This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. The Japanese flag flew over Blair House in Washington today. That's where foreign leaders stay when they visit the White House. Japan's new prime minister is here for his first meeting with President Obama, and they've been discussing economic and security issues as NPR's Ari Shapiro reports.
This year's flu vaccine looks like it's not doing much to protect older people. New numbers in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that the vaccine has only been effective about a quarter of the time for people 65 and older. NPR's Rob Stein joins me to explain what that means. And Rob, tell us more about these numbers coming from the CDC.
How much is a best-picture Oscar worth? Not the statuette — winners are required to sell that back to the Academy for a buck if they want to get rid of it. No, what's the Oscar worth at the box office?
CNBC is far and away the television ratings leader in the financial cable news business. Now, evidence arrives that its executives, producers and reporters are going to great lengths to maintain its status.
The channel has adopted a policy that prohibits guests from appearing on rival channels amid breaking news if they want to be seen by CNBC's larger audience.
In the back and forth between Congress and the White House over immigration, both sides seem to agree that people now in the U.S. illegally should wait at "the back of the line" for legal residency — meaning no green card until all other immigrants get theirs.
But that presents a problem, because the wait for a green card can take decades.
Maria has been waiting in line with her husband for 16 years and counting for what the government calls a priority date for legal residency. Because she is in the U.S. without documents, Maria asked NPR to use only her first name.
The most heated part of the fight between the Obama administration and religious groups over new rules that require most health plans to cover contraception actually has nothing to do with birth control. It has to do with abortion.
And now, a story from Washington state; a story about one family's unexpected odyssey. Seventy-three-year-old Kevin O'Grady had recently died in Seattle, where one of his two daughters lives. She mailed her father's ashes across the state to her sister, Katy, in Spokane. That's where their father, an Air Force veteran, was to be buried with military honors.
But after several days, Katy had yet to receive the ashes.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
Among the many charges thrown at Chuck Hagel, as he seeks confirmation as defense secretary, is this one: that he received funding from a group called Friends of Hamas. That explosive claim first surfaced on the conservative website breitbart.com. It got traction and spread among conservative media.
Thing is there's no evidence that any such group exists, not to mention any evidence of a Hamas-Hagel connection.
There is no end, it seems, to revelations of corruption in Spain, exacerbated by the country's economic crisis. The latest scandal threatens to topple the pedestal on which Spain's royals have long stood.
The newest suspect is the king's son-in-law, who is accused of embezzling millions of dollars in public funds and faces a judge this weekend.
Food doesn't matter much in novels. Years will pass in a person's life without a single description of a snack. Not a moment between adverbs for a taco. No wonder so many characters in contemporary fiction are glum: They're not hopeless; they're hungry.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block, with this accounting of the rapid pace of deal making in corporate America. This month alone, U.S. Airways and American Airlines merged, Comcast bought up NBC Universal, Warren Buffett teamed up with a Brazilian firm to buy the Heinz Company, and Michael Dell helped take the public company that bears his name private.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai issued a decree in 2009 banning violence against women. But the parliament, which is currently on its winter recess, has been unable to pass it and give it permanence as a law.
There's major disagreement on key provisions where Islamic and secular law come into conflict. And activists say the gains made in women's rights since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 are slipping away.
Masooda Karokhi, a female member of parliament, has been pushing to get the proposal through the male-dominated legislature.
There's an underground bunker at a radio station in Charlotte, N.C., where time has stopped. Built decades ago to provide safety and vital communications in the event of a nuclear attack, it's now a perfectly preserved relic of Cold War fear that's gained new relevance.
The secret bunker is part of the office lore that old-timers at WBT Radio whisper to the newbies. That's how radio host Mike Collins learned of it back in the 1980s.
Developers in Pakistan will soon break ground on a new amusement park and outdoor activity center, a private, $30 million project billed as a state-of-the-art facility that will bring jobs to a hard-hit area.
But there's one issue that's raising some eyebrows: the site is in Abbottabad, not far from the place where Osama Bin Laden secretly lived until American forces killed him.
This does not trouble Sheikh Kaleemuddin, the project director, who is effusive about the picturesque spot where he plans to build.
A new surge of Syrian refugees is swamping humanitarian aid agencies in southern Turkey, where official refugee camps are full.
But the newcomers may be just the tip of the iceberg. In central Syria, civilians under attack by combat jets, tanks and artillery have fled towns and villages north of the city of Hama, and thousands are on the move.
"What they do now, they burn everything ahead of them. They bomb this area with everything they've got," says Hossan Hamadah, a Syrian-American from Texas.
If you usually wait until April to file your taxes, you might want to hurry up — before identity thieves beat you to it. Using stolen names and Social Security numbers, these criminals file fake tax returns with false wage and withholding information. This generates big — and fraudulent — refunds, before the real taxpayer gets around to filing.
The Internal Revenue Service says it's busy working to combat what prosecutors call a fraud epidemic.
Most taxpayers don't have any idea something is wrong until they hit the send button on their taxes and get an error message.
Quvenzhane Wallis was just 5 years old when she auditioned for a role in the Oscar-nominated film Beasts of the Southern Wild, and 6 when she shot the movie. Now, at age 9, she is the youngest ever to receive a best actress Oscar nomination.
In the film, Quvenzhane plays a wild child named Hushpuppy, who lives with her sick father in a ramshackle, isolated community called the Bathtub, on the fringes of the Louisiana coast.
The basketball world lost both a huge fan and one of its most innovative team owners today. Jerry Buss turned the Los Angeles Lakers into the NBA's glamour franchise and won 10 championships. Buss died early this morning at the age of 80. NPR's Ted Robbins has this remembrance.
TED ROBBINS, BYLINE: Jerry Buss once said: I don't just want winners, I want champions. And, boy, did he get them. Yet when Buss was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, he remembered feeling humbled back in 1979 when he bought the Lakers.