NPR News

Bob Hoskins died this week after being hospitalized with pneumonia. He starred in memorable films such as The Long Good Friday, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Mona Lisa and The Cotton Club. He was 71.



The United States economy has been the largest in the world since the days when Ulysses S. Grant was president. That was in the 1870s. But a new World Bank report says by one measure that could change by the end of this year: China would take over the top spot this year.

To explain what the new report means and what it doesn't, we turn to NPR's Frank Langfitt. He's on the line from Shanghai. Hi, Frank.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.



This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning. This week Secretary of State John Kerry turns his attention, as much as circumstances allow, from the crisis in Ukraine and Mideast peace talks to the civil war in South Sudan. South Sudan broke away from Sudan barely three years ago and now that new nation is being torn apart in a fight for power between the president and former vice president.

Sexual harassment is a chronic problem for transit systems, and it's consistently underreported. Metro transit officials have kicked off a serious effort to fight harassment on buses and trains.

A small number of universities are starting to go against the grain, reducing amenities and frills in favor of keeping the costs relatively low.

Neil Theobald is the president of Temple University, which recently began offering students $4,000 per year in grants — if they promise to limit the number of hours they work during the school year and graduate on time.

Flights were grounded for more than an hour in some of the nation's Western states because of a technical problem.

The AP reports:

"In addition, the Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday its air traffic control facility had also temporarily stopped accepting additional flights into the airspace.

"The agency says some flights were diverted as it gradually restores the system.

"Officials at Burbank airport said some flights were again being allowed to take off."

States have always struggled to find humane ways to carry out the death penalty. For a generation, they have favored lethal injection, but that method has become increasingly problematic.

It's coming under increased scrutiny following the death of Clayton Lockett, who died Tuesday of a heart attack after writhing visibly during an execution attempt in Oklahoma.

The execution "fell short" of humane standards, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Wednesday.

All of us who write for a living know what it's like to completely forget something you wrote 13 years ago.

But when a Supreme Court justice pointedly cites the facts in a decision he wrote, and gets them exactly wrong, it is more than embarrassing. It makes for headlines among the legal cognoscenti.

I'm not sure I rank as one of the cognoscenti, but here's my headline for Justice Antonin Scalia's booboo: "Nino's No-No."

The Army general who heads the Defense Intelligence Agency is leaving a year early and retiring.

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, but sources say he's stepping down because he's fed up with bureaucratic fights in Washington.

Flynn is expected to announce his retirement within the next week.

The number of "forcible rapes" that get reported at four-year colleges increased 49 percent between 2008 and 2012. That's the finding of an analysis by NPR's Investigative Unit of data from the Department of Education.

That increase shows that sexual assault is a persistent and ugly problem on college campuses. But there's also a way to look at the rise in reports and see something positive: It means more students are willing to come forward and report this underreported crime.

Nevada Sen. Harry Reid says the NFL should consider ousting Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder.

Snyder has been criticized — even by President Obama — over the name of his football team, which is considered a racial epithet against Native Americans.

Executions in this country often draw controversy. But when the headlines about them include words like botched or bungled, the debate about capital punishment enters new territory.

Around the country, there are lots of tinkerers working on what they hope will be the next brilliant idea — but who don't have the tools in their garage to build it.

In dozens of cities, those innovators can set up shop in a "maker space" — community workshops where members have access to sophisticated tools and expertise.

Maker spaces have become hotbeds of technological innovation and entrepreneurship. Now, governments, universities and big corporations are taking notice — and beginning to invest in them.

For centuries, hard apple cider has been made with the fermented juice of apples — nothing more, nothing less. And a lot of cider drinkers and makers — let's call them purists — like it that way.

But a new wave of renegade cider makers in America is shirking tradition and adding unusual ingredients to the fermentation tank — from chocolate and tropical fruit juices to herbs, chili peppers and unusual yeasts. Their aim — which is controversial among the purists — is to bring out the best, or just the weirdest, flavors in the ciders.

Twitter is growing and its brand is spreading but Wall Street is unimpressed. On Tuesday, the company announced it had doubled its quarterly revenue from a year ago to $250 million. The social networking site also increased its number of active users to 255 million, up 25 percent from a year earlier.

But despite the gains, Wall Street analysts have called the growth tepid. Twitter went public last November, and its shares have traded as high as $74; on Wednesday, it opened at under $38.

Senate Republicans blocked a vote Wednesday on a bill to raise the nation's minimum wage. But don't expect that to be the end of the story.

For more than a year now, Democrats, including President Obama, have been pushing to boost the minimum wage. Their latest target is $10.10 an hour.

GOP critics argue that would depress hiring in an already weak job market.

But raising the wage is popular with voters, and Democrats plan to make the issue a rallying cry between now and the November elections.

A CSX train carrying crude oil derailed in Lynchburg, Va., on Wednesday.

Luann Hunt, a spokeswoman for the city of Lynchburg, tells our Newscast unit that the area has been evacuated.

Approximately 12 to 14 tanker cars were involved in the derailment, Hunt said, causing flames and deep dark smoke.

Beverly Amsler, of NPR member station WVTF, tells us that at least three of the tankers ruptured because of the accident.

The economy slowed sharply in the first quarter, with data released Wednesday showing that growth was barely positive. Federal Reserve policymakers wrapped up a meeting Wednesday with a statement saying the economy had actually picked up a bit in recent weeks. They voted unanimously to continue winding down their stimulus program.

Oklahoma death row inmate Clayton Lockett's execution was botched on Tuesday, when a relatively new combination of drugs failed to work as expected. The incident, the second of its kind in recent months, is renewing questions of what constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment."



This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel. Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens testified in a Senate hearing today on the surge of secret money in politics. Stevens retired from the court a few months after the Citizens United ruling in 2010. He had issued an emphatic dissent in the case, which allowed corporations and unions to spend without limits in campaigns.



Last year, for the first time, Afghan forces took charge of their country's security. They generally held their ground but suffered record casualties. Despite that, NPR's Sean Carberry reports plenty of men are lining up to join the army.


For the first time since U.S. troops withdrew in 2011, Iraqis went to the polls to vote on their leaders. As Reuters reporter Ned Parker says, the day's events paint a grim future for Iraq's future.



This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block. Ukraine's interim president says his military forces have lost control of the eastern part of the country. That declaration today came after masked separatists captured government offices in a key provincial capital. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is in the city of Donetsk in the east where separatists also wield control.

High school students in the U.S. take lots of standardized tests. There are state tests, new Common Core-aligned field tests, and an alphabet soup of others like the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) and NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) exams, the SAT, ACT, AP and IB.

It's a lot by any objective measure. Parents and teens often charge that America tests its students more than any other nation in the world. But really, how does the U.S.'s test tally compare with what kids are taking elsewhere in the world?


You can't forget what you've heard with your own ears.

Thanks to the widespread broadcast of his beliefs on race, the disgrace of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling is now cemented, and the NBA is seeking to force him to sell the team.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver acknowledged as much at a news conference Tuesday, during which he announced that Sterling was banned from the league for life for his remarks on race.



From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block.

A day after NBA commissioner Adam Silver banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life and made clear his intention to force Sterling to sell the team, the question remains, just how will Silver do that?

NASA's Curiosity rover is on an epic trip to a distant mountain, but it took a brief break Wednesday to dip its drill into the Martian soil.

The drilling is taking place at a place called Waypoint Kimberley. The area is a point of convergence for several different types of terrain, says John Grotzinger, the rover's project scientist. The exposed rock and different formations made the way point a good place to "stop and smell the roses," he says.

How do you like them apples, apricots, blueberries, almonds and peaches? They all depend on bees for pollination.

But over the last several years, a massive number of bee colonies have died, putting beekeepers, farmers and scientists in a bit of a panic.

They've come up with a lot of reasons why colonies are collapsing and dwindling.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has ordered an "independent review" of the state's execution procedures and halted any further executions until the review is complete.

The move comes a day after Oklahoma botched the execution of Clayton D. Lockett. As we reported, after a long legal and political battle, the state proceeded with Lockett's execution using a novel combination of drugs.

People of the small Canadian town of Trout River, Newfoundland, have a big problem that just might blow up in their faces: what to do with a giant blue whale carcass that washed up on the beach and that some say threatens to spontaneously combust.

The 80-foot-long whale appeared on the beach in the town of about 600 people a week ago. Since then, the mass of rotting blubber has become bloated with combustible methane gas and, to put it delicately, is "emitting a powerful stench."