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Beirut is usually one of the pleasanter places in the Middle East — a bright, cosmopolitan city squeezed between the Mediterranean Sea and a green ridge of mountains. But for the past two weeks or so, the stench from mounds of festering garbage has filled its gaudy streets.

"The trash is climbing up, the mountain is getting higher and higher," says one immaculately dressed, middle-aged woman with a perfect bouffant, wrinkling her nose. She wouldn't give her name because she criticizes powerful people — Lebanon's politicians, whom she holds responsible for the garbage crisis.

Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei says he was denied a six-month visa to the U.K. because British officials said he didn't list a criminal conviction on his application.

Ai applied for the six-month business visa, but was instead restricted to a 20-day travel visa from Sept. 9-29.

True, I never basked in the glow of the high school stage. But I have fond memories of working behind the scenes, as stage crew. Dressed in black, I rushed the bed onstage for Tevye's dream sequence in Fiddler on the Roof.

I've also spoken with many people who weren't involved in theater at all but can still — for some reason — remember the shows their schools performed.

There's just something about the high school stage.

Ruvan Wijesooriya

You'd expect Aziz Ansari to know his way around a joke. But who would have suspected he's an avid sociologist, and now something of an expert on the global online single's scene. Just ask him about his research on the cyber habits of Japanese youth, who don't feature images of themselves in their dating profiles.

"They'll post a photo of maybe their cat or a rice cooker,'" he says. "A guy's like, 'Hey, I can make rice. Let's do this!'" 

Syrian musician Zimo calls his music project "Hello Psychaleppo" — as in the Syrian city of Aleppo, but in a psychedelic way.

Zimo's real name is Samer Saem Eldahr. Zimo says Hello Psychaleppo is about "Arab heritage music and electronic sounds." And he believes in the power of music to express a sense of place.

In this track "Tobayabooya," he samples the late Eygptian crooner Abdel Halim Hafez.

Courtesy of Maryam Abolfazli.

Maryam Abolfazli visited Iran for the first time in 2003. She was born in the US to Iranian parents who had become "very Americanized."

Her visit came at a time when Iran was going through an opening in its domestic and international politics. The reformists were in power and things had opened up, to an extent.

"We were hearing [about] and seeing this fun party scene and this alternative, pushing-the-edges style on the streets," she says.

Chimpanzees are like us in many ways. They can cook, they enjoy a good drink here and there, they share about 95 percent of our DNA.

Jason Isbell is riding high this week: His new album Something More Than Free is number one on Billboard's country, rock and folk charts. The musician from rural Alabama got his start with the Southern rock band Drive-By Truckers, and then went solo. For the past few years, he's been sober, after drinking brought him "close to the point of no return."

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it is investigating Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer, a hunting enthusiast who has been identified as the person who illegally poached Zimbabwe's famous "Cecil the Lion."

But officials are asking the public for help in locating Palmer, who has apparently gone into hiding after his identity was made public and social media lit up with scorn and vitriol.

When it comes to getting the HPV vaccine to protect against cervical cancer, teens below the poverty line are doing better than the rest.

Among teenage girls ages 13 to 17 whose total family income was less than the federal poverty level for their family size, 67.2 percent have received the first dose of the human papillomavirus vaccine, compared to 57.7 percent for those at or above the poverty line. For teen boys, it's 51.6 percent compared to 39.5 percent.

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Alvin Bailon and his wife were at their wits' end last September. Their 12-year-old son, an honors student, had begun having anxiety attacks, mostly about school. "And then all of a sudden he would slowly lose consciousness," Bailon recalls. "We term it as doze off. He would doze off and he would fall down slowly."

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Oil companies are coming to terms with the prospect that oil prices could stay low for years. Today, Royal Dutch Shell announced it's laying off 1,600 workers. NPR's John Ydstie reports.

If there's such a thing as the first family of health care, the Lees may be it.

Five decades ago, two brothers helped start Medicare. Their father inspired them and they, in turn, have inspired the next generation.

To mark the anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson signing Medicare into law on July 30, 1965, three Lees sat down to reflect on the U.S. health care system.

Gov. Larry Hogan says he has ordered the immediate closure of the Baltimore City Detention Center, which a federal probe revealed in 2013 as being riddled with corruption, from smuggling to sex between inmates and guards.

Update at 3:15 p.m. ET: Inmates Were Running Jail, Hogan Says

Saying that the Baltimore facility is the only city prison in the entire country that's run by a state government, Hogan says it is time for a change.

Before Sarah Hepola got sober five years ago, she considered alcohol to be "the fuel of all adventure." These adventures included taking off her clothes in public, pouring beer on people's heads and waking up in strangers' beds. Frequently, Hepola didn't remember these incidents afterward because she had been in an alcohol-induced blackout.

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Artists Transform Coffee Spills Into Masterpieces

Jul 30, 2015

Ever splashed yourself with coffee or sat a dripping cup down on a white tablecloth? Then you're well aware of the beverage's staining powers. But where some see a ruined shirt, others have found a canvas.

For artist Maria Aristidou, it all started with a latte. "I was working on another commission using watercolors, when all the sudden, I spilled all over the drawing," she says.

In the summer of 1975, Teamsters President James Riddle Hoffa — Jimmy Hoffa — was already a legendary figure in both U.S. labor history and in American pop culture.

As a teenager in Detroit, he took to union organizing early on in the grocery business. He was smart and tough. With an emphasis on tough. A master strategist, he knew how to pick his targets, organize strikes and boycotts, and he rose through the Teamster ranks earning the deep loyalty of truckers and warehouse workers in a city that was becoming an industrial powerhouse.

An expert in ocean circulation tells NPR's Geoff Brumfiel that it is "highly likely" that currents in the Indian Ocean could have carried debris from the presumed crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 off Australia's west coast to Reunion Island near Madagascar.

Scientists are calling for an immediate ban on live salamander imports in the U.S. to try to prevent the spread of a fungal disease that could potentially devastate wild North American salamanders.

The economy is always a key issue in presidential campaigns.

But whose economy are we talking about? Many millennial voters are underemployed and crushed under thousands of dollars of student debt.

And perhaps nowhere is the problem more acute than in New Hampshire.

Seventy-six percent of the class of 2013 had loans. On average, each New Hampshire student was carrying $32,795 of debt, according to The Project on Student Debt. It's the nation's biggest student loan debt burden.

President Obama has ordered the development of a supercomputer that is some 20 times faster than the world's current record-holder and is expected to go online by 2025.

A machine at China's National University of Defense Technology in Guangzhou, called Tianhe-2 (Milky Way-2) is thought to currently be the fastest supercomputer in existence — variously reported as doing either 34 or 55 petaflops (1 petaflop is equivalent to 1 quadrillion floating-point operations per second).

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