National News

An NPR Reporter Raced A Machine To Write A News Story. Who Won?

Even the most creative jobs have parts that are pretty routine — tasks that, at least in theory, can be done by a machine. Take, for example, being a reporter.

A company called Automated Insights created a program called WordSmith that generates simple news stories based on things like sporting events and financial news. The stories are published on Yahoo! and via the Associated Press, among other outlets.

We wanted to know: How would NPR's best stack up against the machine?

Dr. Nadim Uddin Siddiqui hosts a weekly call-in show about sexual issues on a Pakistani cable television channel. The program, <em>Clinic Online</em>, is a rarity for a conservative Muslim nation, but has proved popular, particularly among women.

Live On Pakistani TV: A Call-In Show About Sex

It's long been assumed that, in conservative Islamic societies, sex is a subject to be spoken about, if it's discussed at all, in guilty whispers.

Yet, for many months now, women in Pakistan have been dialing in to a TV show to ask about profoundly personal issues — live on air.

"I have to talk about my husband," said a woman who gave her name as Sonia on one of the show's recent editions. "His sperm count is very low ..."

Jenny Tenorio Gallegos, 35, in Lima, Peru, is being treated for drug-resistant TB. The treatment lasts two years and may rob her of her hearing.

She's Got One Of The Toughest Diseases To Cure. And She's Hopeful

Drug-resistant tuberculosis is not only airborne and lethal; it's one of the most difficult diseases in the world to cure.

In Peru, 35-year-old Jenny Tenorio Gallegos wheezes even when she's sitting still. That's because of the damage tuberculosis has done to her lungs. The antibiotics she's taking to treat extensively drug-resistant TB make her nauseous, give her headaches, leave her exhausted and are destroying her hearing.

"At times I don't hear well," she says. "You have to speak loud for me to be able to understand."

A view of the central area of Atlassian's office in San Francisco. The software company found that desks were used only 20 percent of the workday — half as much as conference rooms were used.

How A Bigger Lunch Table At Work Can Boost Productivity

The loft-like San Francisco office of software maker Atlassian has an open central amphitheater, where all-staff gatherings and midday boot camp exercises are held.

Jay Simons, Atlassian's president, says the building was originally a book printing factory. He describes it "as a big, two-story warehouse with a lot of steel girders, a lot of natural light."

But the office's rapid expansion to 300 employees has led to gripes about conference room shortages. "We're butting up on growing out of the space," Simons says.

Shannon Rivers, a member of the Akimel O'odham tribe, lights a fire for the purification ceremony at the Coconino County jail. Inmates will help him put blankets over the sweat lodge structure, place heated rocks inside and pour water over them.

Many Native American Communities Struggle With Effects Of Heroin Use

A decade ago, Ken Lewis almost lost his arm to an intravenous (IV) drug addiction. Twice he developed cysts in his veins that exploded in the hospital. When he came out of surgery the doctor prescribed painkillers. So he traded his meth and heroin for the prescribed opiates.

"I was at my wit's end. I mean I was mentally gone, dead," he says. "Spiritually, I didn't believe in a god. Emotionally, didn't realize I was hurting people or hurting myself. Physically, I probably should've been dead."

The most recent common ancestor of all today's snakes likely lived 120 million years ago. Scientists believe it used needle-like hooked teeth to grab rodent-like creatures that it then swallowed whole.

Earth's First Snake Likely Evolved On Land, Not In Water

Some scientists have speculated that snakes first evolved in water and that their long, slithery bodies were streamlined for swimming. But a new analysis suggests that the most recent common ancestor of all snakes actually lived on land.

This ancestral protosnake probably was a nocturnal hunter that slithered across the forest floor about 120 million years ago. And it likely had tiny hind limbs, left over from an even earlier ancestor, says Allison Hsiang, a researcher at Yale University.

Beau Biden, Vice President Joe Biden's Son, Hospitalized

Former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, Vice President Joe Biden's son, is being treated at a military hospital outside Washington, the vice president's office said.

A Reddit mascot is shown at the company's headquarters in San Francisco. Reddit has published a new policy aimed at harassment on the site.

Reddit's New Harassment Policy Aimed At Creating A 'Safe Platform'

Reddit, billed by its founders as "the front page of the Internet," has long been known as a place of unbridled free speech on the Web where users, known as Redditors, post text, pictures and videos.

But that unbridled free speech sometimes spills over into harassment, sexism and racism. Over the past couple of years, Reddit has been at the center of several controversies concerning harassment, including the release of hundreds of private celebrity photos. It's also become infamous for its unbridled vitriol.

A 19th-century samovar made from silverplate, from the private collection of Sheldon Luskin. On loan to The Museum of Russian Art, Minneapolis

Tea Tuesdays: Cold Weather, Gogol And The Rise Of The Russian Samovar

There are two drinks most people associate with Russia — vodka and tea, prepared in a giant hot-water urn known as a samovar.

Yet while vodka may have actually originated in Russia (Poland is another contender), tea is a thoroughly foreign product.

Most historians believe the Chinese first brought tea to Russia sometime in the 1600s. As for the samovar? "The origins are shrouded in mystery," says Maria Zavilova, curator at the Museum of Russian Art in Minnesota.

Families harvest poppy bulbs in the Badakhshan province of Afghanistan. To collect the opium, they score the bulbs and let the milky substance ooze out. The dried residue contains about 10 percent morphine.

Home-Brewed Morphine Is Around The Corner

Making morphine — or heroin*, for that matter — isn't easy. You have to know a bunch of fancy chemistry to synthesize the drug from scratch. Or you have to get your hands on some opium poppies and extract morphine from the flowers' milky juice.

The latter is tougher than it sounds. Sure, the beautiful flowers grow across millions of acres around the world. But farming and trading poppies are tightly regulated both by laws and by drug kingpins.

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