National & World News from NPR

Unemployment figures for May come out Friday. While the numbers will show how many jobs have been added or lost, they won't tell us much about the quality of positions filled or illustrate what economists already know: that the middle of the job market is hollowing out.

Seventy-five years ago today, San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge opened to the public. People walked across the bridge for the first time, marveling at what was then the largest suspension bridge in the world.

Before the project began, many people thought building the bridge was impossible. And when the construction started, most thought that dozens would die in the process. The rule of thumb at the time was that for every million dollars spent on a project, one person would die — and the Golden Gate Bridge was going to cost $37 million.

Hotshot political consultant Matt Mackowiak is a rising star in the very lucrative world of political consulting. His firm, the Potomac Strategy Group, helps Republicans win elections, but he's not working with Gov. Mitt Romney's campaign this election year.

People who are part of Mackowiak's tribe — the strategists, the opposition researchers, the pollsters — are discovering that they can have a much bigger impact working for outside groups that can raise unlimited amounts of money, unencumbered by the rules that restrict what a presidential campaign can do.



Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate and Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren continues to be dogged by the question of if she has claimed American Indian heritage. Yesterday, in the wake of new allegations, Republican Senator Scott Brown accused Professor Warren of misleading Harvard about her Native American ethnicity. From member station WBUR in Boston, Fred Thys reports.

A Holiday Treat: Lower Prices At The Pump

May 26, 2012



And if you're one of millions of motorists on the roads this holiday weekend, you may have noticed something unexpected and welcome. Gas prices are falling. This at the start of the summer driving season when gas prices usually spike. We turn now to Daniel Yergin. He's author of "The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World," and chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates. He joins us from his office in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Yergin, thanks so much for being with us.


At Eurovision 2012, Politics Take The Stage

May 26, 2012



The annual kitsch contest known as the Eurovision Song Contest takes place later today. It's always held in the home country of the previous year's winner. This time, it's authoritarian Azerbaijan in central Asia. So it's been hard to avoid politics at what's supposed to be a nonpolitical event. Vicki Barker reports on both the contest and the context.


JEDWARD: (Singing) Oh, I am close to the waterline.

Sports: Ice, Hoops And Rackets

May 26, 2012



This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. And I wait all week to say: time for sports.


SIMON: The Stanley Cup finals are set - left versus right, a frequent flier bonanza. The NBA playoffs feature a thrilling matchup between Texas and Oklahoma, the Old Hands versus the Young Guns. And tennis, red, dusty and with a side of frites - the French Open opens. Here to talk about all of it, NPR Tom Goldman,

Morning, Tom.



This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. This week in Egypt, a nation that has been ruled for thousands of years by pharaohs, colonial rulers, military regimes and dictators held its first free election for a national leader. Egyptians went to the polls on Wednesday and Thursday, and though the official results are not yet in, the election is certainly a milestone in the democratic awakening known as the Arab Spring. Here's a selection of voices from Cairo in the week that Egypt voted.



New Orleans had endured so much - the Civil War, yellow fever, the Depression and a string of spectacular political shenanigans, but its award-winning daily newspaper, the Times-Picayune, has not been able to survive as a daily. Eileen Fleming of member station WWNO reports now on the diminution of a paper that's continued reporting during the darkest days of Hurricane Katrina.

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April and May are fairly quiet times for Maine lobstermen and women, with the height of the summer season still a couple of months away. This year, strange things are happening on the ocean floor. Many of the lobsters have prematurely shed their hard shells, and lobstermen are hauling large numbers of soft-shelled lobsters much earlier than usual.

If there's one grilling tip to remember this Memorial Day weekend, it should be this: Flame is bad.

"Flame does nasty things to food," food historian and science guy Alton Brown tells NPR's Scott Simon in the kick-off segment of Weekend Edition's "Taste of Summer" series.

A Quinnipiac University poll out this week found Mitt Romney with a 6-point lead over President Obama in Florida. That would seem to be very good news for the presumptive Republican nominee in what may be the biggest swing state this fall.

As the wind whips across the scrub grass in southern Argentina, a crane unloads huge bags of artificial sand for oil workers preparing for the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of a well.

Water mixed with chemicals and tiny ceramic beads are then blasted underground at high pressure. This mixture helps create fissures, allowing oil and natural gas to flow.

Energy analysts believe there are billions of barrels of oil and gas buried in a desert-like patch in Patagonia.

One of the ways Spaniards console themselves amid their failing economy is with their beloved sport of soccer. If you can't afford tickets to a game, it's always on TV in your local bar.

"For an escape from work, economic problems — just enjoy it and support your team," says soccer fan Ivan Rassuli, who's having a beer as he watches a match at a bar. "Everybody likes football. Maybe like the NBA or baseball in the United States."

But futbol, as Spaniards call soccer, has followed the same sorry trajectory as Spain's economy.

Failure To Pay Taxes

Chicago's 49th Ward is better known as Rogers Park. It's a neighborhood of middle-class houses and apartment buildings, home to Loyola University. It's known for diversity and an affordable, laid-back kind of cool.

But the 49th has a new claim to fame: In 2009, the ward's alderman, Joe Moore, became the first elected official in the country to hand over the purse strings to his constituents. Three years later, the experiment is still attracting new residents to planning meetings.

Forming Ideas

Patrick Fitzgerald, the federal prosecutor who went after the Gambino crime family, al-Qaida and even the White House in court — not to mention several Illinois politicians — is leaving his job as U.S. attorney in Chicago.

The career prosecutor, known as "Eliot Ness with a Harvard degree," will leave a legacy as a tenacious corruption buster, though some criticize his style as overzealous.

When the summer travel season begins, airline passengers typically brace for delays as vacationers fly in larger numbers and the inevitable weather-related disruptions occur.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees the nationwide system of air traffic control, is hoping to make some of those delays a thing of the past. It's developing what it calls "Next Generation" technology. The NextGen program will modernize the air traffic control system, transforming it from radar to GPS-based technology.

Observing Memorial Day

May 25, 2012

Like many Americans, we plan to take Memorial Day off. And while a three-day weekend is always fun, this holiday is a somber one.

We were reminded of that reading an Op-Ed from Tom Manion in today's Wall Street Journal. Manion served in the military for 30 years and his son, Travis Manion, was killed in Iraq when he was just 26-years-old.

Manion delivers an emotional piece that attempts to answer a complex question: Why do they serve?

Did you know most people smile when they are frustrated?

Look at this picture:

The one on the right came from frustration; the one on the left is genuine.

But when researchers asked participants to act frustrated, 90 percent didn't smile; however, when researchers made participants frustrated, 90 percent smiled.

Does Dish Network have the right to offer a commercial-free experience for its customers? Or does that infringe on broadcasters' copyrights?

As you might expect, CBS, NBC and Fox are not very happy at the prospect and filed suit yesterday against the TV provider to stop it from rolling out its "AutoHop" service.

Keep Kids Away From Laundry Detergent Packs

May 25, 2012

Something that looks good enough to eat can sometimes turns out to be a really big mistake.

Take those small, brightly colored single-use packs of laundry detergent that are becoming popular. To a curious toddler or small child, they look like candy.

But once inside childrens' mouths, the tempting packs can burst, releasing a concentrated blast of irriitating detergent. Already this year there have been at least 250 cases of illness from the packs reported to poison control centers across the country.

When parents deploy to a war zone overseas, their absence can have ripple effects that are felt long after they return. Parents and their children often struggle to figure out how to be a family again after leading separate lives for months or years. Now, there's an effort to make the transition from combat life to home life less rocky.

From now until November, President Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney will emphasize their differences. But the two men's lives actually coincide in a striking number of ways. In this installment of NPR's "Parallel Lives" series, a look at one of those similarities: They both signed health care overhaul laws based on an individual mandate.

This is the tale of a single tweet and its far-reaching consequences in China.

In April 2011, retired forestry official Fang Hong posted a scatological tweet, mocking a powerful Chinese politician, Bo Xilai, the Chongqing party secretary.

Spanish Lender Requests $24 Billion Bailout

May 25, 2012

A troubled Spanish lender has asked the government for 19 billion euros ($24 billion) of public money to keep the bank from collapsing.

As The New York Times reports, this is far beyond what the government was expecting when it took over Bankia and "its portfolio of delinquent real estate loans."

In its periodic report on Iran's nuclear program, the United Nation's nuclear watchdog said it found traces of uranium enriched to a level higher than it had previously reported.

NPR's Mike Shuster filed this report for our Newscast unit:

"When International Atomic Energy Agency monitors carry out routine inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities, they take environmental samples to help them determine the nature of uranium enrichment underway.

You know all those lawsuits now pending around the country charging that the Obama administration's rule requiring most health insurance plans to offer no-cost contraception is a violation of religious freedom?

Well, a whole bunch of supporters of the rule are chiming in now to say that argument has no legal merit.

MIT Builds A Needle-Free Drug Injector

May 25, 2012

The needle and syringe are icons of modern medicine.

But a device developed at MIT to squirt medicines quickly and pretty much painlessly through the skin suggests that the future of medicine could be needle-free.

The first sneak peak a few weeks back inside journalist David Maraniss' highly anticipated biography of President Obama served up glimpses of the president as a young man in romantic relationships, with information gleaned from early girlfriends.