Scientists have reconstructed the genetic code of a strain of bacteria that caused one of the most deadly pandemics in history nearly 1,500 years ago.
They did it by finding the skeletons of people killed by the plague and extracting DNA from traces of blood inside their teeth.
This plague struck in the year 541, under the reign of the Roman emperor Justinian, so it's usually called the Justinian plague. The emperor actually got sick himself but recovered. He was one of the lucky ones.
On a frigid afternoon, Jack Burke is coaching young skiers in a field in Saranac Lake, N.Y. His son Tim — who shoots and skis as part of the U.S. biathlon team — got his start training here. Now, Tim is off to Sochi to compete, but Jack and his whole family are staying home, missing the games for the first time since Tim's first Olympics in 2006.
"The uncertainty certainly did weigh into it," says Jack. "The cost was substantial, and costs seemed to be changing weekly."
A remarkable transformation is underway in western North Dakota, where an oil boom is changing the state's fortunes and leaving once-sleepy towns bursting at the seams. In a series of stories, NPR is exploring the economic, social and environmental demands of this modern-day gold rush.
On a Sunday at dusk, Amtrak's eastbound Empire Builder train is jampacked, filled with people heading to their jobs in North Dakota towns like Minot, Williston and Watford City.
After a long spell of partisan trench warfare and gridlock, President Obama called for "a year of action" Tuesday as he focused on themes that are central to his second-term agenda. The changes he proposed in his annual State of the Union speech were relatively modest, but flashes of ambition showed in his promise to move forward, with or without Congress, to address issues of income inequality.
Here's what President Obama proposed on the policy front:
Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 11:26 am
Odds are good that there's a mass extinction going on right now. It will be only one of six in the entire history of the planet. In the past these great die-offs have been caused by asteroid impacts and rapid, devastating climate change driven by volcanism.
This time it's driven by you and me.
How does that make you feel? How should that make you feel? The answer to this question depends mightily on what you think of as nature and where you think we fit into it.
It has been more than a decade since Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and brutally murdered in Pakistan. On January 23, 2002, he left the house of his friend and colleague, Asra Nomani, for an interview but never returned.
H7N9, a new strain of the bird flu, is spreading through China in advance of celebrations of the Lunar New Year, this Friday. Both travel and chicken sales spike in China around this time.
The strain jumped from birds to humans last year, and according to the World Health organization, 246 people in mainland China have been sickened and 56 people have died since the disease was first reported in Shanghai. Cases have also been reported in Taiwan and in Hong Kong.
You’ve heard of Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and other issue advocacy groups that don’t have to publicly disclose their donors. They are transforming American politics.
These political non-profits also exist at the state level. But much of this activity is coming from the left, not the right. And instead of TV ad campaigns, the work is largely happening online and on the ground.
For years, industrial cities across the U.S. have watched factories pack up and leave, taking their operations to Mexico or China. But here's something relatively new: increasing numbers of Chinese companies are bringing manufacturing to the United States.
Just south of Dayton, Ohio, a Chinese auto-glass maker now plans to open up shop in what used to be a large General Motors truck plant.
The announcement is a big deal for this former factory town.
Originally published on Wed January 29, 2014 12:37 pm
It would have been hard to find a happier man than Erick Munoz on that Tuesday morning before Thanksgiving.
With a healthy and delightful son toddling around the house, and his beautiful and successful wife pregnant with their second child, the fire department paramedic had everything in life that's really important. So it must have been with a feeling of disbelief and horror that Munoz knelt across the nearly lifeless body of his wife, Marlise, on the kitchen floor at 2 a.m., his fingers linking across her heart, arms pumping away in vain.