NPR News

Crop-dusting pilots are the adrenaline junkies of the agriculture world. They whiz through the air, flying under power lines to sow seeds or spread pesticides on farmers' fields.

It's a dangerous job, and now these pilots are facing a new challenge — short towers that can sprout up in fields overnight. These towers are used to gather data for wind energy companies.

One by one, in a room just off the gym floor at Edna Brewer Middle School in Oakland, Calif., seventh-graders go on the interview hot seat.

Some 80 students have applied to be "peer leaders" in the school's new, alternative discipline program called "restorative justice."

Kyle McClerkins, the program's director, grills them on aspects of adolescent life: "What is the biggest challenge for middle school girls? What has changed about you from sixth grade to now?"

In what The Associated Press called a "final flurry of accomplishment" Tuesday night, lawmakers were able to push through a bill that extended a package of tax breaks, which had expired at the end of 2013, and confirmed 12 more judicial nominees. NPR's Ailsa Chang reported the confirmations also marked a big accomplishment for the Obama administration.

Oregon is gearing up for a year-long process of crafting regulations for recreational marijuana.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is making a high-stakes bet that it will prevail in a pending lawsuit over Snake River dredging.

Citing the statute of limitations, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office says it won't pursue child sexual abuse charges against comedian Bill Cosby, who has been the subject of numerous allegations made by more than a dozen women.

Prosecutors "noted the statute of limitations at the time of the alleged incident was three years," The Los Angeles Times says.

Alexander Demianchuk/Reuters 

How would you feel waking up in the morning to discover that your country's interest rates nearly doubled overnight and the currency lost one-fifth of its value? 

Pretty scary scenario.  That was exactly Russia's situation Tuesday, awakening to discover the Russian Central bank raised its interest rates from 10.5 percent to 17 percent.  That move was taken to try to stabilize the ruble free fall but even that didn't stop the slide.

The ruble dove to its lowest level against the US dollar.  

Stefano Rellandini/Reuters

It's been only two years since the Vatican released a highly critical report on American nuns that caused years of tension and distrust. But Catholic cardinals offered the same nuns praise on Tuesday as part of a report on women's religious orders in the United States.

REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

The world has been shocked by the massacre of more than 130 children at a school in Peshawar, Pakistan. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility.

Among those stunned by the news were delegates from some three dozen nations at a meeting in Geneva. That meeting was being held specifically to discuss new guidelines for protecting schools and students in conflict zones.

Many of us are making lots of trips to the mall right now, but what if you could only go shopping for just a few hours once a month? That's what life is like for container ship crews who bring the vast majority of consumer goods from Chinese factories to stores in the U.S.

6 incredible pilgrimages around the world

Dec 16, 2014
Jon Wood

It's the time of the year for reflection, an apt season to see what draws people to religious pilgrimages across the globe. What do they get from the experience?

Below are brief summations from reports by author Bruce Feiler in his six-part TV series "Sacred Journeys,'' covering holy places from Nigeria to France to Saudi Arabia to Japan. 

Lourdes

Drive down gravel Road 22 in Nebraska's York County, past weathered farmhouses and corn cut to stubble in rich, black loam soil, and you'll find a small barn by the side of the road.

Built of native ponderosa pine, the barn is topped with solar panels. A windmill spins furiously out front.

Known as the Energy Barn, it's a symbol of renewable energy, standing smack on the proposed route of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline — a project of the energy giant TransCanada.

Updated at 2:10am ET

A source close to Sony Pictures confirms to NPR that the New York premiere of The Interview scheduled for Thursday has been canceled by the theater that was to host the screening.

Rhitu Chatterjee 

I showed up at Jantar Mantar around noon today. It’s a popular demonstration site in New Delhi. As I walked toward the narrow, dead-end street that is designated for demonstrators, I could hear their demands being broadcast over loudspeakers.

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