News Archive - August 31, 2011

To Dodge Blame, Officials Prepare Public For Worst

Because people are more likely to blame public officials if there is a repeat of a previous disaster, officials tend to disproportionately focus their safety efforts on preventing similar disasters in the future, researchers say. So, for example, officials might over-react to a hurricane in light of Katrina, even if the real threat to public safety may lie elsewhere.

Architect Of MLK Memorial Responds To Criticism

Melissa Block talks to Ed Jackson, Jr., the executive architect of the Martin Luther King memorial. They discuss the Martin Luther King "Drum Major" line that is etched on the north face of the monument. The line, taken from a February 1968 speech by King, was paraphrased. And one of the monument's high-profile consultants, poet Maya Angelou, told the Washington Post the inscription is misleading and makes the civil rights leader seem arrogant.

Some U.S. Farms Trade Tobacco For A Taste Of Africa

In states like Maryland, where agriculture was once dominated by tobacco, farmers are experimenting with new crops like African hot peppers. Local African immigrants come to pick the vegetables and spread the word.

In Tripoli, Celebrating More Than Ramadan's End

Muslims are marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. For Libyans, the holiday has a special resonance this year because of the rebel takeover of Tripoli, the capital.

After In-Patient Care, Troops Face Bureaucracy

As part of NPR's series on the closure of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, we look at what happens to wounded troops once they're done with in-patient care. NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman talks to Melissa Block about the complicated bureaucracy that must be navigated — and the steps the Army has taken to make things work more smoothly.

Consumers Vs. Economists: How Perception Differs

Robert Siegel talks with Gallup's chief economist Dennis Jacobe about Americans' perception of the economy — and how it differs from that of economists.

Phila. Police Enlist Private Cameras To Capture Crime

The police department is encouraging residents and businesses to register their security cameras in a new program called SafeCam. The department is creating a database of cameras so police know where to look for footage that may have caught a crime on tape.

A Paraphrased Quote Stirs Criticism Of MLK Memorial

Maya Angelou said removing some of the words make Martin Luther King sound "arrogant." The memorial's executive architect said the quotation had to be shortened because of a design constraint.

Obama's Jobs Address To Coincide With GOP Debate

For a couple weeks, the White House has hinted that President Obama would lay out his jobs agenda after Labor Day. Well, Wednesday, Obama asked House and Senate leaders if he could address a joint session of Congress next Wednesday evening — the same day and time as a Republican presidential debate. Late Wednesday afternoon, House Speaker John Boehner said that won't work — how about the next night? NPR's Mara Liasson joins Robert Siegel to talk about this strange case of scheduling and politics.

As Water Recedes, Cleanup Of A Soupy Mess Begins

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says damage from Hurricane Irene flooding could total $1 billion. As the floodwaters recede, residents have begun the hard work of cleaning up in places like Schoharie County. Cindy and Jim Barber lost their house and vegetable crop when a nearby creek turned into a river.

Researchers Recover Last Piece Of Ship At 9/11 Site

Last summer, the remains of what seemed to be an 18th century ship were found at the construction site of the World Trade Center. Earlier this month, archaeologists excavated the last piece of that ship. Robert Siegel speaks with Michael Pappalardo, who's been working at the site as an archeologist with the firm AKRF.

When Will Closing Walter Reed Pay Off? Maybe 2018

When Walter Reed was slated for closure back in 1995, the goals were to improve care for the wounded, and to save money. The final patients left this past week. So was shutting the base a good deal for taxpayers? The cost of closing it has tripled.

Justice Department Sues AT&T

AT&T's plan to take over T-Mobile is in trouble. The Justice Department filed suit Wednesday to block the $39 billion deal. Justice officials said combining the second and fourth largest U.S. cell phone companies would hurt competition — and likely keep prices higher than they would otherwise be.

What's Left To Fix The Economy If It Gets Worse?

Congress isn't likely to go on another spending spree to try to boost the economy, and the Federal Reserve has already pledged to keep interest rates historically low until mid-2013. That leaves experts worried that policymakers are running out of tools to deal with another potential recession.

After Leading Two Wars, Petraeus Retires From Army

Gen. David Petraeus retired from the U.S. Army on Wednesday after 37 years in uniform. The former top U.S. commander in both Iraq and Afghanistan will take over as head of the CIA.

Ron Paul On His 2012 Presidential Run

Polls show Rick Perry overtaking Mitt Romney as the front runner for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. Despite their leads, Texas Rep. Ron Paul says he's "in it to win it." Paul talks with NPR's Neal Conan and Ken Rudin about his presidential campaign.

Canadian Oil Pipeline Plan Meets Resistance

The Canadian oil company TransCanada plans to expand a pipeline to transport crude oil from Alberta to Texas through the central U.S. The proposal has sparked debate on both sides of the border about energy security, the environment and safety.

Former Drug Seller Coaches Kids On Baseball, Life

After co-founding a famed local band and serving prison time for drug charges, Derrick McCrae believes he has found his passion. For the past 17 years, McCrae has been coaching Little League baseball in one of Washington D.C.'s toughest neighborhoods. Host Michel Martin speaks with McCrae about what he has learned and how he teaches his players to succeed on and off the baseball diamond.

E-Verify Rattles Nerves In America's Dairyland

States like Ariz. and Miss. require employers to check if new hires are undocumented. It's a system known as E-Verify. Wis. could be deeply affected if Congress decides to make it mandatory nationwide, particularly because many farmlands in Wis. rely on migrant labor. Host Michel Martin speaks with Deborah Reinhart, owner of Gold Star Dairy Farm in New Holstein, Wis., and Georgia Pabst, reporter for The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Famous College Ranking Lists Failing America?

Washington Monthly released its annual college rankings this week, and black and women's colleges are ranked next to Ivy Leagues. That's because on this list, colleges score more points for promoting volunteer work and admitting more students with Pell Grants. Host Michel Martin speaks with Washington Monthly Editor-in-Chief Paul Glastris about what he believes is wrong with how popular ranking lists work now, and what students and parents should look for in a college or university.

'Gifted' Treatment For Underachieving Students

As students are returning to school, the achievement gap is taking front-and-center in education debates. Researcher Yvette Jackson is proposing that school officials offer "gifted and talented" programs to underachieving students. She says these programs build on students' strengths and give them more power in deciding what they learn. Jackson is the former executive director of instruction and professional development for New York City public schools, and now heads The National Urban Alliance for Effective Education. She speaks with host Michel Martin.

Perry Revives Social Security 'Ponzi Scheme' Rhetoric

Back before Texas Gov. Rick Perry threw his hat in the presidential ring, he referred to Social Security as a "Ponzi scheme." His campaign had tried to distance the new candidate from that language, but last weekend Perry himself waded right back in.

Syrian Opposition Names Transition Council

Syria's opposition movement now has a transitional council similar to the one in Libya that's been working to defeat the regime of Moammar Gadhafi. The Syrian council is to be headed by a sociologist who lives in Paris.

Cellphones Could Help Doctors Stay Ahead Of An Epidemic

Researchers tracked the movements of cellphone users through their SIM cards in Haiti during the cholera epidemic. Their study shows that cellphone data could help doctors and others better provide relief during a disaster or epidemic.

BBC's 'Tripoli Witness' Comes Out Of Hiding

Six months ago, the BBC's reporter in Tripoli went into hiding. Rana Jawad has reported from Libya for the past seven years, but after fears for her safety became too great, she resorted to publishing anonymous reports under the name Tripoli Witness on the BBC website. Now that rebels largely control Tripoli, Jawad has returned to the airwaves. She talked to Steve Inskeep about living undercover.

A Remnant From Algae In Malaria Parasite May Prove Its Weakness

Scientists say a new finding may help them design or look for specific kinds of drugs that inhibit a critical chemical for the malaria parasite.

Protesters Block Federal Construction Site Over Labor Dispute

Hundreds of people blocked a federal job site in Southeast D.C. Wednesday to protest the number of D.C. residents hired for the project.

Training Afghans To Take Over Bomb-Defusing

NATO and U.S. forces are training Afghans to take over the task of combating improvised explosive devices — the Taliban's weapon of choice and the leading killer of civilians and soldiers in the Afghan insurgency.

Exxon Enters Lucrative Arctic Deal With Russia

Russia and Exxon have reached an agreement that opens the way for oil exploration in the Russian sector of the Arctic Ocean. And it allows the Russians access to projects in other parts of the world, including the United States. David Greene talks to Julia Ioffe, of Foreign Policy magazine who's covering the story in Moscow.

Too Many Days Hath September (And Baseball)

Baseball's season is just too long — or at least, that's the opinion of Frank Deford, who provide some suggestions for improvement. One idea: Let more teams into the playoffs.

N.J. Chef: 'It's A Disaster In Here' After Irene

Hurricane Irene tore a path through some big coastal tourist destinations. That means some restaurants will miss out on Labor Day, usually a big weekend. In Monmouth Beach, N.J., Sallee Tee's Grille was flooded. And its chef-manager says it may take weeks to rebuild.

Libyan Rebels Ask Police To Return To Tripoli

Libya's Transitional National Council is calling on police to return to the streets of Tripoli. The police fled as rebels took control of the capital. Despite being associated with Moammar Gadhafi's regime, and no money to pay them, some police are returning to work.

Walter Reed Was The Army's Wake-Up Call In 2007

Long a model for top-notch care for presidents and soldiers alike, Walter Reed Army Medical Center became a byword for bureaucratic bungling in 2007. Army officials are still addressing the failures revealed by an investigation that found wounded soldiers left to fend for themselves.