All Things Considered for Friday, January 31, 2014

President Obama is hosting business leaders at the White House in order to discuss possible solutions to long-term unemployment. The president says that he hopes for companies to revise their hiring practices, which often appear to be stacked against those who have been unemployed for six months or more.
Audie Cornish speaks with our regular political commentators, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Brookings Institution and David Brooks of The New York Times about the president's State of the Union initiatives, the retiring members of the House and the agenda of the annual Republican retreat.

In The Mailbox, An Uncanny Postscript from Pete Seeger

Months ago, Kim Alexander sent a letter to folk musician and activist Pete Seeger, professing her gratitude for his music and asking his advice. One day after Seeger's death, Alexander found his response waiting in her mailbox.
Delays continue to beset a proposed bilateral security agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan. The pact would govern U.S. troops if they remain in Afghanistan past 2014. Deadlines have come and gone, but still no agreement has been signed by the two parties. Now, the situation seems to have deepened into a political standoff between the Pentagon and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. To understand how it got to this point, Robert Siegel turns to Sean Carberry, reporting from Kabul, and Tom Bowman, NPR's Pentagon correspondent.
During his 10-year career, Sean Morey absorbed countless hits, more than a few of which resulted in concussions. "Every time I hit somebody it was like getting tasered," he says. Now, he suffers from lingering conditions, like debilitating headaches, and is an advocate for players' health.
A group of Asian-American women in Boston are redefining a Lunar New Year tradition every year by performing in an all-female lion and dragon dance troupe. The Chinese martial art is traditionally performed by men, often during new year's parades. The Lunar New Year starts Friday.

Celebration Is In The Air. Or Is That Just Snow?

Patty Chang Anker recommends a cookbook that eases the anxieties of anyone trying to cook Chinese-American meals, and Lev Grossman reminds us that there is a Seussian storm comparable to the one that shut down Atlanta this week.
With our cure for the winter woes under construction, we offer another hint at what you can expect to hear in our cabin fever playlist. Expect a hefty dose of funk, bass and anything to make you move on a cold, gray day.
In a letter released by his attorney, the Port Authority official who personally oversaw the George Washington Bridge lane closures is alleging that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie knew about the action. David Wildstein asserts that evidence exists that will contradict Christie's claims to ignorance about the motives behind the lane closures.
Consensus might be hard on the issues of the debt ceiling and immigration, where the Tea Party wing has little in common with Speaker John Boehner and his allies in the House leadership.
The world of central banking is largely a man's world. But Janet Yellen, the Federal Reserve's new leader, has been undeterred by such barriers since she was in high school in Brooklyn. Now global financial markets will be watching her every move.
The U.S. State Department made a much-anticipated announcement on the Keystone XL pipeline on Friday. Its report finds that while the heavy crude oil that the pipeline will carry from Canada is dirtier than regular crude, stopping the pipeline won't keep that crude in the ground. There are other ways besides the pipeline that will likely keep the heavy crude business afloat. This decision won't please opponents of the pipeline, nor does it give the go-ahead to the project. Secretary of State John Kerry and eventually President Obama will make that decision.

Homeless In Fargo At The Heart Of An Oil Boom

North Dakota's booming economy has created a modern-day wagon trail of people coming to the state for oil jobs. But finding affordable housing is a sometimes insurmountable challenge, and the number of homeless people, has risen dramatically. Meg Luther Lindholm reports that even cities like Fargo-Moorhead, where there are several shelters and services, are often stretched beyond their capacity. Some, like Fargo's mayor, say the cities can't do it all and more help is needed from the state.

Syria Peace Talks Take A Break

The Syria peace talks in Geneva adjourn with no breakthroughs or substantive signs of progress. But international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi says there is some common ground between the government and its opponents, and he announced that the talks will resume on Feb. 10.

Assad Regime Slows In Handing Over Chemical Weapons

The U.S. and international monitors are expressing concern over delays in the the handover of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal. Many experts now suspect that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime may be dragging its feet.
Some conservatives say the health care law is here to stay. They're urging Republicans to shift their focus from repealing it to changing parts they don't like. The Tea Party wing calls that capitulation. And it's pushing primary challengers against Republicans they say are soft on repeal.

At Home, With Mom And Her Murderous Beau

Adele (Kate Winslet) and her 12-year-old son, Henry (Gattlin Griffith), end up sharing their home with an escaped felon (Josh Brolin) in Jason Reitman's overcooked melodrama.
Sportswriter Stefan Fatsis joins Robert Siegel to speak about the Super Bowl. On the agenda for the conversation are the game's major storylines: the strengths of each team, the role the referees will play and a treat for fans attending the outdoor game — some surprisingly pleasant weather.
Endorsement deals can offer retired players millions beyond their sports or TV contracts. In return for these millions, these former Hall of Famers plug the product they're endorsing. But some take the endorsements to an extreme, sprinkling brand names into conversations that have nothing to do with those products.
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