In California, Governor Jerry Brown has signed an emergency drought declaration, saying his state is seeing the driest weather in about a century. This is California's third consecutive dry year with no appreciable rain in sight. As NPR's Richard Gonzales reports, cities and counties across the state are taking drastic measures.
Embattled New Jersey Governor Chris Christie travels to Florida this weekend but the trip is hardly a vacation. Christie is the star attraction at a series of fundraising events across the state. It's Christie's first major trip as chairman of the Republican Governors Association. And as NPR's Joel Rose reports, it may be an important test of how the scandal over lane closures at the George Washington Bridge is affecting his national ambitions.
When peace talks open in Switzerland, one common concern between the West and Syria is expected to be the threat of Islamist extremists and the rise of al-Qaida-linked militias. Thousands of Sunni militants from around the world have joined the rebel groups in Syria, but there are other groups of militant foreign fighters who support the Syrian regime. Iraqi Shiites are being recruited in the thousands to bolster Syria's armed forces. Recruiting billboards and social media help portray the fight as an existential battle between Sunnis and Muslims.
Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 6:40 pm
Freedom Industries, the West Virginia company that's been blamed for a chemical spill that left around 300,000 people without water for days, has filed for bankruptcy. The chemical used in cleaning coal leaked into the Elk River and into the public water system.
Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors, and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:
Richard Powers' new novel, Orfeo, tells the story of an avant-garde classical music composer who finds himself dabbling in DNA. Like the Orpheus myth that inspired the book's name, this story takes its hero, Peter Els, on a journey. He becomes a fugitive accused of bioterror, but what follows is also a walk back into the recesses of his own memory told through the music and people he's loved and lost.
Nothing ends the tech week with a bang like the president's much-anticipated words on the NSA. But let's start with the weekly roundup of tech news from here at NPR and our friends at publications around the country.
Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 5:12 pm
Tom Coburn will leave the Senate with a reputation as "Dr. No," but not necessarily as doctrinaire.
The Oklahoma Republican, who at age 65 is undergoing his fifth bout of cancer, announced that he will resign in December, two years before his second term expires.
"This decision isn't about my health, my prognosis or even my hopes and desires," Coburn, a physician, said in a statement. "As a citizen, I am now convinced that I can best serve my own children and grandchildren by shifting my focus elsewhere."
Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 6:13 pm
In a period of just over two years, Pope Benedict XVI defrocked nearly 400 priests for molesting children, according to the AP, which says it obtained a document representing a rare collection of such data.
As of Friday afternoon, NPR hasn't independently confirmed the AP's information, not having seen the document. Here's a bit of context from NPR's Sylvia Poggioli in Rome:
"If confirmed, the number of nearly 400 marks a sharp increase over the 170 priests removed in 2008 and 2009, when the Vatican first provided details on the number of defrocked priests.
Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 4:17 pm
From the outside, it's nothing special. Just another 1970s-era house with a landscaped yard, white columns, and green shutters. Thousands of people drive past the split-level on Wade Avenue in Raleigh every month, without a second glance.
And that's just what its owners intended — because this house is far more unusual than its appearance would suggest.