NPR News

On Thursday, USA Gymnastics announced they will stop using the Karolyi Ranch — the site of many of the atrocities committed against Olympians by Larry Nassar, the team's former doctor. NPR's Kelly McEvers talks to New York Times reporter, Juliet Macur about what happens next as Nassar faces sentencing hearings this week.

A tablespoon of soil contains billions of microscopic organisms. Life on Earth, especially the growing of food, depends on these microbes, but scientists don't even have names for most of them, much less a description.

That's changing, slowly, thanks to researchers like Noah Fierer, at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Fierer think microbes have lived in obscurity for too long. "They do a lot of important things for us, directly or indirectly, and I hope they get the respect they deserve," he says.

The discovery of an "overwhelming presence" of radon gas has forced more than 100 workers at the Hanford Site to move their offices Thursday. This follows a series of radioactive contamination issues at that same demolition project on the southeast Washington nuclear site.

Going to college can be hard, but it’s especially difficult for students experiencing homelessness. Washington lawmakers are exploring ways state colleges could help these students.

For nearly a decade, Tune-Yards' Merrill Garbus has been known for drumming, strumming and dancing wildly onstage as she coaxes sound from a handful different instruments and a trusty loop pedal. While the signature sound of Tune-Yards is distinct, Garbus isn't one to put labels on her music.

"It's always the hardest thing," she says. "I appreciate how I'm allowed to maybe not classify the music I play because as soon as you do, assumptions begin to be made and you start shutting out people."

Based on a YA novel by Heidi McLaughlin, the endearingly old-fangled Forever My Girl is basically a stretched-out country music song with eye-catching Southern visuals and a familiar loop of lovelorn sorrow topped with uplift you can see coming from scene one.

The NFL playoffs are down to the final four teams, and the matchup for Super Bowl LII will be set after Sunday’s conference title games.

You may have seen an illustration on Martin Luther King Jr. Day showing the civil rights leader with a hand over President Trump’s mouth, trying to get the president to stop tweeting. The artist is Watson Mere, he was born in the U.S., but his parents are Haitian.

Mere (@ArtOfMere_) speaks with Here & Now‘s Robin Young about his image, and the president’s recent alleged comments asking, “Why do we want people from Haiti here?”

Clock Is Ticking Toward Government Shutdown

Jan 18, 2018

The federal government will partially shutdown Friday night unless Congress approves a spending plan. Democrats also want to get a resolution to the DACA program that covers people brought illegally to the U.S. as children.

Here & Now‘s Robin Young get the latest on the negotiations with NPR’s Jessica Taylor (@JessicaTaylor).

Brandy Clark On Mountain Stage

Jan 18, 2018

Brandy Clark notes in her first appearance on Mountain Stage that she has become known for songs with a "tinge of revenge," citing Miranda Lambert's "Mamma's Broken Heart" (which she co-wrote) and her own hit "Stripes" as examples. In the introduction of her latest tale of retribution, "Daughter," Clark says it has become her favorite because "it's not about blowing anything up or slashing any tires.

Fifteen hours southwest of the bustling metropolis of Johannesburg is the beautiful city of Cape Town. A picturesque spot along the coast, mountains rise out of the sea and winding roads snake along the ocean, connecting a downtown filled with high rises to smaller bayside villages. People here have a reputation for being more relaxed, and moving at a slower pace.

Over the last five years, a psychedelic and garage rock scene has sprung up here that has gained attention across the country.

For our latest installments of the series Sense of Place we're exploring two cities in South Africa: Johannesburg and Cape Town.

We started our trip off in Johannesburg, which is the economic hub of the country. (Think skyscrapers, a fast pace of life and a sense of energy — and sometimes danger.) The city still feels the lasting effects of apartheid, with the much poorer township of Soweto nearby. Both are a sharp contrast to the city 900 miles to the south we would later visit, the more laidback – and maybe more beautiful – Cape Town.

Take Me On: The Art Of The Cover Song

Jan 18, 2018

What makes a great cover song?

Is it a total reimagining, like Devo singing “Satisfaction,” Ike and Tina Turner taking on “Proud Mary” or Jimi Hendrix playing “All Along The Watchtower?”

Is it a performance that brings a new energy or feeling to the original, like Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Got To Get You Into My Life” or Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah?”

Or can a covering artist bring a weight to a song that makes it feel all their own, like Johnny Cash singing “Hurt?”

The answer is yes.

Moutai baijiu reigns as China's favorite brand of its favorite liquor — but the famously fiery drink is getting hard to find, as bottles are snatched up by market speculators. Renewed thirst for baijiu has sent the value of brand parent Kweichow Moutai soaring, making it the world's most valuable distiller.

Two teenage boys, struggling to make their way back to shore, were saved by a drone in Australia on Wednesday, in what officials say is a first-of-its-kind rescue mission by an unmanned aircraft — one captured by the drone's camera and later broadcast by Arab News and other outlets.

Researchers say they have taken a step toward developing a blood test that would detect eight common cancers, possibly even before symptoms appear.

As they report Thursday in the journal Science, they're hoping their idea would eventually lead to a $500 test that can screen for cancer and identify people with the disease when it's in its earliest stages and more treatable.

But they have a long way to go.

Christian Picciolini was 14 years old when he attended the first gathering of what would become the Hammerskin Nation, a violent, white-power skinhead group. Looking back, he describes his introduction to the group as receiving a "lifeline of acceptance."

"I felt a sort of energy flow through me that I had never felt before — as if I was a part of something greater than myself," he says.

A strange smell had invaded my apartment. It was sour and pungent like rotting meat. Or maybe it was more like old fish. It was kind of like both of those things with a hint of spoiled milk. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, blame the English language. It's not just me; it's very difficult to describe scents in English. It's hard to do in German and Dutch and French, too.

So why aren't Westerners good at naming scents?

For decades, scientists thought perhaps smell was a diminished human sense and less valuable than other senses — like our glorious eyesight.

In the months since allegations of sexual harassment by major media figures took center stage in the United States, the #MeToo movement has had a ripple effect in Europe, prompting national conversations on a once-taboo topic. In some countries, the movement has been embraced.

But in Italy, the public has largely reacted with scorn and skepticism.

After a months-long standoff, legislative Democrats and Republicans say they’ve reached a bipartisan deal on a thorny water rights issue that will pave the way for quick passage of a $4.5 billion capital construction budget that’s been held up since last spring.

Hot Snakes is a rock 'n' roll band. Just the name alone — Hot Snakes — sounds like a weathered 45 from the Nuggets proto-punk era, when no one really knew what they were doing. When John Reis started Hot Snakes with Drive Like Jehu bandmate Rick Froberg in the early 2000s, that felt like the M.O.: plug in and play as loud as possible. In 2005, they broke up.

India has successfully test-fired a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile. Indian authorities say the launch sent an Agni-V, a missile with a strike range of some 3,100 miles, flying from an island off the country's east coast in midmorning local time Thursday.

In a tweet heralding the test, Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman described it as a "major boost to the defence capabilities of our country."

Listen up, night owls: If you're sleeping six or fewer hours per night, you're not doing your health any favors.

A new study finds that getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night may help you tame your sweet tooth.

I have a soft spot for Yo La Tengo's curiosities, like the cloudy bossa nova shimmy of "How To Make A Baby Elephant Float" or the spelunking drones and gurgling rock improvisations heard on The Sounds Of The Sounds Of Science, which soundtracked a series of underwater documentaries.

Sometimes the things we do to escape our pain end up sinking us into deeper depths. It's a cycle of desperation all too familiar to Abhi the Nomad.

"Binge and drink again, smile and pretend again / Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to rock bottom," the rapper/singer intonates on "Marbled." The song serves as a mixed metaphor of sorts, with Abhi narrating the life of a loner whose stage name is not just for show.

We live in an age of heightened awareness about concussions. From battlefields around the world to football fields in the U.S., we've heard about the dangers caused when the brain rattles around inside the skull and the possible link between concussions and the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Updated at 8:46 p.m. ET

The House passed a stopgap funding bill Thursday evening, though the measure now faces uncertainty in the Senate as Republican congressional leaders work to avert a government shutdown by late Friday night.

Republicans need 60 votes in the Senate to proceed on the four-week continuing resolution, which would extend funding only until Feb. 16. That is looking more and more difficult after most Democrats and at least three Republican senators have said they won't vote for the bill.

This past year, 2017, was among the warmest years on record, according to new data released by NASA and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.

The planet's global surface temperature last year was the second highest since 1880, NASA says. NOAA calls it the third warmest year on record, because of slight variations in the ways that they analyze temperatures.

Both put 2017 behind 2016's record temperatures. And "both analyses show that the five warmest years on record have all taken place since 2010," NASA said in a press release.

When Army Capt. Mark Nutsch and 11 fellow Green Berets jumped off their helicopter into the swirling dust of northern Afghanistan in October 2001, their Afghan partner informed them they would be battling the Taliban — on horseback.

"In that situation, they're certainly not going to give you their very best horses," Nutsch said dryly.

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