All Things Considered for Monday, December 9, 2013

Google VP: 'Pendulum Has Swung Too Far Toward Secrecy'

The heads of eight major technology companies — including Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft — have published an open letter to President Obama calling for reforms to government surveillance programs. Audie Cornish speaks with David Drummond, chief legal officer for Google.
The track record of products designed for digital privacy has been abysmal — at least until recently. Snapchat, wildly popular among teens, is changing assumptions about young people's desire for digital privacy. But it's not clear whether the trend will stick.
Audie Cornish talks with Doug Parker, CEO of the newly formed American Airlines Group. As of Monday, it's the largest airline in the world. It came about through the merger of American Airlines and US Airways. Parker worked more than two years for the merger to finally be completed.

Book Review: 'Going Dark'

Alan Cheuse reviews Going Dark, the latest book by Edgar Award-winning suspense author James Hall. Cheuse says Hall is one of the greatest genre writers working today.

Obama And Former Presidents To Attend Mandela Memorial

The world has joined South Africans in mourning and memorializing Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday at age 95. The life of the man known as the '"father of the nation" — the anti-apartheid hero, Nobel Laureate laureate and South Africa's first black president — will be celebrated on Tuesday in Johannesburg, a ceremony that will be attended by many world leaders.
Volunteers in more than 20 countries this weekend shot free, studio-quality portraits of more than 16,000 people who otherwise couldn't have afforded them. Getting people in one Shanghai neighborhood to smile wasn't easy. Some had never had portraits taken before.
When it comes to report cards, most people think of grades like A, B, C or maybe F. But more and more parents around the country are seeing their kids come home with grades like E, M, IP or LP. It's part of a growing trend to make grades more reflective of the specific skills students have actually mastered, and its getting a boost from the move to Common Core standards.
Wreaths are made from greens collected by "tippers," who snip about 14 or 15 inches off the limbs of fir trees. But Christmas wreaths are valuable enough to attract tree poachers, who cut limbs and even whole trees on private land. That means the wreath on your front door could contain stolen goods.
Andre Le Notre helped turn an old hunting lodge into the Versailles we know today, taking his profession way beyond a trade. Experts say Le Notre's work was so groundbreaking, it continues to influence contemporary urban architecture. This year marks the 400th anniversary of Le Notre's birth.
Tensions are high in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, as huge crowds of protesters vent their anger at President Viktor Yanukovych. He has rejected a plan to strengthen ties between Ukraine and the European Union. The demonstrators fear that Yanukovych will instead strengthen ties with Russia and some former Soviet republics. There have been angry face-offs between protesters and police. In one incident on Monday, a line of demonstrators pushed right up against the shields of a line of police. Tempers were flaring until a group of parliamentarians walked between the two lines and separated them.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has dismissed his uncle — who was considered the number two power in the country — from a key defense post. Jang Song Thaek was accused of a long list of criminal and counter-revolutionary acts. He was stripped of all power, and was seen on state television being forcibly removed from a party meeting. Melissa Block talks with Korea-watcher Victor Cha, a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Insurers are holding down prices by including fewer doctors and hospitals in their health plans. Consumers may save money, but at the cost of more restrictions on where they can get medical care that is covered.
The Senate is back from vacation and trying to get a budget deal completed. The House plans to leave town for the year at the end of the week, which means the heat is on to settle on spending levels for 2014 and 2015. Democrats would also like to insert money for extended unemployment benefits, which expire at the end of December. If nothing else, negotiators want to agree on a "topline" spending amount to avoid another government shutdown when the current stopgap spending measure expires Jan. 15.
North Carolina is expected to host one of the nation's toughest U.S. Senate races next year. First-term Democrat Kay Hagan is seeking re-election, but recent polls show that even though her GOP opponent won't be known until the spring, her support for President Obama and the Affordable Care Act have already hurt her standing with state voters. She's also being targeted by outside groups, who are spending millions of dollars in hopes of unseating her.

The Afterlife Of American Clothes

The U.S. exports a billion pounds of used clothes every year. Much of that winds up in used clothing markets in sub-Saharan Africa.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel returned to the Mideast on Monday after a weekend tour of Afghanistan and a stop in Pakistan. The trip focused on a planned security deal with Afghanistan and concerns among Gulf allies about a nuclear deal with Iran.
At a new library and museum in Ohio, Superman, the Yellow Kid and Calvin and Hobbes all live together. The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum houses millions of pages of material, from political cartoons to the most iconic issues of superhero comic books.

Dear Zack Snyder, Regarding Wonder Woman

NPR comics blogger and pop-culture podcaster Glen Weldon has a few words for director Zack Snyder about the casting news that's gotten him in such hot water.
On Monday, federal prosecutors announced indictments against 18 current and former deputies of the L.A. Sheriff's department for corruption and civil rights abuses inside the nation's largest municipal jail system.
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