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Heavy fighting has been reported in the Anbar province of Iraq this week. NPR's Arun Rath speaks to Middle East specialist Kirk Sowell about what it means.

Emergency unemployment insurance expired Dec. 28 for an estimated 1.3 million Americans. That includes more than 220,000 Californians. They responded with everything from returning Christmas presents for cash to packing up and leaving the state. Congress could still renew these emergency benefits, as they have multiple times since 2008.

After decades of war in Afghanistan, the country has thousands of orphans. One home for these children ended up with an improbable benefactor — an Iranian-American who came to Kabul to do rule of law development work, and stumbled into a side project working with disabled orphans.

Some gay and lesbian activists say 2013 was "the gayest year ever," but as 2014 opens, another issue is gaining traction — transgender rights.

The tight harmonies in the Everly Brothers' string of hits in the '50s and '60s were huge influences on others such as Simon & Garfunkel, The Hollies, and The Beach Boys. Among their biggest songs: "Bye Bye Love," "Wake Up Little Susie" and "All I Have To Do Is Dream." Everly was 74. Brother Don is 76.

The term "Rube Goldberg machine" has become shorthand for a convoluted contraption made up of a series of chain reactions. But Goldberg was also a real person, whose ideas for whimsical devices have captivated imaginations for decades.

Braille hasn't changed much in the nearly 200 years it's been around. But with tablets, smartphones and e-readers, how we read things has. Judy Dixon of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped talks with NPR about how technology has changed Braille — and whether it can endure.

Cities across the country saw sharp drops in violent crime rates in 2013. For some big cities, murder rates reached historic lows. The numbers reflect a decades-long decline, which shows that plenty of neighborhoods in urban areas are safe while some remain troubled by violent crime.

So the world's most clandestine spy agency is working on something called a quantum computer. It's based on rules Einstein himself described as "spooky," and it can crack almost any code. That's got to be top-secret stuff, right? Guess again.

A Baltimore-based group is working to change the messages companies are sending about sex. So far, it has created convincing, fake websites pretending to be Playboy and Victoria's Secret — but putting an emphasis on consent.

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