Mark Memmott

Mark Memmott joined NPR News in the spring of 2009 to launch a new blog, "The Two-Way," with co-blogger Frank James.

"The Two-Way" is the place where NPR.org gives readers breaking news and analysis — and where it engages users in conversations ("two-ways") about the most compelling stories being reported by NPR News and other news media.

Memmott came to NPR from USA Today, where for over 20 years he worked as a reporter and editor on subjects ranging from politics and, foreign affairs to economics and the media.

In recent years he helped launch and then led three different news blogs at USATODAY.com, including the website's 2008 presidential campaign blog, On Politics.

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10:49am

Tue March 4, 2014
The Two-Way

$2 Million Settlement Closes Ohio's 'Caged Kids' Case

Originally published on Tue March 4, 2014 11:26 am

Down this road is the home in northern Ohio where 11 children endured abuses such as being forced to sleep in cages. They were rescued in 2005.
Jamie-Andrea Yanak AP

A notorious story that became known as the "caged kids" case after 11 young children were rescued from an Ohio home nearly a decade ago has gotten to its final chapter.

The 11 victims have reached a $2 million settlement with Ohio's Stark County where three of them had lived before being placed in the home of Michael and Sharen Gravelle, where the adoptive parents forced the children to sleep in cages.

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9:59am

Tue March 4, 2014
The Two-Way

For Those Itching To Etch, Great Wall Now Has A Graffiti Zone

Two of the names carved into the Great Wall, in this case near Badaling, China. Authorities hope to cut down on graffiti by giving tourists a designated spot to leave their marks.
David Guttenfelder AP

Chinese authorities are trying to contain a growing problem — graffiti written on and carved into the stones of the Great Wall of China — by giving tourists a designated section on which they can leave their marks.

China News Service reports that "Mutianyu, a famous section of the Great Wall of China, has established a specified area for graffiti to better protect the ancient heritage item, the governing authority said on Sunday."

Most of the graffiti, the news service says, is in English.

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8:10am

Tue March 4, 2014
The Two-Way

At Last, No News Is Good News When It Comes To The Weather

Originally published on Tue March 4, 2014 9:37 am

For one day at least, an "all clear" has been issued.
National Weather Service

We wouldn't normally post a map that basically says there's nothing happening.

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7:29am

Tue March 4, 2014
The Two-Way

Putin Says Those Aren't Russian Forces In Crimea

Originally published on Tue March 4, 2014 12:50 pm

Russian President Vladimir Putin during his news conference Tuesday.
Alexei Nikolsky AP

(We updated this post at 11:55 a.m. ET.)

Russian soldiers have not occupied government buildings and surrounded Ukrainian military bases on the Crimean Peninsula, Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted Tuesday during a news conference near Moscow at which he gave an account of recent events that contradicts reports from the ground.

Instead, he told reporters that the heavily armed men are "local self-defense forces."

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12:30pm

Mon March 3, 2014
The Two-Way

Russia Denies Issuing Ultimatum Or Warning Ukraine Of 'Storm'

Originally published on Mon March 3, 2014 4:21 pm

Armed men in military uniform, believed to be Russian soldiers, were outside the territory of a Ukrainian military unit in Bakhchisaray, on the Crimean Peninsula, on Monday.
Maxim Shipenkov EPA/LANDOV

Update at 12:45 p.m. ET: "Total Nonsense," Russian Official Reportedly Says:

Any claims that the Russian military has warned Ukraine to surrender in Crimea or face an assault on Tuesday are "total nonsense," a Russian Defense Ministry official says, according to The Voice of Russia.

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11:34am

Mon March 3, 2014
The Two-Way

Boy Scouts' Ban On Gay Leaders Leads Disney To End Grants

Originally published on Mon March 3, 2014 1:06 pm

Tony Gutierrez AP

This news that broke locally in Florida last week is starting to grab headlines and attention across the nation:

"Disney Ends Funding To Boy Scouts Over Gay Policy." (The Associated Press)

Here's how The Orlando Sentinel, one of the first outlets to report the news, frames the story:

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9:13am

Mon March 3, 2014
The Two-Way

Here's Ellen's Star-Stuffed Oscar Selfie That Broke Twitter

Originally published on Mon March 3, 2014 1:07 pm

So many stars, it's hard to fit them all in.
TheEllenShow

A group selfie that host Ellen DeGeneres organized at the start of Sunday's Oscars show is now in the record books.

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8:20am

Mon March 3, 2014
The Two-Way

Pistorius Pleads Not Guilty, Witness Tells Of Hearing Screams

Originally published on Mon March 3, 2014 9:59 am

Accused South African Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius in court on Monday in Pretoria. He's accused of premeditated murder in the death of his girlfriend on Feb. 14, 2013.
Herman Verwey EPA/Landov

"The first witness at Oscar Pistorius' murder trial told the court on Monday she heard 'bloodcurdling screams' from a woman followed by shots," Reuters writes.

It was, the wire service adds, "a dramatic opening to a case that could see one of global sports' most admired role models jailed for life."

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reminds our Newscast Desk that:

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7:22am

Mon March 3, 2014
The Two-Way

What A Blast: As Snow Ends, Wicked Cold Moves In

Originally published on Mon March 3, 2014 6:24 pm

On the road again: This plow was at work on Sunday in Lawrence, Kan. The storm that hit there has spread east.
Orlin Wagner AP

Update at 6:11 p.m. ET. Now The Cold:

Most of the snow is now off shore. What comes next is bitter — perhaps historic — cold for parts of the Midwest and East that's more reminiscent of January, than the beginning of meteorological spring. Here's how Accuweather sums it up:

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6:21am

Mon March 3, 2014
The Two-Way

After Entering Crimea, Where Will Russia Stop?

Originally published on Mon March 3, 2014 1:34 pm

A soldier in an unmarked uniform, but believed to be from the Russian army, stands outside one of the Ukrainian military bases in Crimea that have been surrounded by Russian forces. Ukrainian guards look on from inside the base.
David Mdzinarishvili Reuters/Landov

Update at 1 p.m. ET. Our Latest Head And Link, Part II:

Russia Denies Issuing Ultimatum Or Warning Ukraine Of 'Storm'

The top of that post:

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11:02am

Fri February 28, 2014
The Two-Way

California's Getting Drenched, But Drought Is Far From Over

Originally published on Fri February 28, 2014 2:18 pm

Before the deluge: Sandbags and barriers lined a road in Glendora, Calif., on Thursday. Authorities expect flooding as heavy rains spread across the area.
Reed Saxon AP

The heavy rains forecast for much of drought-stricken California have indeed descended on the state.

Here's Friday's headline from Southern California Public Radio: "LA Rain: 2nd Storm Hits Overnight With Heavy Rain, Flooded Freeways."

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9:23am

Fri February 28, 2014
The Two-Way

Ousted President Is 'Ready To Fight For The Future Of Ukraine'

Originally published on Fri February 28, 2014 1:31 pm

Viktor Yanukovych, who says he's still the president of Ukraine, at his news conference Friday in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don.
Yuri Kochetkov EPA /LANDOV
(We've been updating this post.)

Appearing in public for the first time since he left his nation's capital earlier this week, ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych told reporters in Russia on Friday that he is "eager and ready to fight for the future of Ukraine."

At a news conference in the Russian border city of Rostov-on-Don, Yanukovych did not speak about using force to reclaim the post that he says is still legally his. "I am not going to ask for military support," he said.

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8:53am

Fri February 28, 2014
The Two-Way

Economy Grew Less Than Thought As 2013 Came To A Close

Originally published on Fri February 28, 2014 10:32 am

The U.S. economy grew at a 2.4 percent annual rate in fourth-quarter 2013, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said Friday, as it significantly cut its estimate of how much gross domestic product grew during the last three months of the year.

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7:53am

Fri February 28, 2014
The Two-Way

Mt. Gox Files For Bankruptcy; Nearly $500M Of Bitcoins Lost

Originally published on Wed March 5, 2014 4:07 pm

A bow and an apology: Mark Karpeles, CEO of Mt. Gox, was contrite at the start of a news conference in Tokyo on Friday in which it was announced that the firm has filed for bankruptcy.
Kyodo Reuters/Landov

The scope of the collapse of what once was the world's largest bitcoin exchange took shape Friday when Mt. Gox filed for bankruptcy protection in Japan, saying it had lost track of nearly $480 million worth of the virtual currency.

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7:04am

Fri February 28, 2014
The Two-Way

Crisis In Ukraine: Gunmen At Airport; Yanukovych Vows To Return

Originally published on Fri February 28, 2014 9:28 pm

On Friday, armed men took control of the international airport in the city of Simferopol, on the Crimean peninsula. Gunmen took control of another airport in Crimea, as well.
David Mdzinarishvili Reuters/Landov
We'll be adding updates as the day continues.

The crisis in Ukraine took another ominous turn when gunmen in unmarked military uniforms on Friday took control of two airports on the Crimean peninsula — where the majority of people are ethnic Russians and many want to break away from the new government in Kiev.

Update at 5:15 p.m. ET: Obama Warns Russia On Ukraine

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1:26pm

Thu February 27, 2014
The Two-Way

Latest Leak: U.K. Spied On Webchats, Grabbed Millions Of Images

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 6:27 pm

Who else might be watching? Britain's spies collected millions of images from video chats, according to the latest secrets spilled by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
Paul Sakuma AP

"Britain's surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the U.S. National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of Internet users not suspected of wrongdoing," The Guardian writes today in its latest report based on material leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

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11:36am

Thu February 27, 2014
The Two-Way

Any Way It's Measured, Tesla's $5B 'Gigafactory' Is Huge

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 1:31 pm

Joe Raedle Getty Images

Just how big a deal is the "gigafactory" that Tesla Motors says it's going to build to make batteries for its electric cars?

-- It's projected to cost $5 billion between now and the year 2020. Tesla expects to invest about $2 billion. Partners — who it's rumored could include Apple and Panasonic — would invest the rest.

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8:54am

Thu February 27, 2014
The Two-Way

Jobless Claims Jump Up, Orders For Durable Goods Fall Off

Thursday's economic news isn't great:

-- There were 348,000 first-time claims for unemployment insurance filed last week, up 14,000 from the week before, the Employment and Training Administration says.

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8:30am

Thu February 27, 2014
The Two-Way

California Rejoices In Rain, But Prepares For Mudslides

Raindrops on a windshield blurred the view of a woman Wednesday in San Francisco. California, which is suffering through a drought, is getting some much-needed precipitation this week.
Ben Margot AP

"Rain Visits Bay Area, Snow Falls in Sierra — and We Quietly Rejoice."

That headline by our friends at KQED nicely sums up the mood in Northern California as much-needed precipitation descends.

But from another far-too-dry part of the drought-stricken state, Southern California Public Radio reports that:

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7:43am

Thu February 27, 2014
The Two-Way

Once Again, North Korea Fires Missiles To Send Message

In Pyongyang, North Korea, last July, this short-range missile was among the military hardware on parade.
Kyodo/Landov

"North Korea fired four projectiles believed to be short-range ballistic missiles off its southeast coast Thursday," South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reports, citing a "South Korean defense ministry official" as its source.

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7:10am

Thu February 27, 2014
The Two-Way

Ukraine Crisis: New Government Takes Shape As Crimea Simmers

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 1:58 pm

Flags fly outside the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol on Thursday during a rally by pro-Russian protesters. Gunmen seized government buildings in the city.
David Mdzinarishvili Reuters/Landov
We're adding updates throughout this post as the day continues.

Tensions continue to rise in Ukraine, where months of public protests led last week to the downfall of President Viktor Yanukovych's government. His opponents are now installing pro-Western ministers to replace the pro-Russian leaders who worked for Yanukovych. The interim government is expected to be in charge at least until new elections can be held, perhaps in late May.

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2:03pm

Wed February 26, 2014
The Two-Way

Killers Sentenced In Hacking Death Of British Soldier

The victim: Fusilier Lee Rigby.
U.K. Ministry of Defense

One of the two men who hacked to death a British soldier on a London street in May 2013 was sentenced Wednesday to spend the rest of his life in prison. The other was given a minimum term of 45 years.

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12:10pm

Wed February 26, 2014
The Two-Way

Killers Were Tiny, Victims Were Huge At Chile's Whale Graveyard

Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 12:16 pm

The fossilized remains of a whale that washed up on a shore in what's now Chile more than 5 million years ago.
Vince Rossi Smithsonian Institution

Since construction workers discovered dozens of fossils along a highway in Chile in 2011, one question has preoccupied researchers:

What killed the whales, seals and other creatures that ended up there more than 5 million years ago?

Writing in Proceedings of The Royal Society B, scientists from the Smithsonian Institution and universities in the U.S. and Chile say the culprits were among the smallest possible killers: "Algal toxins."

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9:54am

Wed February 26, 2014
The Two-Way

North Korea's Still In The Dark, As Photos From Space Show

Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 11:55 am

This image was taken Jan. 30 by astronauts aboard the International Space Station. North Korea is the large dark patch in the middle. The only significant light is from its capital, Pyongyang. The next photo adds reference points.
NASA.gov

Pictures really do tell the story about how far behind economically North Korea is compared with its neighbors.

In 2002, as Eyder has said, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld used a satellite photo to illustrate how in-the-dark the communist nation was.

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9:02am

Wed February 26, 2014
The Two-Way

Benedict Dismisses Renewed Rumors About Why He Left The Papacy

Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 10:40 am

Pope Francis, left, and former Pope Benedict XVI at a Vatican ceremony on Saturday. It was their first public appearance together in the year since Benedict resigned.
L'Osservatore Romano AP

Almost one year to the day since Benedict XVI stepped down as spiritual leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, the former pope has issued his first public comment on recurring rumors in the Italian media that he didn't resign of his own will.

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7:58am

Wed February 26, 2014
The Two-Way

Putin Flexes Moscow's Muscles; Kerry Says This Isn't 'Rocky IV'

Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 12:25 pm

Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Ria Novosti Reuters/Landov

We retopped this post at 12:25 p.m. ET.

Responding to the news that Russian President Vladimir Putin has put his army on alert in what seems to be a bid to influence events in Ukraine, Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that the U.S. is "not looking for [a] confrontation" with Moscow.

And, in a reference to the Cold War days of the past when the rivalry between two superpowers would find its way into popular culture, Kerry tried to cool things down.

"This is not Rocky IV," he said, during an MSNBC interview.

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7:07am

Wed February 26, 2014
The Two-Way

What A Rush! California Couple Finds Gold Coins Worth $10M

Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 11:53 am

Thar's gold in them thar cans: One of the eight cans discovered by a California couple. They were stuffed with gold coins minted in the 1800s. The cache's estimated value: $10 million.
Kagin's Inc. AP

If you've ever dreamed about finding buried treasure, this story's for you:

A California couple who say they had walked by the same spot on their Sierra Nevada property many times over many years are an estimated $10 million or so richer after digging up eight rusty old cans containing 1,427 very valuable gold coins. It's thought to be the most valuable discovery of such coins in U.S. history.

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2:08pm

Tue February 25, 2014
The Two-Way

Obama: U.S. May Leave Afghanistan, But Door's Open To Staying

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 2:16 pm

President Obama told Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday that he has asked the Pentagon to draw up plans to have all U.S. forces out of Afghanistan by the end of the year.

But at the same time, Obama opened the door to the U.S. staying in the Central Asian nation even if Karzai hasn't signed a newly negotiated "Bilateral Security Agreement" before the end of April — the month of scheduled presidential elections in Afghanistan and what had been something of a deadline set by U.S. officials.

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12:50pm

Tue February 25, 2014
The Two-Way

Brit Released From Guantanamo In '05 Is Arrested In U.K.

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 1:21 pm

Moazzam Begg in front of the U.S. Embassy in London in 2006.
Alastair Grant AP

Nine years after his release from the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a British-born man named Moazzam Begg is once again in custody and being questioned about alleged ties to terrorists.

Begg was one of four people arrested Tuesday in Birmingham, England, British authorities tell Reuters and other news outlets.

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10:07am

Tue February 25, 2014
The Two-Way

After 'Best Year Since 2005,' Housing Sector Likely To Slow

A home for sale earlier this month in San Francisco.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Home prices across 20 of the nation's major metropolitan areas rose 13.4 percent in 2013 from the year before, according to the latest S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index report.

Overall, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices economist David Blitzer, the index "ended its best year since 2005" — well before the burst of the housing bubble in 2007-08.

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