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Stories for December 4, 2013

Report: Threat Of Mandatory Minimums Used To Coerce Guilty Pleas

Dec. 4
Carrie Johnson / NPR
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A new report says the Justice Department regularly coerces defendants in federal drug cases to plead guilty by threatening them with steep prison sentences or stacking charges to increase their time behind bars.

Feds Slow To Roll Out Spanish-Language Health Care Website

Dec. 4
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The federal government plans to quietly roll out the Spanish-language version of HealthCare.gov any day now.

Nearly 850 People Receive Help At San Diego Homeless Resource Fair

Dec. 4
By Dwane Brown
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Project Homeless Connect provides medical and dental screenings, California ID cards and haircuts from professional stylists to San Diego's homeless at one-day service fair in downtown.

E-Cigarettes: Safe Alternative To Smoking Or Gateway To Nicotine Addiction?

Dec. 4
By Kenny Goldberg
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E-cigarettes are touted as a harmless, high-tech alternative to cigarettes. But critics say they're an insidious way to get people addicted to nicotine.

California Girls Aren't The Only Ones Saying Everything Like It's A Question?

Dec. 4
By David Wagner
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Uptalk — the rising speech pattern that like totally makes everything sound like a question — isn't just a Valley girl vocal tic. San Diego researchers say the dialect is widespread throughout Southern California and guys do it too.

UC San Diego, CHP Team Up To Help Drivers Stop Texting

Dec. 4
By Erik Anderson
UC San Diego, CHP Team Up To Help Drivers Stop Texting Tease photo

UCSD professor Linda Hill wants to help reduce the approximately 4,000 deaths a year that can be specifically linked to drivers distracted by texting.

San Diego Residents Can Recycle Christmas Trees At 16 Locations

Dec. 4
By City News Service

For San Diego residents without curbside trash service, Christmas trees can be recycled at 16 drop-off locations throughout the city.

San Diego Woman Ticketed While Wearing Google Glass Headed For Trial

Dec. 4
By City News Service
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A trial date was set for a Temecula woman who was ticketed for allegedly watching TV via a pair of Google glasses while speeding on a San Diego freeway.

Pipeline On Wheels: Trains Are Winning Big Off U.S. Oil

Dec. 4
Kirk Siegler / NPR
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The oil boom in the United States is creating another boom -- for the railroad industry.

A Christmas Carol: The Concert

Dec. 4
A Christmas Carol: The Concert Tease photo

This unique musical event marks the first time Charles Dickens’ classic "A Christmas Carol" has been adapted for a live orchestral concert with choir and soloists and performed for audiences in a concert setting. Robert Christianson’s score is filled with memorable, haunting and rousing songs, and the story, faithfully adapted by Broadway’s Alisa Hauser, is performed by such Chicago and New York theater luminaries as Michael Aaron Lindner and E. Faye Butler. The concert is a celebration of classic storytelling and ensemble performances, providing audiences with both the comforts of a classic tale and the thrill of experiencing it as never before.

Telemundo's 'Highly Unusual' Resurrection of 'El Señor'

Dec. 4
Kat Chow / NPR

Telemundo recently announced that its telenovelaEl Señor de los Cielos (Lord of the Skies) will be back for a second season; production began this week in Mexico City. This resurrection sets it apart from almost every other telenovela because, unlike American soap operas, telenovelas have a clear beginning and a definitive ending, airing for a set number of episodes.

Nothing Says Christmas Like 700 Screaming Faces

Dec. 4
NPR Staff / NPR
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As it has done for the past 16 years, the Embassy of Norway decorated a Christmas tree at Union Station in Washington, D.C. -- a gift to the American people to say thanks for helping Norway during World War II.

These Days, School Lunch Hours Are More Like 15 Minutes

Dec. 4
Eric Westervelt / NPR
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It's lunch time at Oakland High School in Oakland, Calif., and that means fence hoppers. Several kids wear mischievous grins as they speedily scale a 12-foot-high metal perimeter.

Immigration Advocates Face Hurdles In GOP House Districts

Dec. 4
S.V. Date / NPR
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Want to understand why House Republicans aren't onboard with an immigration overhaul? Take a close look at the districts they represent.

Fertility Drugs, Not IVF, Are Top Cause Of Multiple Births

Dec. 4
Nancy Shute / NPR
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Drugs that help women become pregnant have replaced in vitro fertilization as the main culprit behind high-risk multiple births, according to a study looking at births of triplets and higher-order multiples.

Dr. Wayne Dyer: I Can See Clearly Now

Dec. 4
Dr. Wayne Dyer: I Can See Clearly Now  Tease photo

In his newest public television special, Dr. Wayne W. Dyer employs an intimate conversational format to reveal many of the private challenges behind his public success. He also describes the five key principles for seeing clearly now, which have guided him through all his important life choices, and which are available to you as well. These five principles—willingness, determination, fearlessness, compassion, and love—make up the rungs of a sacred ladder that can bring us all closer to our most sacred self.

Second Meningitis Outbreak Erupts In Southern California

Dec. 4
Maanvi Singh / NPR
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The University of California, Santa Barbara is experiencing a meningitis outbreak a lot like the one that hit Princeton earlier this year. The California university confirmed a fourth case of meningococcal disease on Monday.

U.S. Military Lingo -- The (Almost) Definitive Guide

Dec. 4
Ben Brody / NPR
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It's painful for US soldiers to hear discussions and watch movies about modern wars when the dialogue is full of obsolete slang, like "chopper" and "GI."

Sunken Japanese Super-Sub From WWII Located Off Hawaii

Dec. 4
Scott Neuman / NPR

An aircraft-carrying Japanese super-submarine built in World War II has been found on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean off Oahu nearly 60 years after it was hastily scuttled by the U.S. Navy in an effort to keep its technology out of Soviets hands.

Sandy Hook Elementary 911 Calls Reveal Panic From Inside School

Dec. 4
Scott Neuman / NPR
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Emergency calls from last year's Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting reveal 911 dispatchers who dealt with the situation calmly, urging callers to take cover and inquiring about the welfare of the children.

Mushroom Foraging: When The Fun(gi) Hunt Gets Out Of Hand

Dec. 4
Alastair Bland / NPR
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The first heavy rains of the season fell two weeks ago at Salt Point State Park, on the northern California coast, and now ranger Todd Farcau is waiting anxiously for the forest floor to erupt with mushrooms.

Accused LAX Gunman Ordered Held Pending Trial

Dec. 4
Krishnadev Calamur / NPR

The man accused of opening fire last month at Los Angeles International Airport, killing a TSA agent, was ordered Wednesday to be held without bond pending his trial.

National Survey Shows 40 Percent Of Military Personnel Have Difficulty Making Ends Meet

Dec. 4
Midday Edition
Evening Edition
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Long deployments are just one of the additional challenges military families face when it comes to keeping their finances straight. Nearly a third of those surveyed in new report are still resorting to high-interest pay day loans, or fall prey to predatory lending practices that trap them in a cycle of debt.

Chef Alice Waters Discusses The Future Of The Slow Food Movement

Dec. 4
Midday Edition
Evening Edition
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While in San Diego for a book signing, chef Alice Waters discusses the "slow" food movement.

Camp Pendleton Battalion Heading To Australia In Spring 2014

Dec. 4
By Beth Ford Roth
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More than 1,100 Marines from Camp Pendleton will head to Australia in Spring 2014. Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marines will be the first battalion from California to participate in Marine Rotational Force-Darwin. The first two rotations involved Marines stationed in Hawaii.

San Diego Professor Discusses Warning Signs For Communication Difficulties In Children

Dec. 4
Midday Edition
Evening Edition
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After a poll finds many caregivers are missing the warnings signs, a new campaign underway aims to educate them about identifying the signs of a communication disorder in children.

Income Inequality Is The 'Challenge Of Our Time,' Obama Says

Dec. 4
Krishnadev Calamur / NPR
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President Obama tried Wednesday to turn the conversation back to the economy, calling the growing income gap the "defining challenge of our time."

Deadline To Apply For El Cajon Mayor's Vacant City Council Seat

Dec. 4
City News Service

Wednesday is the deadline to apply for the El Cajon City Council seat that was left vacant by the promotion of Bill Wells to mayor.

Poll: Support For Obama Among Young Americans Eroding

Dec. 4
Adam Wollner / NPR
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After voting for him in large numbers in 2008 and 2012, young Americans are souring on President Obama.

'Top Gun' Inspiration Christine Fox Now Highest-Ranking Female In Pentagon History (Video)

Dec. 4
By Beth Ford Roth
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When President Barack Obama named Christine H. Fox to be Acting Deputy Defense Secretary this week, she became the highest-ranking female in the Department of Defense's history. Cool side note: Fox was also the inspiration for the Kelly McGillis character "Charlie" in the 1986 blockbuster "Top Gun."

LA Police Department Seeing Fewer Applicants

Dec. 4
Associated Press

The Los Angeles Police Department is struggling to recruit enough qualified candidates as fewer people are applying to join the nation's third-largest police force.

Norman Rockwell's 'Saying Grace' Sells For $46 Million At Auction

Dec. 4
Bill Chappell / NPR
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Three Norman Rockwell paintings sold for a combined total of nearly $58 million at a Sotheby's auction Wednesday. The three paintings, which had long been displayed in a Massachusetts museum named for the artist, were among 10 Rockwell works sold at auction today.

Potential Drone Test Site Spurs Concerns In San Diego Back Country

Dec. 4
By Amita Sharma
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San Diego County is on the federal government's list of potential test sites for drones, and while local business leaders are on board, at least one community is opposed.