42 pm

Brazil's HIV/AIDS program — which has been praised as a model for developing nations — is now under strain.

When HIV first emerged in the 1980s, Brazil responded quickly to the epidemic. The South American country launched large-scale safe-sex drives and gave away millions of condoms. It offered free treatment to anyone who was infected. The Brazilian government took on international pharmaceutical companies and even broke patents to cut medication costs.

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Asia
3:02 am
Fri July 20, 2012

N. Korean Conundrum: Are Political Changes Real?

In this photo released by the Korean Central News Agency and distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service on July 9, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is seen with a woman in Pyongyang. It's not clear who she is, but a first lady would be a marked departure from the days of Kim's father, who kept his personal life private.
AP

Originally published on Fri July 20, 2012 10:28 pm

North Korea's army has been swearing oaths of loyalty to leader Kim Jong Un after he was given the new title of marshal of the nation, cementing his position. This comes just days after the army chief was dismissed for illness. Analysts suspect these announcements are masking far deeper changes, but there's disagreement about what it means.

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StoryCorps
10:01 pm
Thu July 19, 2012

Two Tough Guys Meet Tough Times, And Each Other

Jake Bainter and "Boston" Bill Hansbury recently visited StoryCorps in St. Petersburg, Fla., where they discussed losing their right legs.
StoryCorps

Originally published on Fri July 20, 2012 2:42 pm

Back in 2008, "Boston" Bill Hansbury was learning to live with a prosthetic after losing his leg to an infection. That's when he met Jake Bainter, who was about to have his right leg amputated. The two struck up a friendship, despite a wide gap in their ages — Hansbury was 70, and Bainter was 7.

The pair recently discussed their friendship, and other topics, during a visit to StoryCorps in St. Petersburg, Fla.

"Boston Bill, tell me about the day that we met," says Jake, now 12.

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The Two-Way
6:46 pm
Thu July 19, 2012

Service Members Can March In Uniform At Pride Parade, Pentagon Says

In this July 16, 2011 photo, two women, both active duty sailors in the Navy who gave their names as Nikki, left, and Lisa, kiss as they march in the Gay Pride Parade in San Diego.
Gregory Bull AP

The AP is reporting that for the first time in United States history, the Department of Defense is allowing its members to march in uniform at a gay pride parade.

The Pentagon issued a statement today, saying it was making an exception for San Diego's Gay Pride Parade on Saturday. Normally, the Pentagon doesn't allow troops to march in parades in uniform.

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It's All Politics
6:45 pm
Thu July 19, 2012

Web Quiz Tells You Which Presidential Candidate Best Fits Your Worldview

ISideWith.com screenshot

Originally published on Thu July 19, 2012 7:28 pm

Take one guy with an abiding interest in politics, another guy with website-building skills and throw in the shared desire to get people more engaged in the political process, and you have the ingredients for an interactive site called ISideWith.com.

The site's purpose is to show you which presidential candidate's views most align with yours by running you through a short quiz that asks your stance on various policy issues, then determines which candidate most agrees with you.

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The Two-Way
5:46 pm
Thu July 19, 2012

A First As A Public Company, Microsoft Reports Quarterly Loss

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer comments on the Windows 8 operating system before unveiling Surface, a tablet computer to compete with Apple's iPad.
Damian Dovarganes AP

Originally published on Thu July 19, 2012 6:18 pm

Microsoft made a $6.2 billion accounting adjustment this quarter that threw it into negative territory for the first time as a public company, the AP reports.

Microsoft took the charge mostly based on the acquisition of aQuantive, an online advertising company Microsoft acquired in 2007.

As MSNBC reports, the "charge was an acknowledgement that the company's struggling online services division — which lost about half a billion dollars in the previous quarter — is a significant financial drag on the company." Microsoft, remember, is the owner of the search engine Bing.

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Around the Nation
5:46 pm
Thu July 19, 2012

When Hyphen Boy Meets Hyphen Girl, Names Pile Up

Sasha Harris-Cronin and her partner struggled with their daughter Shannon's last name. They finally decided on two middle names and a hybrid hyphenated last name: Shannon Bayard Cronin Harris-Taylor.
Courtesy of Sasha Harris-Cronin

Originally published on Fri July 20, 2012 8:43 pm

Those born at the height of the name-hyphenating craze will be the first to tell you — having two last names can be more trouble than it's worth. There's the perennial confusion at school and at the doctor's office, and the challenge of squeezing your name onto forms.

And now that the hyphenated generation is marrying and parenting, a whole host of new tricky situations has emerged.

Take Leila and Brendan. Their story is one of those fairy tale stories of love at first sight. She was in the lobby of her apartment building when this cute guy started moving in.

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All Tech Considered
5:46 pm
Thu July 19, 2012

As Wikipedia Gets Pickier, Editors Become Harder To Find

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales speaks during "Wikimania 2012," an international Wikimedia conference, in Washington, D.C.
Mandel Ngan AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu July 19, 2012 6:38 pm

Admit it. You've used the free, crowd-sourced entries of Wikipedia to brush up on history or look up a fact or two in many a trivia conundrum. And you're not alone. Since Wikipedia was launched more than a decade ago, millions of Web users have "Wikied" this or that.

But what have you done for Wikipedia lately?

Maybe you've added a sentence or two to an entry, or even created a new page about for your favorite up-and-coming indie artist.

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Mom And Dad's Record Collection
5:46 pm
Thu July 19, 2012

At Home With The Coltranes, Listening To Stravinsky

Saxophonist Ravi Coltrane is the son of jazz icons John and Alice Coltrane. His new album Spirit Fiction was released June 19.
Deborah Feingold Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Fri July 20, 2012 8:45 pm

Today, All Things Considered continues its Mom and Dad's Record Collection series with a musician who is a heir of American musical royalty.

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The Salt
5:19 pm
Thu July 19, 2012

As Drought Kills Corn, Farmers Fight Over Ethanol

Stunted corn grows in a field next to a cattle feed lot in rural Springfield, Omaha, Neb.
Nati Harnik AP

We often talk about the "farm lobby" as though farmers spoke with a unified voice. And it's true, they usually try to.

But an unusually bitter and public fight is breaking out right now between the farmers who grow corn and other farmers who need to buy that corn.

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The Veepstakes
5:10 pm
Thu July 19, 2012

From Rival To Running Mate? Possible For Pawlenty

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney campaign in Las Vegas on Oct. 17, 2011.
Ethan Miller Getty Images

Originally published on Thu July 19, 2012 6:38 pm

As he shadowed President Obama's bus tour in Pennsylvania early this month, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty gave a pretty good impression of a man auditioning for a job.

There was Pawlenty as attack dog, one of the traditional roles of a running mate.

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The Two-Way
5:04 pm
Thu July 19, 2012

$20K For Drumsticks? GSA Back In Limelight For Conference Spending

Originally published on Thu July 19, 2012 6:56 pm

The General Services Administration, which is tasked with developing the rules followed by other government agencies, is back in the limelight for the money it spent on a one-day event in the Washington, D.C. area.

In a letter to House members, the agency's inspector general says it has launched an investigation after its initial findings showed the GSA spent $268,732 on the event.

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Middle East
4:57 pm
Thu July 19, 2012

Russia, China Block Another U.N. Resolution On Syria

Originally published on Thu July 19, 2012 6:38 pm

Transcript

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: I'm Jackie Northam in Washington. Today at the U.N., Russia and China vetoed a Western-backed draft resolution that warned of sanctions against the Syrian regime unless it complies with a peace plan.

This is the third time those two countries have used their veto power to block a resolution on Syria. Britain's U.N. ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, called the decision by Russia and China appalling, and said it would lead to further bloodshed in Syria.

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Shots - Health Blog
4:47 pm
Thu July 19, 2012

How You Move Your Arm Says Something About Who You Are

Researchers studying brains want to know what's happening in an area called the premotor cortex — the place in the brain that gears up for something the body is about to do, like swimming. Above, Michael Phelps dives off the starting blocks in the final heat of the men's 400-meter individual medley during the 2012 U.S. Olympic Swimming Team Trials in Omaha, Neb., on June 25.
Jamie Squire Getty Images

Originally published on Thu August 9, 2012 1:47 pm

When Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps steps onto a starting block a few days from now, a Stanford scientist named Krishna Shenoy will be asking himself a question: "What's going on in Michael Phelps' brain?"

Specifically, Shenoy would like to know what's happening in an area called the premotor cortex. This area doesn't directly tell muscles what to do. But it's the place where the brain gears up for something the body is about to do, like swimming.

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Shots - Health Blog
4:24 pm
Thu July 19, 2012

South African Doctors Uneasy About HIV Prevention Pill

Longtime AIDS activist Dr. Ashraf Grimwood says South Africa has made huge strides in confronting HIV. But he worries that giving anti-retroviral drugs to healthy people could have negative consequences in the long term.
Jason Beaubien NPR

Originally published on Thu July 19, 2012 9:54 pm

The news that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week approved the use of Truvada, an AIDS drug, to prevent infections in people who are HIV-negative is being greeted with skepticism, derision and even worry by some doctors in South Africa.

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The Two-Way
4:20 pm
Thu July 19, 2012

As Fighting In Syria Intensifies, U.S. Worries About Chemical Weapons

Syrian President Bashar Assad waves at supporters during a rare public appearance in Damascus on Jan. 11.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu July 19, 2012 4:49 pm

"Deathly afraid."

That's what one U.S. official says about the prospect that Syria's vast stockpile of chemical weapons might be used against rebel forces. From a U.S. national security standpoint, an even worse outcome would be for those weapons to fall into the hands of terrorists.

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