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The two American men who stepped out of an Iranian prison Wednesday after spending more than two years in custody may have a tiny Persian Gulf nation to thank for greasing the wheels of their release.

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, both 29, had been accused of espionage along with fellow American Sarah Shourd and sentenced to eight years in prison. They were freed in exchange for $1 million dollars and flown to Oman.

As Libyans work to form an interim government, some of those competing for power are members of the Muslim Brotherhood, raising fears that Islamist radicals may try to hijack the revolution. But many Libyans say those fears are mostly in the minds of Westerners.

Former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi banned the Muslim Brotherhood. The group attempted to overthrow Gadhafi in the 1990s, and he responded with a ferocious crackdown that put many of its members in jail.

Earlier this month, we reported a heartbreaking story about Billy, a San Francisco Giants fan, who showed up to every game for years, until one day he just stopped coming. The Giants went searching. Giants manager Bruce Bochy told NPR's All Things Considered that he was worried, "hoping to get some good news."

Contestants on the Season 12 Premiere of TV's The Biggest Loser last night may not be the only people motivated to lose weight. Viewers are influenced by weight-loss reality shows, too.

Imagine a city like Los Angeles disappearing from the map completely. That's exactly what happened to Chaohu, a city in eastern China's Anhui province with a similar population — about 4 million. The people have remained, but the city has vanished in an administrative sleight of hand.

That was the Kafkaesque reality for Chaohu's inhabitants, who went to bed one night and woke up the morning of Aug. 22 to find out that their city no longer existed. For many, their first inkling that something had changed was from the local news.

If you've been counting on your daily dose of merlot to stave off mortality, you might want to consider Plan B.

The links between red wine and longevity aren't nearly as strong as they once seemed, according to new research in the journal Nature. In fact, the research calls into question the whole mechanism used to explain wine's power to extend life.

Sorry, oenophiles.

Nearly a million young adults got health coverage this year following the passage of the health overhaul law, which lets them stay on their parents' insurance up to age 26.

"To support a stronger economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at levels consistent with the dual mandate, the Committee decided today to extend the average maturity of its holdings of securities."

That sentence from a statement just released by the Federal Reserve confirms that the central bank's policymakers have indeed decided to launch what's being referred to as "Operation Twist."

So What Is The Salt?

Sep 21, 2011

Welcome to The Salt, NPR's shiny new food blog, brought to you by NPR's Science Desk. But it's not just any food blog.

This blog is about what we eat and why we eat it.

We'll be serving up culture and science, farming and business, along with a side of skepticism and a dash of panache.

We'll celebrate food, but also take a hard look at where it comes from, how it gets here, and what it does to us and the planet.

We want to know not just the good, but the bad and the ugly stuff, too.

ATF Says Bomb Behind Michigan Car Explosion

Sep 21, 2011

This is not news you hear everyday:

This message has been posted on official website of R.E.M., which as our friends over at NPR Music have said is one of the legendary rock bands of the last 30 years:

Meg Whitman, the former eBay CEO and 2010 Republican candidate for governor of California, may be Hewlett-Packard's next CEO.

Typhoon Roke Lashes Japan With 100 MPH Winds

Sep 21, 2011

Typhoon Roke made landfall early this morning, bringing 100 mph winds to central Japan and moving northeast to an area already devastated by the earthquake and tsunami that struck in March.

Reuters reports on the typhoon's impact:

Well, there's at least one good thing about the country's inability to control health costs. If you can write a compelling essay about a problem, you could win a thousand bucks.

Not to be outdone by health care inflation itself, this year's contest sponsored by the nonprofit group Costs of Care is awarding four prizes, up from two last year.

For Obese, Intimate Lives Often Suffer

Sep 21, 2011

Part of an ongoing series on obesity in America

It's well known that obesity can lead to a lot of health problems, but what's rarely talked about is the impact on people's sexual health. As the obesity rate has soared in the U.S., more and more marriage and family therapists are getting questions from obese clients about problems in the bedroom.

It's an issue that Dana Englehardt and her husband, Larry Boynton, of Belmont, Calif., know well.

A million-dollar bail agreement secured the release Wednesday of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, who had been sentenced to eight-year prison terms for illegal entry and espionage. A third American arrested with them, Sarah Shourd, was released last year. All denied any wrongdoing.

In an address that focused on "the pursuit of peace," President Obama just told delegates at the U.N. General Assembly that people everywhere want "to live with dignity and freedom; to get an education and pursue opportunity; to love our families and our God."

It is world leaders' responsibility, he said, to build "the kind of peace that makes life worth living."

Sales of existing homes rose 7.7 percent in August from July, the National Association of Realtors just reported.

According to a statement from the association's chief economist, Lawrence Yun:

Ten Questions To Ask You Doctor

Sep 21, 2011

It's so hard anymore to get time with anyone — especially your doctor. So you really need to be prepared to make the most of each appointment.

Take heart. The federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has come up with a cheat sheet you can bone up on or even take with you to help during the visit.

A new McClatchy-Marist poll shows that a majority of voters believe President Obama will lose "to any Republican" in next year's election and that "a solid plurality" of those surveyed say they will definitely vote against the president, the McClatchy news service reports.

And, it adds, "most potential Republican challengers" are gaining on Obama in one-on-one matchups.

There's more ammunition today for those who collect evidence of government waste.

In a new report covering the last few years of the George W. Bush administration and the first year of the Obama administration, the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General found that at conferences hosted by DOJ there was some "allowable but ... extravagant" spending.

A few notes from the report:

When President Obama steps to the podium at the U.N. General Assembly later this morning, he'll have a chance to explain why the U.S. opposes the bid by Palestinians to join that world body.

Ellen Weiss, who resigned in January from her job as NPR's senior vice president for news after an independent review raised questions about "the speed and handling" of news analyst Juan Williams' termination, has been named executive editor at the Center for Public Integrity.

Two American men jailed as spies in Iran since 2009 have been released, Iran's official Press TV reports.

The news site says it "has learned" that news.

Its report follows word from The Associated Press that attorney Masoud Shafiei said a court has approved a $1 million bail-for-freedom deal for the release of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal.

"Don't ask, don't tell" is no more. The policy barred openly gay, lesbian or bisexual people from serving in the military. Gay rights groups held Repeal Day celebrations across the country. One celebration took place in New York City at the historic Stonewall Inn, the birthplace of the gay rights movement.

After years of appeals and controversy, Troy Anthony Davis is scheduled to be executed in Georgia on Wednesday. Georgia's board of pardons turned back Davis' appeal for clemency Tuesday, despite high-profile support for his claim that he did not kill a police officer in 1989.

Several witnesses have changed their testimony since Davis' trial; tens of thousands are protesting the execution. Former president Jimmy Carter, South African Bishop Desmond Tutu and more than 50 members of Congress are among those who have asked Georgia to commute Davis' death sentence.

A Do-It-Yourself Approach To The Electric Car

Sep 21, 2011

Jack Rickard and Brian Noto have developed something of a cult following on their webcast EVTV, or Electric Vehicle Television, produced from their garage in Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Every week, they talk in soul-crushing detail about the intricacies of how to gut a gas-guzzling road warrior and convert it into an all-electric vehicle. On Wednesday, they host the Electric Vehicle Conversion Convention at the Cape Girardeau airport.

Later this week, a retired NASA satellite the size of a school bus will finally fall back towards Earth after orbiting the planet for two decades. Most of it will burn up in the atmosphere. But about two dozen pieces are expected to hit the ground — somewhere.

And the biggest piece will weigh about 300 pounds.

If that's got you worried, NASA emphasizes that in the history of the space age, there have been no confirmed reports of falling space junk hurting anyone. But that doesn't mean no one has ever been hit.

'Operation Twist,' Explained In 4 Easy Steps

Sep 21, 2011

Note: Robert Smith has an Operation Twist explainer on Wednesday's Morning Edition. That story is attached above.

The interest rate on 10-year Treasury bonds is 1.95 percent. This is crazy low. It's lower than inflation. But the Federal Reserve may be about to push the rate even lower.

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