National & World News from NPR

Saying that each one of the recipients has touched countless lives, President Obama presented 13 Presidential Medals of Freedom during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House today.

All of the people on the stage, Obama said, "are my heroes individually." He said that if it were not for John Doar, the Justice Department official who personally escorted University of Mississippi's first black student to campus, he would not be president.

One of the day's most-discussed stories has to be The New York Times' report headlined "Secret 'Kill List' Proves A Test Of Obama's Principles And Will."

It's a long, detailed look at how the president has "placed himself at the helm of a top secret 'nominations' process to designate terrorists for kill or capture, of which the capture part has become largely theoretical."

This is the first of two stories we're doing this week on organ transplants. See the second story, What Air Traffic Can Teach Us About Kidney Transplants

Ashley Dias, 26, is waiting for lungs. She has cystic fibrosis and needs a lung transplant to survive. She's got a tracheostomy tube in her neck so she can only mouth out words.

At sunset tonight Manhattan's grid will match up perfectly with the sun, producing a dazzling, golden display on each one of the city's streets.

It happens twice a year and it's been termed "Manhattanhenge," coined by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Natural History.

NPR's Margo Adler sent this report for our Newscast unit:

Yesterday, a short piece in a Japan-based foreign affairs magazine caused a lot of surprise: U.S. Special Forces have parachuted into North Korea "to spy on Pyongyang's extensive network of underground military facilities," The Diplomat reported.

The New York Times' Frank Bruni floated the idea, saying he'd heard "a vague murmuring" about Michelle Obama running for the Senate from Illinois in 2016.

It's the sort of question you toss out to a table full of politics buffs — sharing a pitcher of cold beer. (We'll provide the aficionados; you imagine the table and the cold pitcher.)

Which presidential election in American history most resembles the coming election between President Obama and Mitt Romney — and why?

If a goat walks about 2,000 miles from Arizona to Chicago can that "reverse the curse" that has plagued the Cubs for nearly 67 years?

Odd as that question sounds, it's about to be put to the test.

Five Cubs fans and a goat have just finished a three-month walk from Mesa, Ariz., to the Windy City and are due at Wrigley Field this afternoon when the Cubs host the San Diego Padres.

The International Monetary Fund's boss, Christine Lagarde, made a lot of Greeks very angry with an interview she gave The Guardian on Friday.

Essentially, Lagarde said she has very little sympathy for the Greeks and that if they want to solve their financial problems they should just pay their taxes.

Here's what she told the paper exactly:

Understanding New Orleans' Murder Epidemic

May 29, 2012

The murder rate in New Orleans has consistently been well above the national average. But Mayor Mitch Landrieu is searching for answers to change that. He speaks with host Michel Martin about his five-step plan to lower the murder rate, his plans to reform the police department, and being mayor of a city in recovery.



I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, he's bringing new flavors from Latin America to places like Philadelphia, Atlantic City and Washington, D.C. We'll talk Nuevo Latino cuisine with the award-winning chef, Guillermo Pernot. That's in just a few minutes.

But first, we're going to continue our conversation with the mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu. We're talking about his administration's efforts to stop the killing in his city. Per capita, New Orleans has the highest murder rate in the country.

Word from the antivirus experts at Kaspersky Lab that "we've found what might be the most sophisticated cyber weapon yet unleashed," and that this Flame spyware is targeting Iran and some places in the Middle East, is getting lots of attention this morning:

-- "Massive Cyber-Attack Discovered, Researchers Say." (BBC News)

Can someone actually be hooked on a behavior, like gambling?

Problem gambling isn't considered a true addiction in medical circles. But that may change as psychiatrists revise the diagnostic manual that spells out criteria for more than a dozen varieties of mental disorders.

Last week, the researchers who put out the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Survey of Consumers said their index rose in May to "its highest level since October 2007" — before the last recession began.

But when it comes to economics, there always seem to be an "on the other hand" moment coming — especially when the economy appears to be at a turning point.

If you listen to the Morning Edition interview with first lady Michelle Obama, you'll know she's come out with a new book about the White House garden.

The National Spelling Bee gets going Wednesday and the story that's got everyone buzzing is about the youngest competitor in the contest's history: 6-year-old Lori Anne Madison from Woodbridge, Va.

She is, as Washington's WJLA-TV says, a "precocious little girl" who "is anything but ordinary" and will be on stage with others twice her age.

The news has gotten worse from Italy. Just after 9:15 a.m. ET, The Associated Press reported that authorities say at least 15 people were killed today by an earthquake that struck the northern part of the country.

Our original post, from 8:05 a.m. ET:

As residents in Northeast Florida give thanks that Tropical Storm Beryl did relatively little damage over the weekend and did not develop into a hurricane, they're also grateful that it brought rain to an area plagued by drought.

"The U.N. said Tuesday that entire families were shot in their homes during a massacre in Syria on Friday that killed more than 100 people, including children," The Associated Press reports. And as nations around the world have reacted this morning to news about the atrocities, they're expelling Syrian diplomats in protest.

There are growing warnings on Capitol Hill that the nation could be rolling toward an end-of-the-year fiscal train wreck.

"The looming tax hike will be absolutely devastating," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said.

"You can call this a fiscal cliff. You can call it 'Taxmageddon' as others have done. Whatever you call it, it will be a disaster for the middle class," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, added.

And Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., said: "It's a tsunami; there's no question about it, and it's coming."

It's high noon in Texas at the Stephenville Community Center out on Highway 67, and the Cross Timbers Republican Women's Club Candidates Forum is about to begin.

Time has run out on this Republican Senate primary. This is a last chance for the candidates to make an impression before Tuesday's vote. They're vying to replace Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is retiring after serving for nearly 20 years.

The American Dream is a crucial thread in this country's tapestry, woven through politics, music and culture.

Though the phrase has different meanings to different people, it suggests an underlying belief that hard work pays off and that the next generation will have a better life than the previous generation.

But three years after the worst recession in almost a century, the American Dream now feels in jeopardy to many.

The town of Lorain, Ohio, used to embody this dream. It was a place where you could get a good job, raise a family and comfortably retire.

On a recent evening, the Martin family of Harrisburg, Pa., had too many places it needed to be.

AnnaBelle Bowers, the 87-year-old matriarch of the family who is also known as "Snootzie," was at home — watching television and getting ready for bed.

Someone needed to care for her. That fell to Chris Martin, her 14-year-old great-grandson.

His willingness to stay at home meant his sister, Lauren, could play in a softball game.

It also meant her parents, David and LaDonna Martin, could watch.

As an increasing number of Americans live into their 80s and 90s, many families are struggling to find ways to make retirement dollars — that were once supposed to support seniors for years — now stretch over decades.

More and more, families have to care for the very elderly, as well as look after children who might be college grads but haven't found a job in a difficult economy.

All this requires one very important thing: lots of money.

Raoul Wallenberg is credited with saving thousands of Jews in Budapest during the Nazi occupation by giving them Swedish travel papers or moving them to safe houses. The Swedish diplomat was arrested by the Soviet Red Army more than six decades ago. His fate has been a mystery ever since.

On Monday, the chief archivist of Russia's counterintelligence service said the agency will continue searching for clues about his fate.

When Saber Sharifi goes out recruiting girls and young women for his female boxing team in Afghanistan, he encounters a lot of skeptical parents.

"I reassure them that their daughters will not have broken noses on their wedding day," he says with a smile.

Sharifi launched his recruiting campaign in girls' high schools back in 2007. After three months of relentless speeches and presentations, he could only get two girls to sign up.

But he didn't give up. After two more years, he had eight more members on the team.

Indonesia, the country with the world's largest number of active volcanoes, is betting that all the hot rocks will provide a clean and reliable energy source for the future.

The country is believed have 40 percent of the world's geothermal energy resources. But making geothermal energy economically feasible will require adjusting the country's heavily subsidized energy prices. And that issue is a political hot potato.

Unused Potential

As Headphones Invade The Office, Are We Lonelier?

May 28, 2012

Headphones or earbuds are becoming common in the workplace. Not just for listening to music on a break, they allow people to tune out their co-workers all day long. But in many cases, those same co-workers are still communicating — online.

Melissa Gore, a project manager at Huge, a Brooklyn, N.Y., digital branding agency, works side-by-side at long tables with hundreds of others. But she doesn't hear the chatter and commotion.

"I just have some headphones on," she says. "I get in the zone with Spotify and sometimes people have to wave their hand in front of me."