IAEA Report Reveals Iran Once Had Nuclear Weapons Program

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s latest report on Iran concludes that it once had a nuclear weapons program. NPR explores the implications of the findings for the current nuclear deal with Iran.

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.

'Active Shooter' Situation Reported In San Bernardino, Calif.

Law enforcement agencies are responding to reports of an active shooter in San Bernardino, Calif.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department posted on its Twitter account that there is an “active shooter in the area of Orange Show Rd/ Waterman Ave near Park center.” The department was warning people to avoid the area

.@SanBernardinoPD has confirmed an active shooter in the area of Orange Show Rd/ Waterman Ave near Park center. #SBCSD assisting.

— SB County Sheriff (@sbcountysheriff) December 2, 2015

NPR’s Dina Temple-Raston reports that the FBI is on the scene.

This is a developing story. Some things that get reported by the media will later turn out to be wrong. We will focus on reports from police officials and other authorities, credible news outlets and reporters who are at the scene. We will update as the situation develops.

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.

Cameroon's Military Says It Has Freed 900 Hostages From Boko Haram

Cameroonian soldiers stand guard at a lookout post on Feb. 25 as they take part in operations against the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram in northern Cameroon, near the border with Nigeria.

Cameroonian soldiers stand guard at a lookout post on Feb. 25 as they take part in operations against the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram in northern Cameroon, near the border with Nigeria. Edwin Kindzeka Moki/AP hide caption

toggle caption Edwin Kindzeka Moki/AP

Cameroon’s military says it has killed more than 100 members of Boko Haram, and freed more than 900 people who had been held hostage by the militant Islamists.

The news, which is difficult to independently verify, came in a statement from Cameroon’s defense minister, Joseph Beti Assomo.

“The statement says during the sweep last week, from Nov 26 to 28, Cameroonian troops also … recovered a large stock of weaponry and black and white Islamic State flags,” NPR’s Ofeibea Quist-Arcton tells our Newscast unit. “Few details were forthcoming about those reportedly freed.”

The military gains reportedly came during a special clean-up operation in Cameroon’s north, near the border with Nigeria, Ofeibea says. The militant group is based in Nigeria, and Cameroon has been working to prevent incursions across that border.

Cameroonian troops are also part of a regional force — 8,700 strong, according to Reuters, with troops from Chad, Niger Nigeria and Benin — trying to defeat Boko Haram.

It’s unclear whether last week’s reported success was the result of a coordinated strike, according to Reuters.

“Cameroon’s army spokesman said its forces acted with the backing of the regional task force, which became operational in August but has yet to launch joint raids,” the wire service reports. “However, an army officer in Nigeria, which is leading the force, denied knowledge of the operation.”

It’s also not clear whether any of the 200 schoolgirls seized last year in Nigeria were among the freed hostages, Reuters notes.

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.

Too Much TV And Chill Could Reduce Brain Power Over Time

More than three hours a day could mean brain fade by middle age.

More than three hours a day could mean brain fade by middle age. Raoul Minsart/Masterfile/Corbis hide caption

toggle caption Raoul Minsart/Masterfile/Corbis

When I kick back to watch a show, I tell myself I’m just going to watch one episode. But 45 minutes later, I’m watching another. And then another. For the rest of the day. And all that TV and chilling might be hurting my brain functions.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco checked in with 3,247 people for 25 years, starting when they were young adults. Every five years, they asked participants to estimate how much TV they watched daily. Every two to five years, the researchers looked at how much physical exercise people got. At the end of the 25 years, when the participants were in their 40s and 50s, they all took three tests that measured their memory, focus, and mental and physical quickness.

People who got little exercise or watched at least three hours of TV a day did worse on tests measuring cognitive focus and speed than those who got more exercise or watched less TV, according to the study, published in JAMA Psychiatry on Wednesday.

“Then people who had both low physical activity and high TV had even worse performance. It was an even bigger effect,” says Dr. Kristine Yaffe, a psychiatrist at UCSF and senior author on the study.

Some of that loss of brain power could be because just sitting around motionless isn’t very good for us. Scientists have known that lack of physical exercise could be a big risk factor in cognitive decline, says Marcus Richards, a psychologist at the University College London who was not involved in the study. “But we don’t know much about sedentary behavior [and cognition] right now,” he says. If people who spend a lot of time binge-watching TV are doing so half-comatose on a cushion, they might not be doing their brain any favors.

Or perhaps it’s something about TV watching itself, Yaffe thinks. “Is it because by watching a lot of TV, you’re not challenging your brain?”

Yaffe’s team didn’t look at whether people were watching smart, intellectual documentaries or mind-numbing shows like The Bachelor or The Apprentice for over three hours daily.

“Some TV shows can be cognitively stimulating, and there’s some evidence that cognitively stimulating activities can be protective and beneficial,” says Margie Lachman, a psychologist at Brandeis University who was not involved in the study. Perhaps some content is better for your brain than others.

The study wasn’t able to test the participant’s cognitive function when they were young adults, either. It’s possible that people who score lower on the tests are more likely to watch more TV than the other way around.

“People with low cognitive function perhaps are less likely to engage in physical activity, and maybe more likely to engage in sedentary behaviors,” Lachman says. Similarly, other studies have found that binge-watching TV is more common among depressed people, but that doesn’t mean it causes depression.

In either case, Yaffe says the decline in people’s cognition speed and focus, while significant, wasn’t huge – certainly not enough to affect someone’s daily life. “The question is what does it mean if you’re 50 and you’ve got these slight changes? Does it mean you’re on a path to greater changes down the line or does not make a difference? I don’t think we really know the answer to that.”

But Richards says it’s reasonable to think the gap in cognitive function between high-volume TV watchers and infrequent watchers might widen over the years. For some, the early decline in cognitive functioning could become serious later in life. “As the cohort ages, you would expect that rate of decline to become rather more rapid, with some people moving into clinical outcomes like dementia,” he says.

In the past, researchers have noticed that physical exercise might help protect against Alzheimer’s or dementia later in life. Perhaps exercise could counteract all that TV, too. But if you’re watching something trashy and can’t get off the couch, maybe just, you know, go read a book.

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.

From 'Lost' To 'Leftovers', Show Creators Embrace Ambiguity And The Unknown

Justin Theroux (shown with Darby Camp) deals with the grief and mystery of being left behind in season 2 of the HBO series, The Leftovers.
36:17

Download

Justin Theroux (shown with Darby Camp) deals with the grief and mystery of being left behind in season 2 of the HBO series, The Leftovers. Van Redin/HBO hide caption

toggle caption Van Redin/HBO

Damon Lindelof, the creator of the TV series Lost, has always been drawn to supernatural storytelling. As he explains to Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, he is particularly interested “real-world stories where the supernatural can and often does occur.”

“The question that has fascinated me the most — and I’m sure I’m not alone in this — is what happens when you die?” Lindelof says. “I think that the storytelling that I’m interested in is really talking about death and loss and grief.”

Death, loss and grief are all central themes in Lindelof’s HBO series, The Leftovers. Now in its second season, the show is based on a novel by Tom Perrotta, which tells the story of those left behind after 140 million people mysteriously disappear from Earth in an event known as the “Great Departure.”

Perrotta, who co-created the show and who joins Lindelof for the interview, describes the Departure as an “earth-shattering event,” which leaves the characters scrambling for answers that they may never learn. Perrotta says that it’s this search for understanding that powers the show.

“I think one of the things that The Leftovers has taught me is just how much people need stories, and one of the things they need the stories for is, I think, to alleviate this anxiety of the human condition, which is we just don’t know,” Perrotta says. “We’re still telling each other stories to make it better.”


Interview Highlights

On what they envisioned for season two

Tom Perrotta: The first thing to say is that as we’ve worked on the show over the past two seasons we’ve come to really like the idea that the Departure functions as a kind of foundational event, and that our characters are in a sense living in a religious ground zero. Basically the old religions don’t make sense to them anymore and because this event has a kind of cosmic significance, they are forced to create new religions, and so what we have in this place, the Miracle National Park, is a kind of contemporary American holy land and it’s some combination of Lourdes and Disneyland and Burning Man — we have a whole bunch of contemporary metaphors that we think would be the basis for an American holy land in the making.

This event has happened that basically is unprecedented. 140 million people give or take have disappeared instantaneously. It resembles the Christian rapture but, of course, also makes a mockery of the Christian rapture, because it was random in the way that it worked, so Christians don’t believe that this makes sense within their cosmology. We haven’t really gotten into a whole bunch of other religions, but there’s just a sense in the show that new religions have all the energy and old religions seem bewildered and silent in the face of this literally earth-shattering event.

On why the Book of Job is quoted on the show

Damon Lindelof: Job is an amazingly powerful and mysterious part of the Old Testament, and one that I’ve always been fascinated by and with. … The story of Job, what God does to Job and why, what the moral of the story is, is still something that people are debating, and will continue to debate as long as there are people alive to debate it. …

The question that you want coming out of Job is ‘Why did you do this to me? What was the purpose? Why did you destroy my lands and kill my family and cover me in boils? I still believe in you, I just want to know why.’ And this is the answer, an excerpt of the answer that God gives, which is, if I may annotate, ‘Because. Because I can. And I’m just gonna drop the mic and walk away now.’ That to me feels like an incredibly apt text for The Leftovers.

On Perrotta’s interest in conspiracy theories

Perrotta: My dad was a huge conspiracy — some would say “nut,” I would say “junkie.” … I think that certainly there are other television shows, The X-Files is the one that had a huge profound effect on me and my dad. [We’d] watch it together, because everything that they were talking about was a conspiracy theory, whether they were talking about the idea that aliens had colonized the planet or they were talking about the existence of supernatural phenomenon in biblical times. …

This idea of “What do I believe?” and “How is that belief threatened? Who challenges that idea of belief? Why do we adopt certain systems of belief?” I think the “truther” movement is something that’s really fascinating to me and … the idea of a tragedy like 9/11, for example, where we have a fair amount of very compelling evidence and actual data to corroborate what happened on 9/11, and that there are people who say, “That’s not what happened at all, something else happened,” that is an emotional coping mechanism, because the truth is so unbelievable, it’s so horrific that they would rather believe in the conspiracy. We have characters on The Leftovers who are constantly struggling with this idea.

On Lost fans being mad about the ambiguous ending

Lindelof: I think that the construct of Lost very specifically was a mystery show. That was the bread and butter of that show, and we did it for six years. In many ways, in order to keep telling the story, we had to introduce more and more mysteries beyond the original set of mysteries that were offered in the first season of the show.

But at the same, [co-executive producer] Carleton Cuse and I, we ran the show and had a number of incredibly talented writers with us. We knew that we were building a house of cards that was either going to collapse or we couldn’t service every answer possibly for the audience. And I think that while we understood the engine of the show was a mystery engine, the show that we were much more interested in writing was a show about the sort of emotional relationship between these characters, and not dotting every “i” and crossing every “t”.

In the final season of the show, probably the episodes that were the least effective were the ones that tried to just tick off the answers to these mysteries and didn’t really do the emotional work, because the audience had really come to care about the people on that show.

When I read The Leftovers, which unapologetically basically said, “We are not going to explain to you,” or Tom directly saying, “I’m not going to explain where these people went, what happened to the 2 percent of the vanishees. This book is about people who are living in the aftermath, it is the condition of ambiguity that I am interested in talking about.”

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.

Adele Returns, With A Restrained, Emotionally Controlled '25'

8:17

Download

Rock critic Ken Tucker discusses the British singer’s popularity and her new album, 25. “In a pop world overflowing with singers who want to blow you away, Adele wants to talk with you,” he says.

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.

A Click Too Far: Why Social Media Isn't That Great For Fundraising

There are a lot of ways to donate to a cause online. While social media may help in promotion, it may not be the most effective way to get people to actually give.

There are a lot of ways to donate to a cause online. While social media may help in promotion, it may not be the most effective way to get people to actually give. Tomacco/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Tomacco/Getty Images

You couldn’t look anywhere on Facebook without seeing it: friends, celebrities and complete strangers dumping buckets of ice water to raise awareness of ALS, a neurodegenerative illness also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The 2014 Ice Bucket Challenge ended up raising more than $115 million for ALS research and reached an unprecedented bar for a charity social media campaign — unprecedented and inimitable.

“It was like catching lightning in a bottle,” says Ginny Simmons, who advises advocacy groups and nonprofits on digital strategy at FitzGibbon Media and has been involved in digital fundraising for a decade.

This week, the Web phenomenon of #GivingTuesday has launched us into the fundraising peak of 2015 (aka the tail-end of the tax year) and with it, you’re bound to see some social media fundraising call-outs. But it turns out, while Facebook and other social media sites can be good at putting issues on your radar, they are pretty ineffective at getting people to click away and actually donate.

“It’s useful because people are seeing your issue,” says Michael Ward, a principal at strategy firm M+R that publishes the Benchmark Study, a nonprofit industry guide to online fundraising and advocacy. “But then to actually get them to divert that knowledge into a donation, it really takes other channels, such as email marketing or even direct marketing to close that loop.”

Adobe this week published a review of data the company collected last year from 43 million visits to websites of about two dozen charities and the resulting clicks on their virtual donation buttons. It found that three-quarters of visitors to charity websites arrived there either by doing a Web search or by directly typing in the URL. Only 3 percent of referrals came from social media.

To be sure, even the most successful social media campaigns (like the Ice Bucket Challenge) may not necessarily count as a social media referral in the Adobe Digital Index if people donated after googling “ALS Association” instead of following a link directly from the group’s Facebook page.

But the Adobe findings also echoed the results of a Red Cross survey also done in 2014, which found that online solicitations and engagements helped sway people to donate; however, people didn’t report them to be as motivational as in-person asks or emails and direct mail, which remain the bread and butter of fundraising.

The issue strikes a chord with the digital fundraising experts I interviewed. They say charities, advocacy groups and political campaigns are naturally captivated by the promise of the booming social networks, but the payout realities are far more complicated.

“Social is something that everyone keeps trying,” says Simmons, “but in terms of a fundraising success, it’s not an easy straight line.”

The reason is pretty simple: When people are scrolling through posts, say, on Facebook, it’s incredibly rare for them to decide to click away to some outside website — let alone an outside website that’s asking for their credit card information.

“It’s an all-inclusive environment, kind of like a resort,” says Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst with Adobe Digital Index. “When you walk in the door and everything is paid-for, why would you want to walk out and get dinner at some other restaurant?”

In fact, it’s a challenge faced by the commercial world: Gaffney says Adobe’s analysis found that only 2 percent of referrals to shopping websites come from social media. Truth is, all of it is still a pretty new frontier, so the companies and the charities are both feeling their way through, finding some approaches that do work and others that don’t.

One is crowdfunding and what’s known as peer-to-peer fundraising. Those are the kind of financial appeals that come from friends and other humans instead of organizations and typically ask for small sums of money — and they tend to connect with people on a personal level.

Similarly, Simmons said people posting about donations can go a long way: “The times when you do see social play a role with fundraising is when people want to make a statement about their fundraising.”

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.

How Mark Zuckerberg Wants To Change Education With $45 Billion

In this Nov. 9, 2014 file photo, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg arrive at the 2nd Annual Breakthrough Prize Award Ceremony at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif. Zuckerberg and Chan have announced they will be donating 99 percent of their Facebook shares - currently valued at more than $45 billion - to charitable purposes. (Peter Barreras/Invision/AP)

In this Nov. 9, 2014 photo, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg arrive at the 2nd Annual Breakthrough Prize Award Ceremony at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif. Zuckerberg and Chan have announced they will be donating 99 percent of their Facebook shares – currently valued at more than $45 billion – to charitable purposes. (Peter Barreras/Invision/AP)

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook co-founder and CEO, announced Tuesday that he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, will be giving 99 percent of their Facebook shares – currently valued at more than $45 billion – to charitable purposes.

The couple plans to give over the course of their lifetimes through the newly founded Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a limited liability corporate structure; notably, not a non-profit. They plan to focus their initial efforts on curing disease, connecting people with technology and “personalized learning.”

What is personalized learning? Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson speaks with Diane Tavenner, the head of Summit Public Schools, a system of charter schools that partnered with Facebook in September, in part because it specializes in personalized learning.

Guest

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.

Britain Debates Syrian Airstrikes

British Prime Minister David Cameron departs Number 10 Downing Street on December 2, 2015 in London, England. British MPs are expected to vote tonight on whether to back UK airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Syria, following a 10-hour long House of Commons debate. (Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)

British Prime Minister David Cameron departs Number 10 Downing Street on December 2, 2015 in London, England. British MPs are expected to vote tonight on whether to back UK airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Syria, following a 10-hour long House of Commons debate. (Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)

Two years ago, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron lost a parliamentary vote for airstrikes in Syria. After the Paris attacks, he’s trying again. Today, the House of Commons is debating that request, which Cameron says is necessary to protect the United Kingdom.

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party opposes the airstrikes. Corbyn favors efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Syrian civil war, which now includes ISIS and Russia on the battlefield.

The BBC’s Rob Watson joins Here & Now‘s Indira Lakshmanan with the latest from London.

Note: This BBC interview can be heard in the Here & Now podcast or with the WBUR app.

Guest

  • Rob Watson, U.K. political correspondent for BBC World Service. He tweets @robwatsonbbc.

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.

Spanish Court Strikes Down Catalonia's Push For Independence

Demonstrators show support for Catalan independence during a protest last week in Barcelona. Spain's Constitutional Court has now ruled that a Nov. 9 declaration of independence by Catalan's regional parliament is unconstitutional.

Demonstrators show support for Catalan independence during a protest last week in Barcelona. Spain’s Constitutional Court has now ruled that a Nov. 9 declaration of independence by Catalan’s regional parliament is unconstitutional. Emilio Morenatti/AP hide caption

toggle caption Emilio Morenatti/AP

Spain’s highest court has halted a push for independence by the northeastern region of Catalonia, ruling Wednesday that secession would be unconstitutional.

From Madrid, Lauren Frayer told NPR’s Newscast unit that the decision, which was widely expected, came unusually quickly:

“In its ruling, Spain’s Constitutional Court affirmed the country’s unity — and said, therefore, Catalonia can’t declare independence, secede, and divide the country.”

On Nov. 9, as we reported, the Catalan regional parliament approved a plan to split from Spain within 18 months, and declared that decisions taken by Spain’s government, including rulings by the courts, are no longer valid.

“Catalans are split about 50-50 over whether to break away from Spain,” Lauren says. “But their regional parliament is dominated by separatists.”

The secession vote was quickly challenged by Spain’s center-right government, and government officials Wednesday praised the Constitutional Court’s ruling.

In Spain as a whole, secession remains unpopular, and the controversy has become a factor in the upcoming national elections, The Financial Times reported recently. It adds:

“The latest escalation comes less than a month before Spain’s general election, which has added to the already febrile atmosphere among political leaders in Madrid and Barcelona.

“Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s conservative prime minister, is hoping to sway undecided voters by presenting himself as a committed defender of Spanish unity — and by tapping into the rising anti-Catalan sentiment in the rest of the country.”

Rajoy welcomed the Constitutional Court’s ruling.

“The immense majority of Spaniards who believe in Spain, national sovereignty and the equality of Spaniards will be very pleased,” he said in a speech.

A spokesman for the Catalan government, Francesc Homs, dismissed the ruling as biased, and said it was a big error to attempt to resolve the conflict through the courts.

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.