On Saturday afternoons, sometimes with a coworker or two, Siavash Rahbari drives up a rutted side street in Kabul to visit the Window of Hope orphanage.
In the living room, there are a dozen boys and two girls. Some are playing, while others lie around on mats on the floor, clearly suffering from a range of disabilities. Rahbari, a Texan who works at an NGO in Kabul, gives the children a cursory inspection.
In the world of music, there is no more remarkable gift than having perfect pitch. As the story goes, Ella Fitzgerald's band would use her perfect pitch to tune their instruments.
Although it has a genetic component, most believe that perfect pitch — or absolute pitch — is a primarily a function of early life exposure and training in music, says Takao Hensch, professor of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. And it's time for sports.
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WERTHEIMER: College football fans are saying goodbye forever to the bowl championship series, and as NFL playoffs skip a kickoff today, wild card weather could be a game changer. For more, I'm joined by NPR's sports correspondent, Tom Goldman. Good morning, Tom.
Movie theatres have tried different ways over the years to combat declining ticket sales. In this encore broadcast, Topher Forhecz reports on the latest attempt to bring in audience by recreating the comforts of home.
TOPHER FORHECZ, BYLINE: When I decided to see a movie at an AMC Theatre in upper Manhattan, the first change I noticed was I had to reserve my seat when I bought my ticket beforehand. So I just walked in and there are about nine rows of leather seats and I am in D6, so I've got to go find it.
2013 was an up and down year at the movies. There was a crop of box office flops. "The Lone Ranger" and "After Earth" fell into that trap. Steven Spielberg went so far as to predict an implosion of the film industry. Despite all that, 2013 looks to be the most lucrative year ever at the box office, but don't get your hopes up for the movie business just yet.
Stephen Galloway, executive features editor at the Hollywood Reporter, is not impressed by breaking that particular record.
Antarctica is one of the best places on Earth to spot these fallen stars.
Each winter — which is summer in down south — a team of geologists camps out on an Antarctic glacier in the middle of nowhere, often where no human has ever tread. It's kind of like a space voyage, but a lot cheaper.
And it's the meteorite that's done most of the traveling.
The Endangered Species Act, which turns 40 on Saturday, helped bring back iconic species such as the wolf, grizzly bear and bald eagle, after hunting, trapping and pesticides almost wiped those animals out.
But a very different kind of threat — global warming — is pushing some species like the polar bear to the brink of extinction.
One government biologist discovered the best way he could help save polar bears was to quit his job.
Thirty-four wildland firefighters died in the line of duty this year. Some of those fatalities were isolated incidents, but one event captured the nation's attention, sparking a larger conversation about the new dangers firefighters face.
That event unfolded in central Arizona the afternoon of June 30, a Sunday.
"I'm here with Granite Mountain Hot Shots. Our escape route has been cut off," says a crew boss on recently released radio traffic from the Yarnell Hill Fire. "We are preparing a deployment site, and I'll give you a call when we are under the shelters.
This was a busy year for Vice President Joe Biden: He was President Obama's point man on gun control; he traveled widely, pushing for infrastructure spending; and he recently returned form a trip to Asia, where he met with the leaders of China, Japan and South Korea.
In 2014, Biden may face an even busier schedule, as he stumps for Democratic congressional candidates in advance of November's midterm elections and tries to decide whether to make another run for president himself.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. I hope that most of the people listening to us today have been with their families and friends during this holiday season. We've all had nice dinners and nice talks, but maybe there is one more talk we ought to have and the subject maybe won't sound quite right for the holidays.
The end of the stimulus has not rattled the markets. In fact, the stock market has rocketed to record highs this year. To hear more about why the market has been surging and what it says about the economy, and what it might mean for the year ahead, we're joined by Jeremy Siegel. He is a professor of finance at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. He joins us from member station WHYY in Philadelphia.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. Scott Simon is away. Long-term unemployment benefits expire today for more than a million Americans. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, Congress repeatedly extended the length of time laid-off workers could receive unemployment checks, but in the latest budget deal, lawmakers fail to approve another extension of those benefits.
Inter-religious tensions have been in the headlines in parts of Africa lately. Christian-Muslim clashes have left many dead in places like Nigeria and Central African Republic. But there are also examples of peaceful inter-religious co-existence in Africa, such as Senegal.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. You know, Americans often assume that Hollywood films are what the world watches most. But the world's most popular film industry features music, melodrama and spectacular dance moves that have become known by a single name: Bollywood.
The people of Moore, Oklahoma are still living with the effects of a powerful tornado in May. The twister killed 25 people and destroyed more than a thousand homes. This holiday season, residents are reminded just how much they lost in that destruction. Kate Carlton of member station KGOU reports on one woman who's found a small way to make the holidays a bit more normal.
KATE CARLTON, BYLINE: On a recent Wednesday evening, Kim Rollins opened her home to strangers.
Back in 1973, Dale Irby was just beginning his career as a physical education teacher in the Dallas area. School photo time came around, he needed something nice to wear and had just the thing - a groovy new polyester shirt with large lapels and a brown sweater. Dale Irby has worn the same outfit ever since in every school photo for 40 years. He's now retired; so has his ensemble. He joins us from Dallas. Mr. Irby, thanks so much for being with us.
The factory that makes and bottles Sriracha sauce is in trouble - for the second time this year. First, one of the company's Southern California plants faced a shutdown after neighbors complained about the pungent odor there, and now a California Department of Public Health has placed a 30-day hold on all new bottles of Sriracha, citing health concerns. NPR's Sam Sanders reports.
This week, Peter Higgs and Francois Englert received the Nobel Prize for developing the theory known as the Higgs-boson particle in 1964. But distinguished as they are, Higgs and Englert are just two of six scientists who developed the theory and because of the Nobel committees rule of three; that no single prize can go to more than three individuals, most of these scientists missed out on winning the Nobel, including Carl Hagen, a University of Rochester physics professor.
At 9:30 Eastern Time this morning, houses of worship across Connecticut will rang their bells 26 times.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELLS RINGING)
SIMON: These are the bells of the Basilica of Saint John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Stamford. Churches, mosques and synagogues in Newtown are holding events today to mark the anniversary of the shooting. Not only prayer services, also some arts and crafts activities for children, even comfort dogs.
You've probably never heard of painter Fred F. Scherer. If you've ever been to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City, though, you may have seen his paintings — probably without realizing it.
Scherer died at age 98 a few weeks ago. His art — those big murals you see behind taxidermic animals in museum dioramas — deserves a closer look.
We visited the AMNH to photograph some of the installations containing his paintings, and spoke with Stephen C. Quinn, who recently retired as an artist from the museum, and knew Scherer well.
Every year, on the day after Thanksgiving, almost 100 volunteer decorators show up at the White House. They spend the next five days stringing garlands and hanging ornaments, making the White House sparkle for the holidays.
At NPR, we have a related tradition. This is the fourth year in a row that White House correspondent Ari Shapiro has brought us the voices of some of those volunteers.
New England chefs like Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley are still coming to terms with the news: No more shrimp until further notice.
This week, regulators shut down the New England fishery for Gulf of Maine shrimp for the first time in 35 years. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission judged the stocks of the popular shrimp, also known as northern shrimp, to be dangerously low.
When writers finish a book, they may think they've had the last word. But sometimes another writer will decide there's more to the story. The madwoman Bertha from Jane Eyre and the father in Little Women are just two examples of secondary characters who have been given a fuller life in a new work of fiction based on a classic novel.