7:40am

Fri December 16, 2011
The Two-Way

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

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

Christopher Hitchens.
Brendan Banaszak NPR

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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7:40am

Fri December 16, 2011
Kentucky Arts and Culture

Sing Strongly and Carry a Big Handel

The Singletary Center for the Arts

In defense of the “Big Messiah,” the Lexington Singers perform the holiday classic this weekend at the Singletary Center.  According to Rich Copley of the Lexington Herald Leader, this Messiah will buck recent trends and offer a full blown production.  And, at the Lyric Theater, there’s an off-beat holiday comedy, titled “Smackdown for the Holiday Crown.”

7:27am

Fri December 16, 2011
Africa

Thieves Apprehended After Pocket Dialing 911

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 3:23 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Good morning, I'm Renee Montagne. Most thieves don't turn themselves in, but two in Wisconsin did without quite intending to. As the men drove off after stealing DVDs and video games from Target, one thief pocket-dialed 9-1-1. A dispatcher listened as the duo detailed their heist, including how the police would be looking for their Blue Dodge Durango.

That tip led the cops directly to them. After 54 minutes, their call to 9-1-1 finally ended with their arrest.

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7:23am

Fri December 16, 2011
It's All Politics

With Iowa Vote Looming, Gingrich Struggles To Stay Atop GOP Field

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 8:36 am

Republican presidential candidate former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks during a Republican presidential debate in Sioux City, Iowa, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011.
Eric Gay AP

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich got front-runner treatment Thursday night in Iowa during the final GOP debate before that state's crucial Jan. 3 caucuses, taking a pounding for his years as a highly-compensated Washington influence peddler.

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7:21am

Fri December 16, 2011
Around the Nation

Secret Santa Drops Krugerrand In Donation Bucket

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 3:23 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne with news of a mysterious donation found in a Salvation Army bucket in Pennsylvania. A gold South African Krugerrand - worth about $1,700 - was found in a kettle Wednesday outside a Wal-Mart. This isn't the first time this has happened. The coins seem to appear almost every year near Gettysburg. Similar coins have been discovered in Salvation Army collections from Tennessee to Chicago. Still, no one's figures out who the secret Santa is. It's MORNING EDITION. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

7:05am

Fri December 16, 2011
The Two-Way

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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7:00am

Fri December 16, 2011
Best Books Of 2011

A Passion For The Past: 2011's Best Historical Fiction

Priscilla Nielsen for NPR

Historical fiction invites us to experience the exotic and the unknown while confirming our common humanity. I do not believe that human nature has changed much over the centuries, and it is possible to identify with the emotions, passions, and fears of men and women long dead.

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6:30am

Fri December 16, 2011
The Two-Way

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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6:00am

Fri December 16, 2011
The Commonwealth

Public Radio Pioneer Retires from WEKU

Ron Smith, reporter/producer, began his career at WEKU Radio in July 1976, holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in broadcasting arts from Morehead State. He will continue teaching English to international students.
Eastern Kentucky University

Today, we celebrate the career of WEKU reporter Ron Smith, which dates back to 1972, making him a public radio pioneer in the Commonwealth.  Ron officially leaves WEKU Radio today, but in his semi-retirement, he’ll remain a fixture at Eastern Kentucky University, where he teaches.  And, Ron will do the occasional report for WEKU.   We wish Ron Smith good luck as he enters this new stage of his life.

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4:00am

Fri December 16, 2011
Economy

Popularity Bankrupts Early Retiree Program

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 3:23 pm

A $5 billion federal program to pay for the health benefits of early retirees is proving to be more popular than expected. So popular that it's running out of money earlier than planned. The fund, part of the health care overhaul, was to provide a bridge of insurance coverage until 2014 when early retirees would have many more options under the health care law.

This report is part of a collaboration between Minnesota Public Radio, NPR, and Kaiser Health News.

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