All Things Considered for Thursday, December 19, 2013

Russia's parliament has passed a measure that could grant amnesty to thousands of people in prison or under investigation in the justice system. The amnesty could mean freedom for some people arrested during anti-government protests, such as members of the punk band Pussy Riot and the crew of the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise, but critics say it's really notable for the prisoners who would not be freed. They also say it's another example of how justice in Russia is subverted to the will of one man, rather than independent institutions.
Russian president Vladimir Putin says he will pardon jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky as part of an amnesty passed by Russia's parliament for thousands in prison or under investigation. For more on the potential release of Khodorkovksy, who was once the wealthiest man in Russia, Melissa Block talks to Susan Glasser, editor of Politico magazine.
The Air Force on Thursday destroyed the last B-52 bomber required under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia. A crew used a circular saw to cut through the plane's aluminum skin, the tail section separating from the fuselage with a loud thunk and officially rendering the bomber useless.
On the first day of 2013, Obama expressed a hope that the new year would bring "a little less drama" and "a little less brinkmanship." In fact, the year saw high drama, a government shutdown, and massive problems with the website at the core of the president's new health care law.
U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power made a rare visit Thursday to the chaotic Central African Republic. She appealed to all parties to pull back from the abyss. The nation has been riven by conflict that's broken down along religious lines since a coup in March.
In the ancient town of Hastings on England's south coast, fishermen go to sea in small, ten meter boats, much as their forebears did. One fisherman dates his family back to the 1580s. Now they face competition from big boats and worry that overfishing will ruin their livelihood. Their work is dangerous. They often have to go out in rough seas to support their families. Now and then a fisherman is lost at sea and when that happens, one wife says, "the fishermen stick together and help each other — always."
Salinas, Calif., is just an hour from Silicon Valley, but production at many local lettuce farms is decidedly low-tech. City officials here decided it's time for an upgrade — and have hired a venture capital firm to help Salinas transition into a high-tech agricultural hub.
One of the stars of the reality TV show Duck Dynasty, Phil Robertson, has been suspended by A+E. He made antigay statements in an interview with a magazine. Duck Dynasty is a huge media property, with a hit TV show that has been spun off into publishing and merchandising.
Civil liberties groups are urging President Obama to follow through with the recommendations of his NSA review committee. The panel suggested limiting the spy agency's electronic surveillance.
A review panel convened by the White House released its report on surveillance by the National Security Agency Wednesday. Among concerns the task force has are NSA practices that some say deliberately weaken America's cyber security. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been critical about surveillance activities, and Mark Rumold, staff attorney for the organization, tells Audie Cornish about the pros and cons of the panel's recommendations.
Right in the middle of holiday shopping season, some 40 million credit and debit card numbers were stolen in a major breach of Target customer data. The thefts occurred in stores, not online. Target says it's working with a forensics company to investigate and prevent similar data thefts from occurring in the future. Security experts say one way to limit them is to switch from magnetic stripes on cards to embedded chips.

New York City Considers Ban On E-Cigarettes

The New York City Council is slated to vote on a bill today that would add electronic cigarettes to the city's smoking ban. If the bill passes, use of e-cigarettes would be prohibited from public and private venues such as beaches, parks, restaurants and offices.

Feminists Everywhere React To Beyonce's Latest

At the end of a year in which Sheryl Sandberg released Lean In, Miley Cyrus and Diane Martel provoked everybody, #solidarityisforwhitewomen was born, and British singer Lily Allen put her foot in it, Beyonce's album has reignited conversations about the boundaries of feminism today.
Two billion — that's the number of dollars the federal government lost during the partial government shutdown, paying furloughed employees not to work.
It's the start of retirement season in the House as members head home after a long, difficult year. Three House members — two Republicans and a Democrat — announced their retirements from Congress this week, ahead of the 2014 midterm elections.
Christmas is less than a week away and shoppers continue their quest for the perfect gift at the perfect price. But at one shop in a southwest Ohio mall, Roman Catholic friars are offering their presence for free.

A Town, A Team, And A Dream That Just Won't Die

NPR's Melissa Block talks with Davy Rothbart, co-director of the documentary Medora -- the story of a shrinking Indiana town and its hard-luck high-school basketball team.
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