The National Symphony Orchestra: NPR's House Band For A Day

The National Symphony Orchestra plays in Studio 1 at NPR headquarters.

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Marian Carrasquero/NPR

It’s become an annual tradition for NPR to host a live band in our studios for a full day. This year, we upped the ante and invited around 70 musicians from Washington, D.C.’s National Symphony Orchestra to play the musical interludes between stories on All Things Considered.

Steven Reineke, the NSO’s principal pops conductor, says the experience was both gratifying and surprising. “The whole experience has just been so much fun, from the first time I heard about this, but it really didn’t take full shape until today,” Reineke says. “We had a bunch of music selected, but we didn’t know exactly what we were going to play or where we were going to play it … I’m starting to feel like what Toscanini must have felt like with the NBC Orchestra.”

Hear NPR’s Audie Cornish speak with Reineke and NSO trombonist David Murray at the audio link.

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Minnesota Police Officer In Philando Castile Shooting Case Pleads Not Guilty

A memorial including a photo of Philando Castile is attached to the gate of the governor’s residence in St. Paul, Minn., to protest the July 2016 shooting death.

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Jim Mone/AP

A Minnesota police officer accused of fatally shooting Philando Castile in a St. Paul suburb last July pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter and two other charges.

St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez entered his plea in a brief hearing in Ramsey County district court.

Earlier this month, Judge William H. Leary III denied a defense request to drop all charges against Yanez. His attorneys argued that the officer feared for his life when he shot Castile. The trial date is set for May 30.

The controversial shooting case drew national attention. Castile, 32, was pulled over by Yanez and another officer on July 6 for a broken tail light. According to Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, Yanez demanded to see Castile’s license and registration. Castile reached for his wallet and told Yanez that he was armed. The officer opened fire.

In the immediate and emotional aftermath, Reynolds streamed the scene live on Facebook. Her 4-year-old daughter was sitting in the back seat of the car during the shooting.

Local officials later acknowledged that Castile had a permit to carry a weapon.

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An NPR review of court records last year showed that Castile had been stopped 46 times before by police.

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Black Lives Matter Finds 'Renewed Focus' 5 Years After Trayvon Martin

Patrisse Khan-Cullors, cofounder of Black Lives Matters, speaks at a rally in 2015 in Los Angeles.

Marcus Yam/LA Times via Getty Images

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Marcus Yam/LA Times via Getty Images

It’s been five years since the death of Trayvon Martin — and the outrage that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement.

Martin — 17 years old, black and unarmed — was shot by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Fla.

Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. He claimed self-defense, and was later acquitted.

After the verdict, there were demonstrations — and an emotional Facebook post by an activist named Alicia Garza.

It read, in part: “Black people. I love you. I love us. Our lives matter.”

That phrase was streamlined by her friend, Patrisse Khan-Cullors, and with the help of a third friend, Opal Tometi, “black lives matter” became a hashtag, a rallying cry and eventually a protest movement that gained steam after police killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

Since then, much has changed, Khan-Cullors tells NPR’s Audie Cornish.

“In that moment, it wasn’t popular to be in the streets. It wasn’t a part of the mainstream dialogue,” she says. “What we’ve seen over the last five years is the popularization of protest and the willingness of both media but also Hollywood to talk about Black Lives Matter unapologetically.”


Interview Highlights

On whether the movement would have benefited from focusing on a single policy issue

The movement is a decentralized one. Many different people across the country are entering from different angles. We’re not looking for one fix-it policy. We’re taking on our mayors, our chiefs of police, our sheriffs and our DAs. We’re looking at the entire system and the ways that it can transform itself so that we can actually see a world where black lives matter. And I think it’s been incredibly effective.

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On whether Donald Trump’s election felt like a rebuke

I’ll say this: Whenever black people say enough is enough, we are often up against white nationalism. And so what this election showed us is our movement became too powerful and that white nationalism — although (it) has always existed — took power again.

On Trump’s voter base

There are people who are white racists and identify as such. And there are people who are well-meaning white people who also voted for Trump. There also are a significant amount of people of color who voted for Trump. And I think we have to consider what kind of conditions allowed for people who actually believe in American democracy to vote for a Trump.

On what lies ahead for the movement in the Trump era

I see us moving forward with a renewed focus. We have to defend and protect our communities, but we also have to build a long-term strategy to ensure that those who are most at the margins, that we’ll actually be able to build real political power.

To hear more of this interview, click on the audio button.

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SpaceX Announces Plans To Send Two Customers To The Moon

Space X says its Falcon Heavy rocket, shown here in an artist’s rendering, will be used in the mission to the moon.


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Space X

The private company SpaceX has announced it plans to send two passengers on a mission beyond the moon in late 2018.

If the mission goes forward, it would be the “first time humans have traveled beyond low-Earth orbit since the days of Apollo,” as NPR’s Nell Greenfieldboyce told our Newscast unit.

The two private citizens approached the company about the idea and have already paid a sizable deposit, CEO Elon Musk told reporters in a conference call. These private individuals will also bear the cost of the mission.

“I think this should be a really exciting mission that hopefully gets the world really excited about sending people into deep space again,” Musk said. As the company puts it: “This presents an opportunity for humans to return to deep space for the first time in 45 years and they will travel faster and further into the Solar System than any before them.”

The plan for this private mission is to send the two people to loop around the moon and then return to Earth. They will not land on the moon’s surface.

As Nell explained, SpaceX “builds rockets and capsules that have taken cargo to the international space station for NASA.” SpaceX plans to use its Falcon Heavy rocket, which is set to launch its first test flight this summer. Next year, prior to the moon mission, it plans start crewed missions by taking NASA astronauts up to the international space station.

That’s a lot of ground to cover before this mission can take place, as George Washington University’s John Logsdon, an expert in space policy and history, told Nell.

Space X regularly flies and returns cargo capsules like the one pictured here to the International Space Station. Now the company says a modified version could take customers to the moon.


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Chris Thompson/Space X

“Introducing this into the mix raises a fair amount of questions, but it’s an exciting prospect,” Logsdon said. “SpaceX is notorious or notable, depending on how you want to think about it, for setting very ambitious schedules and usually not meeting them.” He added that historically, SpaceX has eventually followed through on what it said it was going to do.

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The moon mission vehicle is designed to be automated, Musk told reporters, but the passengers will be trained in emergency procedures in case there is a problem.

The individuals involved in the mission “are entering with their eyes open knowing that there is some risk here,” Musk said.

SpaceX has seen some recent setbacks, including multiple delays launching and docking a capsule on the international space station earlier this month. They eventually succeeded last week.

SpaceX said other potential customers have also expressed interest and it expected to launch further missions.

And it’s worth noting that this is far from the most ambitious goal that Musk has proposed. Last September, he unveiled plans to colonize Mars by sending at least a million humans there to establish a self-sustaining city.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions Focuses On Violent Crime And Police Morale

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at his swearing in earlier this month. He said Monday he will focus on issues such as violent crime and police morale.

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Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Attorney General Jeff Sessions pledged to devote federal resources to combat violent crime and to shore up morale across the nation’s police departments, on Monday in his first on-the-record briefing as the top U.S. law enforcement officer.

“I’m already hearing from state and local people that they’re concerned about a lack of federal support and leadership” in the face of rising murder rates in some major cities, Sessions told reporters at the Justice Department. “My judgment is this is not a blip and we’re seeing, I’m afraid, a longer term trend of violent crime going up, which is not what we want in America.”

He vowed more consistent prosecution of criminals who carry guns in the course of their crimes, insisting that approach will rid the streets of dangerous people responsible for a spike in violence in some major cities. Criminologists report the overall U.S. violent crime rate remains near record lows, historically.

“If they know they’re going to get popped, they’re going to federal court, they’ll get five years and probably get sent off” far away from their homes, Sessions added.

He praised police and sheriffs’ deputies as “front-line soldiers” in the mission to protect public safety and worried about poor morale and a lack of community engagement in some areas.

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Sessions also addressed a number of ongoing cases and controversies.

*Sessions said he was “not aware” before news reports last week of communications between White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe about the bureau’s ongoing investigation into possible contacts between people with ties to President Trump and Russia. “The FBI and the Department of Justice have to remain independent and they will do so,” Sessions said. “But every contact is not improper.”

*After congressional Democrats called on Sessions to recuse himself from the Russia investigation because of his campaign work for Trump, he told reporters Monday “I would recuse myself on anything I should recuse myself on. That’s all I can tell you.”

*He said he had not read the Obama Justice Department’s scathing reports on unconstitutional policing practices in Ferguson, Mo., or in Chicago, reasoning that he found the summaries “pretty anecdotal.” Sessions said he had not yet decided whether his civil rights division would proceed to negotiate a court-enforceable consent decree with police in Chicago after Obama-era findings there, or abandon the effort.

*He repeated his disdain for drugs, including marijuana. “I don’t think America is going to be a better place when more people are smoking pot,” he said. Sessions said he was studying an Obama-era memo that sets out priorities for federal prosecution in states which have legalized the drug in some form. The attorney general said he met Monday with his counterpart in the state of Nebraska, who expressed concerns about a “big overflow” of marijuana from Colorado, where the drug is legal. “I’m definitely not a fan of expanded use of marijuana,” he said.

*Responding to a spate of bomb threats and and abasements of Jewish centers and cemeteries, Sessions called it “unacceptable behavior” in a diverse nation and said “this Department of Justice will do whatever it can to assist in pushing back on that and prosecuting anybody who’s a part of it.”

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World Cafe Next: Bonny Doon

Bonny Doon’s self-titled debut album comes out in March.

Julia Callis/Courtesy of the artist

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Julia Callis/Courtesy of the artist

  • “Relieved”
  • “I See You”

When you hear that a band is from Detroit, you might expect clever, loose and melodic pop. But Bonny Doon, built around the songwriting duo of Bill Lennox and Bobby Colombo, isn’t descended either from The Stooges‘ hard rock or from Motown. Instead, the band boasts a mix of hazy pop gems that gather strength from Lennox’s sharp lyrics. Bonny Doon released some demos as an EP in 2015 and has a self-titled debut LP coming next month. Hear two songs in the downloadable segment above.

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What's The Environmental Footprint Of A Loaf Of Bread? Now We Know

From field to bakery, a loaf of bread packs a measurable environmental punch.

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Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

When it comes to climate change, we often think of the cars we drive and the energy we use in our homes and offices. They are after all, some of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. But what about the toast you ate for breakfast this morning?

A new study published Monday in Nature Plants breaks down the environmental cost of producing a loaf of bread, from wheat field to bakery. It finds that the bulk of the associated greenhouse gas emissions come from just one of the many steps that go into making that loaf: farming.

The study was conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Sheffield, in the U.K. They wanted to understand the environmental impacts of the entire life cycle of a common staple. They chose bread and they used a “real-world supply chain,” says Liam Goucher, the lead author of the study and a research fellow at the Grantham Center for Sustainable Futures at the University of Sheffield. “We focused on a specific farm, which was in Lincoln, in the U.K., and we focused on a specific mill and a specific [commercial] bakery.”

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They collected and analyzed data for emissions involved at every step of the process, including growing the wheat, fertilizing it, harvesting the crop, transporting the grains to the mill, grinding the grains into flour, transporting the flour to a bakery and then baking and packaging a loaf of bread. Scientists call this a life cycle analysis.

Many stages were energy intensive and involved with emissions — for example, the machinery involved with tilling the soil, harvesting, and irrigation, or the electricity required to operate the mill and the bakery. But the vast majority of emissions – nearly 66 percent – came from growing wheat.

“We found that over half of the environmental impacts of producing a loaf of bread come from wheat cultivation,” says Goucher. “The interesting thing is that 40 percent is attributable just to the use of ammonium nitrate fertilizers alone, which is a huge amount, when you consider it.” The fertilizers also cause a lot of water pollution when they run off into streams and rivers.

A farmer sprays a chemical fertilizer containing nitrogen on a wheat field in southern France. Nitrogen fertilizers are a known source of greenhouse gases and a water pollution all over the world.

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Remy Gabalda/AFP/Getty Images

Globally, agriculture is thought to contribute about one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions. That includes the emissions from deforestation to create farmlands. And we also know about the emissions involved in manufacturing fertilizers (an energy-intensive process) and their use on farms. Farmers typically use more fertilizers than they need to, and not all nitrogen in the fertilizers is used up by plants. Some of the nitrogen goes back into the atmosphere as nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas.

What is new about the study, says Goucher, is that it breaks down the emissions at every step, so that we can figure out which steps to focus on to reduce emissions.

“It kind of points to the fact that if you want to reduce the climate impact of food production, we need to think of fertilizer manufacturing and fertilizer application as one place where we have big leverage to reduce climate impact,” says Navin Ramankutty, a professor at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, who was not involved in the study. There are known ways to reduce use of nitrogen fertilizers, like applying fertilizers only at certain times of the growing season, when plants need them the most.

The study is “very interesting, very complete,” says James Galloway, an expert on nitrogen cycles at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, who was not involved in the new study. “This is exactly the kind of thing that should be done with other food commodities.”

Galloway says it would be even more useful to do such analysis on animal products like beef and pork, which we know are bigger sources of greenhouse gas emissions. “That would have interesting results and would be even more useful if you’re going to ask the question, ‘What can society do about the issue?’ ” he adds. “This type of analysis would generate very well the take-home message that if you only eat the amount of protein you’re supposed to eat, as opposed to over-consumption, you would decrease the environmental footprint.”

In the future, this kind of analysis could be used to create a market for foods with lower emissions, says Ramankutty. The way to do that is by “asking consumers to vote with their money,” he says.

If for example, customers demand “climate smart bread,” then bakeries would have to prove that their bread uses less energy than the average loaf. Bakeries can in turn influence the supply chain. “They can go back to the farmer and say, ‘can you use less fertilizer, or use organic fertilizer?’ ” Ramankutty says. That could become a productive way to make sure that the food we eat has a smaller climate impact, he adds.

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Leif Vollebekk On World Cafe

Leif Vollebekk performs at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia.

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Cameron Pollack/WXPN

  • “All Night Sedans”
  • “Elegy”
  • “Vancouver Time”

For someone whose music evokes a nighttime Nick Drake drenched in blue, Leif Vollebekk has a surprisingly light sense of humor. It’s on full display in this World Cafe session, and so are his warm bath of a voice, his fluid command of synths and guitar and his thoughtful poetry. Here, Vollebekk performs songs from his third full-length album, Twin Solitude, the follow-up to 2013’s North Americana. It’s an invitation to travel — to the cobblestones of old Montreal on a bicycle, to the expanse of Montana in the back of a family car, to the Pacific coast in Vancouver, to Iceland, to Paris — and to the darkest corners of your heart. Hear the complete segment in the player above.

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Reality Check: Trump Proposal Doesn't Cover Major Military Expansion

In this Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017 photo, a shipyard worker walks to his car at the end of the workday at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine. With Donald Trump demanding more ships, the Navy is proposing the biggest shipbuilding boom since the end of the Cold War to meet potential threats from Russia and China.

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Robert F. Bukaty/AP

President Trump’s initial budget proposal isn’t enough to expand the military in the way he proposed.

Trump campaigned on the need to add tens of thousands more troops to the Army and Marine Corps, field a Navy with 350 warships or more and also to upgrade the Air Force. The $54 billion he’s seeking to increase the Defense Department budget this year would represent a funding boost — but not one that would pay for an expansion on the scale Trump endorsed.

In fact, not only might Trump’s proposed Pentagon budget not expand American power, it falls short of plugging some gaps in the current force, critics say.

“The administration will have to make clear which problems facing our military they are choosing not to fix,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, who issued a statement faulting the White House’s “low budget number.”

Thornberry, whose committee oversees the military and who is a top advocate for the defense establishment, said he thought increasing military spending should not be part of the politics of cuts to other functions of government.

“We cannot make repairing and rebuilding our military conditional on fixing our budget problems or on cutting other spending,” he said. “We owe it to the men and women who serve and to the American people to protect our nation’s security under all circumstances.”

Thornberry’s counterpart in the Senate, Arizona Republican John McCain, complained that Trump’s proposal is “a mere 3 percent above President Obama’s defense budget, which has left our military underfunded, undersized and unready.”

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Actually getting the money to the Pentagon depends on the approval of Congress, which would also have to waive or lift Obama-era spending limits. And the practical effects would depend on how any additional money was directed.

The Navy, for example, typically gets about $18 billion per year for the account it uses to build ships. If Trump’s proposed $54 billion were theoretically split three ways, one for each of the military departments within the Defense Department, that works out to an $18 billion boost for the entire Department of the Navy, including the Navy and the Marine Corps. The Navy Department requested nearly $165 billion in its most recent budget.

The White House could propose specific priorities when it releases its full budget, and supporters argue that Trump must start somewhere.

“The president’s budget is a down payment on fixing the problem,” said Kim McIntyre, a spokeswoman for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that praised the budget guidance. “There is bipartisan recognition that the military is already in a readiness crisis with too many, ships, planes and vehicles unavailable for the force.”

The deputy chiefs of the military services warned Thornberry’s committee about this problem earlier in February. For example, Assistant Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Glenn Walters said about 80 percent of the Marines’ aviation units are short the minimum number of aircraft they need for training or deployments. A lack of spare parts and the need for repairs has taken hundreds of aircraft, from helicopters to fighters, out of action.

At the same time, however, the Marines are fielding advanced, brand new warplanes, including the F-35B Lightning II fighter and the MV-22 Osprey transport. Tens of thousands of American troops continue to deploy overseas for the fight against the Islamic State or the Taliban and to take assignments around the globe.

The vast scale of the U.S. military means it includes both extremes of advanced and antiquated hardware; some units in combat daily, others unready to deploy. The Air Force flies B-52 bombers built in the early 1960s on missions today over Syria attacking the Islamic State.

Pentagon leaders say they still wield the most powerful military force on Earth. Trump focuses on what he calls the “depletion.”

“This budget will be a public safety and national security budget,” Trump told governors at the White House on Monday. “And it will include a historic increase in defense spending to rebuild the depleted military of the United States of America at a time we most need it.”

White House officials say that Trump would cover the additional Pentagon funding by cutting the non-defense budgets of other Cabinet departments, and also reduce spending on foreign aid. But those details are not yet clear and precise numbers won’t be made public for several more weeks.

Trump has not released a detailed proposal for how he’d expand the military beyond the general statements he’s made supporting a larger force and more nuclear weapons. That means there is no solid estimate for the costs involved above the current Pentagon budget, but based on the costs of the current force, the price tag would likely reach many more billions of dollars.

Past administrations have released a future-years defense plan along with each new budget submission that signaled what they intended to propose beyond the immediate budget they were releasing. If Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis issue one when this year’s budget comes out, it could include more clues about a potential big expansion to the military.

But Trump has already shown his commitments are not condition-free. In fact, he has hectored aerospace titans Lockheed Martin and Boeing over what he called the unreasonable costs to some of their ongoing programs — Lockheed’s F-35 and Boeing’s replacement for the Air Force’s presidential aircraft.

The Washington defense establishment is waiting to see whether that scrutiny continues — or expands.

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