Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne. President Vladimir Putin even wants Russia's birds to get behind him. Yesterday, he flew a motorized glider aimed at leading a flock of Siberian cranes raised in captivity to their winter nesting grounds. To appear to be one of them, Putin donned a white jumpsuit and helmet, though he drew the line at a beak. A Russians news agency reported only one bird followed Putin on his first flight, but he picked up a few more supporters later on. It's MORNING EDITION. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
Prison officials in Massachusetts say they are still reviewing a federal court decision in Boston ordering them to provide sex-change surgery for a prison inmate. Critics are urging officials to appeal what they call an outrageous abuse of taxpayer funds. But as NPR's Tovia Smith reports, the decision this week reflects national trends of prisons treating gender identity disorder as a legitimate medical condition deserving treatment like any other.
It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning. Renee Montagne is back at NPR West. Renee, welcome back.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Thank you very much. After a nice vacation, and so glad to be here, because big news: President Obama speaks to the Democratic Convention tonight. Just as with Mitt Romney last week, the president will have a huge audience to make his case.
And after delivering a tribute to her husband on the opening night at the Democratic National Convention, First Lady Michelle Obama yesterday by reaching out to groups of minority delegates there in Charlotte. NPR's David Welna reports.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Let's give a rousing welcome for the first lady, Michelle Obama.
DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: The African-American caucus was fired up yesterday when Mrs. Obama got there just hours after she brought down the house at the convention arena. She was still getting going.
When the European Central Bank holds its monthly meeting today, investors around the world will be watching nervously to see what the bank's head, Mario Draghi, says about interest rates. Draghi was recently quoted as saying he would do whatever it takes to keep Europe's debt crisis from growing out of control, and that could go beyond just cutting borrowing rates.
As NPR's Jim Zarroli reports, any European Central Bank plan to use its resources to prop up Europe's weaker economies will face strong opposition from the Germans.
A male <em>Solenosteira macrospira</em>, left, carries snail eggs on its shell. But not all of the eggs were fertilized by him. Females, like the one on the right, deposit the eggs into papery capsules and attach them to the males' shells.
A man is not a mollusk, and many men probably think that's a good thing. And it's not just because a mollusk is a squishy invertebrate with a shell. It's also because for at least one species of mollusk, the males do all the heavy lifting when it comes to childcare.
The species of mollusk we're talking about is Solenosteira macrospira, a marine snail about 2 inches long. These snails live off the coast of Baja California, and during the mating season, the beach is awash with male and female snails in connubial bliss.
British novelist Zadie Smith is also the author of <em>White Teeth</em>, <em>The Autograph Man</em> and <em>On Beauty. </em>In her latest book, <em>NW</em>, she lays out a problem for readers: Do people get what they deserve?
Writer Zadie Smith burst onto the literary scene with her first novel White Teeth more than a decade ago. Set in the Northwest London neighborhood where she grew up, White Teeth captured the diverse, vibrant rhythms of a city in transition. Smith returns to the neighborhood in her new novel, NW, but this is a sobering homecoming.
Next week's election in the Netherlands could seal the fate of Amsterdam coffee shops that also sell pot to foreign tourists. Some parties favor, and others oppose, a plan to restrict the shops' business. Cafe owners are struggling to get their customers to the polls.
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GREENE: Yes, to some like me, the sound of the fall. To others, a signal that you're not going to see your spouse or good friend on Sunday afternoons, because they've disappeared into the bar or man cave. Yes, NFL football begins tonight with the New York Giants battling the Dallas Cowboys and then much more action this weekend.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper is among the scheduled speakers at the Democratic Convention tonight. The former brew pub owner is one of the most popular governors in the country, and the Obama campaign hopes his popularity will help the party, once again, with the battleground state of Colorado in November. Kirk Siegler of member station KUNC has this profile.
Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention, speaker after speaker made the case that voters should give President Obama four more years. Ronald Brownstein of the National Journal tells Steve Inskeep that to get that chance; the president will need to win 80 percent of minority voters.
First Lady Michelle Obama was one of the stars on the first night of the Democratic National Convention. She delivered a ringing, impassioned plea for the re-election of her husband, President Barack Obama.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been visiting Chinese officials, talking of mutual cooperation, despite a lot of tension. So far her visit to Beijing has produced no breakdowns but also no breakthroughs. Here's NPR's Louisa Lim.
State Department officials have been saying that Secretary Clinton wants to push the Chinese on a surprising issue: elephants. Thousands of African elephants are being slaughtered for their ivory. The New York Times reports they are the latest plunder taken by armed African groups - a little like blood diamonds - and most of the ivory goes to China. Jeffrey Gettleman wrote the Times report after spending time in a national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He's on the line from that country. Welcome to the program.
Dr. Mahmoud Hasson, a specialist in internal medicine, runs a new hospital in the Syrian village of Kfar Ghan, a protected area along the border with Turkey. The Turkish government warned that any Syrian military aircraft near the border would be a target.
Driving into Kfar Ghan, you notice the difference right away: The shops are open, there are kids on the street, there's even a row of open-air vegetable stalls and a crowd of shoppers.
There is a full spread of watermelon, eggplants, peppers and tomatoes. All the farmers from the area have brought their produce to the market in this Syrian village, about a mile from the Turkish border.
One of Billie Holiday's most iconic songs is "Strange Fruit," a haunting protest against the inhumanity of racism. Many people know that the man who wrote the song was inspired by a photograph of a lynching. But they might not realize that he's also tied to another watershed moment in America's history.
The Social Security tax rate is scheduled to revert to 6.2 percent next year, up from the temporary reduction — to 4.2 percent on an employee's first $110,000 in wages — which has been in effect since January 2011.
Russia has been facing troubling demographics ever since the Soviet breakup two decades ago. The population has contracted by several million people over this period. The birth rate is low. Life expectancy for men is still less than 65 years.
And there is also a sense that many educated, talented people are leaving the country.
To take one example, the world of science lit up in July, when a billionaire Internet investor named Yuri Milner announced nine prizes for some of the world's most innovative thinkers in physics.
Well, the Southeastern Conference season has begun. I have it on good authority that other college football teams around the country will also be playing games this fall.
I don't know when exactly the SEC took over America. I know this is hard to believe, but the epicenter of college football used to be in the Midwest. I'm so old, I can remember when Notre Dame actually mattered, and the real tough players were supposed to come from Western Pennsylvania and Ohio.