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Room 615 in Vladivostok's Hotel Gavan is a cramped, two-room "business suite" with green wallpaper and carpeting. Yet when former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il traveled to Russia's Pacific coast in 2002, the modest digs served as his presidential suite.

The joint alert from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security last month warning that Russia was hacking into critical U.S. energy infrastructure may have shaken some Americans. But it came as no surprise to the country's largest grid operator, PJM Interconnection.

The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered inspections of fan blades on some jet engines of the same type as the one that blew apart on a Southwest Airlines flight, causing the death of a passenger and injuring seven others.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia's medical examiner says Jennifer Riordan, who died on the Dallas-bound Boeing 737 flight, was killed by blunt trauma to her head, neck and torso when she was partially blown out a cabin window shattered by engine debris. Federal inspectors say Riordan, 43, was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident.

When Lane Murdock, a high school sophomore, heard that 17 high school students and educators had been killed in a shooting in Parkland, Fla., she says she felt numb.

To her, and so many others, mass shootings can feel all too common in the U.S.

"In the time I've been in high school we've had the Pulse, Las Vegas and now, [the Parkland] shooting," Murdock says.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., does not support a measure that would make it harder for President Trump to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, but that isn't stopping some Republicans from forcing the debate.

North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis said Wednesday that he will continue working on a bill to allow Mueller access to speedy judicial review if Trump tries to force him out of his job leading the Justice Department investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election — with or without McConnell's support.

Political brawls over voting laws have consumed states across the country for the past decade. But below the surface, a movement to automatically register eligible voters to vote is rapidly gaining traction. By next year, more than a quarter of all Americans will live in states where they no longer have to fill out registration forms in order to cast a ballot.

Most people are familiar with some form of triage: When you go to an emergency room, you first sit down with a triage nurse who records your symptoms, takes your vital signs and assesses the urgency of your medical need.

As of Thursday, that's happening over the phone for 911 callers in Washington, D.C., where triage nurses now sit alongside 911 dispatchers to help field calls.

Former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claims to have had a 10-month affair with President Trump that ended in 2007, has settled a lawsuit with the owner of the National Enquirer that kept her from publicly discussing the relationship.

Updated at 11 a.m. ET Friday

Facebook on Wednesday announced it is introducing "new privacy experiences" aimed at complying with European Union regulations that will give users worldwide a chance to opt out of some features that could expose their personal data.

"Everyone – no matter where they live – will be asked to review important information about how Facebook uses data and make choices about their privacy on Facebook," said Erin Egan, Facebook's chief privacy officer and Ashlie Beringer, deputy general counsel.

It's not often a town of roughly 1,000 makes national news. But then, it's not often a town faces a plight so ripe for media attention as Parrish, Ala.

Updated at 8:40 p.m. ET

SpaceX has launched NASA's planet-hunting satellite TESS into outer space Wednesday evening from Cape Canaveral.

Tess — short for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite — will spend two years searching for planets near bright, nearby stars. The satellite was launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

The launch window was narrow — just 30 seconds — and TESS was to be deployed into orbit about 48 minutes after launch.

Newly filed reports show Democratic House candidates outpacing Republicans in raising money for the midterm elections. Here's what's going on:

1. Democratic donors are excited by the possibility of gaining a House majority.

French President Emmanuel Macron has ambitious plans for European Union reform and has been counting on cooperation from Germany, France's closest European ally, to see those plans come to fruition. But when he meets in Berlin Thursday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss his proposals, he may face resistance.

While Germany is decidedly pro-EU, Merkel is under domestic pressure to push back against economic reforms that could vex taxpayers. And some of Macron's proposals would do exactly that.

Three Kansas men were convicted Wednesday of plotting to bomb an apartment complex where Somali immigrants lived and worshiped in Garden City, following a four-week trial in Wichita.

At Trump National Doral Golf Club near Miami this week, executives with the nation's payday loan industry are holding their annual conference with receptions, breakout sessions and a golf tournament.

Outside the gates of the resort Tuesday, a smaller group gathered to hold a protest. They were trying to shame an industry that they say preys on the vulnerable, by lending them money at interest rates as high as 200 percent to 300 percent a year.

New York's attorney general wants lawmakers to change the state's criminal laws so that potential pardons by President Trump wouldn't necessarily protect people from being charged in the state system.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, already facing one felony charge for invasion of privacy, as well as allegations of sexual assault and blackmail, could potentially be charged with a separate felony for his campaign practices when he ran for office.

Greitens calls the suggestion of a new charge "ridiculous." He vigorously denies all allegations of criminal activity — consistently saying his only wrongdoing was a consensual affair — and has refused to resign, despite calls from state lawmakers.

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For years, Starbucks has described its stores as a "third space" — a quasi-public place, away from home or the office, where anyone is welcome to hang out.

But the rules about that space are murky. They can vary from place to place, and even store to store. The way the rules are enforced isn't always consistent, either, which is how unconscious bias and discrimination can creep in.

Now, the arrests of two black men at a Starbucks store in Philadelphia last week are raising uncomfortable questions for the company and others like it.

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The Senate approved a measure Wednesday that would roll back policies designed to protect minority car buyers from discriminatory loan terms. Republicans passed the bill by a narrow margin, and it now moves on to the House.

Allan Monga had never given much thought to poetry before last summer, when he arrived in Maine as an asylum-seeker from Zambia.

At the time, he was almost completely alone, living at a teen shelter in Portland and nervous about speaking with anyone in his new country.

"It was really hard for me," says Monga, 19. "I didn't really know anyone. It was hard to trust anyone."

A strong breeze can toss around all sorts of detritus, but for residents of one California community on the edge of the Mojave Desert, where area gusts topped 50 mph Monday, it was tumbleweeds at the whims of the wind.

Lots of tumbleweeds.

"It looked like a war of tumbleweeds, like we were being invaded," Victorville resident Bryan Bagwell, 42, tells NPR. He says cleanup in Victorville, about an 85-mile drive from Los Angeles, was continuing Wednesday.

The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia has seen two massive bleaching events over the span of two years. And that's led to a widespread die-off of the corals, according to a new study.

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