All Things Considered for Thursday, December 12, 2013

The House voted late Thursday to pass the House-Senate budget compromise. Speaker John Boehner urged passage of the "fine work" by budget chairman Paul Ryan, and was critical of conservative groups, who he said opposed the deal "before they've even seen it." The uncharacteristic criticism prompted reporters to ask if this is a turning point.
Democrats and Republicans both have problems with the package, but passage is expected in the House on Thursday. The Senate is likely to do the same next week. Rep. Paul Ryan says the deal brings "some semblance of bipartisanship."

A Rush To Reconcile Health Enrollment Data, By Hand

Problems persist on the back end of, which must process accurate enrollment information so insurers can receive premium payments and start coverage for consumers. Reconciliation of the data just started this week, as time to fix problems is running out.
Activists from across the country are asking Georgia's governor to support an investigation into the death of Kendrick Johnson, 17, who was discovered dead in a high school gymnasium almost a year ago. State investigators ruled out foul play, but Johnson's parents don't believe it.
Alan Cheuse reviews a short story collection by Russell Banks called A Permanent Member of the Family. The stories feature ordinary Americans caught in one dilemma or another.
Reporters gave White House Press Secretary Jay Carney a tough time Thursday over the way in which the administration controls President Obama's image. In this case literally, by severely limiting the situations in which professional photojournalists get to take pictures of the president. News organizations have formally protested.
Former Nightline host and NPR contributor Ted Koppel interviewed Nelson Mandela. Koppel says that Mandela is deservedly seen as a great man, but that one of the keys to his exalted status is that for 27 years he was behind bars, hidden from the kind of scrutiny and decision-making that can turn heroes into mere mortals.
For writer Diana Abu-Jaber, a special seasonal cookie is a reminder of that mainstay of all holiday activities, the family fight. When she was a child, Abu-Jaber's German-American grandmother would visit, bringing tins and tins of homemade Christmas cookies. Her stay also came at the price of an annual flare-up with her Jordanian immigrant son-in-law.
Rob Buyea gets it. The children's book author spent six years teaching elementary school. He's dedicated his book Because of Mr. Terupt to his former third- and fourth-grade students. "It's because of them that I began writing," he says.
One year ago this Saturday, a gunman killed 26 people at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. At the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, people gathered Thursday to remember those who have been killed by gun violence since that attack. A bell tolled for three minutes in memory of roughly 30,000 people who have lost their lives over the past year. We hear some of the service.
An investigative report by Mother Jones magazine looks at the number of children who have been shot and killed with guns in the year since the Newtown tragedy. Melissa Block speaks with Mark Follman, senior editor at Mother Jones, for more.
More than 200 people have been killed this year in Baltimore — most of them blacks. One Maryland gun group says it's in a unique position to help steer the city's black youth away from the path of gun violence by focusing on discipline, training and black history.
With Congress expected to pass its first bipartisan budget in years, renewed focus has fallen on the tactics that brought it about. These tactics may be puzzling (or alarming), but according to author Tim Harford, they're not new: They're rooted in game theory. He suggests reading Thomas Schelling's The Strategy of Conflict to learn more.
The Indian Supreme Court has reinstated a 150 year old ban on gay sex in India. The move has outraged gay rights activists and sparked a national debate about sexuality and civil rights. Melissa Block speaks with Manu Bhagavan, who teaches about South Asian history and human rights at Hunter College.
Murder ballads — dark, brutal story-songs that tend to claim the lives of women — occupy a significant place in American roots music. A new song by Jim Lauderdale gives a few of those women a second act.
Turkey, which not long ago was predicting its role as a regional powerhouse in a re-shaped Middle East, is scrambling to adjust foreign policies that have left it increasingly at odds with its neighbors and world powers. Turkey's approval ratings in Syria and Egypt have plummeted, with many critics saying Ankara has pursued overly sectarian policies that have exacerbated crises instead of calming them. Turkish leaders reject the criticism, but recently there are signs of a shift: Jihadist rebels fighting the Syrian regime have been deported from Turkey, and Ankara has renewed efforts to strengthen ties with Iran.
As radical Islamists take control of Syrian border towns, the spill-over is evident in southern Turkey. Small shops cater to radicals, selling black head bands with Koranic slogans. In Killis, on the Turkish border, cafes offer "jihadi tea" for a clientele with long beards and an alarming agenda. Many analysts say Turkey turned a blind eye to international jihadists crossing the border to overthrow the Assad regime. The bill has come due as Washington expresses extreme concern, young Turks join the jihad in Syria, and international extremists flock to the Turkish border on the way to the jihad.
Major League Baseball plans to eliminate home plate collisions, among other rules changes. For more on what the changes will mean for the game, Melissa Block speaks with Mike Piazza, a former MLB catcher with several professional teams and author of Long Shot, an autobiography.
The storm's damage and disruption to homes, cities and families is undisputed. But researchers studying the underwater coastline say Long Island fared relatively well. The face of the shore retained much of its shape because underwater ridges of sand just offshore may have cushioned the blow.
This week we're looking back at the year in music through the lens of NPR Music's 50 Favorite Albums of 2013. It's the annual list assembled by our in-house experts, including NPR music editor Frannie Kelley and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, producer and founding member of the rap group A Tribe Called Quest. The pair host NPR's Microphone Check.
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