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It's All Politics, Sept. 13, 2012

Sep 14, 2012

In an election that's supposed to be about the economy, tragic deaths overseas push foreign policy onto the political stage in the race between Mitt Romney and President Obama. While Romney seems to have lost the initial battle, questions remain about the administration's Middle East goals.

Join NPR's Ron Elving and Ken Rudin for the latest "It's All Politics" roundup.

Our impulse to share intimate details about our lives within our social networks (and even sometimes with complete strangers) seems to know few bounds.

There's no question that cilantro is a polarizing herb. Some of us heap it onto salsas and soups with gusto while others avoid cilantro because it smells like soap and tastes like crushed bugs.

After the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya earlier this week, Google took down the YouTube video said to have sparked the violence — but only in Libya and in Egypt, where anti-American protests also flared up.

It's an example of the challenges of balancing U.S. free speech concerns and of something known as the "heckler's veto."

The Innocence of Muslims isn't the only YouTube video that can be seen in the U.S. but not elsewhere. Nazi propaganda is banned in Germany, for example, and slurs against Turkey's founder don't appear in that country.

Update at 12:57 p.m. ET. University of Texas Reopens:

The University of Texas has reopened, after a phoned bomb threat prompted the evacuation of its entire Austin campus this morning.

Home Depot To Close 7 Stores In China

Sep 14, 2012

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with a do-it-yourself downsizing.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: Home Depot, the U.S.-based home improvement big box chain, says it's going to leave some big boxes behind. It's going to close seven of its stores in China. The company says it's moving away from the do-it-yourself model in China.

Twice in all of history, humans have managed to eradicate a devastating disease. You've heard of the first one, I suspect: smallpox. But rinderpest?

That's a German word for "cattle plague" a feared companion of cattle throughout history. When outbreaks occurred, as in Europe of the 1700s or Africa in the 1880s, entire herds were wiped out and communities went hungry. Now the disease is gone, eliminated from the face of the earth.

The Obama administration has stepped back from remarks by the president earlier this week in which he suggested that Egypt was something less than a firm ally.

Following unrest in Egypt and the killing of four Americans in Libya that was sparked at least in part by a film seemingly aimed at stoking Muslim anger, Obama, referring to Egypt, told the Spanish-language Telemundo: "I don't think that we would consider them an ally, but we don't consider them an enemy."

Anti-American protests — some peaceful, some not — have been seen in many parts of the Islamic world today, as Friday prayers became an opportunity for many to express anger over a film produced in the U.S. that denigrates the Prophet Muhammad.

The Atlantic Wire has a good map that shows where the protests are happening.

Update at 6:17 p.m. ET. Seven Dead:

The film Innocence of Muslims, which denigrates Islam and its prophet, Muhammad, has put the spotlight on a little-known community, Coptic Christians.

The U.S. population is growing. In normal times, the labor force — working or not — would be growing too. But these are not normal times, and the labor force is actually smaller than it was four years ago, meaning millions of people who should be there aren't.

The reasons people drop out of the workforce are myriad. People go back to school. Others have health issues or family priorities that keep them from looking for work. But some stop looking because they are discouraged.

It's not hard to find online shoppers these days. Take the hipster cafe in San Francisco's Mission District where Shirin Oskooi opens her laptop and ticks off her latest Amazon purchases.

Next to her is Craig Sumner. He opens an Amazon invoice to see how much sales tax he was charged on his latest pair of Levis: none.

As U.S. embassies and consulates face protests in the Muslim world over an anti-Islamic film, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is walking a fine line. She is distancing herself and the State Department from the video that has sparked anger among Muslims, but stressed the US commitment to free speech.

"To us, to me personally, this video is disgusting and reprehensible," she said Thursday in Washington, D.C. "It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose: to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage."

From Topless Bar To Biology: A Love Story

Sep 13, 2012

Forty years ago this week, Philip and Susan McClinton had their first date. Today, Susan is a retired biologist and Philip is assistant curator at the Draper Museum of Natural History in Cody, Wyo. But when the two met, it was at a very different place.

Our friends at Weekend Edition are trying something different starting this weekend. They're calling on NPR reporters to answer some of your questions on different topics.

Here's how they explain it:

One of the biggest questions still outstanding about the attack on a United States consulate in Libya is whether it was planned or whether it was the result of a protest against a U.S.-made film that criticizes the Prophet Muhammad.

The attack killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

The bottom line is that nothing is firm. But NPR's Leila Fadel reports that Libya's Deputy Interior Minister, Wanis al Sharef, said this was a sophisticated two-prong attack.

The First Amendment guarantee of free speech is in the spotlight this week. If you haven't kept up, a U.S.-produced film depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a less than flattering way has inflamed the Arab world.

In a lot of ways, the story is showing how the sweeping nature of the First Amendment puts the United States at odds with most of the world.

That rift was perhaps most evident when you compare the statements of Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Morsi and that of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

A panel in Florida tasked with examining the state's "Stand Your Ground" law is unlikely to suggest that any major changes are needed.

Since it was convened in May, members of the task force have held meetings at locations around the state. At almost every meeting, they've heard impassioned testimony from people like David Boden, whose son, Jason, was killed in a shooting. Prosecutors in West Palm Beach told Boden that Florida's Stand Your Ground law prevented them from filing charges against the shooter.

Death Toll Climbs In Congo Ebola Outbreak

Sep 13, 2012

As health workers try to contain an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the death toll has increased to 31.

The deaths from the hemorrhagic fever outbreak doubled in the past week. World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic tells Shots that's because they have discovered more people who were originally infected.

Appearing in Virginia on Thursday, Republican Mitt Romney tried to bring his campaign back to the issues he has focused on before in the swing state: the nation's economy and strengthening the military.

A day after Romney ignited a debate over his criticism of President Obama's handling of events in Libya and Egypt, the Republican presidential nominee largely steered clear of discussing unrest in Egypt and the attack on an American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead.

One of the primary issues at the heart of the the Chicago teachers' strike is whether student test scores should be used to evaluate teachers and determine their pay. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing that approach, as are other officials around the nation.

But many teachers insist that it's inherently unfair to grade their teaching based on their students' learning.

Republican hopes of capturing the Senate in November rest on a handful of tossup races in states like Montana, Missouri and Virginia.

Surprisingly, some analysts also are putting Hawaii in the tossup column.

Hawaii is the bluest of blue states; it hasn't elected a Republican to the Senate since 1970. But with the retirement of 22-year incumbent Daniel Akaka, Republicans believe they have a chance.

And regardless of who wins, the state will have its first female senator come January.

In Hawaii, the language of politics is a little different.

There's no ready euphemism for this, so be warned.

The New York City Board of Health voted unanimously today in favor of a new regulation that would require parents of young boys who undergo ritual circumcisions involving "direct oral suction" to sign a consent form first.

Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke said the new monetary policy announced today is aimed at getting the U.S. economy moving for good.

After a meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, the Fed announced that it would spend $40 billion a month on mortgage-backed securities in an effort to stimulate the economy and drive the the unemployment rate down.

It would seem difficult to overlook something as large as a new species of monkey, but scientists had no idea about the lesula until just a few years ago when conservation biologist John Hart discovered a specimen being kept as a pet in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In retrospect, the monkey's striking, almost humanlike face should have made it hard to miss, and Hart, who spoke with All Things Considered host Melissa Block, is the first to admit that this new monkey was apparently not such a mystery to the Congolese themselves.

The Fed Goes Big

Sep 13, 2012

What people think is going to happen to the economy has a huge influence over what actually happens. If you can change peoples' expectations, you can change the world.

The Federal Reserve knows this. And, as Robert Smith pointed out this morning, Ben Bernanke and the Fed have been using the power of expectations more and more in recent years.

This afternoon, the Fed took another huge step in this direction.

What's At Stake For U.S. Teachers

Sep 13, 2012

The intractable issues that led to the teachers' strike in Chicago are being argued about in states and school districts across the country.

The past decade has been a time of enormous ferment in education policy, with numerous new ideas and approaches being promoted by everyone from conservative think tanks to the well-heeled Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Obama administration officials.

Hundreds packed the Washington National Cathedral today to pay their respects to Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.

Perhaps the most amazing tribute came from Eugene Cernan, the man who followed in Armstrong's footsteps and became the last man to walk on the moon during the 1972 Apollo 17 mission.

Welcome To The New Middle East

Sep 13, 2012

The three attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions this week have a common theme: all took place in countries where autocratic rulers were ousted last year and where new governments are still struggling to keep order.

Last year, many Americans were cheering on Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt, Libya and Yemen. Now the U.S. is the focus of violent anger over an anti-Islamic film produced in this country.

When crossing from Uganda into Congo at the shabby border town of Bunagana, I encountered a broadly smiling man in a black leather jacket named Hamid Kashaisha.

He asked if I wanted to see the gorillas. I replied that it's guerrillas — with guns, that is — that I wanted to see: the M23 rebels who, for the past two months, had occupied a piece of real estate in eastern Congo larger than Delaware.

That was no deterrence to the pitchman.

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