All Things Considered

Weekdays at 4 pm
  • Hosted by Peter Biello, Melissa Block, Robert Siegel and Audie Cornish

Every weekday, local host, Peter Biello, and national hosts Melissa Block, Michele Norris, and Robert Siegel present two hours of breaking news mixed with compelling analysis, insightful commentaries, interviews, and special -- sometimes quirky -- features from NHPR and NPR.

A Homecoming For Alvin Ailey's Artistic Director

Feb 23, 2012

The renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is currently on a national tour, and the company has brought Robert Battle, its new artistic director, back to where he started — a public school in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Miami.

When Battle attended Northwestern Senior High in the mid-'80s, he'd walk 16 blocks to school through some of Liberty City's roughest neighborhoods. The riot-scarred area was still wracked by drugs, crime and desolation. So the former boy soprano carried some protection under his dance tights and ballet slippers.

President Obama apologized in a letter and Afghan President Hamid Karzai appealed for calm.

But that was not enough to keep Afghans from protesting violently for a third day following word that several copies of the Muslim holy book, the Quran, were burned at a large NATO base outside Kabul.

The latest incident resembled other cases in recent years, where rumors that a Quran was desecrated — even thousands of miles away in Florida or Guantanamo Bay — ignited deadly riots in Afghanistan.

The Syrian army has cut off all escape routes from a rebel-held neighborhood in Homs, the city that has seen the most intense fighting in recent days, according to opposition activists.

Syrian tanks were seen moving closer to the Baba Amr neighborhood Thursday, as efforts continued to negotiate a cease-fire to evacuate the wounded, including two Western journalists.

There's a civil war going on in California. It's the north vs. the south — Hollywood vs. Silicon Valley. And much like that other American Civil War, there are two different economic worldviews at stake. One of the highest-profile battles was fought last month, when large Internet sites like Wikipedia staged an online blackout to protest anti-piracy bills in Congress.

The north won that battle, and for now, the legislation is on hold. But the war between Hollywood and Silicon Valley over how to deal with intellectual property is far from over.

If you think astronauts just want dehydrated dinners and freeze-dried ice cream, think again. After a few days in space, they start reaching for the hot sauce.

In fact, they may start craving foods they didn't necessarily like on Earth.

Mitt Romney says his experience in private equity taking over troubled companies would make him a good manager of America's economy. So we're reporting on companies that Bain Capital bought while Romney was in charge of the firm. This morning, we told the story of one that went bust. Here's the story of one that succeeded.

How A Private-Equity Firm Turns A Company Around

Several states are considering laws that would mandate an ultrasound before a woman has an abortion. Critics say the laws are unnecessary and intrusive, and the debate reached a fever pitch recently over a Virginia bill that would have required an invasive ultrasound procedure.

Peter Gleick is not just any scientist. He got his doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley and won a MacArthur "genius" award. He is also an outspoken proponent of scientific evidence that humans are responsible for climate change.

And earlier this week, he confessed that he had lied to obtain internal documents from the Heartland Institute, a group that questions to what extent climate change is caused by humans.

A key federal panel Wednesday recommended the Food and Drug Administration approve the first new weight-loss drug in more than a decade.

At the conclusion of a day-long hearing, the FDA's Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee voted 20-2 to endorse a request from Vivus to approve the drug Qnexa. The same panel gave a thumbs-down to Qnexa in 2010.

Qnexa is a combination of two generic drugs that are already on the market:

It's that time of year again — the time when the sports world starts to zone in on basketball's March Madness, hockey's playoff push, baseball's spring training ... and monster trucks. That's right, it's prime time for four-wheeled contraptions that specialize in crushing each other.

While it may be hard to get past the deafening radio ads, a funny thing can happen on the way to a Monster Jam show. It turns out that young fans' giddiness over the awesome destruction they're about to witness can be pretty contagious.

Not all that long ago, many Americans thought of Chinese food as fried rice, chow mein and orange chicken. And one reliable place to find it was at the mall, at places like Panda Express.

But food court mainstay Panda Express is now in the midst of a major transformation. That means moving from mall basements to stand-alone restaurants and keeping pace with an increasingly sophisticated American palate.

A battered wooden skiff motors along the horn of East Africa. Onboard are a half-dozen men clutching AK-47s and debating whether they'll need to shoot. They are Somali pirates.

Or rather, they're actors playing Somali pirates in a short feature film titled Fishing Without Nets. It tells the story of piracy off the coast of Somalia — from the perspective of the pirates — and it won the jury prize for short filmmaking at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

Wednesday marks the traditional Tibetan New Year, but many Tibetans won't be celebrating. They'll be mourning the almost two-dozen people who set themselves on fire in the past year as a protest against Chinese rule. Eyewitnesses say the town of Aba, site of many of the self-immolations, resembles a Chinese military camp, with soldiers and riot police every few feet. NPR's Louisa Lim traveled elsewhere on the Tibetan plateau to cover the story and sent this dispatch.

At Wednesday's groundbreaking ceremony, President Obama said the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., would be not just a record of tragedy, but a celebration of life.

"It is on this spot — alongside the monuments to those who gave birth to this nation, and those who worked so hard to perfect it — that generations will remember the sometimes difficult, often inspirational, but always central role that African-Americans have played in the life of our country," he said.

Oil prices have jumped sharply in the past two weeks, and the price of gasoline is also moving up. Across the country, a gallon of regular costs nearly $3.60 on average, with some areas facing $4 gas. That's causing sticker shock at the pump, and concern that rising prices could derail the economic recovery.

According to Daniel Yergin of Cambridge Energy Research Associates, gas prices are up because of the West's current confrontation with Iran and sanctions over that country's nuclear program.

A group of weight-loss clinics in Southern California is under fire for an aggressive advertising campaign and the death of five patients.

The 1-800-GET-THIN marketing campaign and its affiliated surgical centers are being investigated by local, state and federal agencies, including Congress.

Israel Agrees To Free Palestinian Hunger Striker

Feb 21, 2012

Thousands of Palestinians are in Israeli jails. But one case in particular — that of Khader Adnan, a member of the radical Islamic Jihad group — has been raising tensions between the two sides.

Israel's Justice Ministry agreed Tuesday to free Adnan, who has been on a hunger strike for more than two months and was apparently near death.

If you head to Yosemite National Park this time of year and stop by Horsetail Fall at just the right time, you might see something spectacular: As the sun sinks low in the sky, the waterfall glows with streaks of gold and yellow — and it looks just like molten lava.

Photographers like Michael Frye flock to the park every February to try to capture the phenomenon. Frye, author of The Photographer's Guide to Yosemite, describes the sight to NPR's Audie Cornish.

With fewer than two weeks remaining before Russia's presidential elections, supporters and opponents of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin are trying to show their strength with rallies and demonstrations.

After being stunned by the size of opposition rallies in December, pro-government forces bounced back with competing events of their own.

The U.S. Supreme Court said Tuesday that it will revisit the divisive issue of affirmative action in higher education. The court agreed to hear arguments next fall in a case that challenges the affirmative action program at the University of Texas. By re-entering the fray after more than 30 years of settled law on the issue, the newly energized conservative court majority has signaled that it may be willing to unsettle much of that law.

Part of an ongoing series

Zumba is a fitness craze; a high-energy dance and exercise program. You can find it in high-end gyms and even the community center in Hazelwood, Mo., where Casaundra Bronner, 40, lives.

Before the rise of Def Jam as hip-hop's definitive record label, there was Profile, which helped shepherd in some of the genre's early shifts in sound and style. A new two-CD anthology, Giant Single: The Profile Records Rap Anthology, chronicles the label's 15-year history and legacy.

Mitt Romney had the strongest fundraising among the Republican presidential contenders last month. But a deeper look raises questions about just how strong it is in the long run.

The Romney campaign is unusually reliant on big donors — and weak on small donors.

In one sense, big donors are great. It's a lot quicker and cheaper to raise $2,500 from one person than to get $10 from 250 people. But there's a catch: $2,500 is the legal limit for donations to a candidate's campaign. Once that donor maxes out, you need to find another donor.

Cheers! Fruit Flies Drink To Their Health, Literally

Feb 21, 2012

As humans, we sometimes pay a price for drinking alcohol — in hangovers, or worse. But if you happen to be a young fruit fly, it turns out that alcohol can be just what the doctor ordered.

The pesky little fruit flies often show up when apples or bananas are left sitting around for too long on the kitchen counter. Most folks find them annoying, but Todd Schlenke can't get enough of them.

Everything about Tuesday's campaign event in southeast Michigan's Shelby Township highlighted that Mitt Romney is a local product running for president.

Songs from Motown and Bob Seger blared. A giant deep-blue Michigan state flag hung stage right. An aide passed out paczki (pronounced "punchkey"), jelly-filled Polish pastries that are a Fat Tuesday tradition in Michigan. Then came the candidate.

A Depressive Diarist Chronicles His Descent

Feb 20, 2012

Patrick deWitt is the author of The Sisters Brothers.

"Doesn't the act of noticing matter as much as what's noticed?" So asks the narrator of Harry Mathews' masterpiece of minutia, The Journalist.

On the mend from a nervous breakdown (though it's mentioned only in passing — "the steering wheel came off in my hands," he says), he's been encouraged by his doctor to keep a journal. A seemingly benign idea, and he throws himself into the task with gusto — far too much gusto, it turns out, as the journal soon eclipses his entire life.

Modern computer games and their fast-paced graphics require an incredible amount of computing horsepower. So much, in fact, that the kinds of chips commonly used for gaming are now being built into some of the world's fastest supercomputers.

If you're a serious gamer, if realistic, detailed graphics get your pulse racing, you should write Jen-Hsun Huang a thank-you note.

The eurozone crisis has focused attention on debt-burdened Greece spiraling into decline. Meanwhile, Portugal is seen as the international creditors' poster-child for obediently slashing spending and welfare benefits.

Nevertheless, the Portuguese national debt continues to grow, and the country is mired in recession and soaring unemployment.

The Portuguese national character has long been identified with Fado music. Raquel Freire, an activist with the local Occupy movement, says the melancholy style helps explain decades of resignation.

Tracy Grant was just 39 when she got the diagnosis.

"They asked me to stay a little bit longer because they saw something a little weird," she remembers. "In my mind I was saying, ... 'Here we go, this doesn't look good.' "

It was breast cancer. As devastating as the news was, it wasn't a surprise. Her mother, Catherine Grant, was diagnosed at age 51.

It was at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J., where Whitney Houston first learned to sing, and it was there that friends and family gathered on Saturday to say goodbye to the pop superstar.

The star-studded service lasted more than three hours. Among those in attendance were Dionne Warwick, Kevin Costner and Alicia Keys.