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.

Audits of working conditions are under way at Foxconn's manufacturing plants in China, a key link in Apple's supply chain of iPhones, iPads and other devices. The effort will include visits to at least three sites, "each with more than 100,000 workers," says Auret Van Heerden, president of the Fair Labor Association.

"So we've taken a representative sample of over 35,000 workers," Van Heerden tells All Things Considered co-host Robert Siegel, in an interview airing Wednesday.

The European Union says Greece has made some progress, but not enough, to merit the new bailout it desperately needs to avoid default and keep the euro as its currency.

Greeks are increasingly bitter about the austerity measures the EU is imposing on them. And Greece's EU partners are losing trust that the Greeks will implement them.

Now, talk is growing about contingency planning if Greece fails to meet the bailout conditions and defaults.

Scientists working with bird flu recently called a 60-day halt on some controversial experiments, and the unusual move has been compared to a famous moratorium on genetic engineering in the 1970s.

But key scientists involved in that event disagree on whether history is repeating itself.

"I see an amazing similarity," says Nobel Prize winner Paul Berg, of Stanford University.

Iran has unveiled significant developments on two important components of its nuclear program: the centrifuges used to enrich uranium and the uranium used to fuel a research reactor.

The country has made no secret of its work in these areas. But the news on Wednesday suggests that Iran may be making progress in its nuclear program.

Iran also announced that it is cutting off oil sales to several European nations, only to reverse itself hours later.

For his third symphony, the 26-year-old American composer Mohammed Fairouz decided to incorporate text in three languages. Poems and Prayers, which had its debut Thursday in New York, features passages in Arabic, Hebrew and Aramaic.

The symphony was commissioned by Northeastern University, where Fairouz teaches. The idea was to write something exploring the conflicts in the Middle East, so for inspiration, Fairouz delved into the region's poetry — both ancient and modern.

'Plotto': An Algebra Book For Fiction Writing

Feb 15, 2012

It's been said that there are only seven basic plots in fiction. Pulp novelist William Wallace Cook would beg to differ.

According to Cook, there are a whopping 1,462 plots, all of which he laid out in his 1928 book, Plotto: The Master Book of All Plots.

It's the story that continues to, well, dog Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney. And, according to some experts, it could jeopardize his standing with voters who care about animals. And yes, it turns out, that is not an insignificant voting bloc.

The incident happened back in 1983, and it's been public since 2007. But it seems that only now a critical mass of voters is hearing it for the first time.

Now that the uprising in Syria has turned into a heavily armed conflict, many in the region are worried that the violence will spread beyond its territory.

Syria borders Iraq, Turkey, Jordan and Israel, as well as Lebanon, where clashes erupted last Friday in the northern coastal city of Tripoli.

Sunni Muslims in one Tripoli neighborhood began protesting against Syrian President Bashar Assad. They put up a huge banner on the side of a mosque that had a picture of Assad, wearing a military uniform, with a big red X across his face.

This is one of those stories that reminds us that everything really is connected to everything else.

Here's the web of connections: a threat to California's booming almond business; hard times for honeybees in North Dakota; and high corn prices.

Confused?

OK, let's start with the almonds. They come from an old-world tree that migrated to California and prospered in the hands of farmers like James McFarlane, who lives right outside the city of Clovis.

Every 10 years, about two dozen of this country's top astronomers and astrophysicists get together under the auspices of the National Research Council and make a wish list. The list has on it the new telescopes these astronomers would most like to see built. At the last gathering, they said, in essence, "We most want the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope."

Here's why. A synoptic survey is a comprehensive map of every square inch of the night sky. The Large Synoptic Survey — LSST — will do that multiple times.

The Egyptian government has further escalated tensions with Washington by accusing U.S. officials of directly funding nonprofit groups to create chaos in the Arab country.

The latest comments were made by an Egyptian Cabinet member to prosecutors conducting a criminal probe into the activities of 43 aid workers, many of them American.

Such claims anger U.S. officials, who have threatened to hold back more than $1 billion in military aid if the crackdown on private, pro-democracy organizations doesn't end.

Why The Best Chocolate Is The One You Eat Last

Feb 14, 2012

It's predictable, and hokey, to bring up chocolate and romance in one Valentine's Day post, but hang on — this is fascinating.

A study suggests that your preferences in chocolate may help explain how you pick out or judge potential romantic partners.

No, it's not that people who love dark chocolate are simpatico with others who love dark chocolate. That would be far too pat.

Sometimes I wonder: Do the members of young indie-rock bands know that they're walking stereotypes? There's the scruffy dude who's obsessed with everything vintage and analog, the Pavement-worshiping, whiny-voiced lead singer, the rhythm section that knows its way around every oddity recorded by The Kinks. That's pretty much how I pegged the Philadelphia sextet Dr.

In just a few weeks, most of the United States will shift back to daylight saving time — and Americans will lose an hour of sleep but gain an extra hour of light in the evening.

That won't be happening in Russia, though, where President Dmitry Medvedev has put the country on permanent summer time.

Medvedev's decree, issued last fall, means that it doesn't get light in Moscow now until around 9 a.m. Back in January, it was dark until 10 in the morning.

This has become an issue in Russia's presidential election next month.

The dispute over Iran's nuclear program has again rocked oil markets. And Iran is threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, which is just 34 miles wide yet serves as the passageway for 20 percent of the world's oil.

This is not a new drama. In fact, it was a recurring issue in the 1980s. Still, there's been relatively little activity among Gulf oil producers to find alternative routes to get their oil to market.

Note: A number of listeners responded to this story and said the definition of appoggiatura was incorrect. Music commentator Rob Kapilow has a second opinion here.

Over the weekend, the Susan G. Komen foundation held meetings in 15 cities around the country for people who have registered for this summer's 3-Day walks.

The annual events are key fundraisers for the breast cancer research and treatment organization. But after the recent controversy over Komen's grants to Planned Parenthood, some walkers are worried it might be harder to get donations this year.

There are big plans for oil exploration in the Caribbean, not far off the coast of Florida. A Spanish company recently began drilling in Cuban waters — just 55 miles from Key West.

The well is the first of several exploratory wells planned in Cuba and the Bahamas. The drilling has officials and researchers in Florida scrambling to make plans for how they'll respond in case of a spill.

Just outside of West Virginia's capital city, Charleston, on the banks of the Kanawha River, sits the Institute Industrial Park. Chemical plants have operated here continuously since World War II, when the local factories cranked out synthetic rubber. Today there are industrial pipes, tanks and buildings stretching in just about every direction.

Soon, there could be more.

Mendocino Snuffing Medical Marijuana Experiment

Feb 13, 2012

This story is part of a collaboration between member station KQED and the Center for Investigative Reporting's California Watch.

Mendocino County in Northern California is expected Tuesday to end an unusual program that put pot growing under supervision of the local sheriff. It was the first effort of its kind in the nation and proved a success, at least in the eyes of many locals. But federal officials had a different view.

'Finally Part Of The County'

For those who find themselves alone this Valentine's Day, or who reject the holiday altogether, you might not want to read about star-crossed lovers pining for each other and — even worse — winding up together in the end. So here are three alternatives to comfort you this Feb 14. Each novel is just the right length to read in a single night with a box of drugstore-bought chocolates. And although these tales are indeed reflections on love, the characters they follow are skeptics.

Like a lot of smartphone users, Rolando Terrazas, 19, uses his iPhone for email, text messages and finding a decent coffee shop. But Terrazas' phone also sometimes serves as his eyes: When he waves a bill under its camera, for instance, the phone tells him how much it's worth.

Cutting taxes is part of the DNA of the modern Republican Party. All four of the remaining GOP candidates for president have proposed steep cuts in business and personal taxes, and it sometimes seems like Republicans are competing to show the most enthusiasm for tax cuts.

At a debate last month, former Sen. Rick Santorum said tax cuts were needed to get the economy thriving again — even if they benefit the wealthy.

If there was a Julia Child of Japanese cooking — a witty and passionate interpreter of the cuisine — Elizabeth Andoh would fit the bill nicely.

As an exchange student back in the 1960s, Andoh came to Japan from New York to pursue anthropology. She fell in love, but not just with a local businessman. She is also devoted to parsing and explaining the finer points of Japanese cuisine to the rest of the world, as a writer for Gourmet, cookbook author and culinary teacher in suburban Tokyo.

In the 11 years since the Oscars introduced an award for Best Animated Feature, the category has been dominated by children's movies, often with computer-animated pandas, penguins and ogres at their center. This year's a little different. Two of the animated films are subtitled, and one is definitely aimed at adults: the Spanish film Chico and Rita, an animated love story steeped in jazz.

The Soup Movement in America is based on a simple recipe: Bring a bunch of people together to eat soup. Ask each person for a modest donation — say $5. Listen to a few proposals about how people might use that pool of money for a worthwhile project. Vote on the best proposal, and give all the money to the top vote-getter. Go home full and fulfilled.

It's one of the few politician-sponsored activities that should be free of controversy: a high school art contest.

But an annual citywide competition to design the stickers affixed to every windshield in Chicago has suddenly become a public relations nightmare.

The sticker, designed by 15-year-old Herbie Pulgar, depicts Chicago's famous skyline inside of a heart, with a backdrop of the city's blue and white flag. Extending up from the heart are four hands, and above them, symbols representing police officers, firefighters and paramedics.

Fresh off his hat trick in Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum campaigned in Texas on Wednesday, speaking to a group of pastors at Bella Donna Chapel in the town of McKinney.

Forty miles north of Dallas, where black prairie dirt meets the fresh poured concrete of suburbia, this is Rick Santorum country.

This used to be Texas Gov. Rick Perry country.

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