NPR News

A bank fraud scandal of unprecedented proportions is shaking domestic politics in Iran.

Several of Iran's largest banks have been swindled out of an estimated $2.6 billion. The scandal has sparked a widening investigation with more than 30 arrests so far. It has also led to charges that some of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's closest advisers were involved.

On its face, it appears it was easy for some of Iran's most important bankers to steal so much money.

Nearly every new smartphone has a better camera than its predecessor. One of the latest is Apple's iPhone 4S — but there are plenty of other cellphones with advanced cameras on the market, such as the HTC myTouch 4G and the Samsung Galaxy SII.

The cameras are so good, in fact, that it raises the question of whether it's worth it for amateur photographers to own a separate point-and-shoot camera.

It's not clear yet whether the Occupy Wall Street protests will be a good thing or a bad thing for Democrats. That's why President Obama always treads carefully when asked about them.

"People are frustrated, and that frustration has expressed itself in a lot of different ways," he said Tuesday on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. "It expressed itself in the Tea Party. It's expressing itself in Occupy Wall Street."

Opening statements are expected to begin Thursday in an unusual terrorism trial, involving a young Massachusetts man named Tarek Mehanna. What makes this case unusual isn't the alleged terrorist's plot. It's his defense: the First Amendment.

Mehanna's lawyers asked the judge Wednesday to instruct the jury about free-speech rights under the U.S. Constitution. Prosecutors say 29-year-old Mehanna tried to help al-Qaida by promoting its cause in an online blog. Mehanna's attorneys say he was just exercising his right to free speech — and isn't a terrorist at all.

The self-proclaimed "world's largest furniture market" in High Point, N.C., is the industry's showpiece event, where manufacturers hawk their products to retailers. And this week, the market also has an old-school component: a large pavilion dedicated to furniture that's made in America.

In fact, there are signs that market conditions stemming from China's fast growth could spur a comeback for furniture makers in the United States.

Part 3 of a three-part investigation

Dwayne Stenstrom is a professor of American history. His office is lined with towers of obscure books and poetry on the walls. There's even a copy of the Declaration of Independence in a binder.

He teaches this document like many other professors, beginning with, "We hold these truths to be self evident." But he stops on another phrase — "the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages."

This is the second of two reports on plans to export U.S. coal to China.

Coal producers in Wyoming and Montana are hoping new export terminals will be built in Washington state so they can ramp up their sales to China. Activists are trying to stop those ports, in part because they're concerned about global warming. But a thriving export market could also drive up the price of coal here in the United States, and that has climate implications as well.

European leaders met through the night in Brussels and finally emerged Thursday with a debt deal they say is wide-ranging. They're hopeful it will guide the continent out of the widening debt crisis that started with Greece. But it's unclear whether they have the political will and economic flexibility to implement it.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's been a week of mixed messaging from two of the campaigns on the presidential trail: that of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and current Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Romney revived accusations that he's a flip-flopper when he waded into a battle over a ballot proposal in Ohio. Perry created his own distraction by revisiting questions about President Obama's place of birth.

Hey guys, feeling confused about the fuss over PSA screening for prostate cancer?

Listen up. A couple of docs who ponder such medical dilemmas say there's a middle ground between business-as-usual and throwing PSA tests out altogether.

As the Occupy Wall Street movement got going, a Tumblr blog emerged that strived to tell the story of the so-called 99 percent. The idea was simple: Americans would jot their stories down on a piece of paper and hold it up in front of a camera. The site has collected hundreds of pictures since it launched in early September. Most of them are serious but quite a few of them are funny.

NATO's role in Libya was crucial to the rebellion that toppled Moammar Gadhafi, but that assistance came at a cost, according to some Libyans.

Mohammed Abueishi lives in the Souq al-Juma neighborhood of Tripoli, near an apartment building on a quiet residential street that was hit by a NATO airstrike a little after 1 a.m. on June 19.

"I was sleeping and suddenly there was an enormous blast and all the doors and the windows burst open. There was a huge amount of dust in the house," he said. "I stumbled out to find my uncle's house destroyed."

When the people who make Necco Wafers changed their recipe to use natural flavors and colors in 2009, they thought they were doing their customers a favor. But then those customers told the New England Confectionery Company — loudly, and repeatedly — that they preferred artificially enhanced candy.

"Our normal mail volume probably went up twenty-fold" after the change, says Necco Vice President of Research and Quality Jeff Green says. "Some positive, and some negative. But a lot of negative."

A delegation from the Arab League met with President Bashar Assad, today. The visit is supposed to facilitate the ceasefire demanded by the Arab nations in a resolution last week.

In the latest twist to Mexico's drug wars, a new group has vowed to launch a paramilitary offensive against a leading drug cartel in Veracruz, a city that has become a flash point in the violence.

Over the past month, more than 100 bodies have been strewn around the city, which is one of Mexico's largest and oldest ports. The violence prompted Mexican President Felipe Calderon to declare that Veracruz has been "left in the hands of the Zetas," one of the most brutal criminal organizations in the country.

Science is an expensive endeavor. Labs in the U.S. can easily spend millions of dollars each year on equipment, chemicals and supplies alone. But for scientists in the developing world, these costs are often prohibitive. That's where a clever idea has made all the difference.

In a Harvard Medical School corridor on a rainy Saturday afternoon, a handful of graduate students are emptying boxes of scientific equipment into the hallway to take inventory: microcentrifuge tubes, radiation counters, micropipetters, Erlenmeyer flasks.

Cool Photo: Lighting Fireworks For Diwali

Oct 26, 2011

Today Hindus across the world are celebrating Diwali, or the festival of lights. There's plenty of coverage about the celebrations, and the Hindustan Times has a good overview.

Police crackdowns in Atlanta and Oakland, Calif., to disperse protests affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement could mark a turning point in the tactics of both the demonstrators and the authorities dealing with them, experts say.

Oakland police equipped with riot gear fired tear gas and, according to demonstrators, used rubber bullets and flash grenades on Tuesday to clear Frank Ogawa Park in front of City Hall. In Atlanta, helicopters circled over a small city park just after midnight Wednesday as officers moved in to arrest about 50 protesters.

Opening statements are set to begin Thursday in Boston at the trial of Tarek Mehanna, a 29-year-old American charged in U.S. District Court with conspiracy and providing material support to al-Qaida, as well as planning to attend training camps abroad and making false statements to authorities. He faces a possible life sentence if convicted.

Bloomberg dug through quite a bit of government data to answer a question that's been talked about quite a bit over the past few months: Has President Obama ushered in an era of costly business regulation? Republicans have made the claim regularly. Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican presidential candidate, said, "President Obama has vastly expanded the regulatory reach of government."

Insect Cuisine Is All The Buzz

Oct 26, 2011

Kudos to the SF Weekly for their fascinating in-depth cover story last week on bug eating. The City by the Bay has become a "hotbed of insect cuisine," David Gordon, an entomophagist (bug eater) and author of The Eat-A-Bug Cookbook, tells the alternative weekly.

The drive to test healthy people for common cancers rests on the idea that finding malignancies early can trigger life-saving treatment. But the evidence that some of the tests will actually reduce mortality is sometimes lacking or is less than clear cut for the people who'll get tested.

It's not popular, and politicians hate to talk about it. But a huge part of the job of being a member of Congress is raising money. By Washington logic, the strength of a lawmaker's bank account is equal to the strength of his or her candidacy.

Last month, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised almost double what its Republican counterpart took in despite the fact that the GOP holds the majority in the House. One group of Republicans that seems to be having a tough go of it is that huge class of freshman Republicans who took 2010 by storm.

Amid a relentless and bloody crackdown on protesters by Yemen's government, hundreds of women took to the streets today and set fire to veils traditionally worn by them. As the AP reports, this was not a protest about women's rights, instead "the act of women burning their clothing is a symbolic Bedouin tribal gesture signifying an appeal for help to tribesmen, in this case to stop the attacks on the protesters."

Pages