Arizona's new 9th Congressional District is sending a different type of representative to Washington this week: She's young — 36. She grew up homeless for a time. And she'll be the first openly bisexual member of Congress.
Democrat Kyrsten Sinema marvels at the number of women, minorities and members of the LGBT community who will join her in the freshman class, which will be sworn in Thursday.
Most of the really big changes made by the 2010 health law don't start for another year. That includes things like a ban on restricting pre-existing conditions, and required insurance coverage for most Americans. But Jan. 1, 2013, will nevertheless mark some major changes.
In covering this debate, much has been made of income tax rates and where exactly they should be raised. But one fact has gotten far less notice. Starting today, payroll taxes are going up two percentage points for nearly all American workers. NPR's John Ydstie joins us to talk about it. And John, this means lower take-home pay for a lot of workers starting very soon.
Sen.-elect Ted Cruz of Texas is a bright young Hispanic star who will be sworn in this week in Washington. The Republican Party nationally hopes Cruz will be part of the solution to its growing problem luring Hispanic voters.
Almost nobody had heard of Cruz when he began his campaign for the U.S. Senate. But when he stepped in front of a microphone, he could light up a room in a way that made the other Republican candidates seem lifeless.
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Early this morning, the Senate approved a fiscal cliff package that includes some important steps forward on taxes, an unemployment extension and a new farm bill, among others. But now it appears that bill may be in trouble in the House of Representatives. NPR senior Washington editor Ron Elving joins us now from his home here in Washington, D.C. Ron, Happy New Year.
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan. This afternoon, House Democrats and Republicans are meeting separately to consider the Senate-approved deal that would avert automatic tax hikes and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff. Some House Republicans indicate they'd like to amend that bill and send it back to the Senate, which if it doesn't get done tonight could invalidate the negotiated deal. It would then become a problem for the next Congress, which takes office on Thursday. As of now, no vote is scheduled.
Right now in Pasadena, the floats in the annual Tournament of Roses Parade are the homestretch. The Rose Parade is a long-established national tradition, of course, watched every year by hundreds of thousands across the country. Los Angeles Times columnist Patt Morrison covered the event many times and wrote today: Its huge cultural shadow has been as much about what you didn't see on display as what you did.
Originally published on Wed January 2, 2013 11:03 am
Following an already violent year in Pakistan, on the first day of the New Year gunmen shot and killed five teachers and two aid workers as they were driving home from work.
According to The Associated Press, the groups director said they may have been targeted for their anti-polio work, which would follow a pattern of attacks against charity and aid workers in Pakistan in recent weeks.
Waves crash over the Kulluk oil rig, which washed aground on Sitkalidak Island, Alaska. Officials say aircraft have not spotted any signs of a fuel leak from the rig, which reportedly does not contain crude oil.
Credit Jeff Brady / NPR
The drilling rig Kulluk, seen here in 2010, is specially built to work in the Arctic Ocean. Its round shape deflects ice floating in the water.
Originally published on Wed January 2, 2013 4:44 am
An oil drilling rig holding more than 150,000 gallons of diesel, lubricating oil, and hydraulic fluid has run aground near Kodiak Island in the Gulf of Alaska, after it was being towed during a storm. The crew was evacuated before the rig was incapacitated.
"The rig ran aground in a storm, with waves up to 35 feet and wind to 70 miles per hour," reports Jeff Brady, on NPR's Newscast. The Shell Oil rig is "about 250 miles south of Anchorage," Jeff says.
Originally published on Tue January 1, 2013 10:39 am
A compromise deal to stop broad spending cuts and tax increases is headed to the House of Representatives, after receiving strong support in the Senate. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., talks with Steve Inskeep about a possible House vote on the "fiscal cliff" deal.
Cole, the House deputy majority whip who also serves on the Appropriations Committee, says he expects the House to approve the Senate bill, calling it "a pretty big win."
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden make a statement regarding the passage of the fiscal cliff bill in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House late Tuesday evening.
Credit J. Scott Applewhite / AP
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio arrives on Capitol Hill on Tuesday as legislation to negate a fiscal cliff of across-the-board tax increases and sweeping spending cuts moves to the GOP-dominated House.
Originally published on Wed January 2, 2013 2:23 am
The House of Representatives voted 257-167 late Tuesday to pass a Senate-approved compromise deal that stops large tax increases for 99 percent of Americans, and delays massive spending cuts for two months.
The bill now goes to President Obama, who is expected to sign it into law.
NPR's S.V. Date is reporting on the deal for our Newscast unit. Here's what he says:
"The eventual deal was hammered out by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden. It passed the Senate with overwhelming, bipartisan support.
This New Year could mean a new cost for the craft store chain Hobby Lobby. The federal health care law requires employee insurance plans to cover emergency contraceptives. Hobby Lobby's owners did not want to do that. They say drugs commonly known by names like the morning-after pill are tantamount to abortion.
Now, the Supreme Court has turned aside Hobby Lobby's request to block the mandate. So, starting today, the company could be fined as much as $1.3 million per day for defying the law.
Michigan's Lake Superior State University issued its annual list of annoying expressions to banish. The list includes: trending, bucket list, kick the can down the road and spoiler alert. The top one to ban: fiscal cliff.
Democracy sure works in mysterious ways. In Seguin, Texas, a December city council election ended in a dead tie. Both candidates received 141 votes. So it was up to the mayor to settle things. The law gave him some options: drawing straws or tossing dice. He chose an old coin toss. The silver dollar landed, it was tails, and immediately Jeannette Crabb was sworn into a four-year term. She's coming to office with quite a mandate.
The past year has seen more debate about the best way to find breast cancers.
A recent analysis concluded that regular mammograms haven't reduced the rate of advanced breast cancers — but they have led more than a million women to be diagnosed with tumors that didn't need to be treated.
It has been a busy year in Mexico's war on drugs. The administration of former President Felipe Calderon struck major blows to the country's largest cartels, slowing the violence that has claimed more than 50,000 lives.
But the new president, Enrique Pena Nieto, says he'll change tactics. He wants to go after the crime associated with drug trafficking instead of taking down crime bosses. His new attorney general says this is the right strategy, since the number of crime gangs working in the country has grown significantly.
Every year, banks handle tens of millions of transactions. Some of them involve drug money, or deals with companies doing secret business with countries like Iran and Syria, in defiance of trade sanctions.
But if the Justice Department has its way, banks will be forced to change — to spot illegal transactions and blow the whistle before any money changes hands.
Federal prosecutors have already collected more than $4.5 billion from some of the world's biggest financial institutions — banks charged with looking the other way when dirty money passed through their accounts.
Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider announced the discovery of the Higgs boson on July 4, the long-sought building block of the universe. This image shows a computer-simulation of data from the collider.
It's a year-end tradition to cobble together a list of the most important advances in science. But, truth be told, many ideas that change the world don't tend to spring from these flashy moments of discovery. Our view of nature — and our technology — often evolve from a sequence of more subtle advances.
Even so, chances are good that this year's list-makers will choose the discovery of the Higgs boson as the most important discovery of 2012.
Gul Mohammed Khan has lost three sons in sectarian violence during the last two years, in Karachi, Pakistan. He stands here with some of his grandchildren who have lost their fathers. When he looks at his grandchildren, he says, he sees his sons.
Credit Fareed Khan / AP
Men mourn over the deaths of their family members during their funeral procession in Karachi, Pakistan last week. Police said gunmen have wounded a prominent Sunni cleric and killed his guards and his driver in an apparently sectarian attack in southern Pakistan.
Credit Reuters /Landov
Rescuers carry a sheet to collect body parts near the scene of a bomb explosion in Karachi on Saturday that killed at least six people and . wounded 48. The sandals in the foreground are displayed for sale.
The sad truth about Karachi in 2012 was that whatever your religion, business affiliation, or political party, someone was willing to kill you for it.
The murder rate in Pakistan's largest city and commercial hub hit an all time high last year. Over 2,500 people died in violent crimes in Karachi in 2012, a 50 percent increase over the year before.
Most of the deaths were attributable to sectarian killings and score settling. Shia Muslims took on the brunt of the violence. But Sunni Muslims were killed in reprisal attacks that added to the tally.
It's been a banner year for solar energy. The United States is on track to install a record number of solar power systems — thanks in large part to low-cost solar panels from China. That's been challenging for American manufacturers, and federal officials have put trade tariffs on Chinese panels.
Things look busy at the SunPower solar manufacturing plant in Silicon Valley. Workers are screwing frames onto shiny, 6-foot solar panels as they come off the line.
Originally published on Wed January 2, 2013 9:16 am
The White House released this statement from President Obama at 2:30 a.m. on Tuesday:
Leaders from both parties in the Senate came together to reach an agreement that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support today that protects 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small business owners from a middle class tax hike. While neither Democrats nor Republicans got everything they wanted, this agreement is the right thing to do for our country and the House should pass it without delay.
Originally published on Mon December 31, 2012 5:55 pm
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish. There's good news and bad news on the so-called "fiscal cliff," just hours before the nation is set to slide over it. The good news is that top negotiators for the Senate and the White House are by all accounts this close to a deal. The deal would prevent a major income tax hike for most Americans. That starts tomorrow.
Chief Justice John Roberts wants everyone to know the federal judiciary is doing its part to keep down government costs. Roberts used his year-end report on the state of the courts to point out that the judicial branch consumes "a miniscule portion of the federal budget" — about $7 billion in fiscal year 2012, or two-tenths of 1 percent of the total government budget.
Originally published on Mon December 31, 2012 3:59 pm
It is New Year's Eve. And that means people will: go to parties and drink Champagne; ignore the hubbub and go to bed by 10; start cooking for New Year's Day; watch college football — or possibly some combination of the above.
Contractors Benny Corrazo, left, and Michael Bonade install a new set of sliding glass doors in a home that survived Superstorm Sandy in the Breezy Point section of New York on Dec. 20, 2012. Some economists say that reconstruction efforts may stimulate the economy.
It's unlikely 2013 will be the year that jet packs make it big, but the coming year could bring us a host of other new technology trends and products, such as 3-D printers for consumers, smarter smartphones and more connected devices like glasses and cars.