News From NPR

A breakthrough in oil cleanup technology allows crews to skim spilled oil off the water's surface at a much faster rate. The new device wasn't developed by Exxon, BP or any of the major oil companies — it's the work of Elastec/American Marine, based in Illinois. And the design won the company a rich award from the X Prize Foundation.

Oil is attracted to plastic. And water is not. That, in essence, is the basis of Elastec's new skimmer.

New York's political titans are clashing over the future of a controversial nuclear plant north of New York City.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to close the aging Indian Point nuclear plant because of safety concerns. But the plant, which wants to extend its original licenses for another 20 years, has some powerful allies of its own.

Sometimes in sports, like in the rest of life, stuff just hangs around because, well, it's always been there. Such is the best-of-seven game series to determine our champions of professional baseball, basketball and hockey.

A seven-game series is a wretched excess, and I'm going to tell you why, but nobody in charge is going to pay any attention to me because a best-of-seven series has just always been the way of the world.

A task force is evaluating the risk posed by a sunken oil tanker, the SS Montebello. It went to the bottom after being attacked by a Japanese submarine during World War II. State and federal officials want to know if the ship is still carrying its cargo of oil, and if that oil could escape.

At stake is a coastline known for its stunning scenery and wildlife sanctuaries. The task force was put together a couple of years ago at the urging of state Sen. Sam Blakeslee.

Must-Watch Video: Quantum Levitation

Oct 18, 2011

This is the coolest thing we've seen in a long time:

The video was posted to YouTube two days ago by the Association of Science-Technology Centers and has already garnered 641,230 views. But what is going on here? It's quantum levitation, dude!

The first detailed analysis of Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain's 9-9-9 tax plan found that it would cut taxes for Americans making $200,000 or more a year and raise taxes for those making less than $200,000 a year.

The analysis was released today by the independent Tax Policy Center, a joint venture by the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute.

In two interviews, today, NPR's Robert Siegel got reaction from Hamas and the Israeli government over a prisoner swap deal that freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.

When Robert asked Osama Hamdan, a senior official from the Hamas international relations department, what the deal meant for future relations between Hamas and Israel, Hamdan said it "depends on the Israeli side."

Judges announced that Julian Barnes' The Sense Of An Ending was awarded the 2011 Man Booker Prize. The Leicester-born Barnes was a Booker finalist three times before: in 1984 for his novel Flaubert's Parrot; in 1998 for England, England and in 2005 for Arthur and George

The AP reports:

Judges announced the winner of the 50,000 pound ($82,000) prize Tuesday at a ceremony in London.

How to explain Herman Cain's ascent among Republican presidential candidates?

Perhaps a partial reason is that he so far evokes more positive than negative responses among Republicans and GOP leaning independents in a Pew Research Center/Washington Post survey than two other highly touted candidates in the race, Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

No more blankets in the baby's bed. Not even when it's cold outside. No bumpers, pillows, or toys. All these accoutrements are hazards for newborns and infants, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which has released new expanded guidelines for reducing deaths from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, and other causes including suffocation, entrapment and asphyxia.

Legendary songwriter Bob Dylan is once again at the center of a controversy about plagiarism, but this time it's not about his words or his music — it's about his painting.

The Asia Series, Dylan's current one-man show at the Gagosian Gallery in New York, was initially billed as the musician's visual response to his travels through Asia. But as it turns out, many of the pictures are direct copies from historical photographs.

New York's Finger Lakes region is named for its 11 long, thin lakes that run north to south below Lake Ontario. As it turns out, the hills surrounding these lakes are fertile ground for grapes, and the region is starting to gain recognition for its wines.

But because of the nature of marketing and selling new wines, it's still pretty tough to buy a bottle from the Finger Lakes region.

The area does have a long history of growing grapes: There have been wild grapes there for untold centuries. The vines are hardy and able to withstand occasional subzero temperatures.

Throughout the month of October, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of World Cafe, revisiting some of the best and most memorable interviews of the past 20 years.

In a dramatic day that took him from captivity in the Gaza Strip to his home village in northern Israel, soldier Gilad Shalit was freed Tuesday after more than five years as a prisoner of Palestinian militants.

His release was cause for celebration in Israel, and nowhere more so than in Mitzpe Hila, where he was welcomed by several hundred neighbors and close friends who had long pressed for his release.

Yes, the drug war has created an image problem. But Mexico has launched an aggressive publicity blitz to try to attract more tourists, and it seems to be succeeding.

Even President Felipe Calderon is involved in the full court press to tout the wonders, delicacies and marvels of Mexico to potential visitors.

On the PBS program The Royal Tour of Mexico, Calderon serves as the on-camera guide for TV host Peter Greenberg. The president leads a zip-line tour across a rain forest, rappels into a cave, climbs Mayan ruins and snorkels along a coral reef.

As Republican presidential candidates gird for their eighth debate, this one in Las Vegas, Nev., Tuesday evening, a central question is: how will the Herman Cain phenomenon shape the event?

With the one-time pizza company CEO near or at the top of the GOP field depending on which poll you consult, he's likely to draw more attention from the other candidates at the debate than was true in any of their previous meetings. The two-hour debate will be carried by CNN at 8 pm ET.

As Mark has reported, BlackBerry users faced a text messaging outage for three days straight last week. Yesterday, BlackBerry offered some customers $100 in free apps as an apology.

States across the country continue to fight the spread of a dangerous new drug: bath salts.

They aren't anything like those soothing crystals you pour into the tub — they're synthetic stimulants, so-called designer drugs that cause paranoid, psychotic, often violent behavior in users.

Bath salts can still be purchased legally in some states and, in some cases, over the Internet.

One of the federal government's few success stories when it comes to policing corporate crime in recent years comes from a post-Watergate law called the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA.

Prosecutors have used the law to get more than $1 billion in bribery fines out of huge companies like Siemens and DaimlerChrysler.

But now the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is pushing back: It has hired former Justice Department leaders to make the case that the law is out of date.

Critics: Law Has Huge Consequences

"The Marine Corps is ending its controversial ban on bracelets honoring U.S. troops killed in combat," Marine Corps Times is reporting.

Since Gallup started asking Americans in 1969 whether use of marijuana should be legal, most have said no. But in a Gallup poll released yesterday, half of Americans said the government should legalize pot use.

That is a record high.

Here's Gallup's historical chart for the question:

And here's how they characterize the shift in public opinion:

President Obama's bus tour rolled into Virginia on Tuesday afternoon, after a day and a half in North Carolina.

The president has been using the tour to promote his jobs plan and to criticize an alternative plan put forward by Senate Republicans.

Another Day, Another Diner

Earlier Tuesday, the president stopped at Reid's House Restaurant in Reidsville, N.C., bypassing the special — spaghetti and Texas toast — in favor of a cheeseburger and sweet tea.

As we've seen before this year, when a "haboob" rolls over a city the results can be awesome — and not in a good way if you're caught in it.

After decades of disappointment, researchers think they're finally on track to unleash the first practical vaccine against malaria, one of mankind's ancient scourges.

In the world's first large field trial of an experimental malaria vaccine, several thousand young children who got three doses had about 55 percent less risk of getting the disease over a year than those who got a control vaccine against rabies or meningitis.

Bank of America's report of a $6.2 billion profit in the third quarter, as we said earlier, has many analysts pointing out that it was mostly due to one-time accounting changes and asset sales. Still, BofA's stock is up slightly at this hour.

Environmental hazards sicken or kill millions of people — soot or smog in the air, for example, or pollutants in drinking water. But the most dangerous stuff happens where the food is made — in peoples' kitchens.

That's according to the World Health Organization, which says that the smoke and gases from cooking fires in the world's poorest countries contribute to nearly two million deaths a year — that's more than malaria.

There's a new DeLorean DMC-12 coming out — or rather, there's a new version of the same stainless steel wedge of a sportscar that became an icon (and perhaps the lone representative) of '80s cool. But it won't run on gas — it'll be electric.

And unlike the DeLorean that played a vital role in Back to the Future, this one won't require a nuclear reaction that generates 1.21 gigawatts.

How Hairdressers Can Help Fight Skin Cancer

Oct 18, 2011

We here at Shots have long considered our trips to the hair salon to be good for our mental health: A pampering head massage in the shampoo chair can be amazingly relaxing.

Public officials think hair stylists could play a vital role in physical health, too, by helping spot potentially cancerous skin lesions on their clients' scalp, neck and face. Research published Monday in the Archives of Dermatology suggests some stylists and barbers are already informally performing these skin cancer exams on clients.

Tipping the board over and telling mom that "he's cheating!" wasn't an option, so:

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