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In-depth reporting and transformed the way listeners understand current events and view the world. Every weekday, hear two hours of breaking news mixed with compelling analysis, insightful commentaries, interviews, and special - sometimes quirky - features.

The Risky Boom In Carefree Social Payment Apps

Apr 7, 2015

The other morning, I asked my friend Amanda Mae Meyncke, a writer here in Los Angeles, to explain an app to me.

I used my debit card to pay for our order of coffee and toast, and then got her to pay me back with this app she uses, Venmo.

It's what's known as a peer-to-peer finance app, which is Silicon Valley's way of saying that it lets people pay each other without handling cash or swiping cards. People like to use it to split bills.

To get started, she opened up the app.

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A report released Sunday about a Rolling Stone magazine story detailing an alleged rape at the University of Virginia is one more chapter in a long, troubling story for the campus.

State officials released the details of New Jersey's proposed $225 million settlement with ExxonMobil on Monday, giving us a closer look at one of the largest environmental settlements in the state's history.

Environmentalists complain the company is getting off easy after polluting wetlands for many decades. The settlement focuses on two of Exxon's former refineries, Bayonne and Linden, in northern New Jersey.

Sea level rise is beginning to affect the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A protective dune not too far from the launchpads has collapsed and waves have washed over railroad tracks built in the 1960s. Now NASA is taking steps to protect its launch infrastructure.

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NPR's Melissa Block interviews David Albright, a former nuclear inspector and founder of the Institute for Science and International Security, about what needs to be in a final agreement on Iran's nuclear program and how inspections would work.

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Last month, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill bringing back the firing squad as a method of execution. The state abandoned firing squads in 2004 but now, it has returned as the backup option — partly because of a shortage of lethal injection drugs, the state's default execution method.

Utah is now the only state in the U.S. that authorizes execution by firing squad.

Last week, Governor Jerry Brown made water conservation mandatory in the drought-stricken state of California. "As Californians, we have to pull together and save water in every way we can," he said.

But if the four-year drought continues, conservation alone — at least what's required by the governor's plan — won't fix the problem.

Across California, communities are examining all options to avoid running out of water. Some, like the coastal city of Santa Barbara, are looking to the past for inspiration.

It's just two days before the 2015 Arnold Strongman Classic, an international competition for strongmen and strongwomen in Columbus, Ohio, and Brittany Diamond is worried.

As a relative newcomer to the sport, the 22-year-old from Boston has never even seen the 100-pound dumbbell she'll soon be asked to lift and press with just one arm.

It's Passover and as is traditional, many Jews are eating matzo for the week. But in Southern California, a group called Wilderness Torah is not only reflecting on the Passover story but going into the desert to relive part of it.

About 150 people are gathered around an outdoor fire. In the expanse of a vast desert night, they sing a soulful Jewish tune. They're here to remember the Passover story, in which the Israelites were slaves in Egypt before they crossed the Red Sea into the desert.

In the early 1970s thousands of bombings were taking place throughout the country — sometimes up to five a day. They were targeted protests, carried out by a multitude of radical activist groups: The Weather Underground, the Symbionese Liberation Army, the FALN, the Black Liberation Army.

According to author Bryan Burrough, there were at least a dozen underground organizations carrying out these attacks at the time. He writes that the bombings functioned as "exploding press releases."

By law, many U.S. insurance providers that offer mental health care are required to cover it just as they would cancer or diabetes care. But advocates say achieving this mental health parity can be a challenge.

The framework nuclear deal reached with Iran this week could have an enormous impact on the global oil market. Sanctions, which have crippled the country's oil exports, could be lifted if a final nuclear agreement is signed at the end of June between Iran, the U.S. and five other world powers.

Cliff Kupchan, a senior Iran analyst at the Eurasia Group, says oil exports brought in about 40 percent of the government's revenues. He says since sanctions were tightened in 2012, Iran's oil exports have fallen by almost a half.

Only one American in history has ever been convicted of torture committed abroad: Chuckie Taylor, the son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor.

His father led militants to take control of Liberia in the late '90s, went in exile after Liberia's Second Civil War and was found guilty of abetting war crimes in Sierra Leone. But young Chuckie Taylor seemed far removed from that warlord life — he lived in America with his mother and stepfather, just another teenager listening to hip-hop and watching TV in his room.

Improving Mental Health Via Social Network

Apr 4, 2015
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If you're trying to feed some of the lumberjack hipsters of Brooklyn, you might try serving up some Huevos Machismos. And if you're seeking the next cleanse trend, look no further than the Ultimate Gushy Protein Sewage Blast. Like any balanced smoothie, it incorporates one ounce of "pure, uncut cocaine (for the boost)."

These are the recipes and advice you'd receive from the Mizretti brothers, two fictional restaurateurs who just published an "encyclofoodia" and cookbook called FUDS.

The vast majority of U.S. workers haven't seen any real wage gains since the recession. But that's starting to change, at least for low-income workers.

This week, fast-food giant McDonald's announced it will pay workers $1 more than the local minimum wage.

It joins some of the nation's other largest employers, including Wal-Mart, Target and TJX, the parent company of Marshalls and TJ Maxx. All say they will be boosting pay to at least $9 per hour this year, and some will go to $10 next year.

For Wal-Mart alone, that's a pay raise for half a million Americans.

NPR's Melissa Block talks with Gary Samore, executive director for research at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, about some of the technical details of the Iran nuclear deal announced Thursday.

California Faith Groups Divided Over Right-To-Die Bill

Apr 3, 2015

Clergy, more than a lot of people, come face to face with death regularly.

The Rev. Vernon Holmes, for example, leads a Lutheran congregation near Sacramento; the average age of members is 79.

His faith promotes quality of life, Holmes says. And that same faith leads him to challenge the status quo and injustice. His congregation belongs to an advocacy group called California Church Impact, which supports California's bill that would allow the terminally ill to end their own lives with medical assistance.

The 2011 tornado in Joplin, Mo., destroyed the city's hospital and left the injured with almost no where to go for emergency services. With an increasing number of large-scale natural disasters, hospitals are incorporating new storm-resistant features into their designs.

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And now for some reaction from Congress, I'm joined by Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. He serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Welcome to the program.

SENATOR RON JOHNSON: Good afternoon.

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Two women who were roommates in Brooklyn, N.Y., have been arrested in a homegrown terrorism plot. Separately, a man thought to be one of the highest-ranking Americans in al-Qaeda will face charges in the U.S.

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