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Raise your hand if you ever cut school to go buy a brand new album the day it came out. Raise your hand if you went to Tower Records, or The Wiz, and you did this in the 1990s. Raise your hand if you remember impatiently waiting for the doors to open, racing to the front of the register line and hoping to make it back to school before lunch — becoming the first to brag about owning the latest EPMD release or Illmatic.

Is Iran's Leader Sincere?

Sep 25, 2013

In keeping with his image as a moderate, Iranian President Hasan Rouhani brought his charm offensive to the United Nations this week and held out the possibility of improved relations with the U.S. after more than three decades of hostility.

"Prudent moderation will ensure a bright future for the world," Rouhani told world leaders Tuesday in New York.

So how is the world responding?

Senate Takes Next Step Toward Shutdown Showdown

Sep 25, 2013

After a dramatic 21-plus hours in which Republican Sen. Ted Cruz stood to express his opposition to President Obama's health care programs, the Senate early Wednesday afternoon voted 100-0 to move ahead and take up legislation that would avert a government shutdown next Tuesday.

As expected, the move by the Democratic-led Senate sets up what promises to be another showdown with the Republican-controlled House.

Loud music can lead to hearing loss. But it's not just rock musicians and their fans who are at risk.

In classical orchestras, horn players are particularly vulnerable to hearing damage from the tunes they and their colleagues play.

Some studies have found that horn players are blasted with some of the loudest sounds in the orchestra. The levels are so high that many countries' occupational health regulations would limit exposure like that to a half-hour a day, some studies have found.

Circumstance might have led R&B musicians Syleena Johnson and Musiq Soulchild to meet, but it was chemistry that got them to record an entire album together. They sat down recently with Tell Me More host Michel Martin, and talked about the spontaneity of the project and the emotional underpinnings beneath the surface.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We are going to start the program today by going back to Kenya. After four days of terror, the president, Uhuru Kenyatta, announced yesterday that the siege in a Nairobi shopping mall had ended.

The Pianist Who Plays 'The Rascal And The Sparrow'

Sep 25, 2013

How do you make a piano sing? Italian-born pianist Antonio Pompa-Baldi tackles the question on his new album, The Rascal and the Sparrow, a tribute to Francis Poulenc and Edith Piaf, two titans of French song who each died 50 years ago. Pompa-Baldi shared his thoughts on the project in this email chat with NPR Music's Tom Huizenga.

Sometimes we at Parallels see a story that's so compelling, we make an extra effort to chase down the facts. So it's in that spirit, this story from Reuters caught our attention:

On a recent weekend, a group of reenactors gathered to bring to life the Oregon Trail -- that 2,000 mile route from the Missouri River to the great Northwest. But instead of going back to the 19th century, this group took its inspiration from a more recent era.

Many women have heard that they should be concerned about bone health as they age because there's a risk for crippling fractures.

But repeated bone scans that are supposed to help assess the risk do a crummy job of predicting who's actually going to break a bone.

That's the gist of a study of 802 women and men who are part of the ongoing Framingham Heart Study. They were screened for osteoporosis in 1987 and again in 1999. Most were in their 70s.

Vijay Iyer, Jeremy Denk Win MacArthur Genius Grants

Sep 25, 2013

After Ohio death row inmate Harry Mitts Jr. is executed on Wednesday, the state will have officially run out of pentobarbital — the lethal injection drug.

That's because the Danish pharmaceutical company Lundbeck LLC, which manufactures the drug, has cut off its supply in deference to the European Union's opposition to capital punishment.

In our "Weekly Innovation" blog series, we explore an interesting idea, design or product that you may not have heard of yet. Do you have an innovation to share? Use this quick form.

Kenyan Mall Attack: The Latest News

Sep 25, 2013

Here's a quick look at where things stand in Nairobi, Kenya, where terrorists claiming to be part of the Somalia-based al-Shabab organization attacked a shopping mall on Saturday and then kept security forces at bay until late in the day on Tuesday:

Rooftop Farming Is Getting Off The Ground

Sep 25, 2013

From vacant lots to vertical "pinkhouses," urban farmers are scouring cities for spaces to grow food. But their options vary widely from place to place.

While farmers in post-industrial cities like Detroit and Cleveland are claiming unused land for cultivation, in New York and Chicago, land comes at a high premium. That's why farmers there are increasingly eyeing spaces that they might not have to wrestle from developers: rooftops that are already green.

Mayhem. Chaos. Fiasco.

Choose your favorite. Those words and others are making their way into headlines about what happened Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium.

It was Mariano Rivera Bobblehead Night, and the first 18,000 fans through the gates were supposed to get jiggly statues of their soon-to-be retired star pitcher.

But the truck bringing the bobbleheads to the stadium broke down. So the thousands of fans who had gathered outside the gates were given vouchers instead.

First Listen: HAIM, 'Days Are Gone'

Sep 25, 2013

Geoff Barrow of the revered English band Portishead recently maligned the fast-rising Los Angeles sister act HAIM with a snippy tweet: Hiam [sic] sound like Shania Twain ... When did that become a good thing? To which this critic replies: Who said it isn't?

Wednesday Morning Political Mix — Sept. 25, 2013

Sep 25, 2013

It's Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, which puts us five days away from a possible federal-government shutdown that would begin Oct. 1 if Congress fails to pass a stop-gap spending bill.

So the drama in the Senate over the spending bill leads the day's interesting political items and features Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. At this writing, Cruz was in the last gasps of an anti-Obamacare talkathon. That's where we start:

Just one week after the discovery of two long-lost cars in an Oklahoma lake and what appear to be the remains of six long-lost people inside them, a 1960 Studebaker Lark has been recovered from a creek in South Dakota.

As more becomes known about the strong, 7.7-magnitude earthquake that rocked southern Pakistan on Tuesday, we're hearing that:

Latest MacArthur Geniuses Include Sound Savior

Sep 25, 2013

This year's 24 recipients of MacArthur Foundation "genius grants" include a physicist whose work was inspired in part by an NPR report he heard a decade ago.

As Carl Haber of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory explains in a video posted by the foundation with Wednesday's awards announcements:

There's a showdown underway in Congress.

The Republican-controlled House has voted to keep the government running only if the Affordable Care Act is defunded, and the Democratic-controlled Senate isn't likely to go along with that plan. If the two sides can't resolve their differences by Oct. 1, the U.S. government will shut down.

We asked you what you wanted to know about the potential government shutdown, and journalists from NPR's Washington Desk tracked down the answers:

Football is unique in that most players participate in only half the game — offense or defense.

Wild Weather Tied To Unusual Jet Stream Activity

Sep 25, 2013

There has been a lot of extreme weather in the Northern Hemisphere this year, including the recent torrential rains in Colorado, flooding in Europe, bitter cold in Florida and a heat wave in Alaska. And scientists say all of it is related to some odd behavior by the powerful air currents called the polar jet stream.

Imagine running power lines through a cathedral. That's how archaeologists describe what the Bonneville Power Administration proposes doing in the Columbia River Gorge in Washington state. The federal electricity provider is trying to string a new transmission line near a cave that contains ancient paintings, a site considered sacred by Native Americans.

Sunny Pettinati walked into the L.L. Bean store in Yonkers, N.Y., clutching a plastic bag and looking a little embarrassed.

"I'm returning a sweater that I purchased, I think, about 10 years ago," she said.

The sweater had sat in a drawer, unworn, for years, and she was trying her luck with the store's famously lenient return policy.

It turned out to be painless. A few taps on the keyboard, and the saleswoman handed her a gift card worth the full value of the sweater.

Army Capt. Matt Zeller had been told that his Afghan comrades would make a big show of hospitality. He'd read that the Afghan code of honor would mean protecting his life with their own. Sure enough, that's what his interpreter, Janis Shinwari, pledged to him when they met in April of 2008.

"I expected him to say it. I didn't think he'd make good on his promise within two weeks of my arrival," Zeller says. "Literally pick up a weapon and ... save my life," says Zeller.

President Obama's health care law has so far survived challenges in Congress and the courts. But its biggest test could begin next week. That's when the online marketplaces offering health care coverage to the uninsured are set to start signing people up. The question is, will they come?

Update at noon ET. It's Over:

Saying that "it's fitting that this debate concludes with a prayer" because he believes Americans are pleading with Congress to defund President Obama's health care law, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas just wrapped up his marathon protest on the Senate floor.

Cruz began speaking just after 2:40 p.m. ET Tuesday and abided by Senate rules when he finished at noon today.

"The pleas from the American people," he said of what he sees as the public's opposition to Obamacare, "are deafening."

Premiums in the health insurance exchanges set to open next week will be lower than anticipated, the Obama administration announced Wednesday.

According to a report released by the Department of Health and Human Services, "premiums nationwide will ... be around 16 percent lower than originally expected," and 95 percent of uninsured people live in a state with average premiums that are lower than expected.

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