In certain writers, the sense of profound moral inquiry is like a bell tower in a country church: You can see it from a long way off, and even when it's not making a sound, you can hear its reverberation. William T. Vollmann's work is like that: Regardless of his subject, he writes from a place of grave moral seriousness. In his masterpiece, the 2005 novel Europe Central, he wrestled the 20th century into one huge, luminous tome that bristled with insight and dread.
U.S. officials are saying they believe the Malaysia Airlines flight that crashed in eastern Ukraine was shot down by a missile. Thomas Erdbrink of The New York Times speaks with Audie Cornish from Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, where the flight took off.
In Gaza 24 schools are now doubling as humanitarian shelters. In recent days, some 22,000 Palestinians in Gaza have made their way to those shelters and they're operated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Robert Turner is director of operations for the U.N. Agency in Gaza City. When we reached him earlier he said he had only limited information about the fighting.
President Obama had some announcements today on U.S. policy overseas. In the White House briefing room, the president ran through a long list of what he described as pressing foreign policy challenges - questions about the election results in Afghanistan, Iranian nuclear talks, the ongoing violence between Hamas and Israel and finally, the situation in Ukraine. The U.S. government imposed new sanctions on Russia today over interference in that country. Here's how President Obama summed it up.
The menus of millennia past can be tough to crack, especially when it comes to fruits and vegetables. For archaeologists studying a prehistoric site in Sudan, dental plaque provided a hint.
"When you eat, you get this kind of film of dental plaque over your teeth," says Karen Hardy, an archaeologist with the Catalan Institute for Research and Advanced Studies at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona.
The Hope Clinic in southwest Houston is in the very heart of Asia Town, a part of the city where bland strip malls hide culinary treasures — Vietnamese pho, Malaysian noodles, Sichuan rabbit and bubble tea.
Inside the clinic, internist Charu Sawhney sees patients from many countries and circumstances. She's a big believer in the Affordable Care Act since most of her patients have been uninsured. She actively pushed many of them to sign up for the new plans.
Mississippi's Republican Senate runoff was decided three weeks ago, but the loser in that race refuses to accept the results. Longtime Sen. Thad Cochran is the certified winner, but his tea party-backed challenger, Chris McDaniel, alleges there might have been thousands of improper votes cast and today another twist. NPR political editor Charlie Mahtesian joins us now to talk about that twist. And Charlie, State Sen. Chris McDonnell's campaign held a much anticipated press conference today. But what actually happened?
Banking regulators in New York State are expected to release new rules this week governing Bitcoins and other virtual currencies. From member station WSHU Charles Lane reports that many industry experts welcome the regulations but some worry that they could end up limiting the creative potential of this new way of doing business.
CHARLES LANE, BYLINE: In many ways virtual currencies are just like old-fashioned money. You can buy furniture, books, beer, whatever. But some say it's even better than money.
Tuition and fees at most community colleges are pretty reasonable these days, about $3,500 a year. Which is why the vast majority of community college students don't take out loans to cover their costs. But, according to the Institute for College Access and Success, a non-profit advocacy group based in California, nearly a million community college students who do need help paying for school don't have access to federal student loans.
Cloaked in black from head to toe, Iman el-Kaas cries in her mother's home in the Gaza Strip. Iman is in mourning.
Her husband, Anas el-Kaas, was killed by an Israeli attack that hit their apartment in Gaza early Friday morning. He was 33 years old, a pharmacist with two young children. They had just moved in a few months ago.
"I thought that apartment was gift, but it was the place he would be killed," Iman says. "Why? Why did they kill him?"
Someone is killing the peacocks in Rolling Hills Estates, Calif.
The boisterous and colorful birds have been a part of this upscale community near Los Angeles for more than a century. In recent years, the birds have become a source of contention among neighbors — but the conflict has taken a dark turn.
The string of peacock killings is now at 50 over the past two years or so — 20 in the past six months alone — by pellet guns, shotguns, arrows and poison.
Russia's recent involvement in Ukrainian political turmoil touched a raw nerve in the Baltic countries of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. All three are now members of the EU and NATO, but they have painful memories of the Soviet occupation. Leaders of the Baltic states are asking for a bigger NATO presence in their countries, a move Russia angrily opposes.
Catholic schools across the U.S. are requiring teachers to sign morality clauses, which have gotten some educators fired for marrying same-sex partners. It's seen as a pushback among local church dioceses against changing state laws. As Sandhya Dirks of KALW reports, some parents are protesting the new requirements with threats to pull their students out of school.
Melissa Aldana, who became the first female instrumentalist and first South American musician to win the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition last fall, is not the average talent-contest winner.
After two days of nuclear talks with his Iranian counterpart, Secretary of State John Kerry is returning to Washington. Sunday is the deadline for a deal to limit Iran's nuclear program in exchange for lifting economic sanctions. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from Vienna that the talks could be extended.
South African writer Nadine Gordimer, who won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1991, died Sunday at the age of 90. Gordimer merged the personal and political to create a compelling portrait of the injustice of life under apartheid.
Audie Cornish talks with Michelle Abarca, a supervising attorney with the Americans for Immigrant Justice, on how the surge in unaccompanied children has impacted her organization. Abarca also recommends ways of coping with the influx.
Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
The Costa Concordia cruise crashed into a reef and capsized in waters off the island of Giglio in Italy over two years ago. On Monday, the most complicated part of the operation to refloat the ship was completed successfully.
Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
For a Gazan perspective on the prospect of a cease-fire, Robert Siegel talks to Mukhaimer Abu Sada, a political scientist at Al-Azhar University. They discuss the Israeli air strikes in Gaza and what must happen before fighting settles.
A week ago, my wife and I drove deep into the Piedmont region of Virginia to Rappahannock County in the lush foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Our destination was a chamber concert at the Castleton Festival, a showplace for young musicians.
And we end today's show with a remembrance world-renowned American conductor Lorin Maazel has died. Maazel was born in 1930 in Paris and was a child prodigy. By age 5 he was taking violin lessons, by 7 he was conducting. And by the time he was a teenager he had conducted most of the major American orchestras. He spoke with NPR's Robert Siegel in 2009.