David Greene

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OK. We've gotten through Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year's. But if you're an NFL fan, the next holiday up is Wild Card Weekend. There is football on Saturday and Sunday. Four wild card teams facing four teams that won their divisions. And there are some pretty interesting storylines to cover. Let's cover them with NPR's Mike Pesca. Hey, Mike.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Storyline number one - not all the teams playing are wild cards. It is called that but they get to play divisional leaders, don't they?

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This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm David Greene.

This is a sound you might not expect to hear in a nation being torn up by violence.

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGING)

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene.

Here's a way to look at the year 2013 for President Barack Obama: He began the year with two-thirds of Americas saying they approved of the job he was doing. He's ending the year with that number around 40 percent.

He began fresh off a hard-fought electoral victory, going into his second term with a pretty ambitious agenda. He's ending the year with many of his priorities stalled.

Many observers say increasing partisanship in America is the result of gerrymandered districts, which allow partisan voters to determine candidates for Congress. A new analysis tests this theory.

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Yesterday, Ukraine got a big holiday present from its neighbor, Russia, in the form of a multi-billion dollar bailout. And now everyone is trying to figure out what strings Russia attached, and whether this could be a sign that Ukraine, a country of some 45 million people, is aligning itself more closely with the East than the West.

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This weekend, China landed a probe on the surface of the moon. This is the first soft-landing on the moon's surface in nearly 40 years, and it's a major step forward for China's space program.

Joining us to discuss these developments, NPR science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel. Hey, Geoff.

GEOFF BRUMFIEL, BYLINE: Hi, there.

GREENE: So what did China actually pull off here?

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And I'm David Greene.

There's another milestone today in the long effort to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons. The international overseeing the effort is unveiling more details of its plan and this is all a bit complicated. The first stage could be the hardest - moving the chemicals overland in the middle of a civil war to a Syrian port.

The National Security Agency is challenging those who want to overhaul its surveillance operations. A special panel has sent a report to the White House on how NSA programs should be changed. The group was established by the president following revelations about NSA eavesdropping.

[LATE-BREAKING CORRECTION: We misunderstood where the 24 hours of Elf was being planned. We thought it was USA, but it's actually Starz. Sorry, Starz!]

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Well, this is rivalry week in college football. It's that annual period when the cheering and the insults get noticeably louder. And this weekend there's some extra spice as games from Alabama to Florida to Michigan could all have an impact on which two teams end up playing for the national championship. This is the last year of the so-called BCS Championship, the Bowl Championship Series.

Comedian Bill Cosby has been in show business for 50 years, and he celebrated on Comedy Central over the weekend with a stand-up special — his first in 30 years — called Far From Finished.

That earlier special, called Bill Cosby Himself, inspired one of the most popular sitcoms in TV history: The Cosby Show, starring Cosby as paterfamilias Cliff Huxtable. It was a show that was really the first of its kind, capturing life in a highly educated upper-middle-class African-American family.

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In the essay "The Myth of Sisyphus," philosopher Albert Camus — who would have turned 100 on Thursday — explored the nature of boring work. There's new psychological research into why people end up in boring jobs.

It may come as a surprise to riders on Metro's Orange Line in Arlington, Va., just outside Washington, D.C., but the area sets the bar for suburban transit.

That's because a risky, expensive decision by local planners in the 1960s as the Washington subway system was about to be built helped this once-sleepy community come alive. It led to an increase in residents and decrease in traffic. Instead of having a line bypass these nearby Virginia suburbs aboveground, next to a highway, planners decided to run it underground and redevelop the neighborhoods above.

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And I'm David Greene. Good morning. Today marks the second day of relative normalcy following 16 days of government shutdown and the prospect of a U.S. default on its debts. A pivotal player in this drama was House Speaker John Boehner. He was portrayed alternately as a victim of Tea Party hardliners, as a figurehead haplessly stumbling through this crisis, or as a clever leader who had the ending figured out all along.

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NPR's business news begins with the latest on the deadlock here in Washington.

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GREENE: We've been following the story all this hour: House Republicans have been expected to announce their own plan to end the partial government shutdown and avert a default on the national debt. But House Speaker John Boehner came to the microphones a short while ago and kept things very vague.

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It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene.

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It's Morning Edition from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Good morning.

Seven days from now - according to the U.S. Treasury Department - the U.S. approaches the point where it can no longer pay its bills. The federal budget deficit has been dropping dramatically. But in the wake of the Great Recession, it is still very high.

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The Swedish Academy, which gives Nobel Prizes out this time of year, calls for master of the contemporary short story. Canadian writer Alice Munro is the winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature. The announcement was made earlier this morning in Stockholm. And joining us to talk about the selection is NPR's Lynn Neary. Lynn, good morning

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Good morning. Good to be here.

GREENE: So we have an editor at MORNING EDITION from Canada, and he literally jumped out of his seat when he heard this news.

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The Marine Corps has forced two of its top officers to retire. It is rare for commanders to be punished for a failure in combat, but that's the case here. The two commanders - both two-star generals - are being forced out because of an attack that happened on their watch in Afghanistan. It took place a year ago at a sprawling base called Camp Bastion. Two Americans died.

Financial markets across the world took a hit on Monday. They closed lower — waiting to see if there was a partial government shutdown in the U.S. Shortly before midnight, the White House ordered agencies to begin shutting down.

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After 162 regular season baseball games, the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates will meet tonight in a sudden death playoff. For my team, the Pirates, it's their first time in the post-season in 21 years. And after tonight, after just one game in a scheme surely invented by sadists, the Pirates might be out of the playoffs.

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And I'm David Greene. We are going into the fourth day of a siege at a popular mall in Nairobi, Kenya. The Somalia-based al-Shabab militant group has claimed responsibility. At least 62 people have been killed.

We had NPR's Gregory Warner on the line earlier. He told us that the military is still battling terrorists inside the mall, but they claim to have made progress. Do these militants still have any hostages in there?

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It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

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And I'm David Greene, good morning. Here is a window into President Obama's agenda right now. He's off to New York today for the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. Meanwhile, the U.S. federal government is heading towards a possible shutdown. And the president is helping the nation heal after another mass shooting.

Let's bring in a familiar voice on Monday mornings. Cokie Roberts, good morning.

President Obama is trying to convince Congress to get on board with his plans for Syria. Thursday night, some key members of Congress heard from top White House officials during a 90 minute phone call.

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All right, college football fans, it is time to get out your body paint and those foam fingers. The NCAA Division One football season is starting tonight with 17 games on the schedule. Most of the heavyweights start their campaigns on Saturday, and that includes top-ranked Alabama. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman joins me to preview the new season. And Tom, are you excited?

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Sure. Are you?

We started our historical Twitter account, @TodayIn1963, in June with the idea that we wanted to bring this monumental summer back to life with a modern take.

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When there's room to spread out, we often take advantage of it. Think about a big car or an SUV. You're behind the wheel, you roll the window down. You might prop up your left elbow. The other arm is outstretched on the wheel. It all sounds nice and relaxing, but it could have some major consequences. There's new research suggesting that you are more likely to blow a stop sign or a red light and not even know it. NPR's social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam is here to explain this.

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