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When it’s not possible for family or friends to be at a patient’s bedside in their final hours, a volunteer program in hospitals called No One Dies Alone works to ensure that terminal patients aren’t by themselves when they die.

Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images

Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth wins the Illinois Senate race, AP projects. She defeats GOP Sen. Mark Kirk, who made a series of gaffes in a race where he was already at a significant disadvantage, given the heavy Democratic tilt of the state.

It’s an important -- but hardly unexpected -- pick-up for Democrats and gives them their first net Senate seat of the night. Democrats need to flip five Senate seats -- or four if Clinton wins the White House -- and this gets them part of the way there. It topped our list of likely Democratic Senate pick-ups all year.

The species known as Brood V cicadas will soon come out in parts of Ohio, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, after being underground for 17 years. These periodical cicadas have an inborn molecular clock. They will emerge when the temperature is 65 degrees Fahrenheit at eight inches beneath the ground.

Chris Simon, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut – Storrs, talks to Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson about the fascinating history and behavior of cicadas.

Every four years as the caucuses and primaries begin for the presidential nomination process, pundits and pollsters -- as well as quite a few voters -- once again raise the question: Why Iowa? Why New Hampshire.

The question about which states get to go first got the NPR political team thinking. If a different state were to be chosen to vote first, one that was more representative of the country as a whole, which would be?

Joan Cheuse / via NPR

Alan Cheuse, the novelist, teacher and longtime literary commentator for NPR, has died at the age of 75. His daughter, Sonya, confirmed that he died Friday of injuries sustained in a car accident in California two weeks ago.

"On behalf of the family, we are in deep grief at the loss of our beloved father, husband and grandfather," Sonya Cheuse told NPR. "He was the brightest light in our family. He will always remain in our hearts. We thank everyone for the outpouring of love and support."

Jae C. Hong/AP

An earthquake shook part of Southern California Friday night, breaking water pipes and rattling nerves with aftershocks that went on into the night. The 5.1-magnitude quake hit at a shallow depth about 20 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

While the quake didn't inflict severe damage in the area around its epicenter, it caused many problems, from water main breaks to a rockslide. Thousands of people felt its effects; there haven't been reports of serious injuries.

Diane Drake / WNIJ

Carl Kasell is retiring from "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!" and moves into his new role as Scorekeeper Emeritus of the NPR news quiz.

 

President Calls For 'Year Of Action'

Jan 29, 2014
Larry Downing/Pool / Getty Images

With the country slowly digging itself out of recession, some of his legislative priorities buried under Washington's partisanship and his approval ratings at some of their lowest levels, President Obama called for "a year of action" during his fifth State of the Union address on Tuesday.

United States Congress

The U.S. Senate easily passed the massive budget bill today, sending the plan on to President Obama. The $1.1 trillion dollar bill funds the government through September.

Nelson Mandela Dies At 95

Dec 5, 2013
NPR

Nelson Mandela was born in a country that viewed him as a second-class citizen. He died Thursday as one of the most respected statesmen in the world.

President Jacob Zuma announced the death in a televised speech.

Willis Tower No Longer Tallest In U.S.

Nov 12, 2013

Chicago's Willis Tower has lost its title. One World Trade Center — the New York City skyscraper that now rises from the site of the Twin Towers, destroyed during the terrorists attacks of Sept. 11 — has been declared the tallest building in the U.S. by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

Karen Bleier /AFP/Getty Images

Speaker of the House John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, stepped out of the White House this evening after a 90-minute meeting with President Obama and reported no progress.

"They will not negotiate," Boehner said. "All we are asking for here is a discussion and fairness for the American people on Obamacare."

The Senate has voted to approve a "continuing resolution" to keep the federal government functioning past a Monday night deadline, but it first voted to strip out a provision that would have defunded Obamacare.

The bill is certain to meet a roadblock in the GOP-dominated House, where key members have vowed to reinstate language aimed at derailing the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

Charles Dharapak/AP

President Obama said Saturday he had decided to take military action against Syria in response to its use of chemical weapons, but that he will seek a congressional mandate for the action that could come "tomorrow, next week or one month from now."

Speaking from the Rose Garden, the president said he believed that he had the authority to act without Congress, but said he thinks "our country will be better off" if he had it.

Asiana Airlines Flight 214 tried to abort its landing and come in for another try just 1 1/2 seconds before it crashed Saturday at San Francisco airport, killing two people and injuring dozens of others.

That was the information gleaned from the jetliner's cockpit voice recorder, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board said at a Sunday news conference. NTSB chief Deborah Hersman also said about 7 seconds prior to impact, there was a call to increase speed.

She said the flight data recorder captured the entire flight.

Flooding continues to plague the upper Midwest, as high water reached record stages in Illinois and left at least four people dead.

The Illinois River is making history, says the U.S. Geological Survey: "USGS has measured the highest levels of flooding ever recorded in Illinois: At least ten USGS stream gauges in Illinois that have more than 20 years of record, have measured the . More record levels are expected as flooding moves downstream."

National Weather Service Significant Flood Outlook for the week of April 23 - 28, 2013.

National Weather Service

Flooding continues to plague the upper Midwest, as high water reached record stages in Illinois and left at least four people dead.

The Illinois River is making history, says the U.S. Geological Survey: "USGS has measured the highest levels of flooding ever recorded in Illinois: At least ten USGS stream gauges in Illinois that have more than 20 years of record, have measured the . More record levels are expected as flooding moves downstream."

(We most recently updated this post at 7:56 a.m. ET. See this note about how we cover news such as this.)

The first national gun control legislation since the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., is going to be debated on the floor of the Senate and appears headed for a vote sometime next week.

Supporters in the Senate on Thursday morning rounded up more than the 60 votes necessary to clear a procedural hurdle that could have held up consideration of the Democratic-crafted package. The vote was 68-31 in favor of blocking a bid by some Republicans to filibuster the legislation.

Fourteen people were injured after a stabbing incident at a Houston-area college.

The Lone Star College System put its Cy-Fair campus on lockdown on Tuesday following the stabbing. One suspect — a 21-year-old man who was enrolled in the school — was apprehended.

Harris County Sheriff's Office said in a statement that medical personnel said 14 people were "wounded in the stabbing in which a suspect was detained this morning."

The world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics have a new spiritual leader.

As afternoon turned to evening in Vatican City on Wednesday, a little after 7 p.m. local time, white smoke rose from a chimney above the Sistine Chapel and bells rang through St. Peter's Square — the traditional signals that the church's cardinals have chosen a new pope.

Still to come: the identity of the cardinal chosen to take the now-retired Pope Benedict XVI's place.

Khaled Desouki / Getty Images

Israel and fighters in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip will "hold fire" beginning at 2 p.m. ET, Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr announced at a joint news conference this afternoon with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In 1957, Joel Healy witnessed one of the largest nuclear tests ever conducted on U.S. soil.

Healy was in the U.S. Army, stationed in the Nevada desert north of Las Vegas at Camp Desert Rock. He was 17 years old and a private first class at the time.

Healy drove dump trucks, moved materials, and built structures, like houses, that would be destroyed by the explosions so the Army could study the effects of a nuclear blast. He also helped build the towers where many of the bombs were detonated.