Nation/World

Updated at 11:15 a.m. ET

Ahmed Chalabi, a former Iraqi exile who played a major role in persuading the U.S. to wage war against Saddam Hussein, has died of a heart attack in Baghdad. He was 71.

His death was reported by Iraqi state media and confirmed to NPR by Hashim al Moussawi, who works in his office, and by former parliamentarian Hassan al Alawi.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Women's shoes are often objects of self-expression.

Bold, business-like, laid-back, sexy, sporty — there's a shoe to match.

As women age, however, comfort starts to compete with style.

I remember my grandma taking me by the hand, years ago, and leading me upstairs to her closet, where clear plastic boxes of shoes were stacked, floor to ceiling.

There were hundreds of heels in animal prints, bright colors, feathers — pointy-toed and at least 3 inches high.

Imagine you are a parent, and that out of the blue, you get a letter from your child's school telling you not to worry — that they're ready to evacuate or shelter in place if an underground fire at a nearby landfill reaches radioactive waste on the same property.

That's pretty much what happened recently in suburban St. Louis.

Landfill fires are pretty common, but this one is different. It's only about a thousand feet away from nearly 9,000 tons of nuclear waste — and there's no barrier in between.

Jeb Bush is trying to jump-start his campaign this week, with a new focus and a new slogan: "Jeb Can Fix It."

That's meant to highlight his two terms as governor of Florida, but it might also apply to his lackluster campaign.

Bush's hopes to dominate the race as front-runner are a distant memory, with outsider candidates like Donald Trump and Ben Carson leading the field since the summer.

But lately, Bush has been fighting more fiercely with a man he once mentored, Marco Rubio. When Bush was governor, Rubio served as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.

In response to NPR's investigation into once-classified U.S. military experiments with mustard gas, we've been hearing from people who learned about their loved ones' experiences in the testing.

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Ben Carson and Donald Trump have very different personalities — one is as low-key as the other is over-the-top bombastic. They currently lead the rest of the field in the GOP presidential race and, unlike many political newcomers, each is building an organized ground game in Iowa to make sure his supporters actually turn out for the Feb. 1 caucuses.

At a recent Trump rally at a Sioux City high school, loudspeakers blasted an unofficial head-banging campaign anthem by Twisted Sister, to pump up the crowd for the candidate who wouldn't speak for another hour.

Writer John Irving doesn't believe in miracles — but he is fascinated by them. And there is much that is both miraculous and mysterious in his new book, Avenue of Mysteries. Irving has written 14 novels, including A Prayer for Owen Meany, The World According to Garp and The Cider House Rules. Circuses, orphans and transgender characters often appear in his work, which has a way of mixing the real with the surreal in unexpected ways.

Give A Donation, Ask For Naming Rights

Nov 3, 2015

Back in July, Joan Weill, the wife of Citigroup billionaire Sandy Weill, announced that they would donate $20 million to a small, cash-strapped school called Paul Smith's College in New York's Adirondack Mountains with one big string attached: She insisted that the school would have to be renamed in her honor, to be known forever as Joan Weill-Paul Smith's College.

"I got a lot of wonderful letters that were sent to me personally by alums and students and of course members of the faculty and the board, understanding why this was happening," Weill says.

Our Ideas series is exploring how innovation happens in education.

As one of the biggest, most successful tech companies, Google can hire pretty much anyone it wants.

Accordingly, the company tends to favor Ph.D.s from Stanford and MIT. But, it has just partnered with a for-profit company called General Assembly to offer a series of short, noncredit courses for people who want to learn how to build applications for Android, Google's mobile platform. Short, as in just 12 weeks from novice to employable.

Religion is apparently weakening in America. A new report from the Pew Research Center shows that the percentage of Americans who say they believe in God, pray daily and attend church regularly is declining.

Among the findings:

  • The share of Americans who say they are "absolutely certain" that God exists has dropped 8 percentage points, from 71 percent to 63 percent, since 2007, when the last comparable study was made.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Monday that it has discovered more Volkswagen cars containing software that helped them cheat emissions tests. The most recently discovered batch of 10,000 vehicles that the EPA says are equipped with "defeat device" technology are 3-liter diesel engine cars, including several Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche 2014 to 2016 model years.

NPR's John Ydstie reports for the Newscast unit:

Lots of you have told us that the dinner scramble is tough.

As a culture, we aspire to sit-down, home-cooked meals. But we often don't have the time or energy to pull them off.

After a Sunday night meeting, in which the Republican campaigns largely agreed on a framework to negotiate as a group with TV networks for upcoming debates, the Trump campaign has decided it will negotiate independently.

"Just like the CNBC debate, we will negotiate with the media," Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told NPR. "We're going to make sure we're going to work with the networks to make sure the candidate's interest is at the forefront to negotiate the best deal."

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This weekend might have been good for candy, costumes and baseball, but it wasn't great for motion pictures. In fact, it was the worst weekend at the box office this year. Here's NPR's Andrew Limbong on a rough month at the movies.

Pocatello, Idaho, and Laramie, Wyo., might not be the first places you think of leading the charge to protect the LGBT community from discrimination. But in these rural, Republican-led states, local governments are taking the matter into their own hands.

Twenty-year-old college student CylieAnn Erickson was in the room when the city council in Laramie passed its LGBT anti-discrimination bill earlier this year. She says that when the final vote was counted, she breathed a sigh of relief.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The conservative Christian college Liberty University is the last place you'd expect to find a Jewish politician on Rosh Hashanah. But that's exactly where Bernie Sanders was on the first day of the Jewish New Year.

As the campus band sang about the resurrection of Jesus, Sanders stood at the back of the stage. Then he delivered a speech about social justice. And when it was over, without any publicity or fanfare, he went to the home of Michael Gillette, the mayor of Lynchburg, Va.

If you travel for work — and you're tired of living out of a suitcase, renting rooms and sharing bathrooms with grungy roommates — there's a man in Austin, Texas, who has a possible solution. Call it a long shot. But basically, he's building tiny self-contained apartments that move when you do.

Jeff Wilson gives me a tour of the first prototype. He's the mastermind behind the Kasita ("little home" in Spanish — only with a "k" instead of a "c").

KEXP Presents: Paul Weller

Nov 2, 2015

We were excited when we heard renowned singer-songwriter Paul Weller would stop by the KEXP studios for an acoustic session, but little did we know he'd be bringing his five-piece band with him for this very special unplugged set.

The intimate performance spotlighted his 12th solo release, Saturn's Pattern, as well as old favorites from both his older bands, The Jam and Style Council. KEXP felt truly blessed to be in the presence of "The Modfather."

SET LIST

  • "These City Streets"

From El Salvador to Lebanon to Nepal, NPR has been exploring the lives of 15-year-old girls around the world. But what's it like to be 15 in the U.S.? To find out, NPR's Michel Martin spoke with three sophomore girls at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Md.

World Cafe Next: Boogarins

Nov 2, 2015

Boogarins is led by Fernando "Dino" Almeida and Benke Ferraz, who began playing music together as teenagers in the central Brazilian city of Goiânia. The four-piece band's first album of home recordings helped earn it a "best new artist" award from Rolling Stone Brasil.

In today's World Cafe Next segment, hear songs from Boogarins' second album, Manual, recorded during a tour break in Spain.

Metropolis: 10/31/15

Nov 2, 2015

This Week's Playlist

  • EPROM & Barclay Crenshaw, "Crawled Eagle" (STX and BRX)
  • DJ Snake, "Middle" [Feat. Bipolar Sunshine] (Interscope)
  • Gavin Turek & Tokimonsta, "Hemisphere [Beat Ventriloquists Remix]" (Young Art)
  • Chet Faker & Marcus Marr, "Trouble With Us" (Downtown)
  • Porter Robinson, "Fresh Static Snow [Last Island Remix]" (Astralwerks)
  • Sam Smith, "Lay Me Down [Pomo Remix]" (Capitol)
  • Disclosure, "Jaded" (Capitol)

U.S. Navy investigators have found the wreckage of the cargo ship El Faro, which sank off the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin with 33 people aboard, the National Transportation Safety Board has confirmed.

The U.S.-flagged ship was located after a week of searching by a crew from U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command, using sonar equipment. It appears to be in an upright position and in one piece at a depth of about 15,000 feet.

The use of fear in public health campaigns has been controversial for decades. A campaign with gruesome photos of a person dying of lung cancer to combat smoking might make people think twice about lighting up. But opponents would argue that the photos are too visceral, along with being morally objectionable.

A decades-long decline in the death rate of middle-aged white Americans has reversed in recent years, according to a surprising new analysis released Monday.

The cause of the reversal remains unclear. Researchers speculate it might be the result of the bad economy fueling a rise in suicides, plus overdoses from prescription painkillers and illegal drugs like heroin, and alcohol abuse.

Diane Coffee gives the kind of live performances you talk about for weeks after seeing. It's not that the band tears up the stage. There's no elaborate light show or other orchestrated theatrics. The main attraction — and the reason you'll want to watch and hear more — is Diane Coffee's fantastically flamboyant lead singer, Shaun Fleming.

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