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The Salt
1:26 am
Thu February 6, 2014

Woolly Mammoths' Taste For Flowers May Have Been Their Undoing

Woolly mammoths depended on tiny flowering plants for protein. Did the decline of the flowers cause their extinction?
Per Möller/Johanna Anjar

Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 3:01 pm

They were some of the largest, hairiest animals ever to walk the Earth, but new research shows a big part of the woolly mammoth's diet was made up of tiny flowers.

The work is based on DNA analysis of frozen arctic soil and mammoth poop. It suggests that these early vegans depended on the flowers as a vital source of protein. And when the flowers disappeared after the last ice age, so too did the mammoths that ate them.

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Asia
1:25 am
Thu February 6, 2014

Chinese Flock To The Countryside For A More Authentic New Year

Chinese blacksmiths in Nuanquan (Warm Spring) Town perform a folk custom called "making trees and flowers." They throw ladles of molten iron onto a wall, creating showers of sparks. The centuries-old custom originated with blacksmiths too poor to afford fireworks. In recent years, urban tourists have flocked to this once obscure town over the Chinese New Year holiday to enjoy local folk customs.
Anthony Kuhn NPR

Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 10:35 am

China goes back to work Friday after a weeklong holiday marking the Year of the Horse. Traditionally, celebrations continue through the first month of the Lunar New Year.

As in years past, some 800 million viewers tuned in this year to the state TV New Year's gala program to watch Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan, French actress and singer Sophie Marceau, and other entertainers.

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Business
1:22 am
Thu February 6, 2014

Amtrak Fights Big Oil For Use Of The Rails

Amtrak trains on the Empire Builder route, which stops in Williston, N.D., have been facing long delays.
Shannon Stapleton Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 10:03 am

Oil business in North Dakota is creating some big headaches for Amtrak travelers. Trains on the popular Empire Builder route between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest are often delayed for hours.

One reason for the congestion is an influx of trains hauling crude oil across the Northern Plains.

The delays are becoming so bad that a passenger group now wants the U.S. transportation secretary to intervene.

Frozen Before Ice Fishing

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Parallels
1:21 am
Thu February 6, 2014

Tijuana Prisoner: I Was Forced To Dig Drug Tunnel To San Diego

A Mexican guard at a prison in Tijuana where 17 men are being held on charges they were digging a drug-smuggling tunnel from Tijuana to the U.S. border at San Diego. The men say they were kidnapped and forced to do the work.
Special to NPR

Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 9:32 am

More than 75 drug-smuggling tunnels have been discovered under the U.S.-Mexico border in just the past six years, and one of the more intriguing cases involves 17 Mexican men who claim they were kidnapped and forced to carry out the work for months before Mexican authorities found them.

There's always been some mystery surrounding tunnels. Diggers were thought to be well-paid cartel loyalists or, as urban legend goes, laborers killed soon after the tunnel's completion to ensure its secrecy.

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Around the Nation
4:43 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

More Than 80,000 Tons Of Coal Ash Flow Into N.C. River

Volunteers with the Dan River Basin Association, graduate students from Duke University and staff with the environmental group Appalachian Voices collect water samples on the Dan River after a massive coal ash spill.
Eric Chance Appalachian Voices

Originally published on Wed February 5, 2014 8:23 pm

Over the weekend at an old power plant in Eden, N.C., a stormwater pipe that goes under a coal ash pond broke, sending about 82,000 tons of ash into the Dan River.

The river stretches more than 200 miles from North Carolina, through Virginia and into the Atlantic Ocean. It's home to all sorts of wildlife, and a popular destination for fishermen and kayakers.

On Wednesday, Jennifer Edwards, with the Dan River Basin Association, was checking the water and sediment about a mile downriver from the spill.

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The Two-Way
4:42 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

U.S. Warns Airlines Over Potential Explosives In Toothpaste Tubes

Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 10:49 am

Officials from the Department of Homeland Security say they are warning airlines that terrorists traveling on Russian-bound planes could try to pack explosives into toothpaste tubes.

NPR's Brian Naylor reports the warning comes just as the Winter Olympics are set to kick off in Sochi. He filed this report for our Newscast unit:

"The department says it is issuing a warning to airlines flying to Russia including flights originating in the U.S. out of an abundance of caution.

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Around the Nation
4:42 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

Scientists Help Western States Prepare For Drought As New Norm

Frank Gehrke, chief of snow surveys in California, looks at wind speed, snow depth and moisture data collected at a survey site in Yosemite National Park.
Kirk Siegler NPR

Originally published on Wed February 5, 2014 8:23 pm

At a 10,000-foot summit in Yosemite National Park, Frank Gehrke clicks into his cross-country skis and pushes off down a small embankment onto a meadow of crusty snow. He's California's chief of snow surveys, one of the most influential jobs in a state where snow and the water that comes from it are big currency. He's on his monthly visit to one of a dozen snowpack-measuring stations scattered across the high country of the Sierra Nevada.

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It's All Politics
4:32 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

Black Openly Gay Judge Would Be Federal Bench's First

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has indicated he won't block the nomination of Judge Darrin Gayles, who would be the first openly gay black man to serve on the federal bench.
AP

Originally published on Wed February 5, 2014 7:33 pm

Darrin P. Gayles, a Florida state circuit judge, appears to be on track to become the nation's first openly gay black man to serve on the federal bench.

President Obama on Wednesday nominated Gayles, a former assistant U.S. attorney, to fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

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The Two-Way
4:32 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

'Almost Otherworldly': The Sea Caves Of Lake Superior, On Ice

Scenes from the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Bayfield, Wis., where Lake Superior's ice is thick enough to walk to the area's sea caves for the first time in five years.
Derek Montgomery for MPR News

Originally published on Mon February 10, 2014 3:28 pm

This winter's intense cold has brought a fringe benefit to people who live around southern Lake Superior: They can walk to the uniquely beautiful, and currently frozen, sea caves of the Apostle Islands. It's the first time the lake's ice in that area has been thick enough to walk on since 2009.

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It's All Politics
4:19 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

Celebrities Turn Star Power Toward Political Stage

Three of the seven cast members shown here on the set of the 1987 film Predator would later run for governor in their home states. Two of them, Jesse Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger, won. Sonny Landham (second from right) lost.
Sunset Boulevard Corbis

Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 1:50 pm

If you wanted to pursue a career in politics, you could have done worse than appearing in the 1987 movie Predator.

That movie featured not only Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura — future governors of California and Minnesota, respectively — but Sonny Landham, who later ran for governor and senator in Kentucky.

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