There's no innate language organ or module in the human brain dedicated to the production of grammatical language.
There are no meaningful human universals when it comes to how people construct sentences to communicate with each other. Across the languages of the world (estimated to number 6,000-8,000), nouns, verbs, and objects are arranged in sentences in different ways as people express their thoughts. The powerful force behind this variability is culture.
Originally published on Thu April 26, 2012 12:25 pm
Publius Paquius Proculus, they say, invented pizza almost 2,000 years ago. I don't think he did, and anyway, that's not the coolest thing about Proculus, a very successful baker and sometime politician, who was living in Pompeii the day Mt. Vesuvius erupted. He, his house and his family were buried. Then, centuries later, when archeologists unearthed his home they discovered a message, etched onto one of his household walls. It looked like this:
Originally published on Thu April 26, 2012 10:26 am
NPR's Philip Reeves and Steve Inskeep
While conceding that "I failed" because some of his News Corp. tabloids in the U.K. were guilty of hacking into the phones of murder victims, celebrities and politicians, media mogul Rupert Murdoch also testified today that lower-level executives were the ones behind a "cover-up" that kept him from knowing about what had happened.
Easy, isn't it? Get a note from the TSA officer who screens you at the airport so you know which lane to pick for your security check. Then stroll through with your suitcase jammed with kilos of cocaine. Your screener won't utter a peep, even if it's marijuana or methamphetamines instead. In exchange, pay your screener hundreds of dollars in a bribe.
Originally published on Thu April 26, 2012 6:27 pm
We love dogs. So we can't resist passing along word that later today All Things Considered plans to catch up on the story of Andy, a tan and white Pembroke Welsh Corgi who has been missing since New Year's Eve.
And in another sign that the labor market's recovery remains sluggish, the agency said "the 4-week moving average was 381,750, an increase of 6,250 from the previous week's revised average of 375,500." That measure is said by economists to be a better gauge of the underlying trend in claims.
Originally published on Thu April 26, 2012 5:15 pm
Convicted today of contempt for refusing to push for the reopening of a corruption case involving Pakistan's president, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was given a prison sentence that lasted just a few minutes.
"The ruling ... appeared to be a compromise," The Associated Press writes, "but could still mean problems for him because he has been convicted in a court. That means he could face dismissal from office in the weeks, or more likely, months to come."
Originally published on Thu April 26, 2012 6:08 am
While activists inside Syria say government forces are responsible for an explosion today in the city of Hama, and that about 70 people were killed, President Bashar Assad's regime has a much different story. It says about 16 people were killed by an explosion at a bomb factory used by "armed terrorist groups," the BBC reports.
Originally published on Thu April 26, 2012 2:04 pm
NPR's Eric Westervelt reporting from The Hague
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor is guilty of "aiding and abetting" forces in Sierra Leone that committed war crimes and other atrocities during a war that lasted more than a decade and left more than 50,000 people dead, the Special Court for Sierra Leone ruled today.
Taylor, the first head of state since just after World War II to be judged by an international tribunal, "knew that his support" would assist and encourage fighters who were committing war crimes, the tribunal ruled. In return, he received so-called blood diamonds from Sierra Leone.
Over the past year and a half, the world has seen crisis after crisis. Today, NPR's Michele Kelemen spoke to António Guterres, the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, mostly about the crisis in Sudan.
But at one point during their talk, Guterres rattled off the crises they've dealt with since the beginning of 2011: The Ivory Coast, Libya, Syria, Yemen, both a famine and conflict in the Horn of Africa, Mali and now Syria is flaring up again.
Originally published on Wed April 25, 2012 3:17 pm
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the Fed is ready to implement "balance sheet actions if necessary."
That means if the Federal Open Market Committee feels that the economic recovery is in danger, it is ready to implement a third round of quantitative easing, or bond purchases intended to bring down long-term interest rates and spur borrowing and spending.
"If appropriate... we remain entirely prepared to take additional action," the chairman said. "We will not hesitate to use them."
Originally published on Wed April 25, 2012 5:17 pm
At airports, train stations and other public places across the nation, the Department of Homeland Security's "See Something, Say Something" campaign has encouraged people to report suspicious activity in an effort to prevent terrorist attacks. But a recent government survey found citizens are not jumping in to report others.
A group of women's rights activists are descending on Facebook's New York offices, today, to deliver what it says is an online petition from 53,000 people that demands Facebook add a woman to its board of directors before the company goes public.
In its petition, UltraViolet says that 58 percent of Facebook users are women, yet "despite the fact that women are responsible for most of Facebook's revenue and activity there currently is not a single woman on their board."
The early analyses of this morning's Supreme Court hearing on parts of Arizona's controversial immigration law are in, and the consensus is that the majority of justices will likely uphold the state's effort to reduce the number of people within its borders who may be there illegally.
After its economy shrunk by 0.2 percent in the first three months of the year, Britain was officially dragged backed into recession. As the AP reports, " two consecutive quarters of negative growth are required for a country to be officially deemed to be in recession."
What does this mean? It depends on which economist you talk to.
Originally published on Wed April 25, 2012 12:22 pm
The way science is usually taught in schools, one would think that knowledge grows at a linear rate, always accumulating, always going forward. However, a cursory look at the history of science shows that the truth couldn't be more different: the road toward knowledge is crooked and, sometimes, may even go backward when a wrongheaded notion persists well beyond its time.
Originally published on Wed April 25, 2012 5:20 pm
This week, Whole Foods, the upscale grocer, said it is eliminating 12 wild fish species from its seafood section as part of its commitment to ocean conservation. The fish, rated "red" by conservation groups that evaluate overfishing and other problems, include popular choices like Atlantic halibut, octopus, and some tuna.
Among the highlights so far today during Rupert Murdoch's testimony in London before an inquiry into the ethics of the British news media, and his News Corp. tabloids in particular, is this quote from the media mogul:
"I've never asked a prime minister for anything."
NPR's David Folkenflik, who is live-tweeting, and NPR's Philip Reeves, who has been filing radio reports, will have more as the inquiry continues.
Orders for equipment, appliances, aircraft and other so-called durable goods fell 4.2 percent in March from February, the Census Bureau reports.
It's the second decline in the past three months and the biggest monthly dip in three years. Much of the drop in March was due to a decline in orders for aircraft. "But companies also ordered less machinery and other equipment, a sign manufacturing output may slow," The Associated Press writes.
The basketball player formerly known as Ron Artest has been suspended for seven games for swinging his left elbow hard into the head of an opponent on Sunday.
Metta World Peace, as the Los Angeles Lakers forward is now known, will miss the team's last regular season game on Thursday. The Lakers then move into the playoffs, where each round is "best-of-seven." So he could miss most or all of the first round (if the Lakers extend that matchup beyond four games) and even a game or two in the second round (if the Lakers advance after just four or five games).