NPR News

It's the time of year when world leaders converge at the United Nations headquarters in New York. And this year, there will be a lot of talk about multilateral diplomacy — a priority for the Obama administration since it came to office.

Obama's team has courted the world's rising powers, even publicly backing India's hopes to one day be a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. But now that India, along with South Africa and Brazil, have rotating seats on the council, U.S. officials and many human rights activists complain they're not living up to expectations.

First in a two-part report.

Women inseminated with a donor's sperm used to be advised to tell no one. Go home, doctors said, make love to your husband and pretend that worked. But in a trend that mirrors that of adoption — from secrecy to openness — more parents now do plan to tell such children how they were conceived and are seeking advice on how best to do that.

Tina Gulbrandson understands the temptation of secrecy. She felt stigma and pain when she needed to use another woman's eggs to get pregnant.

Glowing Kittens Fight AIDS

Sep 16, 2011

Here's an experiment: turn off your lights. Shine a blue flashlight on the cats in the room. Look for the ones that turn neon green, like a glow stick.

That's how scientists at the Mayo clinic identify cats that they've successfully treated against the feline immunodeficiency virus.

The AIDS epidemic is well-known amongst humans. Less known is that every year, millions of cats suffer and die from the infection.

Economist: U.S. Skating On Thin Ice

Sep 16, 2011

Last year economist Lakshman Achuthan said he thought the United States had emerged from the depths of a recession, but today the picture looks a bit more grim. Unemployment is hovering above 9 percent and there were no new jobs created in August. On top of that, consumer confidence is at its second-lowest level of the year.

"We are skating on very thin ice," Achuthan tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered.

The newest opinion host on cable news channel MSNBC is the Rev. Al Sharpton, a figure much better known for a past in which he cast more heat than light.

F. Scott Fitzgerald notwithstanding, Sharpton is now on at least his third act in public life: as a civil rights activist with a history of divisive and confrontational tactics; an increasingly accepted player in Democratic Party politics; and now, cable news pundit and host of PoliticsNation, which airs weeknights at 6.

NY Cabbies Win Right Veto Racy Ads On Vehicles

Sep 16, 2011

Some New York cab drivers have complained that the companies they work for were putting racy ads — for strip clubs, for example — on their cars. And those ads were embarrassing and tested their ethical and religious beliefs.

Yesterday, the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission voted unanimously to allow cab drivers who own their cars to veto the ads put on top of their vehicles.

After more than 30 years, production of the Ford Crown Victoria and Lincoln Town Car has ended. The large, gas guzzling, rear-wheel drive behemoths have been the favorites of limo drivers, taxi drivers and police officers for more than a generation.

The end of the Town Car and the Crown Vic, as it's affectionately known, comes as Ford tries to become a hipper and more fuel-efficient company.

In a bracing call to action, three doctors from California are telling their peers to think twice before prescribing potent narcotics for patients with chronic pain.

"Hacktivists" are hitting the streets.

The cyberguerrilla group Anonymous — known for high-profile computer attacks on corporate and government targets — is urging its followers to come out from behind their PCs on Saturday and occupy Wall Street.

The aim: an Arab Spring-style protest over the "abuse and corruption of corporations, banks and governments."

Time was when it took a fair amount of expertise to launch the kinds of illegal computer attacks that have become the hallmarks of "hacktivist" groups like Anonymous.

Today, just about anyone can download user-friendly software capable of crippling websites. One such tool is LOIC [Low Orbit Ion Cannon], which was used in Anonymous' attack on MasterCard, Visa and other companies late last year.

It's rumored that the group will release another weapon, called #RefRef, on Saturday.

One of the most popular sports in Ireland is the rough contact game of hurling.

It was created by ancient Celtic warriors, and now it's found a niche following among some soldiers in the U.S. A group of National Guardsmen in New Hampshire formed a hurling team to stay in shape after Middle East deployments.

But they're getting a lot more than exercise.

It's Like Stepping Off Of Battle

Statistics released today by the Justice Department show that the number of violent crimes in the country continued their downward trend, dropping a surprising 12 percent in 2010.

The AP reports:

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported there were 3.8 million violent crimes last year, down from 4.3 million in 2009. Experts aren't sure why. The expectation had been that crime would increase in a weak economy with high unemployment like that seen in 2010.

Venezuelan Know-How Fuels Rise Of Colombian Oil

Sep 16, 2011

Nearly a decade ago, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez fired 20,000 striking oil workers, many in highly specialized areas who had years of experience.

Venezuelan oil production has since fallen, and those banished oil workers are helping boost oil production in other countries, including one new oil frontier, Colombia.

On a recent day on Colombia's southern plains, the oil fields run by Pacific Rubiales, the country's biggest private oil producer, were a hive of activity.

Tucson Airbase On Lockdown; No One Shot Or Hurt

Sep 16, 2011

The Davis-Monthan Air Force base in Tucson, Ariz. is on lockdown. The AP, as well as local news outlets, report the Air Force base has confirmed that it has stepped up security, but it refused to give details of the situation.

The AP reports:

Senior Airman Timothy Dunaway says traffic has been reduced to a single point entry but he refused to elaborate.

He says the Sonoran Science Academy on the base is on lockdown.

The most dramatic moment of the GOP debate in Florida last Monday revolved around Gov. Rick Perry and his 2007 executive order mandating that all 11- and 12-year-old girls in Texas get the HPV vaccine. The human papillomavirus vaccine protects women and teens against a sexually transmitted disease that causes cervical cancer.

During the debate, presidential candidate Michele Bachmann called Perry's executive order an example of crony capitalism.

Miami Invaded By Giant, House-Eating Snails

Sep 16, 2011

In southwest Miami, a small subdivision is being called "ground zero" of an invasion by a destructive, non-native species.

"It's us against the snails," Richard Gaskalla, head of plant industry for Florida's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz.

This week brought another slew of bad political news for President Obama. The Democrats lost two special elections: one in a Republican-leaning district in Nevada, and one in a Democratic stronghold in New York.

There are also new polls showing the president's support weakening among Democratic voters in blue states.

David Keith is a bit fidgety. Maybe that's because venture capitalists have asked to come see his carbon dioxide machine. Maybe it's because the project is running months behind schedule, as experiments so often do. Maybe it's because his critics say it'll never work.

Or maybe it's a taste of excitement, because it seems entirely possible that the trailer-truck-size machine that he's leaning up against is actually going to work.

"It's amazing to see all this talk and paper get turned into hardware," he says. "I really love it."

Into The Wild: Alaskan Train Caters To The Intrepid

Sep 15, 2011

There aren't many rules on the train called the Hurricane Turn. Dogs roam the aisles and sit next to their owners on the seats. The baggage car doors are wide open, even when the train is moving.

"Oh yeah, this is like the best job in the whole railroad, you bet," says conductor Wade Sherwood.

The Hurricane Turn is one of the last whistle-stop trains in the U.S. — trains that allow travelers to hop on and off where they choose. With tight schedules to keep, most train operators have abandoned them.

There might be no bluegrass music as we know it without Wade Mainer, who died Monday at his home in Flint, Mich., Sept. 12 at age 104.

When I was a kid, I assumed that in the future things would get better and better until we were all driving flying cars and playing badminton with space aliens on top of 500-story buildings. Frankly, I kind of counted on this happening. But now I don't assume that we'll just keep going up anymore.

Note: Wilhelm Furtwangler's last name is typically spelled with an umlaut over the 'a' character. The npr website does not support characters with umlauts over characters. A variation of Furtwangler's name without the umlaut is spelled Furtwaengler.

Wilhelm Furtwaengler's name may be hard for Americans to pronounce, but the reason this great conductor isn't so well-remembered here is that he chose to remain in Germany during WWII, though he was never a member of the Nazi Party, and was exonerated by a postwar tribunal.

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