NPR: Sarah Handel

Sarah Handel is the Associate Producer for NPR's Talk of the Nation. She also directs the show from time to time, and assists the New York production staff of NPR's Talk of the Nation Science Friday. After a formative stint as a college radio DJ at WUOG in Athens, Georgia, Sarah knew a career in sociology could never compare to radio. Then, one evening, she heard a story on the Magnetic Fields on All Things Considered, and realized a gig at National Public Radio was her logical next step. This goal dovetailed neatly with her planned return to the DC area, where she grew up and had been accepted at graduate school. Once there she translated her interests in music, literature, technology, and art into an internship at NPR's Arts Information Unit, temped for a while, and happily landed at Talk.

This fall, the more than 38 million kids who get their lunches through the National School Lunch Program are seeing big changes on their trays.

When Talk of the Nation's Neal Conan asks for callers on a given topic, there's no telling what he'll get. Today, the show followed up with NPR's Tom Bowman on his series about the tremendous sacrifices of the "Darkhorse" Battalion — the Marines of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment. Lance Cpl. Jake Romo lost both his legs in Afghanistan with the battalion, and he spoke with Conan and Bowman about his tour.

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.

President Obama's announcement that all U.S. troops will withdraw from Iraq by the end of the year has prompted significant debate over the prudence of the policy. From the the politics of the decision, to possible threats of sectarian violence and the influence of Iran, opinion is sharply divided. Ted Koppel, Ret. Gen. Jack Keane, Bob Woodward, Brian Katulis and Peter Van Buren joined NPR's Neal Conan on Talk of the Nation today and weighed in.

As details emerge about the alleged Iranian plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.S., some experts say the plan is uncharacteristic of Iran's Quds Force, which is said to be behind the plans. So what is known about this elite unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guards?

Many U.S. officials have believed for years that Pakistan protects and supports terrorist groups to use as proxies against India, in Kashmir, and against the U.S. and NATO in Afghanistan. When Adm. Michael Mullen went before Congress last month and described the Haqqani network as a "veritable arm" of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), he was gave voice to those concerns. Pakistani officials were outraged.

BJ Casey, Director of the Sackler Institute at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, studies brain development in teenagers. After Talk of the Nation had her on the show last week to talk about why some kids like to take risks and push boundaries, listeners had so many questions that she returned today to answer a couple more.

Thinking about buying a new reasonably-priced car? Maybe check the trunk before you fork over your cash (or credit) — there might not be a spare tire in there. The move trims a little weight, potentially boosting mileage, and cuts costs for the automaker. Some are, however, including fat-fixing kits or equipping the cars with run-flat tires.

Jessica Francis Kane studied the Bethnal Green tube station disaster, then spent years writing a novel centered around the day's horrific events. Briefly,

There's a little feature in the Washington Post called Urban Jungle, about "the changing natural world at our doorsteps." My mom brought yesterday's installment to me, to show me the narrowleaf plantain, also known as ribwort. It's the ubiquitous weed that grows up between sidewalk pavers, along driveways and all over my elementary school playground. Unsurprisingly, it can cause allergies, but I actually learned quite a bit about its medicinal properties.

It's not a story infrequently told, but it never fails to catch my eye: the trials and tribulations of working the obituary beat. Susan McCarty works the death desk at a regional paper in Iowa, where, as most everywhere, the job "is the journalistic equivalent of starting in the mailroom, complete with tiny humiliations and tiny paychecks."

Tintin, like Babar, has suffered a bit in modern readings. I grew up with the books, oblivious as a child is to things like possible personal politics drawn into the storylines, and loved them.

Right now one of the most-read stories on Salon is an interview with Laura Miller, creator of Too Big For Stroller. She catalogs photos of kids who look way too old to be in strollers, rolling through life with their toes dragging on the pavement. I couldn't see the site — it's probably overloaded by the attention right now — but thanks to the picture on the Salon piece, I got the idea. I uttered a half-laugh, but then I stopped.

Neal just sent me this video and it's too awesome not to share. A polar bear mama dug in for her long winter's nap on an island off the coast of Alaska. When she emerged from her hibernation with her new cub in tow, things were not at all as she left them. I can't get it to embed here, but seriously, click through and watch. I promise it comes out all right in the end. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio.