All Things Considered for Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Deficit Shrinks, But Debate Continues To Grow

The federal government's deficit is shrinking quite quickly — and that may not necessarily be a good thing. As congressional forecasters lower their predictions for economic growth over the next decade, some experts are saying that gross domestic product and unemployment figures would look better, were it not for the government's rapid push to get a handle on the deficit.
A new front has opened in the political battle over the Affordable Care Act, with Tuesday's release of the Congressional Budget Office's annual budget and economic outlook. The economists updated an earlier estimate about how many workers would leave the workforce because they no longer needed a job to have health care coverage — revising upward from 800,000 people to over 2 million people. Republicans pounced on the higher number, and President Obama now finds himself playing defense.
The long-held idea that cancer is a disease of the rich is slowly being undermined. The world now records about 14 million new cancer cases each year, a study found. The majority of these cases occur in developing countries, which aren't equipped to detect and treat the disease.
Americans who got a quarter of their daily calories from sugar were twice as likely to die from heart disease as those who limited their intake to much lower levels, fresh research finds. Unfortunately, most of us have a sugar habit that puts us in the danger zone.

Countdown To Sochi: Will The City Be Ready?

With the Winter Olympics just days away, the status of preparations in Sochi is mixed: Housing for the athletes has been getting rave reviews, but hotels and other buildings are still unfinished.

The Fine Art Of The Public Apology

With high-profile apologies from the likes of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, we're in apology overload. Dov Seidman is calling for an apology cease-fire. Seidman is CEO of a company that helps corporations develop values-based cultures and strengthen their ethics and compliance effort. He tells Audie Cornish why he takes issue with recent apologies and what he believes makes a good one.

Spike In Heroin Use Can Be Traced To Prescription Pads

Heroin overdose deaths have increased significantly in the U.S. over the past five years. Experts point to aggressive prescribing of opioid drugs for pain about 15 years ago as a reason why. Heroin users often say their addiction began with exposure to painkillers like OxyContin.
The death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman from an apparent heroin overdose has thrown a spotlight on the rise of heroin use in recent years. Melissa talks to John Venza, vice president at Outreach — a substance abuse treatment agency in New York and Long Island — about heroin addiction and the challenges to staying clean.
As the U.S. and Iran negotiate over the country's nuclear program, many in Washington say that Tehran can't be trusted. Even the lead U.S. negotiator told lawmakers a few months ago that "deception is in Iran's DNA." Iranian leaders are equally scornful of the U.S. President Obama says that these years of mistrust can't be wished away but still asserts that negotiations between adversaries remain possible.

Valery Gergiev, The Powerful And Polarizing Maestro

The conductor, slated to perform at the opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics, sparked controversy with his recent comments on Russia's anti-gay legislation. The head of St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theatre is a friend and ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It's Three's Company Now: Microsoft Names New CEO

Satya Nadella is just the third CEO in Microsoft's 39-year history. He's a Microsoft insider tasked with re-energizing the company and making it more relevant in a future likely to be dominated by mobile technology. As Nadella moves into his new role, he will be supported by Bill Gates, who is stepping down as chairman to become more involved with technology development.

Senate Steps Into The Data Breach Controversy

The Senate Judiciary Committee spent the day looking into recent data thefts at Target and Neiman Marcus. Lawmakers know there is a big problem, but they are struggling with what role the federal government should play is creating new standards to safeguard consumer data.
During China's Cultural Revolution, communist youth known as Red Guards persecuted, tortured and killed millions of Chinese — so-called class enemies. Now some Red Guards are apologizing publicly in rare examples of open discussion of the party's historic mistakes.
Detroit's Belle Isle Aquarium is getting a little help from its friends in Washington, D.C. The National Aquarium closed late last year after more than 100 years. Thousands of dollars' worth of equipment went to the Motor City, where its own century-old aquarium is beautiful and historic — but starved for resources. Budget shortfalls forced its closure in 2005. But a scrappy team of volunteers has worked to open it to the public on a limited basis, and they hope the fake coral, fiberglass tank props, and other equipment from D.C. will help it regain some of its luster.
Not much happens in An Unnecessary Woman, Lebanese-American author Rabih Alameddine's novel about an elderly recluse who spends her time reading and translating. But what does happen shows a life in all its mundane, unconventional brilliance.

Can Homemade Liquor Jumpstart A Local Economy?

Two cousins from Mexico have a dream to bring jobs to their hometown. With no experience and very little funding, they've launched their own high end brand of mezcal.
Asbestos lawsuits have bankrupted scores of companies since the 1980s. In one case, a federal judge found that lawyers for people with a rare cancer linked to asbestos misled courts and made evidence disappear. The judge's decision could affect what other companies must pay victims in the future.
Rodney Scott's legendary South Carolina barbecue cookhouse went up in flames last year, so friends of the pit master cooked up a plan to help him rebuild. Scott is now making a comeback with his Bar-B-Que in Exile Tour and bringing people together with his whole hog barbecue.
Don't give in to that midwinter swoon. Listen to this instead: More than 800 of you, our listeners, shared songs to quicken the blood and make you move. Inside, find our Cabin Fever Playlist — 84 tracks meant to wake you from even the deepest hibernation.
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