NPR News

A lot of fanfare followed last November's election, when the number of women in the U.S. Senate surged to 20 — more than ever before.

But quieter victories came after. Female senators now claim an unprecedented number of leadership positions, and for the first time in history, women are at the helm of both the Appropriations and Budget committees — as well as half of the Armed Services subcommittees.

The Republican and Democratic parties have been in a digital arms race for years. And this week, Republicans frankly admitted that they are losing.

Now, the GOP has ambitious plans to improve its game.

Monday's report from the Republican National Committee puts it bluntly: "Republicans must catch up on how we utilize technology in our campaigns. The Obama team is several years ahead of everyone else in its technological advantage."

Are Younger Catholics Abandoning Fish On Fridays?

Mar 22, 2013

It's Friday, and it's Lent. Maybe those of you raised Catholic, as I was, remember tuna noodle casserole, sticks, or the Friday night fish fry?

Seafood consumption typically increases during Lent in the U.S. But Harry Balzer of the survey firm NPD Group says younger Americans are less likely to follow the tradition.

Doctors and hospital administrators in parts of the country that are heavy Medicare spenders can relax their grips on their prescription pads and billing computers.

An influential panel on Friday panned the idea raised in Congress to pay them less for Medicare services if their regions are heavy users of medical services.

The idea is an outgrowth of decades of research into why Medicare spends more per beneficiary in some places such as New York City, Florida and McAllen, Texas, and significantly less in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced Friday that it will close 149 air traffic control towers from April 7 due to budget constraints. The number announced is 40 fewer than the FAA originally planned to close. The cuts in service are part of the FAA's response to sequestration, as we reported in a recent story from Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe, Pa.:

Some Toddler Foods Come With A Megadose Of Salt

Mar 22, 2013

Feeding toddlers can be a challenge, so it's easy to see the lure of prepackaged favorites like mac and cheese. But many of those foods deliver startlingly high amounts of sodium, some with three times more than recommended in a single serving, according to a new survey.

The offenders include not just savory snacks but also healthful-sounding foods like pasta and chicken, according to Joyce Maalouf, a fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mobile phones have become ubiquitous across Africa and Asia, but lowly toilets haven't.

Right now, 6 billion people around the world have cellphones. But only 4.5 billion people have access to a clean commode, the United Nations said Thursday.

Chinua Achebe And The Bravery Of Lions

Mar 22, 2013

Chinua Achebe, the prominent Nigerian novelist and essayist who died on Thursday, said in a 1994 interview with the Paris Review, "There is that great proverb — that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter."

Yes the 2012 elections have been combed over a thousand times. But what's one more detail, right?

Today, Bloomberg reports that were it not for egos, Mitt Romney could have been toppled by a conservative "unity ticket" featuring Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Had the two united, there would have been a real possibility that Romney wouldn't have made it past the primary process and 2012 would have been truly different race.

HBO CEO Richard Plepler is saying something a lot of the television network's fans have been waiting to hear — that its content could be offered to customers directly through their Internet service providers instead of a cable company.

Right now, HBO must be purchased through a cable provider. Plepler tells Reuters that HBO Go, an online streaming service launched by the network in 2010 (but still only available as an extra to your cable TV) might also be sold through ISPs.

Gay marriage opponents say they're protecting women and children first.

When the Supreme Court hears oral arguments about same-sex marriage next week, much of the debate will turn on legal questions surrounding issues such as federalism and due process.

But the underlying questions are more emotional, with moral objections frequently raised by members of the faith community.

Drug-sniffing dogs, those cute bellwethers of illegal activity, are dropping Marijuana from their repertoire in Washington state.

A 2012 ballot initiative legalized the use of marijuana in the state (although federal law still prohibits its use). Since then authorities have been working to implement the law. Part of that process is, apparently, to employ canines who don't react to the smell of marijuana. The AP explains why:

In a phone call today with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Turkey over the 2010 Israeli raid of a flotilla that left nine people dead. The flotilla was attempting to break an Israeli naval blockade of Gaza, when it was intercepted by Israel.

Two teens accused of rape in Steubenville, Ohio were convicted and sentenced this week. Host Michel Martin talks to the Barbershop guys about how the victim — and the perpetrators — were treated in the press. Writer Jimi Izrael, political science professor Lester Spence, civil rights attorney Arsalan Iftikhar and Republican strategist R. Clarke Cooper discuss the week's news. ADVISORY: Please note, this conversation includes a discussion about rape and may not be suitable for all listeners.

Chinua Achebe, widely considered the grandfather of modern African literature, has died at the age of 82. His popular book, Things Fall Apart, tackled the effect of colonialism on Africa, and has sold more than 10 million copies. Host Michel Martin is joined by NPR Africa Correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton to look back on his life and work.

Bosco Ntaganda, a notorious warlord accused of crimes against humanity during Congo's civil war, is headed to an international court after turning himself in at the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda earlier this week.

NPR's Gregory Warner reports that the surrender of Ntaganda, nicknamed "The Terminator," came as a surprise. He's been wanted by the International Criminal Court since 2006 for crimes against humanity, including conscripting child soldiers, murder, rape and sexual slavery allegedly committed in 2002 and 2003 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

For many years, across the world, the extraordinarily powerful noses of dogs have been successfully used to help detect crime.

Now, in Britain, moves are under way to recruit humans to perform the same subtle work.

Police are encouraging the British to step out of their homes, raise their nostrils aloft, and see if they catch the whiff of wrongdoing wafting from the next-door neighbors.

Visitors to these crowded islands are often charmed by the small redbrick terraced houses that are in every town and city.

NPR Science Correspondent Richard Harris traveled to Australia's Great Barrier Reef to find out how the coral reefs are coping with increased water temperature and increasing ocean acidity, brought about by our burning of fossil fuels. Day 4: Richard catches up with one of the gurus of climate science out on the reef.

Ken Caldeira loves a challenge, and he has a big one right under his feet. He's standing on an expanse of coral reef out in Australia's Great Barrier Reef. It's being washed with water as the tide streams over the reef, from a lagoon to the open sea.

The chairman of the Federal Communication Commission announced during a staff meeting on Friday that he intends to step down "in the coming weeks."

Julius Genachowski's resignation comes just a day after Commissioner Robert McDowell announced his plans to step down.

The New York Times reports the Obama administration has not settled on a replacement for Genachowski. It reports:

What you do while you're asleep may say something about your cognitive function later in life.

Here's why. Mayo Clinic researchers report that having a condition called REM sleep behavior disorder, in which you act out dreams in your sleep, appears to be a harbinger for something called Lewy body dementia years later — at least in men.

The NCAA tournament got off to a stunning start on Thursday: Harvard, known more for its brains and seeded No. 14, sent No. 3 New Mexico packing with a 62-68 win.

Newly installed Chinese President Xi Jinping is following in his predecessor's footsteps by making Russia his first official trip abroad.

The visits by Xi and Hu Jintao before him (in 2003), both meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, reinforce how the Cold War rivals have grown closer as they seek to counter U.S. influence in Asia and Europe.

As a deadline on Cyprus to come up with a financial bailout plan nears, a possible rescue from Russia looks to have fallen apart, leaving the island nation few options for staving off default.

Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said as far as Moscow was concerned "the talks have ended," but Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev left the door open, saying aid from Moscow would be contingent on Cyprus gaining European Union backing for its other money-raising ideas.

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports from Lagos, Nigeria, on the death of one of Africa's greatest contemporary writers. Quoting his publisher, AP, CNN, and the BBC are reporting Chinua Achebe has died.

Chinua Achebe who taught at colleges in the United States made literary history with his 1958 best-seller Things Fall Apart, a sobering tale about Nigeria at the beginning of its colonization.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

President Obama wrapped up his trip to Israel and the West Bank on Friday with visits to three symbolic pilgrimage sites: First he laid a stone on the grave of Theodor Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, then he laid a wreath and a stone on the grave of Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli leader assassinated in 1995. Finally, Obama made a somber visit to the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem.

In Chicago, officials have released a long-feared list that places more than 50 schools on the chopping block. The public school district faces a $1 billion shortfall, and the mayor says many of the city's school buildings are half empty. Some angry parents and teachers say the plan will harm children and they'll fight to keep the schools open.

A Marine opened fire at a Virginia base Thursday night, killing two other Marines before turning the gun on himself.

Quoting Marine Base Quantico spokesman Lt. Agustin Solivan, the AP reports the shootings happened after 11 p.m. near the Officer Candidate School. The AP adds:

"Authorities entered the barracks early Friday and found the suspect dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound along with a second victim. Solivan could not say what prompted authorities to enter the barracks, which are at the base's officer candidate school.

For eight decades, Daily Variety has been a Hollywood must-read for everyone from studio heads to actors looking for a big break. But the days of assistants running out to grab the "trades" are over: This week, the Los Angeles institution published its last daily edition.

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