National News

Michael J. Garcia, head of FIFA's investigatory chamber of the ethics committee, resigned Wednesday in protest.

FIFA Begins Meeting After American Lawyer's Angry Resignation

Soccer's governing body is meeting Thursday in Morocco, a day after the American lawyer, who spent two years investigating allegations of corruption in the bidding process for the World Cup, quit in protest at how FIFA handled his report.

Is Your State Ready For The Next Infectious Outbreak? Probably Not

Ebola may have slid off the nation's worry list, but that doesn't mean the United States is ready to handle an outbreak of Ebola or another infectious disease, an analysis says. That includes naturally occurring outbreaks like dengue fever, tuberculosis and measles, as well as the use of bioterrorism agents like anthrax.

The gurney in the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary is pictured in McAlester, Okla., in 2008.

2014 Saw Fewest Executions In 20 Years, Report Finds

There was a significant drop in the number of executions and death penalty sentences in 2014, a new report by the Death Penalty Information Center finds.

The group's year-end accounting finds that:

-- States conducted 35 executions in 2014 — the lowest since 1994.

-- And the justice system sentenced 72 people to death — the lowest number in 40 years.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures during his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday, where he blamed Western sanctions and falling oil prices on his country's economic troubles.

Putin: Sanctions, Falling Oil Prices Causing Ruble's Tumble

Russian President Vladimir Putin lashed out at the West in a year-end news conference today, blaming international sanctions and a steep plunge in oil prices for the precipitous drop in the value of the ruble.

Putin, speaking during a more than three-hour news conference attended by some 1,200 journalists, "promised never to let the West chain or defang his proud nation," according to The Associated Press.

A culture of <em>Clostridium botulinum</em>, stained with gentian violet.

Worries About Unusual Botulinum Toxin Prove Unfounded

Remember that worrisome new form of botulinum toxin we told you about in late 2013, the one that supposedly had to be kept secret out of fear it could be used as a bioweapon that would evade all of our medical defenses?

Well, as it turns out, it's not that scary after all. The antitoxin stored in the government's emergency stockpile works and would neutralize the toxin just fine.

A Pakistani health worker administers a polio vaccine to a child during a campaign in the northern city of Rawalpindi.

Pakistan Keeps On Vaccinating Despite Tough Terrain And Terror Threat

Between the rugged terrain and the constant terrorist threats, vaccinating Pakistani children against common diseases hasn't been easy. Mountains make it hard — at times even impossible — for vaccinators to reach people in the north. In the south, health workers have to use four-wheelers and camels to travel through Pakistan's harsh deserts.

Sarah Koenig and producer Dana Chivvis in the studio.

The Many Rabbit Holes (Or Should We Say Labyrinths) Of 'Serial'

As Serial winds to an end, those of us behind Code Switch and Monkey See have been talking a whole lot about the podcast. Here's part four of our exchange. Later today, Sarah Koenig will talk to All Things Considered about the final episode — available this morning — and we'll give you the details on that as well.

Hey, Matt, Gene and Linda —

Anti-Castro protester Lazaro Lozano, left, argues with an unidentified pro-Obama supporter in the Little Havana area of Miami, on Wednesday.

New Era For Cuba? Voices From Miami And Havana

Just hours after the United States and Cuba announced they were moving toward normalizing relations, crowds gathered in Havana and Miami trying to come to grips with a historic shift.

NPR covered the reaction in those two places with two pieces on Morning Edition.

NPR's Greg Allen reported from Miami:

And NPR's Lourdes Garcia Navarro spoke to Cuban dissidents from her perch in São Paolo:

With Sony Hack, Nation-State Attacks Go From Quiet To Overt

NPR has confirmed from U.S. intelligence officials that North Korea was centrally involved with the recent attacks against Sony Pictures. And the company says it is pulling its comedy film The Interview from the box office. It was supposed to debut on Christmas. These are major developments in what we may now call cyberwarfare.

A lone polar bear poses on a block of arctic sea ice in Russia's Franz Josef Land.

Arctic Is Warming Twice As Fast As World Average

The latest word from scientists studying the Arctic is that the polar region is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. And researchers say the trend isn't letting up. That's the latest from the 2014 Arctic Report Card — a compilation of recent research from more than 60 scientists in 13 countries. The report was released Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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