Fred Phelps, the founder and anti-gay preacher at Westboro Baptist Church, died on Thursday at the age of 84. Phelps was a disbarred civil rights lawyer and ran for local offices several times. After several unsuccessful runs, he shifted his focus to mostly protesting. Recently, one of his estranged sons said his father had been excommunicated from the church. Today Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, describes the confused legacy of Phelps and that of the Westboro Baptist Church.
Forty percent of inmates held at Rikers Island Correctional Facility have a diagnosed mental illness. This week, a report revealed the cause of inmate Jerome Murdough's death: He had been left in an overheated cell and, as one official put it, "baked to death."
After two long years, the case of Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair, once a rising star in the United States Army, finally comes to a close this week. General Sinclair, a 27-year Army veteran, was accused of sexual assault by his former mistress, an Army captain. Roger Canaff is a career prosecutor who served as an expert for the Department of the Army from 2009 to 2012. He examines the Sinclair case, its consequences and how the military should move forward on the issue of sexual assault.
In the months following 9/11, airport security changed dramatically. The latest news regarding Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 has aviation security analyst Chris Yates wondering whether the country was meeting even those minimum standards. Our partners at WNYC used runway data from around the world to determine that the plane could have landed on one of 634 runways across 26 different countries. Noah Veltman with the WNYC Data News team explains.
The sex trade is a lucrative business, nowhere more than in Atlanta, where it rakes in $290 million every year—more than the underground drug and gun trades combined.
For the last five years, environmentalists and energy companies have lobbied, protested and fought over the Keystone XL Pipeline. Whether or not the Alberta-to-Nebraska leg of the pipeline is approved, the Canadian oil sands are already up and pumping. Journalist Tony Horwitz traveled the length of the proposed pipeline, and he says that North America could become the Saudi Arabia of the Western Hemisphere.
As a high school senior, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson boarded a bus from New York City to Ithaca, to meet his idol, Carl Sagan. The meeting had a profound impact on Tyson, host of the new "Cosmos" series. Three scientists reflect on "Cosmos" and the mentors that influenced their careers.
Most Americans will "spring forward" this weekend and lose an hour to daylight saving time. But daylight saving is hardly standardized in the United States, much less the world. In fact, some say it's "madness."
As the crisis in Crimea continues to escalate, the threat of a new balkanization is fostering a sense of insecurity across the West. Rodger Baker, vice president of Asia-Pacific analysis at the global intelligence research firm Stratfor, explores Russia's occupation of Crimea. Though the conflict can have long-term geopolitical impacts, there is also a great deal of fear emerging in the Crimean peninsula for ethnic minorities. Natalia Antelava, a reporter for the BBC, The New Yorker and PRI's The World, explains.
The original "Cosmos" aired in 1980 on PBS, and in just 13 episodes, astrophysicist Carl Sagan captured the hearts and minds of a generation. On Sunday, more than 30 years after the original series began, "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey" will premiere. Hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, the new series pays direct homage to Sagan's original vision, in part because the original and the re-boot share an executive producer in Ann Druyan, wife of the late Carl Sagan. Today Druyan discusses the series and her life with Sagan.
Russian forces in Crimea, violent protests in Kiev, escalating tensions between West and East. Here's a breakdown of the proposals Congressional leaders are crafting in response to the Ukraine-Russia crisis.
With Russia in the spotlight, China is watching the unrest in Ukraine from the sidelines. In recent years, China has invested a total of $10 billion dollars in Ukraine, and pledged $8 billion more last December. Jonathan Fenby, China director of the research company Trusted Sources, and Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale University, examine China's financial interests in the region, and the Chinese investment in the outcome of the Ukraine-Russia conflict.
Fracking has boomed in Texas, a state with a deep history of oil and energy exploration. While many have profited from the energy boom, hundreds more are finding that the air smells funny, their heads hurt, and their noses are bleeding. But with minimal regulation, and no comprehensive health studies, residents have little recourse. Lisa Song, a reporter for InsideClimate News, explains the health impacts for local residents and the politics at play in the Eagle Ford Shale.
We've got 27 amendments so far, including the right to free speech and the right to bear arms. Should we add a 28th? What would it look like? Kerry Sautner, vice president of visitor experience and education the National Constitution Center, explains what it takes to get an amendment ratified, and what a 28th Amendment might look like.
According to the Center for Investigative Reporting's Aaron Glantz, the number of opiate medications—highly addictive painkillers like hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone and morphine—prescribed by the Veterans Administration has increased by 270 percent between 2001 and 2012, far outpacing the increase in patients. Dr. Basimah Khulusi, a former Veterans Affairs physician, has come forward as a whistleblower on this issue. She says the VA forced her out because patients complained that she wouldn't prescribe high doses of opiates.
Today, the Army has 522,000 soldiers on active duty. Hagel's proposed Pentagon budget would cut manpower even further, to somewhere between 440,000 and 450,000.
The 2014 Winter Olympics is wrapping up, but there's still plenty of excitement to be had. From the men's ice hockey final to the four-man bobsleigh race, the final weekend of the Winter Games is upon us and there are some real surprises and spectacular events to watch. Mary Pilon, sports reporter for our partner The New York Times, has been reporting from Sochi and fills us in on the home stretch of the Winter Olympics.
At the center of the feud between protesters and the government, between Ukraine and the West, is Kiev—a city long steeped in political turmoil and significance.
Albert Einstein once said that "a person who has not made his great contribution to science before the age of 30 will never do so." Genius may have come early for Einstein, but according to a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, most scientists don't achieve their first big breakthrough until their late thirties. David Shenk, author of "The Genius in All of Us: New Insights Into Genetics, Talent, and IQ," discusses the study and its implications.
For 500 years, the Catholic Church denied communion to parishioners who divorce and remarry. But this week, Pope Francis may chart a new course, breaking ranks with his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who refused to allow for pastoral discretion on the issue. James Carroll is the author of "An American Requiem: God, My Father, and the War that Came Between Us" and "Toward A New Catholic Church: The Promise of Reform." He examines the choices facing Pope Francis regarding marriage and the future of the Catholic Church.