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Economy
6:00 am
Sat February 11, 2012

Warm Weather Easing Local Budgets

Temperatures have been above normal in Chicago this winter, saving the city's snow removal budget millions of dollars.
Jeffrey Phelps AP

In January of last year, snow blanketed more than 42 percent of the country. Last month, it was just under 13 percent. The warm weather has lowered our heating bills and created a bit of an economic boost.

After two brutally long winters, the temperatures this year have been positively balmy. In the Washington, D.C., area, they've hovered in the 50s for much of the past two and a half months. Area landscapers, whose schedules are usually pretty lean this time of year, are busier. Take Chuck Dod Landscaping, which is building a stone wall in the backyard of a home in Mclean, Va.

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Latin America
4:14 am
Sat February 11, 2012

Sports Journalism Is The Goooaal At Argentine School

In sports-crazy Argentina, sports journalism schools have cropped up to train aspiring reporters and broadcasters. Here, Argentine national soccer team coach Sergio Batista arrives for a press conference in Cordoba, Argentina, last year.
Antonio Scorza AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat February 11, 2012 9:46 am

Every day, from early morning until late at night, the Superior School of Sports Journalism in Buenos Aires is packed. And most of its 600 students hope to spend their working lives covering sports.

For years, Roberto Bermudez has been teaching in the ornate mansion that houses the school.

"Many have been frustrated athletes, whom I always tell, 'Here we don't make athletes, we make journalists. You have the opportunity to be a journalist,' " Bermudez says.

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Research News
4:12 am
Sat February 11, 2012

Deconstructing Dengue: How Old Is That Mosquito?

Mosquitoes like this one can carry the virus that causes dengue fever.
James Gathany CDC Public Health Image Library

Originally published on Sat February 11, 2012 9:46 am

Scientists can spend years working on problems that at first may seem esoteric and rather pointless. For example, there's a scientist in Arizona who's trying to find a way to measure the age of wild mosquitoes.

As weird as that sounds, the work is important for what it will tell scientists about the natural history of mosquitoes. It also could have major implications for human health.

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Space
4:12 am
Sat February 11, 2012

A Real Estate Deal That Spans The Earth

The Jamesburg Earth Station closed in 2002, but the 10-story satellite dish still stands tall.
Courtesy of Bert Aronson

Originally published on Sat February 11, 2012 9:46 am

For sale: 160 acres of rolling hills in California perfect for a vineyard, cattle ranch or communication with outer space.

To understand how Silicon Valley businessman Jeffrey Bullis ended up owning the Jamesburg Earth Station — a former telecommunications center with a 10-story satellite dish — you have to think back to 2004.

The real estate market was booming. Bullis was visiting a friend in Carmel Valley on California's Central Coast, where homes can still sell for millions.

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Politics
3:58 am
Sat February 11, 2012

Religion And Birth Control: Not Just A GOP Fight

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Catholic up for re-election this year, was one of the Democrats who spoke out against the White House birth control policy before it was altered.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

President Obama moved swiftly Friday to quell a politically perilous uproar involving two hot-button issues: birth control and religious institutions.

In January, the Obama administration announced that under its health care law, religiously affiliated institutions such as hospitals and schools would have to include birth control in their employees' health coverage.

All this week, Republicans on Capitol Hill bashed that policy as a violation of religious freedom, and some of the president's fellow Democrats added to the heat.

'An Accommodation'

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Politics
3:57 am
Sat February 11, 2012

New Contraceptive Plan: A Successful Balancing Act?

President Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announce the revamping of his contraception policy, at the White House on Friday.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Sat February 11, 2012 3:53 pm

The White House is trying to mend fences with Catholics and others who were outraged at a new rule governing insurance coverage for birth control.

That policy would have required Catholic hospitals, universities and other institutions to cover birth control in their employees' health insurance. Critics called that an assault on religious freedom.

President Obama announced a change of course Friday, and the White House is hoping to regain religious allies and maintain support from the women who voted for Obama.

A Change Of Policy

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Latin America
3:00 am
Sat February 11, 2012

In Honduras, Police Accused Of Corruption, Killings

University students take part in a wake against violence held in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, in October. According to the United Nations, Honduras is the most violent country in the world.
Orlando Sierra AFP/Getty Images

This is the first of a two-part series about the roots of violence in Honduras.

Honduras is hot, mountainous and about the size of the state of Louisiana. According to the United Nations, the Central American nation is also the world's most violent country.

A mix of drug trafficking, political instability and history has contributed to a murder rate that is now four times that of Mexico. The Peace Corps has withdrawn its volunteers.

Contributing to the volatility are the police themselves.

'They Don't Respect The Law'

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Shots - Health Blog
5:57 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

With Contraceptive Coverage Plan 2.0, Obama Pleases Allies, But Not Everyone

President Obama, flanked by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, announces the revamp of the contraception-care policy on Friday.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Fri February 10, 2012 6:44 pm

President Obama's latest proposed change in how contraceptives are covered by employer health insurance may not have ended the controversy that has raged for the past three weeks. But what the administration is calling an "accommodation" for religious employers has apparently mollified key allies who had opposed his original plan.

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The Two-Way
4:48 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

A Purple Squirrel In Pennsylvania Provokes A Host Of Theories

The purple squirrel captured in Jersey Shore, Pa.
Facebook

Originally published on Fri February 10, 2012 5:05 pm

A purple squirrel that was captured in Jersey Shore, Pa., has a bunch of people scratching their heads. The AP reports that Percy Emert and his wife, Connie, spotted the squirrel in their yard, then decided to try to lure it into a trap using some peanuts.

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Middle East
3:52 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

With Death Toll Soaring, What's Next In Aid To Syria?

Bodies of what activists say are victims of shelling by the Syrian army in a Sunni Muslim district in the central city of Homs, on Feb. 8.
Handout Reuters/Landov

As the death toll mounts in Syria, the U.S. and its partners have been scrambling to come up with new diplomatic initiatives to persuade Syrian President Bashar Assad to silence his army's guns and give up power.

Last week, Russia and China blocked a U.N. resolution that would have supported the Arab League peace proposals. Since then, the violence has only intensified.

Like other international diplomats, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is still reeling from Russia and China's refusal to back the Arab League proposal's to solve the crisis in Syria.

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It's All Politics
3:50 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

At CPAC, Gingrich Takes Aim At 'Republican Establishment'

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., on Friday.
Win McNamee Getty Images

Newt Gingrich was the last presidential candidate to speak Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C.

And he kept his Romney powder dry, preferring instead to attack establishment Republicans who have not embraced the Gingrich campaign. To put it mildly.

That establishment, Gingrich charged, is "managing the decay" of the party, and sees his campaign as a "mortal threat" to their insider Washington lives.

"We intend to change Washington," said the former House speaker, "not accommodate it."

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The Two-Way
3:49 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

U.S. Says Satellite Images Show Weaponry Syria Is Using Against Civilians

A satellite image taken Feb. 6.
U.S. State Department

The United States has declassified a series of satellite images it says show the kinds of weaponry the Syrian regime is using against its own people.

The first image was released on the Facebook page of the U.S. Embassy in Damascus. It was accompanied by a note from Embassador Robert Ford, who in the past has taken to Facebook to criticize the regime of President Bashar Assad.

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Animals
2:53 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

Return Of Gray Wolves Renews Debate Over Hunting

A gray wolf in the wild. Park officials say hunting restrictions in place in parts of of Montana have protected Yellowstone's wolves from a repeat of a 2009 hunt in which four Yellowstone wolves were shot.
MacNeill Lyons/National Park Service AP

Originally published on Fri February 10, 2012 4:24 pm

Gray wolves were taken off the endangered species list in Idaho and Montana last year and put under state control. But they're still on the list in neighboring Wyoming. That's because Wyoming has been the most aggressive about wanting to kill wolves.

Wyoming has finally struck a deal with the federal government regarding how wolves will be treated once the state takes over. But environmentalists believe the agreement denies wolves an important refuge.

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Politics
2:50 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

On The Trail, Romney Avoids His French Connection

Mitt Romney with his then fiancee, Ann (right), and Romney's parents, in Washington, D.C., in 1969. Romney had returned from Mormon missionary work in France the previous year.
JH AP

Mitt Romney waxed eloquent in French as he promoted the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, calling the two years he spent as a young man in France an "enriching experience."

But now that he's running for president of the United States, Romney doesn't talk a lot about his time as a Mormon missionary in France.

"Voilà," says Philippe Brillaut, as he points to the site of what would be France's first Mormon temple.

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Business
2:49 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

Angel Investors And Startups Mingle In Milwaukee

HarQen CEO Kelly Fitzsimmons delivers a presentation to Silicon Pastures, a Milwaukee-based angel investment group that has already put more than $1 million into her company.
Jeff Fitzsimmons HarQen

Originally published on Fri February 10, 2012 4:03 pm

Thirty-five well-dressed men and women are sipping wine and chatting in the lounge of one of Milwaukee's oldest and most exclusive social clubs. A century ago, this is where the city's beer and banking giants mixed and mingled. Tonight's crowd isn't all that different — many of these men and women are worth at least a million dollars. Once a month, they pool their money to invest in high-tech, fast-growth startups. They call themselves the Silicon Pastures Angel Investment Network.

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Religion
2:44 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

Catholics Split On Obama's Birth Control Decision

Archbishop Thomas Wenski, shown celebrating Mass at the Cathedral of St. Mary in Miami last month, says the new birth control policy is a "smoke screen."
Lynne Sladky AP

Originally published on Fri February 10, 2012 8:21 pm

Reaction from the Catholic community to the Obama administration's decision to revise its birth control policy was swift and mixed.

Under the new rule, employers with a religious objection to offering contraceptive coverage as part of their health care plans wouldn't have to provide it directly. Instead, the requirement to provide that coverage free of charge would fall on the insurance companies.

Some Catholics believe the president's new rule resolves the religious liberty issues. But others, including key bishops, say it is smoke and mirrors.

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Religion
2:36 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

With Vatican's Backing, Catholics Address Sex Abuse

Cardinal Marc Ouellet presides over a penitential mass at St. Ignatius Church in Rome, Feb. 7, 2012. The mass, which asked the forgiveness of victims of clerical sexual abuse, was part of a Vatican-backed symposium addressing the scandal of pedophile priests and the church culture that enabled such abuse to take place.
Andreas Solaro AFP/Getty Images

A decade after the clerical sex abuse scandal erupted in the United Sates, Catholic religious officials from all over the world met in Rome this week to tackle the painful topic.

The Vatican endorsed the symposium — called "Toward Healing and Renewal" — the aim of which was changing the culture of how the church deals with cases of pedophile priests.

One of the highlights was a late-afternoon penitential mass on Feb. 7 — apparently the first time a senior Vatican official conducted a service to ask the forgiveness of abuse victims.

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Shots - Health Blog
2:21 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

C-Sections May Be Risky For Smaller Preemies

A cesarean section may not be risky for a small preemie than a vaginal birth.
Matthew Scherf iStockphoto.com

When a fetus isn't growing as expected, doctors get worried. Often they decide to deliver a baby like that early by cesarean section, figuring it's the safer way to go.

But C-sections aren't always best for baby, according to new research.

Preemies who were small for their gestational age did better when they were delivered vaginally, researchers found. The babies delivered by C-section were 30 percent more likely to have trouble breathing, a big problem in preemies.

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Animals
2:13 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

Saved From Extinction, Darwin's Crocs Are Now King

Crocodile ranger Tom Nichols stands beside the crocodile traps used in Darwin Harbour. Nichols' left hand was mangled by an irate "salty" nine years ago.
John Burnett NPR

It's appropriate that Darwin, the tropical capital of Australia's Northern Territory, is named for the English naturalist.

The massive, powerful and deadly saltwater crocodile — the world's largest living reptile — is the evolutionary triumph of 50 million years of natural selection. And in Darwin, the crocodile is equally dreaded and beloved.

Crocodylus porosus was hunted to near extinction in the last century. But in 1974, the Australian government put the species, known affectionately as the "Australian salty," under federal protection.

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The Two-Way
1:40 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

Judge Sets Trial Date For Jerry Sandusky In Abuse Case

Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach charged with sexually abusing boys, pauses while speaking to the media at the Centre County Courthouse.
Alex Brandon AP

A Pennsylvania judge set a tentative trial date of May 14 for Jerry Sandusky, who is facing 50 counts of sex abuse of 10 boys.

Sandusky was in court in part to ask Judge John Cleland for greater freedom while he awaits a trial.

The AP reports:

"The attorney general's office wants him confined to the inside of his home while on house arrest awaiting trial, while the defense asked that he be allowed out occasionally to help with the case.

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It's All Politics
1:37 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

In Plea To The Right, Romney Bills Himself As 'Severely Conservative'

Hoping to inspire the conservative base that hasn't warmed to him, Mitt Romney made his case to the American Conservative Union's annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington on Friday.
Jim Bourg Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Fri February 10, 2012 1:49 pm

They may not be ready to accept GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's invitation to stand with him "shoulder to shoulder," but conservatives at their biggest annual gathering gave him a reception Friday that at times rose to rousing.

Tacitly acknowledging that his past positions on abortion rights and health care mandates have made him suspect with a swath of his party's base, Romney used his speech to describe his "path to conservatism" as a mix of family values, faith and his "life's work" in business.

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The Salt
1:36 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

Wilderness On A Plate: A California Chef On His Foraged Feasts

In this dish, Coi's Daniel Patterson combines California clam, bull kelp, wild fennel, and Meyer lemon.
Coi Restaurant

Originally published on Sat February 11, 2012 4:09 pm

We at The Salt did our fair share of foraging last year: Allison Aubrey gathered pawpaws in Maryland, and Nancy Shute scavenged nutritious greens in the abandoned lots right near our office.

As the trend attracts more enthusiasts, home cooks are learning local botany, and high-end chefs are turning this most traditional method of gathering food into a glamorous sport.

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NPR Story
1:00 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

A Year After Revolution, Tensions Rising In Bahrain

Tensions are growing in the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain. Protests by Shiites in outlying areas are growing ahead of next week's anniversary of the uprising. There are daily clashes between protesters and police and some fear that the violence will escalate as the anniversary approaches on Feb. 14, perhaps spreading to the streets of the capital, Manama.

NPR Story
1:00 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

How Will Banks Divide $25 Billion Settlement?

Audie Cornish talks to Chris Arnold about how money from the robo-signing agreement will be spent. The settlement — worth about $25 billion — will bring a huge increase in loan modifications and provide small checks to people who lost their homes to foreclosure.

The Two-Way
12:58 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

Germany Puts Off Signing Global Anti-Piracy Agreement

Protesters, some wearing Guy Fawkes masks, take part in a demonstration in Stockholm on Saturday to protest the Swedish government's plan to ratify the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.
Fredrik Persson AFP/Getty Images

Germany is putting off signing an international anti-piracy accord known as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

ACTA, as the agreement is known, has been controversial for years. In many ways, it's been controversial in the same way that the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) has been in the United States.

We reported about the accord back in 2009, but slowly it's been watered down and signed by many countries including the United States, Japan and many European countries.

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The Two-Way
11:40 am
Fri February 10, 2012

VIDEO: NASA Releases Spectacular View Of Aurora Borealis From Space

The Northern Lights as seen from space.
NASA

Using a new time-lapse technique, NASA was able to capture a spectacular view of how astronauts aboard the International Space Station see the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights.

As the AP says, NASA has released many videos of this before — just take a look at this stunning one released a couple of months ago — but this is time-lapse footage taken with high resolution cameras.

In any case, here's the video via BBC Mundo:

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NPR Story
11:00 am
Fri February 10, 2012

Valentine's Day Special: Look Of Love

Originally published on Fri February 10, 2012 11:58 am

Transcript

JOHN DANKOSKY, HOST:

And now it's time for the Video Pick of the Week, and Flora's here. Hi, Flora.

FLORA LICHTMAN, BYLINE: Hi, John.

DANKOSKY: So what do you have for us?

LICHTMAN: This week, we have a Valentine's Day special, getting ready for next week's Valentine's Day, in case you didn't remember.

DANKOSKY: How romantic.

LICHTMAN: Yes, of course, always on SCIENCE FRIDAY.

DANKOSKY: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

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NPR Story
11:00 am
Fri February 10, 2012

Notes From A Former 'Guitar Zero'

NYU psychology professor Gary Marcus took up guitar at the relatively ancient age of 38, by starting with the video game Guitar Hero. Marcus shares his experiences and insights on the science of learning, which he's gathered in a new book Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning.

NPR Story
11:00 am
Fri February 10, 2012

Why Vinyl Sounds Better Than CD, Or Not

According to Rolling Stone magazine, sales of vinyl albums continue to grow, setting a new record in 2010. Does vinyl reproduce sound better, or is it just a trend? Two audio experts join guest host John Dankosky to talk about the science of audio, and how perceptions can shape the sound experience.

NPR Story
11:00 am
Fri February 10, 2012

Drug Rapidly Counters Effects of Alzheimer's In Mice

Originally published on Fri February 10, 2012 11:58 am

Transcript

JOHN DANKOSKY, HOST:

This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm John Dankosky, sitting in for Ira Flatow. Scientists have long been studied amyloid beta, those sticky protein fragments that build up in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. What you may not know is that amyloid beta is produced in everyone's brain, including my brain as I speak to you right now.

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