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Through The Lens: Seeing Veterans Up Close

Nov 11, 2011

Suzanne Opton is the author of Soldier/Many Wars.

When the war in Iraq began, I worried there would be a draft. What if my son was called? How would he ever recover from going to war?

I decided that I wanted to meet the young men and women who voluntarily sign up. I began at Fort Drum in upstate New York where I photographed soldiers between tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. There was little conversation as I asked each soldier to adopt a vulnerable, intimate position, and lay his or her head on a table. I did not give these images captions.

This week thousands of women gathered in Portland, Ore., for the Grace Hopper Celebration, the world's largest technical conference for women and computing. High-tech companies are hiring, but there aren't nearly enough women to meet the demand.

Kate Schmalzried, a graduate student at Stanford, recalls one of her very first classes at the university — Computer Science 106A.

"That was really a good introduction to women in tech — there weren't many women in the class," she says, chuckling. "I distinctly remember being the only girl in my section."

The government of Myanmar bars or severely restricts reporting by foreign correspondents. NPR is withholding the name of the veteran journalist who recently entered the country and filed this story, in order to protect his identity and his ability to return in the future.

Barely two weeks ago, it appeared that European leaders had a package to contain their debt crisis. Greece's problems would be managed, with private bondholders taking a hit on their investments and a new bailout to help the government meet its obligations. A European rescue fund would protect Italy and Spain from any risk spreading from Greece.

Markets soared. And then, this week, they crashed.

The Senate has approved just in time for Veterans Day a series of tax credits designed to make it easier for veterans to find jobs.

Some 240,000 veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are out of work. The Senate bill would provide tax breaks of up to $9,600 to private employers who hire them.

The tax credits are the first sliver of President Obama's $447 billion jobs package to actually win bipartisan approval in the Senate. Obama says service members who fought for their country shouldn't have to fight for jobs when they come home.

The National Archives has released President Nixon's long-secret grand jury testimony in the Watergate scandal. Nixon gave the testimony, spanning 298 pages, in 1975 after he had been named an unindicted co-conspirator, resigned and been pardoned for criminal abuses of government power.

From the get-go, the testimony is vintage Nixon — manipulative, self-pitying, and as unrevealing as possible.

Facebook moving toward changing its policy about privacy settings, abandoning an "opt-out" approach for one in which its members would have to "opt in" to allow strangers to see personal information stored on their profile pages, according to reports.

The shift is seen as a response to the Federal Trade Commission's accusation that the social media network deceived its members when it changed its policies in 2009.

Karen Kraushaar, who received a 1999 settlement in a workplace sexual harassment complaint against Herman Cain, has decided not to hold a joint press conference with three other women who have also alleged past harassment by the GOP presidential candidate, her attorney said Thursday afternoon.

Only Sharon Bialek, who held a press conference this week to allege that Cain made an inappropriate sexual advance when she met with him to seek help finding a job, had agreed to participate.

She is being represented by well-known lawyer, Gloria Allred.

Why We Lie About Using Food Thermometers

Nov 10, 2011

Come Thanksgiving, cooks tend to go rummaging in the drawer to dig out the food thermometer; it may be the day we feel most compelled to deploy the slender little probe to keep the killer microbes at bay.

Or so we say. But we may be lying.

A final decision on building a new oil pipeline to connect Alberta, Canada, to U.S. refineries near the Gulf of Mexico will not be made until after the 2012 presidential election, the State Department said Thursday.

TransCanada's proposal to build the Keystone XL pipeline had come under pressure from environmentalists, as well as government officials in Nebraska. It would cost an estimated $7 billion to build.

Could former Florida football coach Urban Meyer be the next head coach at Penn State?

A Senate vote along party lines rejected a Republican proposal to overturn Federal Communications Commission rules that prevent Internet service providers from discriminating against similar websites or content providers.

The net neutrality rules, as they are called, were passed in December and the House passed a bill overturning the rules in April. Today, the Senate rejected the measure, ending the challenge. Reuters reports:

One of the strongest storms to hit western Alaska in almost 40 years tore through several coastal communities Wednesday, tearing up roofs and leaving many residents without power. Winds as high as 89 mph were recorded in some places, and flooding was a concern for many villages already soaked by rain.

Fat monkeys, rejoice!

An experimental drug that zeroes in on the blood vessels that feed fatty tissue helped obese monkeys lose quite a bit of weight in a study done by researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Great for monkeys, sure. But maybe great for you, too.

Greece Announces Interim Government

Nov 10, 2011

After keeping a nervous world waiting for days, the squabbling politicians of debt-ridden Greece finally announced a new interim government Thursday. It will be headed by a former European Central banker, Lucas Papademos, whose main task will be to ensure that Greece meets the conditions set by its European partners to receive new loan money and avoid default. That means showing that Greece will enforce austerity measures.

In Cuba, Door Opens To Residential Property Market

Nov 10, 2011

First-time visitors to Havana immediately notice two things about the city: the graceful architecture of its buildings, and the fact that so many of them are in ruins.

But walking through the crumbling Centro Habana neighborhood this week, there was another sight: homeowners beating back the decay on nearly every block.

That's because a new law takes effect Thursday allowing Cubans to buy and sell residential property for the first time in 50 years.

Final Keystone Pipeline Decision Delayed

Nov 10, 2011

The U.S. State Department is ordering the developer of a pipeline that would carry oil from western Canada to Texas to reroute it around environmentally sensitive areas of Nebraska.

That means possibly delaying a final U.S. decision until after the 2012 election.

The decision to order Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. to figure out a way around an area that supplies water to eight states will require an environmental review of the new section. That review probably would take at least a year.

"I don't want the euro to fall apart," says Simon Wolfson.

Lots of people don't want the euro to fall apart. But Wolfson feels compelled to say so because he's offering a $400,000 prize for figuring out how to dismantle the euro.

Wolfson — aka Lord Wolfson of Aspley Guise — is the CEO of a big retailer called NEXT. He has argued against the UK joining the euro, but his company has stores all around the euro zone.

Cleaning up the air, while good for our lungs, could make global warming worse. That conclusion is underscored by a new study, which looks at the pollutants that go up smokestacks along with carbon dioxide.

These pollutants are called aerosols and they include soot as well as compounds of nitrogen and sulfur and other stuff into the air. Natalie Mahowald, a climate researcher at Cornell University, says so far, scientists have mostly tried to understand what those aerosols do while they're actually in the air.

PHOTO: Silvio Berlusconi's Notes

Nov 10, 2011

On Tuesday, Italy's Parliament cast a vote on a measure to approve the 2010 state finances. But it was no ordinary vote: It laid bare the fact that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had lost a majority. That vote would eventually lead to Berlusconi offering his resignation on Wednesday.

In all the news, we missed this interesting picture:

Wilson Ramos of the Washington Nationals appears to be the first Major League Baseball player to have fallen victim to what's become an alarming trend in Venezuela: the kidnapping and holding for ransom of the rich. He was grabbed Wednesday by gunmen and hasn't been seen since.

But he's not the first major leaguer to have been touched by the epidemic of kidnappings-for-ransom in Venezuela.

'Tis almost the season, and what would the holidays be without our favorite foods?

There are the traditional standbys — like turkey and cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, or latkes for Hanukkah. But many people also have a special dish they eat only during the holidays. For example, one NPR reader raves about lefse, which she says is a potato-based staple for any traditional Norwegian-American holiday dinner. It's "best served hot with butter. Or cold with butter and sugar. Butter is key," she writes.

Soul food has become the comfort food for a lot of Americans – not just the African-Americans whose ancestors invented it.

Now, food educators are looking closely at soul food's culinary roots for inspiration on how to eat healthfully today.

A group of culinary historians, nutritionists and health experts have put together the Oldways African Heritage Diet Pyramid, a new model for healthful eating designed specifically for African-Americans and descendants of Africans everywhere.

The Nixon Library and National Archives have released a trove of documents (.pdf and a big file) relating to former President Richard Nixon's grand jury testimony. The testimony, taken after Nixon resigned, was the first by a president. Nixon was interviewed at his California home on June 23 and 24, 1975, after he had been pardoned by President Gerald Ford. The release of documents was ordered by a federal judge back in July.

With so much attention being given to the firing of football coach Joe Paterno and school President Graham Spanier, as well the long-term impact on the school from the sexual abuse scandal that came to light at Penn State this week, there's a danger of the alleged victims being forgotten.

An Unorthodox Approach To Tricky Surgery

Nov 10, 2011

Add minimally invasive surgery through an opening between the cheek and jaw to the list of procedures I'm happy exist and that I hope I'll never have to endure.

A Johns Hopkins surgeon who is pretty handy with an endoscope has figured out how to operate in some hard-to-reach spots at the base of the skull through a natural opening that's above the jawbone, behind the back teeth and just below the cheekbone.

It requires a small incision inside the cheek, sure, but that's no biggie, really.

It didn't take before the Obama administration backed down on a plan to tax Christmas trees this holiday season. Shortly after the USDA announced it had approved a 15-cent per tree fee, there was an uproar.

Disgraced American cyclist Floyd Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title, today was convicted in absentia by a French court "for his role in hacking into the computers of a French doping lab," The Associated Press reports. Landis was given a suspended sentence of 12 months.

Part 4 of a four-part series, Poisoned Places: Toxic Air, Neglected Communities

Jeani Thomson has been pleading with New York state officials for more than 30 years to protect her neighborhood from the foul-smelling "blue fog" that settles in her yard. She has long suspected the source is an industrial facility about a mile from her house called Tonawanda Coke.

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