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4:39pm

Wed December 17, 2014
Latin America

Rep. Van Hollen: Alan Gross' Release A 'Miraculous' Moment

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 9:07 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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4:39pm

Wed December 17, 2014
Global Health

Dreaming Up A Safer, Cooler PPE For Ebola Fighters

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 5:56 pm

This design of this new anti-Ebola suit will make health workers more comfortable and could also save lives.
Courtesy of Clinvue and Roy Heisler

Here's what it takes to design a better Ebola suit: a roomful of university students and professors, piles of canvas and Tyvek cloth, sewing machines, glue guns ... and chocolate syrup.

Even Youseph Yazdi, head of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design (CBID), still isn't sure what the syrup was for.

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4:39pm

Wed December 17, 2014
Goats and Soda

We're Down To 5 Northern White Rhinos: Is It Too Late For Babies?

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 9:07 pm

Najin, a female northern white rhino, gets a pat from keeper Mohamed Doyo. Najin, who lives at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, is one of only five of its subspecies left in the world.
Ben Curtis AP

A 44-year-old northern white rhino named Angalifu died this week at the San Diego Zoo of old age.

Now only five animals remain in this subspecies, all in captivity. Four are females. The lone male lives in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

So it would seem the northern white rhino is doomed to extinction. Poachers are to blame — they've slain thousands of the rhinos to get their horns, which are hawked in Asia as a health tonic.

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4:34pm

Wed December 17, 2014
The Two-Way

Obama Issues 12 Pardons, Commutes 8 Sentences

President Obama commuted the prison sentences of eight people who were convicted of drug-related crimes Wednesday, in a move that also saw 12 presidential pardons issued, for offenses ranging from theft to running an illegal distillery.

Half of the eight whose sentences were commuted had been sentenced to life imprisonment.

Citing "unduly harsh sentences issued for drug offenses under an outdated sentencing regime," a White House official said Wednesday that all eight of those who were punished for drug offenses "would receive a substantially lower sentence today."

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4:31pm

Wed December 17, 2014
The Two-Way

Alan Gross' Release: How It Went Down

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 9:44 am

Alan Gross and his wife, Judy, in Washington on Wednesday after his release from a Cuban prison.
Algerina Perna Baltimore Sun/TNS /Landov

American Alan Gross had spent more than five years in a Cuban prison, where he lost five teeth, 100 pounds and much of the sight in his right eye. He could barely walk because of chronic pain and was, his wife Judy Gross said in June, "despondent and very hopeless" because he had 10 years to go in his sentence for crimes against the Cuban state. Then, on Tuesday, his lawyer, Scott Gilbert, told him in a phone call that he was going home.

There was a long pause, his spokeswoman Jill Zuckman said today in Washington, and then Gross said, "I'll believe it when I see it."

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4:10pm

Wed December 17, 2014
Shots - Health News

What Happens After You Get That Mammogram

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 11:50 am

This graphic lays out the possible outcomes for 10,000 women if they start getting annual screening mammograms at age 50 and continue that for 10 years.
Courtesy of JAMA

Women and their doctors have a hard time figuring out the pluses and minuses of screening mammograms for breast cancer. It doesn't help that there's been fierce dissent over the benefits of screening mammography for women under 50 and for older women.

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3:39pm

Wed December 17, 2014
The Two-Way

Sony Cancels Christmas Day Release Of 'The Interview' Amid Threats

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 12:32 pm

Updated at 5:10 p.m. ET

Sony Pictures has canceled the Christmas Day release of The Interview, the comedy that centers on a plot to assassinate North Korea's leader. The move came after the largest U.S. movie theater chains said they won't screen the film in the wake of threats against them by a group that also allegedly hacked Sony's internal documents.

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2:40pm

Wed December 17, 2014
The Two-Way

PHOTO: The Meaning In A Phone Call

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 8:25 am

President Obama speaks with President Raul Castro of Cuba from the Oval Office on Tuesday.
Pete Souza The White House

On Tuesday, President Obama picked up the phone and talked to Cuban President Raul Castro.

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2:38pm

Wed December 17, 2014
The Two-Way

Alan Gross, U.S. Contractor Freed By Cuba, Says 'It's Good To Be Home'

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 2:56 pm

Alan Gross addresses a news conference in Washington on Wednesday hours after his release from Cuba.
Gary Cameron Reuters /Landov

American Alan Gross, who spent five years in a Cuban prison before his release today as a humanitarian gesture, said "it's good to be home," and that he hoped the U.S. and Cuba move past their "mutually belligerent" policies.

"Two wrongs never made a right," Gross said in Washington shortly after he returned to the U.S. aboard a government plane.

Gross appeared frail but cheerful. Some of his front teeth were missing.

Gross thanked President Obama and his national security team for working toward his freedom.

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2:20pm

Wed December 17, 2014
Parallels

The U.S. And Cuba: A Brief History Of A Complicated Relationship

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 10:49 pm

Fidel Castro looks up at the Jefferson Memorial on April 16, 1959. The Cuban leader visited Washington several months after seizing power. But U.S.-Cuban relations quickly frayed, and the U.S. imposed an embargo of the island in 1960.
AP

Just months after he seized power in Cuba, Fidel Castro visited Washington in April 1959. He placed a wreath at the base of both the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials and was photographed looking up in seeming admiration of both U.S. presidents.

For U.S.-Cuba relations, it was all downhill after that.

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1:34pm

Wed December 17, 2014
The Two-Way

Prisoner Exchange With Cuba Led To Freedom For Top U.S. Intelligence Agent

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 2:22 pm

Today's announcement that Cuba freed USAID contractor Alan Gross as a humanitarian gesture came with news of a separate prisoner exchange: Three convicted Cuban spies were traded for a U.S. intelligence asset who spent nearly two decades in Cuban prisons.

President Obama called the unnamed man "one of the most important intelligence agents that the United States has ever had in Cuba."

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1:32pm

Wed December 17, 2014
Music

D'Angelo's 'Black Messiah' Collapses Years, Genres

D'Angelo has built a considerable reputation on the basis of three albums: 1995's Brown Sugar, 2000's Voodoo, and now Black Messiah, unexpectedly released early Monday morning. The singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist has been widely praised for connecting many decades of different rhythm & blues styles, and Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker says Black Messiah is as adventurous as any fan could hope for.

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1:32pm

Wed December 17, 2014
Author Interviews

Between World Wars, Gay Culture Flourished In Berlin

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WILLKOMMEN")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome.

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1:30pm

Wed December 17, 2014
Shots - Health News

Managed Care Plans Make Progress In Erasing Racial Disparities

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 4:25 pm

A nurse checks a man's blood pressure during a health clinic In Los Angeles.
Patrick Fallon Bloomberg via Getty Images

Years of efforts to reduce the racial disparities in health care have so far failed to eliminate them. But progress is being made in the western United States, due largely to efforts by managed care plans to identify patients who were missing out on management of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

While management of blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar improved nationwide, African-Americans still "substantially" trailed whites everywhere except the western U.S., an area from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific as well as Alaska and Hawaii.

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1:26pm

Wed December 17, 2014
The Two-Way

New Cuba Policy Is Met With Cheers And Jeers On Both Sides Of The Aisle

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 3:46 pm

Updated at 3:42 p.m.

The Obama administration announced today that it would begin the process of re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba.

It's a contentious issue, and reaction has been swift. Here's a roundup:

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1:13pm

Wed December 17, 2014
The Salt

A Holy Land Christmas Porridge Honors A Damsel In Distress

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 4:19 pm

In Jerusalem, Syrian Orthodox Christian Nadia Ishaq prepares her burbara porridge with boiled what kernels, raisins, dried plums and dried apricots, topped with ground coconut in the shape of a cross. The holiday honors St. Barbara, an early convert to Christianity whose story is echoed in the Rapunzel tale.
Daniella Cheslow for NPR

The winter holidays are a time of abundance, but for Christians in the Middle East, the official start of the Christmas season is marked by a decidedly rustic dish: porridge.

Archbishop Swerios Murad of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem says his congregation will eat boiled wheat kernels this week to mark the Feast of St. Barbara, or Eid el-Burbara in Arabic.

"It's a simple porridge," Murad tells The Salt, "but it's very important that it be sweet."

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12:13pm

Wed December 17, 2014
Goats and Soda

Medical Workers In Conflict Zones Have Never Faced Greater Risks

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 4:26 pm

Dr. Mohammed Arif helps treat a wounded patient at a field hospital in Kobani, Syria. Most of the clinics in this besieged Syrian border town are now in ruins. Only one still stands, its location kept secret lest it be targeted.
Jake Simkin AP

Last month, American aid worker Peter Kassig was executed in Syria by the Islamic State militant group. The 26-year-old emergency medical technician had worked in hospitals, clinics and refugee camps throughout the region for more than two years. He was known for treating anyone who needed him, regardless of political affiliation. In a country like Syria, that kind of openness is both a statement of integrity and a huge personal risk.

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12:06pm

Wed December 17, 2014
Shots - Health News

Behind The Scenes At The Lab That Fingerprints Microbiomes

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 5:32 pm

Rob Knight, co-founder of the American Gut Project at the University of Colorado in Boulder, works in the lab where the samples are processed.
The American Gut Project

The gut microbiome may soon reveal important answers to questions about our health. But those answers aren't yet easy to spot or quick to obtain.

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11:32am

Wed December 17, 2014
The Salt

Way Beyond Brownies: Vice Launches A Marijuana Cooking Show

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 2:32 pm

Aurora Leveroni, 91, is also known as "Nonna Marijuana."
Vice

On Sunday, my mother sent me an email: "OMG! Watch this unbelievable cooking show!"

It wasn't spam, and my mother, who's 65, does not use OMG lightly.

The fuss was over a 20-minute video about a 91-year-old grandmother who cooks Italian classics in marijuana-infused butter.

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11:19am

Wed December 17, 2014
Parallels

A Tweet On Women's Veils, Followed By Raging Debate In Saudi Arabia

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 1:48 pm

Saudi Arabian women wear their traditional face covering, the niqab, at a coffee and chocolate exhibition in the capital Riyadh on Monday. A prominent religious figure said on Twitter that the face veil is not mandatory, sparking a heated national debate.
Fayez Nureldine AFP/Getty Images

The man at the eye of the storm in Saudi Arabia is Ahmad Aziz Al Ghamdi. He's a religious scholar, the former head of the religious police in Mecca, a group officially known as the Committee for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

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10:52am

Wed December 17, 2014
The Two-Way

Polls Show Cuban-American Views On U.S.-Cuba Relations Are Nuanced

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 12:07 pm

Men play chess at the Maximo Gomez Domino park in Little Havana in Miami, where political opinions are shifting.
Roberto Schmidt AFP/Getty Images

With news that the United States will work toward re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba and easing the embargo, there is already talk about the reaction in the Cuban-American community.

In political terms, this is a major voting bloc in the hugely important swing state of Florida.

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10:51am

Wed December 17, 2014
U.S.

Cuba, U.S. Agree To Prisoner Release Including American Alan Gross

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 11:29 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

9:59am

Wed December 17, 2014
The Two-Way

Church Of England Names Its First Female Bishop

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 10:54 am

The Rev. Libby Lane will be consecrated on Jan. 26.
Nigel Roddis Getty Images

The Church of England has named its first female bishop.

The Rev. Libby Lane, who has been a parish priest for 20 years, will be consecrated on Jan. 26, becoming the first woman to hold that position since the church was founded five centuries ago.

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9:31am

Wed December 17, 2014
The Two-Way

Obama Unveils 'New Approach' On Cuba As Former Foes Chart New Course

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 2:41 pm

President Obama announced Wednesday that the U.S. will work with Cuba to normalize diplomatic ties.
Doug Mills UPI /Landov

Updated at 2:39 p.m. ET

President Obama announced today the most significant change in U.S. policy toward Cuba in more than 50 years, paving the way for the normalization of relations and the opening of a U.S. Embassy in Havana.

Obama said "we will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries."

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8:01am

Wed December 17, 2014
The Two-Way

In Pictures: After Horrific Attack, Pakistan Picks Up The Pieces

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 12:15 pm

The uncle and cousin of injured student Mohammad Baqair (center) comfort him as he mourns the death of his mother, who was a teacher at the school that was attacked.
Mohammad Sajjad AP

Pakistan is picking up the pieces today after an attack on a school by Taliban militants left 145 people dead.

It's a heart-wrenching story. We've collected the news in a different post. Here, we'll tell the story visually, but fair warning — the photographs are representative of the horrific attack, so they're tough to look at:

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7:32am

Wed December 17, 2014
Europe

AP Photographer Snaps Engagement Photo

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 11:29 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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7:32am

Wed December 17, 2014
Animals

Stray Cat In Russia Feasts On Fish

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 11:29 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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7:20am

Wed December 17, 2014
The Two-Way

As Pakistan Mourns, Prime Minister Removes Moratorium On Death Penalty

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 8:27 am

Chairs are upturned and blood stains the floor at the Army Public School auditorium the day after Taliban gunmen stormed the school in Peshawar, Pakistan.
B.K. Bangash AP

A day after a horrific Taliban attack on a school that left 145 people dead, Pakistan began to take stock.

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5:04am

Wed December 17, 2014
NPR Story

Senate Adjourns, GOP To Take Over In January

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 11:29 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The 113th Congress has officially come to a close. The Senate adjourned late last night after passing a bill to extend tax breaks and confirming a slew of nominations. NPR's Ailsa Chang reports.

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5:04am

Wed December 17, 2014
NPR Story

Pakistan Observes 3 Days Of Mourning After School Attack

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 6:33 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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