This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.
In drought-stricken East Africa, Somali militants have vowed war on neighboring Kenya. It happened after Kenya sent hundreds of troops across the border to search out and destroy Islamist militants. The cross-border action followed a series of kidnappings and attacks in Kenya, targeting aid workers and Western tourists. Kenya now says its forces won't leave Somalia until the threat is over.
NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is in Kenya's capital of Nairobi, and joins us now.
For many, losing a home is the definition of hitting bottom. But there are former homeowners finding themselves in an even tighter spot than they thought was possible. They've lost their homes and wrecked their credit ratings. Now lenders are pursuing them for the debt that remains.
Efforts to solve the European debt crisis are sure to be front and center when leaders of the 20 big countries that make up the G-20 meet in France later this week. President Barack Obama arrives in France on Thursday for the summit meeting. And NPR's Scott Horsley joins us for a preview. Hey there, Scott.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Hi, Audie. Good to be with you.
CORNISH: So, is there any relief at the White House that European countries appear to be getting a handle on the Greek debt crisis?
Over the next few weeks, European leaders have a big task ahead of them. They have to begin fleshing out that big bailout plan unveiled to so much fanfare in Brussels this week. The plan represents the most comprehensive effort so far to resolve Europe's grinding debt problems, which have done so much damage to the world's financial markets this year, but some issues may require a global effort to solve.
For most of the year, Salem, Mass., looks like many other historic New England towns. Come October, though, the streets are packed with portable toilets, fried dough vendors and carnival rides. It's a major tourist attraction thanks to its infamous 17th-century witch trials.
Tourists line up for psychics' parlors, face-painters and wax museums, but haunted houses are the biggest draw.
Marshall Tripoli has been in the haunted attractions business in Salem for 21 years. He owns the five-year-old Nightmare Factory, where he says his motto is "Care how you scare."
The world is anticipating the birth of its 7 billionth person, as the United Nations predicts that the milestone baby will be born on Monday, Oct. 31. Demographers say the baby might be born in India, where an average of 51 babies are born every minute.
To get a feeling for the kind of world in which our 7 billionth citizen could grow up, it's worth a visit to the place that India's Census Bureau has identified as the densest place in the country.
The attractiveness, and simplicity, of Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan — a nine percent federal income, corporate and sales tax — has catapulted the Georgia businessman to the head of the Republican presidential field. But for some states, such as New Hampshire, which doesn't have a sales tax, 9-9-9 wouldn't be simple at all.
People in New Hampshire, to put it mildly, dislike taxes.
"New Hampshire is definitely an anti-tax state," says Andy Smith, director of the Survey Center at the University of New Hampshire.
Earlier this week, President Obama announced a plan to help homeowners refinance their mortgages.
The White House says it will help millions of people hold onto their homes through a government-backed modification program. But critics are skeptical the plan will be a success, in part because of the dependence on the good will of banks to voluntarily join up.
Every day for decades, engineer Phil Pressel would come home from work and be unable to tell his wife what he'd been doing all day.
Now, Pressel is free to speak about his life's work: designing cameras for a top-secret U.S. government spy satellite. Officially known as the KH-9 Hexagon, engineers called it "Big Bird" for its massive size.
Until the government declassified it last month, Hexagon had been a secret for 46 years.
The Congressional Budget Office released a study this week that revealed a huge shift in the nation's wealth distribution. The top 1 percent of the country's earners more than doubled their take of the nation's wealth in just 30 years. James Fallows, national correspondent with The Atlantic, joins weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz to discuss that story and others from the past week.
GUY RAZ, host: In Ohio, voters have been watching TV ads telling them which way to vote on Issue 2. That's a measure on the ballot that could overturn a law passed last spring that limits the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions. Organized labor, including the teacher's unions, are spending heavily to defeat that measure. But at the same time, there are other educators who back the law and are also campaigning.
GUY RAZ, host: For almost 50 years, workers have filed into the Whirlpool factory in Fort Smith, Arkansas, where they make refrigerators, dishwashers and trash compacters for KitchenAid and Maytag brands. But after months of layoffs and reductions, Whirlpool announced plans to close that Fort Smith plant altogether. And that means a thousand people will lose their jobs.
Mayor SANDY SANDERS: There's no good time for an announcement like this. And particularly with the economy and the situation it is now, it exacerbates the situation.
Originally published on Sat October 29, 2011 10:47 am
SCOTT SIMON, host: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. In Afghanistan today, a Taliban suicide bomber slammed a car packed with explosives into an armored bus carrying NATO troops in Kabul. At least 13 U.S. soldiers died in the attack. According to a Pentagon spokesman, the blast incinerated the vehicle and is the latest in a series of recent high-profile attacks in Afghanistan. For more on the incident, we're joined now by NPR's Ahmad Shafi in Kabul. Shafi, what more details can you give us about the attack?
Writer and comedian Andy Borowitz says he initially got into comedy for one simple reason: girls.
In addition to using his jokes to charm women, Borowitz has also written for The New Yorker and runs a satirical blog called The Borowitz Report. His latest project is The 50 Funniest American Writers: An Anthology of Humor from Mark Twain to The Onion.
SCOTT SIMON, host: Jim Bouton knows what it's like to stand on the pitching mound in a World Series with the world watching. He pitched three World Series games for the New York Yankees in 1963 and '64. Of course, he's also wrote the classic baseball memoir about baseball and life, "Ball Four." Jim joins us from Western Massachusetts. Thanks so much for being with us.
JIM BOUTON: Good morning, Scott.
SIMON: Couple of months ago, would a sane observer see the Cardinals winning the World Series?
You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.
John McCarthy, the American mathematician known universally as the father of Artificial Intelligence, died last Monday at his home in Palo Alto. He was 84.
WEEKEND EDITION's Math Guy, Keith Devlin, knew McCarthy and has this remembrance.
KEITH DEVLIN, BYLINE: I first got to know John McCarthy when I arrived at Stanford as a visiting professor in 1987. He was 60 years old at that time, with a towering and, to me, somewhat daunting, reputation.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. This week, the Congressional Budget Office released a report showing that the gap between wealthy and poor Americans has become much wider than it once was. We'll have a story on how changes in the tax code may have contributed to this situation, and we'll look at the Occupy Wall Street movement. But first, we turn to NPR's Andrea Seabrook and Robert Smith for a seasonably appropriate analysis of how the income gap has changed over the last 30 years.
SCOTT SIMON, host: This week, New York's Taxi and Limousine Commission reminded cabbies that honking is against the law except when warning of imminent danger. They could be fined $350 for using their horns, just to snagged affair, vent steam over traffic or jolt pedestrians are looking up at the skyscrapers and lingerie billboards to move more quickly. Mike Castillo has been driving for 30 years.
MIKE CASTILLO: Human stupidity in New York traffic is huge.
SIMON: And says cabbies ho when they spot dangerous less street smart drivers miss.
SIMON: And seven in ten Americans are planning to get their screams this year through decorations, costumes or creeping into a haunted house. NPR's Allison Keyes visited some haunts and reports on the industry's multi-billion dollar battle for your souls.
ALLISON KEYES, BYLINE: It's dark. The people in front of you are cringing. And, hey, what's that stuff hanging from the ceiling?
The Port of Entry at Nogales, Ariz., is in the midst of a massive upgrade to ease congestion caused by up to 1,500 Mexican trucks crossing each day. Nearly two-thirds of the produce consumed in the U.S. and Canada during the winter come through here.
These Mexican trucks stop at warehouses near the border to transfer their loads to U.S. trucks. That's the way it's long been done. Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, says that adds cost.
It's a huckster's dream: "Try the new Burmese Python Diet. No calorie counting or special foods. Eat whatever comes along, up to a quarter of your body weight. Not only is it good for your waistline; it's good for your heart."
Trouble is, what works in pythons probably won't work for humans.
Pythons employ what scientists call a "sit and wait foraging tactic." In other words, they lie around in a Burmese jungle and wait for the food to come to them. And of course, this can mean months between meals.
Attend just about any of the Occupy Wall Street-inspired protests across the country and you're likely to see a group of people dressed in matching union T-shirts somewhere in the crowd. Typically, they're older than your average Occupy protester but no less enthusiastic in their chanting.
"I've been doing this [protesting] for five decades," said Mike Wisniewski at a recent Occupy Philadelphia protest at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Wisniewski says he's a university library employee and has been a union member since 1972.
'I'm Not Regan': Linda Blair played the young Regan MacNeil in the 1973 film adaptation of William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist. In the book, Regan becomes possessed by a malevolent demon who makes her head turn 360 degrees.
Credit JT Blatty / HarperCollins Publishers
William Peter Blatty also wrote the screenplay for The Exorcist, which earned 10 Academy Award nominations in 1973. His most recent novels include Elsewhere, Dimiter and Crazy.
A worker stands next to an array of Sharp solar cell modules at a power plant south of Tokyo in August. Sharp was one of 1,400 solar panel manufacturers in attendance at the Solar Power International conference, where industry optimism was high.
Solar power's image has taken a hit lately with the bankruptcy of Solyndra. The California solar panel manufacturer received more than half a billion dollars in Energy Department loan guarantees before going belly up.
But the industry is still optimistic — that much was apparent at the Solar Power International conference held in Dallas in mid-October. Walking into the big hall of the Dallas Convention Center, it was impossible not to be impressed by the huge array of black solar panels hanging from the ceiling.
Credit National Nuclear Security Administration / AP
This undated photo provided by the National Nuclear Security Administration shows the last B53 nuclear bomb. It was dismantled this past week, just outside Amarillo, Texas. It's a milestone in efforts to reduce the number of nuclear weapons.
This past week, the U.S. dismantled the last of its largest nuclear bombs, the B53.
This was a Dr. Strangelove bomb, conjuring up images of armageddon and apocalypse. At the same time, one of the smallest warheads was also removed from the nuclear arsenal.
These are steps the U.S. is taking apart from its arms control agreements with Russia. And thousands more American nuclear weapons are slated for destruction in a process that could take a decade or more.