"My Mom said, 'life isn't either, or, it's and.' And I think that's why I do so much, maybe too much."
Lea Gilmore was pregnant and married at 18. She describes herself as a "statistic." But, she tells NPR's Celeste Headlee, lessons learned from a family of "very strong Southern women" meant that she did not allow that to dictate her circumstances.
In Newtown, Conn., Christmas is very different this year, a little more than a week after the shooting at an elementary school. Eight families that attend St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church lost children to the tragedy. Parishioners came to Christmas masses there seeking solace, and priests gave a message of hope and comfort.
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.
In upstate New York yesterday, a gunman ambushed firefighters as they were responding to a house fire in the suburban town of Webster. Sixty-two-year-old William Spengler killed two firefighters and injured two others before he took his own life. Police believe that Spengler set the fire to lure the firefighters to the scene. NPR's Joel Rose has been covering the story and he joins us now.
An Army brigade from Fort Riley, Kan., some 4,000, soldiers, will begin helping to train African militaries. The idea is to help African troops beat back a growing terrorist threat posed by al-Qaida.
The American troops will head over in small teams over the course of the next year. The Dagger Brigade returned to Kansas last year from a deployment to Iraq, where it trained and advised that country's security forces.
Sofia Campos, 23, is the head of the United We Dream campaign — a national network of youth-led immigrant organizations. Campos was born in Peru, but grew up in California, entirely unaware of her undocumented status until she tried applying for college scholarships.
Credit Courtesy of Sofia Jones
Sofia Jones speaks at the 2011 University of California Student Lobby Conference in Sacramento. Jones was among many lobbying for the California Dream Act and affordable higher education.
Throughout the debate over taxes and the "fiscal cliff," there's been a lot of looking backward — to the 1990s. The economic expansion of the 1990s was the longest in recorded American history.
Democrats say the economy thrived under the leadership of President Bill Clinton, including his tax rate increase on high earners. Republicans say government didn't spend as much then and that growth didn't really take off until the GOP took control of Congress in 1995.
So what actually happened in the '90s? What made them tick?
Ronan at 2 years old. "I know Ronan's purpose in life was to shed light on this disease," says his mother, Maya Thompson. "This is why I will continue to fight for childhood cancer for the rest of my life."
Credit Barbara Bradley Hagerty / NPR
Maya Thompson holds a sonogram of her unborn daughter. After a period of hopelessness after her son's death, Thompson says you "either let this pain kill you or you let it make you stronger."
Credit Courtesy of Maya Thompson
Maya Thompson with Ronan just a few weeks before his death in May 2011. A broviac on his chest administered chemotherapy, platelets and red blood cells when needed. He wanted to play in the hot tub that day, so Maya let him go in up to his midsection to keep the broviac dry.
Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and then-presidential candidate Barack Obama in Amman, Jordan, in 2008.
Credit Photo provided by Library of Congress / AP
Chuck Hagel (right) and his younger brother Tom sit atop an armored personnel carrier in Vietnam, in a photo taken in or around 1968. The Hagel brothers were squad leaders with the U.S. Army's 9th Infantry Division in the Mekong River Delta.
Former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is said to be on President Obama's short list to be the next defense secretary. But even the possibility of his nomination has stirred up opposition — particularly from members of his own political party.
If Hagel can survive a political ambush in Washington, he would be the first Pentagon chief who saw combat as an enlisted soldier.
The blunt-spoken Hagel favors deeper cuts in military spending and is wary of entangling America in long overseas missions.
In North Carolina, pressure is mounting to pardon a group of people convicted of a crime everyone agrees they did not commit. The group is known as the Wilmington Ten. In 1972, a state court found them guilty of firebombing a store.
Mourners put decorations on a Christmas tree, part of a memorial in Newtown, Conn. Holiday greetings, toys and cards have flowed into the town, and some residents say the community feels closer-knit since the shooting.
The days leading up to Christmas are typically bustling in Newtown, Conn. But given the depth of grief in this community since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, preparations for the holiday began very late.
Local shopkeepers say Saturday was the first day many people came out for holiday shopping since the tragedy. Tamara Doherty, owner of the Wishing Well — a shop filled with local crafts, Christmas ornaments, pottery and potpourri — says her business is finally picking up.
Two firefighters died and two others were hospitalized in western New York on Monday. They were shot after responding to a fire in the town of Webster, outside Rochester. Police say the gunman is also dead, and they're not ruling out the possibility that the firefighters were led into a trap.
This is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News. I'm Celeste Headlee. Michel Martin is away. And a Merry Christmas to you, if you celebrate. Your kids might've gotten a visit from jolly St. Nick last night, but did you know St. Nicholas was a real guy? We'll talk with the man who traveled the world in search of the man who would become Santa Claus. That's just ahead.
People joke that it's customary for non-Christians to eat Christmas dinner at Chinese restaurants. But a Jewish community in Detroit is offering an alternative. They work with Muslims to volunteer for nearly 40 projects around the city. Guest host Celeste Headlee talks with organizers Micki Grossman and Dr. Muzammil Ahmed, about "Mitzvah Day."
Originally published on Mon December 24, 2012 11:53 am
Milk and cookies might be the traditional Santa offering on Christmas Eve, but in at least one household, St. Nicholas will be getting smoked salmon and scotch.
It's just one out-of-the-ordinary example we gleaned from a call out to fans of NPR's Facebook page. Many of them involved a different sort of Christmas "spirit" — the kind that could push Mr. Claus over the legal limit, at least during the U.S. leg of his annual aerial circumnavigation.
The Monday after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., toys and stuffed animals began arriving by the truckload. Ten days later, the gymnasium at Edmond Town Hall in the center of Newtown is full of them.
"When I realized that it was getting so large, I thought that we should get this to the children before the holidays," says Ann Benore, a caseworker for Newtown Social Services.
Philip Kaplan and Debra Jo Lashaway were both arrested, then cleared of their charges. Their court files were sealed, effectively removing the arrests from their public record, but their mug shots linger on websites that make money by charging people to remove their arrest photos. Now, they're part of a lawsuit that argues their right to publicity has been violated.
In August 2011, Debbie Jo Lashaway was charged with theft. She was arraigned and booked in Lucas County, Ohio, and her mug shot was taken.
Seven months later, the charges were dismissed and her record was sealed — effectively removing the theft charge from her public record. Six months after that, she even won a judgment against the man who accused her of theft, declaring the charge bogus and awarding her thousands of dollars in damages.
Among the candidates President Obama may nominate for the next defense secretary is Michele Flournoy, formerly the highest-ranking woman in the Pentagon.
Flournoy is a mother of three, and in February, she stunned her colleagues when she stepped down from her job as undersecretary of defense for policy to spend more time with her children.
It wasn't an easy decision, but it's a dilemma that many working mothers face. While some call for changes in workplace policy to make caring for families and working easier, others argue women ultimately have to make a choice.
West of the city of Colorado Springs, trees charred by the summer's wildfire scar the steep foothills. The Waldo Canyon fire destroyed more than 300 homes in June.
Now, that devastated neighborhood is coming back to life, with construction workers swarming over half-completed houses. While many of its former residents are preparing to move back, some just want to move on.
In the days after the fire devoured their homes, shell-shocked residents tried to wrap their minds around what had just happened to them.
At about 8 a.m. on March 6, 1998, Matthew Beck arrived to work at the headquarters of the Connecticut State Lottery. He hung up his coat, walked into an office and shot the first of four victims.
Beck ended up killing a number of his co-workers and then took his own life in the parking lot when the police arrived.
Mike Lawlor, the Connecticut governor's criminal justice adviser, was a state representative at the time, and wanted to understand what led to the rampage. He learned that Beck had previously attempted suicide and owned a number of guns.
Countless kids have grown up with the Girl Scouts, the Boy Scouts or Campfire Girls, but for some families, the uniforms and outdoor focus of traditional Scouting groups don't appeal.
In recent months, Scoutlike groups that concentrate on technology and do-it-yourself projects have been sprouting up around the country. They're coed and, like traditional Scouting organizations, award patches to kids who master skills.
The surviving students of Sandy Hook Elementary will not be returning to their school in Newtown, Conn., where 20 first-graders and six educators were shot to death on Dec. 14.
Instead, when classes resume after the holidays, they'll attend a school in the neighboring town of Monroe. Parents, teachers and administrators in both towns are working to make the new school as similar as possible to the one Sandy Hook students left behind.
Originally published on Sat December 22, 2012 6:50 pm
"The House has done its part to avert this entire fiscal cliff," House Speaker John Boehner said Saturday in his weekly address.
He cited the measure that passed Thursday, which would reorganize the automatic spending cuts to protect the defense budget and cut deeper elsewhere. He also pointed to legislation that would stop all tax hikes on Jan. 1.