All Things Considered

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  • Hosted by Robert Siegel, Melissa Block, Audie Cornish

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When Wildlife Documentaries Jump The Shark

Aug 30, 2014

This summer's Shark Week on the Discovery Channel was the highest-rated in the special's 27-year history. But that success has also brought complaints.

The network has been criticized for pushing entertainment at the cost of science, with "documentaries" that advance dubious theories — or are entirely fake. Discovery Channel has aired specials about everything from mythical monster sharks in Louisiana's rivers to long-extinct Megalodons supposedly still swimming the seas.

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Regulations passed in Texas, which affected clinics that perform abortions there, were set to go into effect on Sept. 1. On Friday, a federal judge blocked those regulations, on the grounds that they unconstitutionally restricted access to legal abortion.

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On Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina ripped through New Orleans and gutted most of its public schools. Even before the storm, the district was one of the most troubled in the nation.

Today, the New Orleans school system is unlike any other anywhere in the U.S. More than 9 in 10 students this fall are attending charter schools run by dozens of private, nonprofit organizations. Families choose the schools their children will attend, and the neighborhood school is a thing of the past.

The White House is working behind the scenes to develop a strategy for fighting the Islamic State in Syria, a strategy that could include airstrikes and other military action there. But there are already lots of questions in political and national security circles about the legal authority the Obama administration might use to justify those actions.

In the days after the Sept. 11 attacks, Congress authorized the White House to use military force — broad authority to strike against al-Qaida.

If you want to know how prison can shape a man, talk to Dan Huff. He's spent more than half of his 59 years locked up. He says he was "raised by the state of California."

"Even judges, when they would send me away — looking back at it now — they [were] kind of more like a father figure sitting up there," he says. "Closer to fatherly than any father that I ever had."

Those judges had plenty of reason to be concerned about him: Huff used heroin. He committed robberies.

The protests that followed the shooting death this month of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., have rekindled long-standing complaints about racist policing, especially in the St Louis area.

Many male African-American residents there say police scrutinize them unfairly. "Every time you see a cop, it's like, 'OK, am I going to get messed with?' " says Anthony Ross. "You feel that every single time you get behind your car. Every time."

Now, police officers in and around St. Louis are becoming more vocal about defending themselves against the charges of bias.

In my teens, I stumbled onto the wide trail of "the writer's bildungsroman," the coming-of-age stories that often gave me too much to identify with. That whispered clear messages while I slept and while I tried to imagine a life far, far outside the heat and farmlands of where I grew up.

The mother of slain journalist James Foley says in an interview with NPR's All Things Considered that the family did not want him to return to Syria after a brief trip back to the United States in 2011.

"We really did not want him to go back," Diane Foley tells host Melissa Block. "I must be honest about that," she says of her son, who was killed by Islamic State militants in Syria earlier this month.

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And so it's time to say goodbye. As you probably know, this, after 21 years, is the final broadcast of TALK OF THE NATION, and after 36 years, my last day at NPR.

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