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.
A lot of movie box-office records fell in 2012. The comic-book blockbuster The Avengers had the biggest opening weekend in Hollywood history. Skyfall will be the first James Bond film to top $1 billion worldwide. And the box-office year as a whole is easily the movie industry's biggest ever. But what about quality? Perhaps surprisingly, the news is good there, too.
The simplest explanation to what's going on in Washington is that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans command majorities in both Houses and control of the White House and you can throw in political realignment as an explanation. Liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats have been diminished to the point of near extinction. But even so, Democrats and Republicans in Congress in years past somehow managed to make deals and legislate despite profound differences.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
While battles over the fiscal cliff continue, one thing not being discussed is a recovery package for Superstorm Sandy. The Senate has already passed a $60 billion aid package. Right now, it's unclear if the House will take it up.
From member station WSHU, Charles Lane says people in the storm zone are concerned that repairs and rebuilding will be delayed, leaving them vulnerable to future storms.
There are some people who believe you can tell a lot about a person from what they read. By that measure, judging from the year's most popular posts on Shots, you might think our readers include plenty of depressed parents obsessed with diet and excrement.
Luckily for you, dear readers, we here at Shots know that Web traffic isn't a scientific measure of personality or of quality — just of virality. Plenty of powerful, public service stories failed to make our Top 10 list for the year. That caveat delivered, here's a look at the stories that kept you clicking in 2012.
Originally published on Mon December 31, 2012 1:32 pm
Jeff Jarvis has had enough of the White House's petition site.
The 1-year-old site, We the People, is meant to be a place for Americans to directly entreat the president. Any petition that gathers more than 25,000 signatures in its first month is supposed to generate an official response from the Obama administration.
In 1953, Mildred Norman set off from the Rose Bowl parade on New Year's Day with a goal of walking the entire country for peace. She left her given name behind and took up a new identity: Peace Pilgrim.
When Peace Pilgrim started out, the Korean War was still under way, and an ominous threat of a nuclear attack was on the minds of many Americans. And so, with "Peace Pilgrim" written across her chest, she began walking "coast to coast for peace."
Congolese women wait for food to be distributed at the Mugunga III camp for displaced people outside the eastern town of Goma on Dec. 2.
Credit Phil Moore / AFP/Getty Images
On Nov. 20, an M23 rebel walks on the streets of Goma. The rebels initially claimed control of the town, but retreated 10 days later under international pressure. However, many people think M23 never really left — rather, they just changed into civilian clothes and went into hiding.
Credit Gregory Warner / NPR
Mugunga I is a camp of approximately 60,000 displaced people, mostly women and children. Here, soldiers from the Congolese army — who are not supposed to be in the camp — use camp water provided by Oxfam on Dec 19.
Goma, a city on the eastern border of the Congo, has been a magnet for war refugees for nearly two decades. And in an expanding camp for displaced people, called Mugunga I, school principal Emmanuel Kibanja Miteso holds up a three-ring binder that reflects the history of war here.
The pages are a logbook for parent-teacher conferences. Every time fighting flares in the region, people flood into the displacement camps and the roster of names swells in the principal's binder.
In 2012, the nation mourned the deaths of some extremely influential individuals — from singer Whitney Houston to astronaut Neil Armstrong, writer Maurice Sendak and TV personality Dick Clark.
Each year, Talk of the Nation reaches out to colleagues at NPR for help remembering some of the remarkable men and woman who did not make the front page when they died, but whose lives still made a significant impact.
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Less than 10 hours from now, we arrive at the political deadline set by Congress and the president a year and a half ago when they mandated a deal on taxes and spending so awful, so unthinkable, that the prospect would surely force a compromise.
NPR's coverage of President Obama's comments on the "fiscal cliff" talks
Update at 9:45 p.m. Deal Reached
Vice President Joe Biden was meeting late Monday with Senate Democrats to brief them on a proposed deal to stop sharp tax increases and spending cuts. A source told NPR the deal with congressional Democratic and Republican leaders includes a mix of both.
Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick will represent Arizona's 1st Congressional District when she returns to Washington this week after sitting out a term. This time around, Kirkpatrick hopes to strengthen her foothold in a swing district, but she's dealing with a tricky electorate.
First elected to the House in 2008, Kirkpatrick turned a red district blue. Then in 2010, the backlash against President Obama and his health care plan hurt her. So, a Republican dentist from Flagstaff took her seat for a term.
Originally published on Mon December 31, 2012 11:42 am
The act of toasting feels natural: You lift your arms in affirmation and drink in honor of an occasion or a loved one.
It's what millions will do this week as they ring in the New Year, but why? Like shaking hands or saluting, toasting is a habit with incredibly foggy beginnings, so we here at The Salt decided to dig into it, for the sake of science.
Originally published on Tue January 1, 2013 10:17 am
Updated Jan. 1, 2013: I've added a postscript to this post. You can find it at the bottom of this page.
Look at yourself. Right now.
You are muscle,skin, bone, brain, blood, warmed by energy, and all of you, every cell, even the subsets of those cells, all trillions and trillions of them, are going to tire, waste and depart. In 10 years almost every bit of you will have been replaced by new bits.
This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Celeste Headlee. Michel Martin is under the weather. Despite challenging economic times, many of us will dress up for New Year's Eve. Over the next few minutes, we'll focus on the unique history of American fashion. Coming up, a discussion about why fashion is so important for many African-American men.