Scott Simon

Paul Thorn Revisits His Gospel Roots

Mar 17, 2018

Paul Thorn is a natural-born Southern storyteller with humble stage banter and musical delivery that's gritty and gruff.

What would our schools really be like if teachers carried guns in their classrooms? If, as President Trump first suggested at this week's White House meeting with families who have suffered school shootings, 20 percent of teachers were armed?

He repeated the idea in tweets the next day, saying, "20% of teachers, a lot, would now be able to ... immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions ... Far more assets at much less cost than guards. A 'gun free' school is a magnet for bad people. ATTACKS WOULD END!"

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


A dog named Abby is back from the dead.

Abby, a black Lab mix, wandered away from her home in Apollo, Pa., outside Pittsburgh, 10 years ago. Abby's owner, Debra Suierveld, and her children looked for their dog but couldn't find her, accepted her loss and had her declared deceased.

And then, 10 years later, they got a call from an animal shelter.

Bailey Holt and Preston Cope were killed in their high school this week. They were both 15 years old. But has the news of students being killed in their school lost the power to shock and sober us?

At least 16 other students, all between 14 and 18, at Marshall County High School in Kentucky were injured when another student, age 15, opened fire in their school on Tuesday.

"Bailey Holt and Preston [Cope] were two great people," their friend, Gabbi Bayers, said on Facebook. "It hurts knowing we won't be able to share the laughs anymore."

Violent crime is down in America's big cities.

It may not seem so if you watch crime dramas like CSI, NCIS or Chicago P.D., but homicide, assault and rapes have decreased in big cities since the 1970s. Even Chicago had a 16 percent decline in murders last year, to 650. (In 1974, the city had 970 homicides.)

Helen Grace James won her honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force this week — at the age of 90. It is a battle she fought for 60 years.

Helen Grace James grew up in Pennsylvania, where she worked her family's farm, and asked her mother to call her Jim. She played with toy trucks and boats and gave the dolls she was given to her sister.

Helen Grace James' father served in World War I; she saw her cousins ship off to serve during World War II.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


The U.S. foster care system is overwhelmed, in part because America's opioid crisis is overwhelming. Thousands of children have had to be taken out of the care of parents or a parent who is addicted.

Indiana is among the states that have seen the largest one-year increase in the number of children who need foster care. Judge Marilyn Moores, who heads the juvenile court in Marion County, which includes Indianapolis, says the health crisis is straining resources in Indiana.

Ben Shirley's story is one of redemption. He'd been playing bass in bars, clubs and arenas in the Los Angeles area since he was 15 when he fell down a path of drugs and alcohol. Four bottles of vodka and $360 worth of heroin a day brought him down hard on Skid Row.

It was at the non-profit The Midnight Mission where Shirley turned his life around in 2011. Now, at 53, he's an undergrad in The San Francisco Conservatory of Music's program of Technology and Applied Composition. He debuted an original piece, "We Need Darkness to See the Stars," earlier this month.

The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist established their community more than 20 years ago in Ann Arbor, Mich. where music is a daily part of the Catholic nuns' lives in the Motherhouse. With the holiday season looming, the sisters joined NPR's Scott Simon for an in-studio performance and discussion of their latest album, Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring: Christmas with The Dominican Sisters of Mary.

Social media platforms can connect people across the globe — and terrorize people next door.

In a new novel, Ricky Graves is a young man coming to terms with his sexual orientation in a small New Hampshire town. He's tormented by a jerk named Wesley, until Ricky kills him — and then himself.

The news media descend. And after they've gone on to the next sad crime, Ricky's pregnant sister, Alyssa, returns to the town she fled so that she and her shattered mother can get a hold on the terrible event that has taken two lives, and understand the son and brother they loved.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit


Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


A retired government employee reported for jury duty this week. He seemed conspicuously qualified: editor of the Harvard Law Review, University of Chicago professor, even a Nobel Prize winner.

But Barack Obama was dismissed from jury duty, with the thanks of the Cook County Circuit Court. He'll be sent a check for $17.20 for his time, which a spokeswoman says he will return.

That might make Obama the first Chicago politician to ever return money.

Great cities keep going. On Tuesday this week, the F Train Sixth Avenue Local churned between 179th Street in Queens and Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island without any reported delays. People got on and got off at Kew Gardens, Roosevelt Island, Rockefeller Center and Neptune Avenue.

The curtains for Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen and Hello, Dolly! all went up on time; the shows got standing ovations.

A congressional candidate in Florida drew a little ridicule this week.

Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera, one of the Republicans in the crowded field in Florida's 27th Congressional District, said in 2009 that she was taken aboard a spaceship when she was 7 years old.

She does not mean at Disney World.

"I went in," she says in a 2009 Spanish language interview that appeared on YouTube this week. "There were some round seats that were there, and some quartz rocks that controlled the ship, not like airplanes.

Does honoring someone really always honor them?

Chicago's landmark old Carbon and Carbide Building, designed by the Burnham Brothers in 1929, and clad in black and green stone and gold leaf, to look like a champagne bottle during Prohibition, is currently a Hard Rock Hotel.

But next year, the 40-story building will become The St. Jane Hotel, named in honor of Jane Addams.

Most of us would have to look up the name of J.D. Tippit. He was the Dallas police officer shot and killed in 1963, when he tried to apprehend the man who assassinated President John F. Kennedy. Or Tim McCarthy, the Secret Service agent who took a bullet fired at President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit


At a time when many 16- and 17-year-olds mostly worry about algebra homework and homecoming, students of South Webster High School in southern Ohio have other worries.

BRETT ROBERTS: Every one of these kids knows somebody or lives with somebody who has suffered through addiction.

Hugh Hefner made history, and then tripped over it. When I was growing up in Chicago, the formidable women who were my mother's friends considered Playboy a good place to work for a single woman. Women at the Playboy Club were well-paid, got chauffeured home in cabs, and customers — stars, politicians, even, it was rumored, spoiled Middle Eastern princes — were thrown out if they weren't gentlemen.

Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke has just installed an arcade game called Big Buck Hunter Pro in his department's cafeteria. Interior staffers can now take a few minutes' break to aim toy rifles at a video screen and plink away at animated elk, antelope, caribou and deer.

The bucks fall over dead, but don't bleed. It's a game.

This week, I went to the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore to sit in on a conducting class led by Marin Alsop, the music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. The Maestra was showing several Peabody students — aspiring young conductors — some of the fine points of leading an orchestra, as they led musicians through Don Juan, the dramatic tone poem by Richard Strauss.

A couple of high-tech entrepreneurs thought they'd put a personable name on an impersonal product.

Paul McDonald and Ashwath Rajan, formerly of Google, unveiled a box this week with glass doors, stocked with nonperishable items, that people can unlock with their cellphones while a camera records what they take and charges them.

It's essentially a tech-connected vending machine. But the entrepreneurs chose a name for their venture that many people found offensive: Bodega.

When crisis strikes, leaders often call for sacrifice. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and in these days before Hurricane Irma churns ashore in Florida, we've seen innumerable Americans volunteer, sacrifice and even risk their lives to help others.

It might be too easy to contrast that generous spirit with the strict practices of major air carriers. But airlines make it pretty much irresistible.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit


Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit


Houston and Texas made Americans proud this week. Hurricane Harvey assaulted southeast Texas with vicious winds, rains and floods, but Texans struck back with unshrinking courage, spirit and selflessness. They risked their lives to save neighbors and strangers.

A lot of the images of people being plucked from flooded roads and picked up from rooftops showed them holding dogs, cats and other pets in their arms. Pictures from shelters show people sharing cots and food with their pets. These images help reveal an important change in U.S. emergency policies.

Jerry Lewis could make people laugh with a sneeze. My mother remembered being in an old freight elevator with Jerry at the Chez Paree nightclub in Chicago as it rose slowly in silence to the show floor. Jerry Lewis sneezed. He didn't twist his lips or roll his eyes. Jerry just sneezed: and the waiters, janitors, and showgirls in the elevator erupted in laughter.

When Jerry Lewis died this week, at the age of 91, he was acclaimed as a clown, a genius, a humanitarian and egomaniac, all in the same breath.