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12:29 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Congress Is On Pace To Be The Least Productive Ever

The Capitol in Washington, D.C., seen on a cloudy day two weeks into the partial government shutdown.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 4:24 am

We're only at halftime for the 113th Congress, but if current trends hold, it's well on track to being the least productive lawmaking effort in the nation's history.

During this Congress' first yearlong session, just 58 bills became law — and many that did were about naming post offices or transferring federal lands. In fact, the most memorable act of Congress this year may well have been its failure to act in time to avoid a government shutdown.

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Humans
11:57 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

Tired Of Doom And Gloom? Here's The Best Good News Of 2013

A Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner concludes its first flight in September. Overall, plane-related fatalities have decreased dramatically this year.
Stephen Brashear Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 4:24 am

Being a news consumer means you're constantly on the receiving end of bad news. War, unemployment, crime, political dysfunction — it can be enough to make you think we humans aren't doing anything right. But good news: We are. As the year draws to an end, here's a look at a few areas of real progress in the U.S. and around the world.

Air Safety

Let's start with flying. It's not a lot of fun: baggage fees, pat-downs, cramped seating, disappointing snacks.

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All Tech Considered
11:56 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

Check Out These Gorgeous, Futuristic Tech Company Headquarters

Architect's rendering of Apple's new facility
Courtesy of City of Cupertino

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 4:24 am

This past year, many of the best known technology firms were actively designing and building new corporate offices. It's the first time Silicon Valley giants like Apple, Google and Facebook have done so from the ground up. The same is true for Amazon, which is building in Seattle.

All of these projects are still in their early stages, but perhaps the most talked about and architecturally ambitious project that broke ground this year is the Apple headquarters building in Cupertino, Calif. It was a project near and dear to the late Steve Jobs.

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National Security
11:55 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

Air Force's Beloved 'Warthog' Targeted For Retirement

The U.S. Air Force could retire the A-10 "Warthog," despite support for the plane from infantrymen and pilots. These types of clashes occur whenever the military tries to mothball a weapon.
Staff Sgt. Melanie Norman U.S. Air Force

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 4:04 pm

Jeff Duford is standing next to an A-10, one of the most beloved planes of all time. It's painted green, a clue that it was designed for a threat that has disappeared — it was built at the height of the Cold War.

"The reason why it's painted this way is because at that time, this airframe was expected to stop Soviet tanks from rolling through Germany," says Duford, curator of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. "So it's painted to kind of match the terrain that one would find in Central Europe."

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47 Ronin
5:36 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

Oregon Trees, Shrubs Get Role In New Action Flick

Oregon-grown plants were used to re-create 18th Century Japan in scenes like this one from the movie '47 Ronin.'
Universal Pictures

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 4:18 pm

The makers of the new action flick 47 Ronin didn't want to film their movie in Oregon. But that doesn't mean the state won't have a starring role.

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Parallels
3:54 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

With Its Economy Hobbled, Greece's Well-Educated Drain Away

Laura and Thanos Ntoumanis recently moved from Greece to Germany, where Thanos, a psychiatrist, got a job.
Joanna Kakissis NPR

Thanos Ntoumanis and his wife, Laura, are crashing at his parents' apartment in Greece's northern city of Thessaloniki.

The couple have packed their home and are moving to Germany. Thanos, a 38-year-old psychiatrist, is joining some 4,000 Greek doctors who have left the austerity-hit country for jobs abroad in the past three years. It's the largest brain drain in three decades.

"I won't say that I'm never coming back," he says. "I do need some distance, though. I don't want to get to that tipping point. I don't want to get to that point where I hate it here."

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The Two-Way
2:06 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

On Anniversary Of Apollo 8, How The 'Earthrise' Photo Was Made

The iconic "Earthrise" photo taken by astronaut Bill Anders through a window on the Apollo 8 command module on Dec. 24, 1968.
Bill Anders NASA

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 4:24 am

The first humans to catch a glimpse of the Earth rising over the moon nearly missed seeing it at all, let alone capturing the snapshot that became one of the most iconic photos of the 20th century.

NASA has released an animation commemorating the 45th anniversary of Apollo 8, the first manned mission to orbit the moon. The famous "Earthrise" photo was taken on Christmas Eve 1968.

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The Two-Way
1:47 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

Obama Gives Federal Workers A 1 Percent Raise

People exit a Metro subway station, by escalator, along Pennsylvania Ave., NW, in Washington.
Cliff Owen AP

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 2:46 pm

President Obama signed an executive order on Monday, giving federal workers and military personnel a 1 percent raise.

As Government Executive reports, the pay raise is the first across-the-board increase the federal workforce has gotten since 2010. The publication reports:

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The Salt
1:40 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

How To Build An Indestructible Gingerbread House

With our design, gingerbread families everywhere can enjoy the holidays without having to worry about their roofs caving in.
Morgan Walker NPR

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 6:56 am

Here's the thing about gingerbread houses. You labor over them for hours. You painstakingly decorate them with gumdrops and candy canes.

And then, someone shakes the table it's sitting on, and boom! It all comes crumbling down, leaving a huge, house-shaped hole in your heart.

Never again, we said.

This year, we were determined to build a stronger gingerbread house. One that wouldn't crumble, no matter what. One that could withstand an earthquake.

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Digital Life
1:18 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

A YouTube Powerhouse Looks Beyond Its Gamer Base

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One of Machinima's signature offerings is a series called Christopher Walkenthrough, in which creator Jason Stephens, in character as actor Christopher Walken, navigates his way through popular video games. You kind of have to see it to understand.
Machinima.com

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 3:53 pm

One of the most popular channels on YouTube is aimed toward people who play video games. It's got tons of content — thousands of game reviews, how-to videos of people gaming away enthusiastically, even little homemade movies that people have made using video-game software.

That last format is a user-generated phenomenon called machinima — "little m" machinima. "Big M" Machinima is a company, and it wants to be a new media empire. It's the entity behind that YouTube channel.

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NPR Story
1:17 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

A Neighborhood Stalwart Remains Unchanged

The storefront of Irving’s Toy & Card Shop in Coolidge Corner, Brookline. (Bruce Gellerman/WBUR)

If you’re one of those last minute, down-to-the-wire, deadline-defying holiday shoppers — you better get going. Time is running out for you and hoards of like-minded procrastinators.

But today, we’d like to take a trip to a store not too far from our studios where time has largely stood still. In an age of big box chain stores, this little store really stands out.

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NPR Story
1:17 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

HIV Positive Extra In 'Philadelphia' Reflects On Film's 20th Anniversary

Unable to work because of fatigue and pain, Suellen Kehler says her dogs give her a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Kehler was an extra in the 1993 film, "Philadelphia." (Emma Lee/NewsWorks)

Twenty years ago, today, a film that changed the conversation about AIDS in America opened in theaters.

“Philadelphia” starred Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks, and it won box-office success and critical acclaim.

It netted two Oscars, including one for Hanks who won a Best Actor award for his portrayal of Andrew Beckett, an HIV-positive lawyer who sues his former law firm after he’s unjustly fired.

“Philadelphia” also featured actors whose real lives mirrored the movie: several dozen extras were HIV-positive Philadelphians.

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Shots - Health News
1:16 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

Alabama Blue Cross Shares Obamacare Tax Woes With Customers

Kajdi Szabolcs iStockphoto

Insurance companies aren't crazy about their share of the health law's taxes, but mostly they've complained to politicians and regulators.

At least one health plan wants to bring consumers into the loop.

"Affordable Care Act Fees and Taxes" is a separate line on bills Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama is sending to individual customers.

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NPR Story
1:16 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

Tom Perrotta Returns to the Short Story

2013 has been a pretty big year for author Tom Perrotta: his novel “The Leftovers” has been picked up by HBO as a T.V. series, and he published “Nine Inches,” his first short story collection in nineteen years.

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Found Recipes
1:11 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

Don't Knock The Nog Until You've Tried This One

Courtesy of Tara Striano

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 3:51 pm

We ran an unofficial office poll at NPR last week, via email: "Where do you weigh in on eggnog? Love it? Hate it?"

Those who hate it really hate it. They used words like "detest," "loathe" and "ick." They also used font sizes well above 14 point and broke out the red type to emphasize their distaste.

But the haters were in the minority. By about 2 to 1, NPR is an eggnog drinkin' kind of place, but — and this was emphasized by many — only if it's eggnog done right. That means: not too sweet, not too thick and just the perfect amount of booze.

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