All Things Considered for Friday, September 27, 2013

Tea Party-backed Republican senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee failed to block the Senate from removing language defunding Obamacare from a stopgap spending bill. Democrats proceeded to replace the House spending bill that took away money for Obamacare with their own version that funds the government through Nov. 15, but leaves the Affordable Care Act alone. A federal government shutdown starts Tuesday if both chambers don't agree on a spending plan by then.
Robert Siegel speaks with political commentators E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Brookings Institution, and Ramesh Ponnuru of The National Review magazine. They discuss Congressional wrangling over a continuing resolution to stave off a government shutdown, President Obama's speech at the UN and U.S.-Iranian nuclear negotiations.
The United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change releases its latest assessment today. This is the fifth since 1990. The reports project the rate of global warming, sea level rise and other expected effects that result largely from our use of fossil fuels, which puts billions of additional tons of carbon dioxide into the air every year.

Nixed Flood Insurance Subsidy Drowns Coastal Home Values

In Florida, Louisiana, New York and other coastal states, many homeowners are in shock at new flood insurance rates that are rapidly approaching. After Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy left the National Flood Insurance Program $24 billion in the red, Congress revamped the program--phasing out subsidies. One group especially upset are new homeowners--people who bought a property and are now seeing their flood insurance costs skyrocket, making the property no longer affordable.
Robert Siegel speaks with former Egyptian ambassador to the U.S. and the current foreign minister for Egypt's interim government, Nabil Fahmy, about some of the crises facing his country.

Gaza Strip Proves Uneven Refuge For Syrian Refugees

The UN says at least two million people have left Syria over the past two and a half years, seeking refuge in other countries. More than two thousand people have sought safety in the Gaza Strip. Some are finding work and a semblance of stability there. Others are suffering economically and emotionally but count themselves lucky to be free from military attacks.

Former NPR Host And CBS Correspondent Lee Thornton Dies

Robert Siegel remembers a former colleague, Lee Thornton, who died of cancer Wednesday. She co-hosted the weekend edition of NPR's All Things Considered in the mid-80s and a White House correspondent for CBS News before that. After NPR, Thornton served as the interim Associate Provost for Equity and Diversity at the University of Maryland.
In Arizona, the state Forestry Division will release its official report Saturday regarding the the Yarnell Hill fire, where 19 elite firefighters from the Granite Mountain Hot Shots were killed. The deaths shook firefighters across the country. They and others hope the report addresses problems they see in current firefighting policies.

A Brutal Movie From China, Ripped From The Headlines

A Touch of Sin, from director Jia Zhangke, is a tangle of four violent vignettes — all based on true stories — that made it past China's famously strict censors with hardly any cuts. It gets its U.S. premiere this weekend at the New York Film Festival.

Obama Speaks To Iranian President Rouhani

In a press conference Wednesday, President Obama said he had spoken with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani by telephone, the first such contact between the leaders of the two nations since 1979.

Aid Groups Say Relief Should Be Part Of UN Deal On Syria

UN Security Council diplomats are working on a resolution that focuses on ridding Syria of chemical weapons. Aid groups want the UN to go further and help them open up routes to get desperately needed assistance to Syrians uprooted by the civil war. They say the paralysis on the security council has had a real costs on the ground and has added to donor fatigue.
Samantha Power said the resolution imposes a "pretty distinct form of accountability," in that it strips Syria of its chemical weapons. In the case of non-compliance, she said, the U.S. would have the "the force of global opinion on our side."
As work begins on the infrastructure, stadiums, hotels and other things being built in Qatar for soccer's 2022 World Cup, a disturbing number of immigrant workers are dying. There are reports of food, water and pay being withheld. Officials vow to change things.

A 'Return' To A Mexico More Dangerous Than Before

Alan Cheuse reviews a crime novel set in Mexico, The Return by Michael Gruber.

Is The Fed Chair Succession Too Politicized?

Federal Reserve chairmen used to be named without much fanfare. Not this time. A very public competition between former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and the current vice chairman of the Fed Janet Yellen has made headlines and pitted the White House against liberal Democrats in Congress. It raises the question of whether the Fed succession has become too politicized — and whether it could ultimately hurt the economy.

Record Label Picks Copyright Fight — With The Wrong Guy

Lawrence Lessig was not pleased when Liberation Music persuaded YouTube to take down one of his online lectures because of an alleged copyright violation. So Lessig, one of the most famous copyright attorneys in the world, decided to take a stand against broad, intimidating takedown notices.

'Don Jon': Smooth Move There, Mr. Gordon-Levitt

Joseph Gordon-Levitt's writing and directing debut is a modern look at a Don Juan who's got a bit of a porn problem. NPR's Bob Mondello says it's an assured first film from an actor who's clearly been paying attention to what makes a movie work.

States Face Language Barriers To Health Exchange Sign Up

Polling shows that many Americans aren't quite sure how the Affordable Care Act will affect them, and it may be even more confusing for immigrants and people who don't speak English as their first language. Illinois has a large immigrant population, and the state has been working to resolve language barriers as it gets ready to launch its insurance marketplace.

Cuban Athletes Can Finally Go Pro (Outside Of Cuba)

For the first time in over 50 years, Cuba is letting its athletes sign professional contracts in other countries. Sportswriter Stefan Fatsis talks to Robert Siegel about the historic announcement.
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