NPR News & Stories From WUNC

Lawyers filed a class action lawsuit on Tuesday against the company that operates the gas pipelines linked to a rash of explosions and fires that rocked the Massachusetts towns of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover last week.

The complaint, which names Columbia Gas and its parent company, NiSource, as defendants, alleges "antiquated" gas lines in unsafe conditions caused the over-pressurization of the system, leading to "catastrophic consequences."

Tesla said on Tuesday it was complying with a Justice Department request for documents, in connection with Chief Executive Elon Musk's announcement that he was taking the publicly traded company private.

The Trump administration is proposing to roll back another Obama-era energy regulation, this time one that aimed to curb methane leaks from oil and gas operations on tribal and public lands.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Consumers may not link tariffs and higher prices

2 hours ago

How much do you pay attention to fluctuations in the prices of stuff you buy? There are new tariffs coming on some $200 billion worth of goods from China. They'll start with a 10 percent tariff Monday and climb to a 25 percent tariff in the new year. Today, China immediately promised to retaliate with tariffs on $60 billion worth of American goods. Tit for tat and all that.

Click the audio player above to hear the full story. 

New life was breathed into a perennial debate this week, when a former Sesame Street writer revealed that not only did he consider beloved characters Bert and Ernie to be a gay couple, but he used his own relationship as creative inspiration.

On Sunday, Queerty published an interview with Mark Saltzman, who worked on the show in the 1980s and 90s, asking him if he thought of Bert and Ernie as a gay couple.

There is one very large muscle in my forehead that begins to twitch uncontrollably in the presence of injustice. It may have just aged my face five years in as many months, and it will be guaranteed a regular workout for the next four years.

If you can spare a few spasms of your own, I'd like to tell you about a particularly twitchy morning I recently spent, as I often do, in a Boston courtroom handling the cases of immigrant detainees.

Updated at 9:29 p.m. ET

Attorneys for Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assaulting her at a high school party when they were teenagers more than three decades ago, told Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley that an FBI investigation should be "the first step in addressing her allegations."

Floodwaters keep rising in the Carolinas as post-Tropical Storm Florence continues to dump rain on the region. The dangerous storm has already left more than 30 dead and displaced thousands of others, leaving them without electricity or shelter.

In the aftermath of Florence, North and South Carolina officials are encouraging people to volunteer or donate if they can. Here's a guide to how to help.

Why give cash

Facebook became embroiled in another controversy Tuesday, after the American Civil Liberties Union accused the company of giving employers a powerful tool to discriminate against women seeking work.

The complaint alleges that Facebook allowed employers to target job ads exclusively to men — that "they're profiting from thousands of ads that are being hidden from women," civil rights lawyer Peter Romer-Friedman of Outten & Golden told NPR.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

It's use-it-or-lose-it season in Washington

4 hours ago

Congress is making some progress on spending bills for fiscal year 2019, which starts October first. But, while lawmakers fight over next year's budget, federal agencies are still struggling to  spend all the money they got this year, because what they don't use by the end of the month, Congress takes back. So cue the September spending spree, which has become so routine, many agencies plan for it. Up to a point, anyway. 

Updated at 6:05 p.m. ET

President Trump issued his most forceful defense yet of his embattled Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters during a press conference with Poland's president, Trump called Kavanaugh "a great man" and said that he feels "terribly" for the federal appeals court judge and his family.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday insisted that many donations to predominantly conservative political nonprofit groups — what's often called dark money — be disclosed, seven weeks ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

The ruling closes, at least for now, a loophole that has allowed wealthy donors to finance aggressive ads while staying anonymous. Crafted by the Federal Election Commission nearly 40 years ago, the loophole flourished after the 2010 Citizens United ruling.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The United States' commitment to global development does not look good compared with that of other wealthy countries — and it's likely to get worse.

As former hurricane Florence marches on to New England, the Carolinas remain inundated with waters that just keep rising.

"I know for many people this feels like a nightmare that just won't end. I know many people are tired of the present and are scared of the future," North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday, The Associated Press reports. "But please know we will not give up on you."

The fastest human to ride a bicycle over open ground is named Denise Mueller-Korenek, who rode a custom bike at an average of 183.932 miles per hour – shattering a world record that had stood since 1995.

Mueller-Korenek, 45, set the new record for fastest speed riding in a slipstream, teaming up with Shea Holbrook, a professional race car driver who piloted a dragster that led the cyclist across the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

With a couple of clicks, a quotidian moment can take on a viral life of its own — captured and shared, context lost, shaped by whatever viewers project onto the images.

That's what happened to Anthony Torres, 56.

On Thursday evening, Torres was caught on video shaving his face while sitting aboard a New Jersey Transit train headed out of New York City. Video also showed him with a beer.

82: This is your brain on VR

6 hours ago

Decades after it was first introduced, virtual reality finally feels like it’s on the precipice of enormous potential. And it’s not all entertainment — VR could change the way we go to work, communicate with loved ones or train ourselves to deal with difficult situations. But that got one of our listeners wondering: Who’s thinking about the drawbacks? We put that to Jeremy Bailenson. He’s the founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab. He’s a big proponent of VR and yes, he’s been pondering the scary stuff we haven’t even thought of.

When Linda Kay Klein was 13, she joined an evangelical church that prized sexual "purity" and taught that men and boys were sexually weak.

According to Klein's faith, girls and women were responsible for keeping male sexual desire in check by wearing modest clothing, maintaining a sexless mind and body and taking a "purity pledge," in which they promised to remain virgins until marriage.

Farmers across the southeastern part of North Carolina are just starting to report details about the hit they've taken from Hurricane Florence. The rain is over, but rivers still are rising, and the full picture of damage to farms and the surrounding environment probably won't be known for weeks.

Paris has upped the scatological stakes, releasing a quirky new viral video called "Pas Pipi Dans Paris" or "Don't Pee In Paris."

If city government getting all up in one's bathroom business already seems a bit out there, the video ups the weirdness factor by beaucoup. It features French YouTube humorist Swann Périssé and others singing, dancing and um, going, assisted by all sorts of toilet paraphernalia.

Editor's note: This story was originally published in 2017 and has been republished with updates.

For Rosh Hashana, more than 350 members of Uganda's Namutumba Synagogue dressed in white, chanted their prayers and feasted on a slaughtered cow to mark the beginning of a new Jewish year last week.

"We are so happy that we entered the new year with such joy and happiness," said Namutumba's spiritual leader Shadrach Mugoya Levi by telephone from Uganda.

Rice University is "dramatically expanding" its financial aid offerings, promising full scholarships to undergrads whose families have incomes under $130,000. The school says it wants to reduce student debt — and make it easier for students from low-income families to attend.

"Talent deserves opportunity," Rice President David Leebron said while announcing the plan on Tuesday.

(Markets Edition) With both the Trump administration and China announcing rounds of tariffs on each others’ goods, retail stores in the U.S. are keeping an even closer eye on what could happen next, especially if Trump follows through on a plan to essentially tax everything from China. We also talk to an economist for more. Also, we look to the toll that summer heat has had on farm workers, as they are 20 times more likely to die of heat-related illnesses.

Today, JAMA publishes two major studies on a hot topic: physician burnout. Burnout is a buzzword that's been in the news, but what is it? How does it affect doctors and their patients?

It turns out, nobody really knows. The first study, a systematic review, summarizes the research to date on physician burnout. Study authors found that researchers do not use a consistent definition of burnout, and estimates of how common it is vary widely.

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