The historic legal arguments on the Obama health care overhaul came to a close at the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, with key justices suggesting the court may be prepared to strike down not just the individual mandate but the whole law.
The major arguments of the day were premised on a supposition. Suppose, asked the court, we do strike down the individual mandate — what other parts of the law, if any, should be allowed to stand?
And finally, this hour, we remember Earl Scruggs, the master of the five-string banjo, who has died at age 88. As a young man, he created his own style of fingerpicking on the banjo that would come to bear his name: Scruggs style. He got his start with Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys in the 1940s and then teamed up with Lester Flatt as Flatt and Scruggs. And he influenced countless players over his many decades of music, among them, fellow banjo player Tony Trischka, who joins me now.
The writer Adrienne Rich has died after a long illness. She was 82. Rich is best known for her poetry, which mirrored the times in which she wrote. Her work grew increasingly political during the 1960s and '70s, and she was a touchstone for the feminist movement. Joining me to talk to about Rich's work is the poet and critic Linda Gregerson. And Linda, I wonder what the experience is for you of reading an Adrienne Rich poem. How would you describe it?
We're learning more about yesterday's bizarre incident on-board JetBlue Flight 191 from New York to Las Vegas. That's the plane that diverted to Amarillo, Texas after the pilot left the cockpit mid-flight and went on a rant, screaming about Iraq and Israel.
Federal prosecutors today charged the pilot, Clayton Osbon, with interfering with a flight crew. And the court filing contains new details about what apparently went on during that flight.
And now to another provision in the health care law that's being challenged: the Medicaid expansion. Those arguments took place this afternoon. And NPR's Julie Rovner is here in the studio to talk about them. Julie, the key question before the court was whether the law goes too far. It requires states to expand their Medicaid programs. So why don't we back up and start with the basics, how Medicaid works and how the law changes that?
The swift downfall of ambitious Chinese politician Bo Xilai exposed a bitter power struggle in the highest echelons of government. Now his victims are telling their stories, exposing a darker side to Bo's signature clampdown on organized crime.
Charismatic and outspoken, Bo seemed headed for the country's top leadership body, the Politburo Standing Committee, before he was removed abruptly from his post — as party secretary of the major southern city of Chongqing — earlier this month.
Rapper Baloji was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo but raised in Belgium. He's built a reputation for incorporating Congolese music into his mix, though he mostly raps in French, his deep voice full of cocky brashness. You can catch his vibe without translation, but it's worth reading the liner notes to get his messages, as well. Baloji raps with brazen ease about the indignities of life as an African in Belgium, but also the tragic, bloody history of his homeland on his second album, Kinshasa Succursale.
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
The United Nations special envoy for Syria says that country has agreed to a six-point peace plan. Envoy Kofi Annan called it a positive step toward ending the violence that. The U.N. now estimates that the conflict has cost more than 9,000 lives. But still, the violence continued and it has spilled over into northern Lebanon, according to witnesses.
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And I'm Melissa Block.
It's traveled thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean over the last year and now a Japanese fishing vessel that was swept out to sea during the tsunami has been spotted off the coast of British Columbia. It's rusted and drifting and apparently empty. And at more than 150,000 feet long, it's the largest object from the tsunami by far to reach the waters off North America.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And I'm Melissa Block.
Today marks one month since Trayvon Martin, an African-America teenager was killed in Sanford, Florida. The shooter was a neighborhood watch volunteer. People in Sanford and in cities across the country are taking part in rallies today, calling on authorities to arrest the shooter.
NPR's Greg Allen reports that while emotions run high, the facts of Martin's death remain murky.
A shout out now for the winner of this year's annual Stanley and Stella Shouting Contest.
NICOLE MARTIN: Stanley.
SIEGEL: That is Nicole Martin, who won first place with that vigorous shout to an actor on a New Orleans balcony portraying Stanley Kowalski, the character from "A Street Car Named Desire." Bryan Buckles won second place.
Spring is here — the season of flowers and birds, with love and marriage in the very air we breathe. People pair up, brimming with optimism, and vowing to be fair and generous mates.
But when couples stay together over time — throughout all of the seasons — we're reminded that real life is messy and complicated. Even the best relationships will get stuck in anger and distance. In short, couples need all the help they can get. To this end, I recommend the following three books.
Tomorrow morning the Supreme Court begins a three-may marathon of oral arguments challenging President Obama's landmark health care law, the Affordable Care Act. Weekends on All Things Considered guest host Laura Sullivan previews the arguments with NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg. She also speaks to Mark Gross, owner of a professional line standing service, who is poised to have a lucrative week, and Jeff Rother of the National Coalition on Health Care walks us back through health reform's tempestuous path to the Supreme Court.
Author Luis Alberto Urrea reminds listeners that the deadline for Round 8 of Three-Minute Fiction is tonight, Sunday, March 25, at 11:59 p.m. ET. All submissions must be received by then to be considered a valid entry in the contest. The story must begin with the sentence: "She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally decided to walk through the door". As always, the story must be 600 words or less. To submit a story, go to npr.org/threeminutefiction.
An update now on a story we first told you about last spring. Bart Centre of New Hampshire claimed he was running a pet rescue business for animals in case they were left behind by owners during the rapture, or the end of times, as some Christians believe.
New York in the gilded age was a city of epic contrasts. Top-hatted swells in glossy carriages promenaded uptown, while just a few blocks south, poverty, crime and overcrowding were the order of the day.
And vice, let's not forget vice. New York was what was called a "wide-open" town, with gambling, prostitution and liquor available on almost every corner. The cops and the Democratic machine politicians of Tammany Hall mostly looked the other way — when they weren't actively involved.
The newest album from the folk outfit Lost in the Trees is a very personal one. Ari Picker, the creative force behind the band, began writing the songs for A Church That Fits Our Needs after the death of his mother, Karen Shelton. She was an artist herself, one who struggled with mental illness throughout her life. In 2008, she killed herself.
In Round 8 of our Three-Minute Fiction contest, listeners were given this challenge: Begin a story with this sentence: "She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally decided to walk through the door." And, as always, the story must be 600 words or less. The deadline is 11:59 p.m. ET Sunday.
A new online ad from Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum sketches out a dire threat.
(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Imagine a small American town two years from now if Obama is re-elected. The wait to see a doctor is ever increasing. Gas prices through the roof, and the freedom of religion under attack.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss is an accomplished archer in Suzanne Collins' young adult trilogy, The Hunger Games, so it should be no surprise that in her film incarnation, she's hit the box office bulls-eye. This dystopian wonder (for those who've been living in a cave of late, The Hunger Games is a thriller about a totalitarian society that forces teens to participate in a televised fight to the death) appears poised to join the Harry Potter and Twilight movies in the top echelon of teen-oriented page-to-screen blockbusters.