This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I'm Robert Siegel. The sound of a nation in mourning. That's from the National Cathedral in Washington today. It's been one week since the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut and this morning at 9:30, bells rang out across the U.S. in honor of those who died.
President Obama tapped Massachusetts Senator John Kerry to be the next Secretary of State on Friday. Kerry is expected to win easy confirmation in the Senate, which would be a relief in the midst of fierce partisan battles over taxes, spending and — coming next month — gun control. Melissa Block talks to Scott Horsley.
For more on yesterday's Republican meltdown, I'm joined by Republican Congressman Steve LaTourette of Ohio. He would have voted for Plan B if it had come up for a vote. He's a strong ally of Speaker Boehner, and he joins me now from Capitol Hill. Congressman LaTourette, welcome to the program.
REPRESENTATIVE STEVE LATOURETTE: Thank you very much.
An entrepreneur says he's got a plan to curb urban blight in parts of Detroit. He's buying up acre after acre of abandoned lots and planting thousands of trees. But where backers of the plan see a visionary proposal, critics see a land grab.
Entrepreneur and Detroiter John Hantz, owner of Hantz Farms and the tree-planting effort called Hantz Woodlands, wants to plant at least 15,000 trees on about 140 acres. Hantz promises to clear out all the trash and keep the grass cut, things the city cannot afford to do now.
Nativity displays are a Christmas staple in front of Christian churches and in people's yards. They depict the birth of Jesus long ago in the Middle East town of Bethlehem.
The sets also come in smaller sizes for mantels and coffee tables, and some people collect them. Margo Dixon says she has more than 1,450 different depictions of the Nativity. In 2010 she moved from Atlanta to Bethlehem, Pa., with a dream: to open a Nativity museum in the town that bills itself as the "Christmas City."
A the U.S. wages a debate on its gun laws, some Australians are urging Americans to consider their experience.
For Australia, the turning point came on April 28, 1996, when a lone gunman opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle in Port Arthur, a popular tourist destination in the state of Tasmania.
Cathy Gordon was there that day, escorting six visiting musicians as part of her job with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. They were leaving a cafe just as the shooter, Martin Bryant, pulled out an AR-15 assault rifle.
In 10 days, virtually all Americans will be hit with a tax increase and deep government spending cuts will follow shortly behind. That is, unless Congress and President Obama can find a way to avert the "fiscal cliff."
It's not looking very promising at the moment. On Thursday night, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, pulled the plug on a measure he was calling his "Plan B" and sent his members home for Christmas.