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BirdNote: Diving Birds – Below the Surface

KPLU News - 2 hours 45 min ago

By December, an array of diving birds that nested at far northern latitudes are wintering on temperate waters across the continent.

If we could watch them under water, we'd see this Common Loon racing like a torpedo. A goldeneye dives under water and swims about 10 feet from the surface, while scoters get down to 30 feet in search of clams and mussels.

But if one bird stands out as the most beautiful diver, it has to be the Long-tailed duck. Propelling itself beneath the surface with its wings, it seems to fly through the water, sometimes to depths of more than 60 feet!

Milwaukee Prosecutor Won't Seek Charges In Police Shooting

KPLU News - 3 hours 4 min ago
Eight months after a police officer shot and killed a black man whom he had been trying to search as the man slept, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm says the officer acted in self-defense.

The incident occurred in a Milwaukee park at around 4 in the afternoon. Officer Christopher Manney, who is white, was trying to frisk Dontre Hamilton, as he slept.

Pope Francis, At Christmas Gathering, Blasts Vatican's Bureaucrats

KPLU News - 3 hours 54 min ago
Pope Francis has blasted the Vatican's top bureaucrats at an annual Christmas gathering, accusing the cardinals, bishops and priests who make up the Curia of "spiritual Alzheimer's" and and lusting for power at all costs.

"Sometimes, [officials of the Curia] feel themselves lords of the manor – superior to everyone and everything," Francis told the Curia's assembled members, according to Vatican Radio, which carried a report of the meeting titled "Pope Francis: Christmas greetings to Cu

Tunisian Election Puts Former Regime Figure In Presidency

KPLU News - 4 hours 17 min ago
A tense runoff election in Tunisia, birthplace of the Arab Spring in 2011, has ended with a win for Beji Caid Essebsi, a veteran of the country's autocratic regimes. Essebsi defeated interim leader Moncef Marzouki.

Affiliated with the secular-leaning Nidaa Tounes (Tunisia Calls) party, Essebsi won Tunisia's first democratic presidential election by taking more than 55 percent of the vote.

NYC Police Deaths: Details On Suspect; Rift Between Mayor And Police

KPLU News - 4 hours 24 min ago
New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton says tensions in the city are at their worst since the 1970s. Bratton spoke two days after Ismaaiyl Brinsley shot and killed two police officers in New York.

Spain's Princess Cristina To Stand Trial On Tax Fraud Charges

KPLU News - 5 hours 5 min ago
Spain's Princess Cristina, sister of King Felipe VI, will stand trial on charges of tax fraud, becoming the country's first royal in modern times to face prosecution.

The allegations stem from Cristina de Borbon's alleged links to her husband's business affairs between 2007 and 2008.

As we reported in June, a Spanish judge charged Cristina on tax fraud and money laundering charges.

The 5 Business Stories That Made 2014 A Memorable Year

KPLU News - 5 hours 58 min ago
As the year's end approaches, economists are looking back and assessing the news stories that shaped 2014.

Though their lists may vary, most analysts are pointing to five developments that had very big impacts on the U.S. economy. These were the biggies for 2014:

Oil Prices Plunge

No one saw this one coming. When 2014 began, a barrel of crude oil was selling for about $110. It hovered there until late spring, when the price ticked up to nearly $115.

And then, down, down, down went oil.

Calling U.S. A 'Cesspool,' North Korea Warns Against Escalation

KPLU News - 6 hours 42 min ago
"The "whole U.S. mainland" would be under threat of attack if America seeks vengeance for last month's Sony hacking, North Korea says. An official at its defense commission called the U.S.

Wash. Class Size Reduction Plan As Tough To Fund As It Is To Repeal

KPLU News - 6 hours 45 min ago

Supporters of a sweeping plan to reduce K-12 class sizes in Washington public schools cheered its passage in November, hailing it as not only an opportunity for schools to hire badly-needed staff but also as a chance for the state to fix a broken revenue system.

Yet Initiative 1351 has landed with a thud in Olympia. The Senate's GOP leadership will attempt to garner the votes to suspend the class-size initiative. Top House Democrats say they can't cover its massive $2 billion price tag. And the budget Gov. Jay Inslee released Thursday only covers a portion of it.

But Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn warned last week this chilly reception won't satisfy Washington state Supreme Court justices, who've already held lawmakers in contempt over school funding.

Two Actors Playing Opposite Real-Life Spouses In 'A Christmas Story: The Musical'

KPLU News - 6 hours 45 min ago

Seattle actors Jessica Skerritt and Dane Stokinger have played opposite one another before. There was the time last year in Arizona, when they were in a production of “Xanadu, the Musical.” He played some roller-skating guy and she played some sort of Greek goddess.

They actually met in a production at Village Theater; he played Elvis and she his girlfriend. But for the first time, the two are playing what they are in real life: husband and wife.

Marysville Pilchuck Families Access State Fund To Cope With School Shooting Aftermath

KPLU News - 6 hours 45 min ago

It’s been nearly two months since the deadly shooting at Marysville Pilchuck High School. Five students died, including the 15-year-old gunman.

Since then, 68 families have turned to the state of Washington for financial help to deal with the tragedy. They've received $23,000 from Washington’s Crime Victim Compensation Fund.

An Update On LA's iPad Program

KPLU News - 7 hours 22 min ago
NPR Ed is updating some of the top stories we've been following in 2014.

Nuns On The Ranch Give A Heavenly Twist To Beef

KPLU News - 11 hours 25 sec ago
Many beer aficionados are familiar with the rare breweries run by Trappist monks. The beer is highly sought after, but it's not the only food or drink made by a religious order. Many abbeys and convents have deep roots in agriculture, combining farm work with prayer.

Just five miles south of the Colorado-Wyoming border you'll find one of these places. Idyllic red farm buildings sit in the shadow of the main abbey, all tucked in a stony valley.

Heating New England Homes: The Good And Bad News

KPLU News - 11 hours 1 min ago
Falling oil prices are perhaps nowhere more welcome than in northern New England, where most homes burn heating oil in their furnaces. But cheaper heating oil is refilling consumer's pockets just as high electric prices are emptying them out.

For example, a heating oil truck delivers 600 gallons of heating oil every two weeks to an old, four-story brick building in Concord, N.H. At last year's oil prices, each refill would have cost around $2,200.

A Family's Long Search For Fragile X Drug Finds Frustration, Hope

KPLU News - 11 hours 2 min ago
For a few weeks last year, Michael Tranfaglia and Katie Clapp saw a remarkable change in their son, Andy, who'd been left autistic and intellectually disabled by Fragile X syndrome. Andy, who is 25, became more social, more talkative, and happier. "He was just doing incredibly well," his father says.

The improvements came while Andy was taking an experimental drug — a drug made possible by the efforts of his parents.

Jay Thomas & Friends Concert At SAM On Jazz Northwest

KPLU News - Sun, 12/21/2014 - 15:00

An all-star sextet led by saxophonist and trumpeter Jay Thomas is featured in highlights from an Art of Jazz concert at The Seattle Art Museum on Jazz Northwest.  The group played jazz classics ranging from Miles Davis in the 50s to an original by Jay Thomas.  

The Whiteness Project: Facing Race In A Changing America

KPLU News - Sun, 12/21/2014 - 14:24
The voices in the Whiteness Project vary by gender, age and income, but they all candidly express what it is like to be white in an increasingly diverse country.

"I don't feel that personally I've benefited from being white. That's because I grew up relatively poor," a participant shared.

Celebrating Hanukkah In A Palestinian City

KPLU News - Sun, 12/21/2014 - 14:24
Amelia Wolf, an American Jewish college student, was living in the Palestinian city of Ramallah when the holiday of Hanukkah rolled around last year.

She liked the Palestinian family that was hosting her in the West Bank, but she felt a little lonely. She wasn't going to celebrate in Israel, where she had friends and relatives, as she had other Jewish holidays.

And in Ramallah, she didn't think it would be a good idea to put a holiday menorah in the window, in line with Jewish tradition.

Man Who Killed Officers Told Passersby: 'Watch What I Am Going To Do'

KPLU News - Sun, 12/21/2014 - 14:12
The gunman who ambushed and killed two officers in a Brooklyn neighborhood of New York on Saturday told passersby moments before the shooting to "watch what I am about to do," a senior police official says.

NYPD Director of Investigations Robert Boyce, speaking at an afternoon news conference about the killings that have rocked the city, says the shooter, identified as Ismaaiyl Brinsley, briefly spoke to two people on the street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area wher

Kurdish Forces Push Offensive To Retake Sinjar From ISIS

KPLU News - Sun, 12/21/2014 - 13:00
Kurdish fighters, supported by coalition warplanes, pushed into the town of Sinjar in northern Iraq, days after breaking a siege of a mountain where ethnic Yazidis had been trapped for months by Islamist extremists.

Massoud Barzani, an Iraqi Kurdish leader claimed his peshmerga forces had already taken a "large area" of the town of Sinjar, which has been held since August by fighters of the so-called Islamic State.

NPR's Deborah Amos reports that breaking the months-long siege of Moun