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Interactive: Richard Aoki's FBI File

Oct 3, 2012

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A paradox of American health care is that hospitals are sometimes rewarded for doing things badly.

Patients who are discharged, for example, shouldn't have to come right back because they got worse after getting home. But if they do come back, hospitals benefit because they can fill an empty bed and bill for more care.

The federal government says, in fact, that Medicare alone pays $17.4 billion a year for unnecessary return visits.

So, we found out that the National Football League is too big to fail. But not so big that it couldn't make a complete fool of itself and show to the world that its owners are stingy, greedy nincompoops.

Not so big that it couldn't make its commissioner, Roger Goodell, stand out in front, looking lost and small, so that their erstwhile tough-guy commander suddenly became an errand boy, losing respect and dignity that will be hard to regain the next time he needs it.

Civil rights groups are cheering the injunction placed on the Pennsylvania voter identification law, but their recent victories against state photo ID measures very likely won't last beyond Election Day.

In many neighborhoods, hard truths about day-to-day life — like violent streets or crumbling schools — are readily apparent to residents, but less obvious to city and state officials.

Hard data can sometimes bridge that gap, helping policymakers better visualize which communities are doing well, and which may need additional help or resources.

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

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You can believe this latest poll result if you'd like. Or not.

A survey released Tuesday that was conducted by Public Policy Polling asked people if they thought pollsters were rigging their results to show President Obama leading Mitt Romney (h/t Josh Voorhees at The Slatest).

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5 Myths About The Presidential Race

Oct 2, 2012

There's always a lot of noise around a presidential campaign — minor flaps that suck up a lot of media attention but are forgotten by Election Day.

John Sides, a political scientist at George Washington University and a founder of the blog The Monkey Cage, says there's no need to worry about a lot of the ephemera that news coverage tends to focus on.

"I'm telling you, all the fun things don't matter," Sides says.

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A U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent was shot and killed this morning while on duty near Bisbee, Ariz., the Department of Homeland Security tells The Associated Press and other news outlets.

Another agent was shot and wounded, AP says.

According to KPHO-TV in Phoenix, "both agents worked out of the Brian Terry station in the Tucson sector."

Richard Lapointe confessed in 1989 that he stabbed, raped and killed his wife's 88-year-old grandmother two years earlier. But in the 23 years since, experts in criminal justice have come to better understand how sometimes people make false confessions — especially someone with brain damage, like Lapointe. On Monday, Connecticut's state Appellate Court ordered a new trial, saying prosecutors wrongly withheld potentially important evidence.

Religion used to be everywhere in the presidential elections. George W. Bush courted conservative believers in 2004. In 2008, Sarah Palin excited evangelicals and — unexpectedly — so did Barack Obama.

What a difference a few years make. In 2007, then-candidate Obama used evangelical language to describe his Christian conversion: He was a young, secular community organizer who occasionally visited the local Chicago church, when one day he walked to the front of the sanctuary and knelt before the cross.

Fifty years ago, James Meredith, the first black student at the University of Mississippi, had to be escorted by federal marshals to his mostly empty classes. His enrollment came after a standoff between state segregationists and the federal government that led to a deadly riot on the Oxford campus.

Today, black and white juniors and seniors at Ole Miss sit together around a table in an Honors College class on the school's turbulent history. The course is called "Opening the Closed Society," and is an in-depth look at the integration of Ole Miss.

Republicans are still within reach of a big political goal this year: retaking control of the Senate. They lost the majority in 2006, in part because of the razor-close victory of Democratic challenger Jon Tester in Montana.

Now, Tester is the incumbent facing a tough challenge of his own. And if he's going to win re-election, he has to turn out a lot of younger voters, the way he did in 2006. And on that front, he does have some allies.

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Right now the streets of Waco, Texas, well, they stink.

SCOTT HALVORSON: Well, the closest thing I can think of that it would smell like is a dead animal.

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And now to California where Governor Jerry Brown has signed a first-in-the nation law. It bans mental health professionals from trying to change the sexual orientation of those under the age of 18. NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates has details.

The U.S. Supreme Court opened a new term on Monday, and the first case argued was a major human-rights controversy.

The case was brought by 12 Nigerians granted political asylum in the United States. They sued Shell oil, which is based in the Netherlands and the U.K., for allegedly conspiring with the Nigerian government in the torture and killing of Nigerians who protested that their property was being taken without compensation for oil exploration and that the countryside was being despoiled.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi's Republican challenger, John Dennis, won just 15 percent of the vote versus her 80 percent in the 2010 midterm elections, a very good year for the GOP, which took over the House after delivering a historic beat-down to the Democrats.

So to say Dennis is unlikely to defeat the House Democratic leader this year in a rematch for the congressional seat representing San Francisco is putting it mildly. The seat is deemed so safe for Pelosi that it would be hard to consider Dennis anything other than a sacrificial lamb.

Quick — when you think of Arby's, do you think of seasoned curly fries or turkey sandwiches?

Like plenty of other voters, Tony Hocamp is disgusted by Washington. Too often, he says, politicians put their partisan interests ahead of doing what's right for the country.

"The politicians we have in office right now are concerned about nothing but themselves and getting re-elected," says Hocamp, who runs a motel in Marengo, Iowa.

It's easy to get upset during a political era in which the leaders of the two major parties seem incapable of putting aside their differences and working together to solve the nation's problems.

How Teachers Can Avoid The October Blues

Oct 1, 2012

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Fifty years ago — Oct. 1, 1962 — the first black student was admitted to the University of Mississippi, a bastion of the Old South.

The town of Oxford erupted. It took some 30,000 U.S. troops, federal marshals and national guardsmen to get James Meredith to class after a violent campus uprising. Two people were killed and more than 300 injured. Some historians say the integration of Ole Miss was the last battle of the Civil War.

It was a high-stakes showdown between President Kennedy and Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett.

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