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Remember the disappointment you felt as a kid at the souvenir shop when that personalized key chain wasn't available in your name? For me, it was never finding "Allison" with two L's. My colleague Maria says she was always stuck with "Mary" as her only option.

Facebook fans of Coca-Cola's new "Share a Coke" campaign are having similar frustrations. As part of its new campaign, which recently launched in Europe, the soda giant is printing popular first names on labels of Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero.

Larry King Signs Up With The Russians

May 29, 2013

Larry King, who signed off from CNN in December 2010, has signed on with the English-language arm of RT, the Russian TV channel that aims to cover "the major issues of our time for viewers wishing to question more and delivers stories often missed by the mainstream media."

The idea that uneven Medicare health care spending around the country is caused by wasteful practices and overtreatment — a concept that has influenced portions of the federal health law — took another hit in a study published Tuesday.

On this, the 60th anniversary of the first successful summit of the world's tallest mountain, there's plenty of news about Mount Everest. Here are six stories we found interesting:

The makers of Smithfield Ham, an icon on America's culinary scene for decades, are selling the publicly traded company to China's Shuanghui International Holdings Limited for about $4.72 billion in cash. The deal also includes an exchange of debt.

The purchase values Smithfield Foods at $7.1 billion — a figure that would make the purchase "the largest Chinese takeover of a U.S. company," according to Bloomberg News.

Tuesday's warnings about more severe weather and the likelihood of tornadoes across much of the nation's midsection proved accurate.

We need to update the news that a dozen Cleveland area restaurants said they would give Charles Ramsey "free burgers for life" because of the way he helped rescue three young women and a little girl from the home where police say they had been held captive and brutalized for years.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

"A record 40 percent of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family," the Pew Research Center reported Wednesday as it released data that certainly won't surprise many Americans but will underscore some dramatic shifts over recent decades.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, a hero to many conservatives and tea party advocates who saw her fortunes rise and fall quickly in the 2012 race for the GOP presidential nomination, announced early Wednesday that she will not seek re-election to a fifth term in Congress.

Traveling to Damascus gives you a view of Syria's war turned inside out.

The international community talks of arming Syria's rebels against President Bashar Assad, but in the capital many people still hope the rebels will lose.

That's the thinking we found around a Muslim shrine in Damascus, a tribute to the granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad. She lived centuries ago, but a Damascus doctor we met spoke of her in the present tense.

More than 75 years ago, President Franklin Roosevelt caused an uproar with his plan to "pack" the Supreme Court with friendly justices. It was an audacious effort to protect his New Deal initiatives.

Now, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has floated the reverse — legislation that would cut three seats from the important D.C. Circuit appeals court, just as President Obama prepares to announce his nominees for those jobs.

The Court-Packing Plan

Members of Congress are back in their home states this week for a Memorial Day recess. It's a chance to talk with constituents about what could become the year's biggest legislative story: the push on Capitol Hill to fix what Democrats and Republicans alike agree is a broken immigration system.

A bill proposed by the Gang of Eight, a bipartisan group of senators, to revamp the nation's immigration rules passed out of committee last week and will soon be brought before the Democratic-led Senate. Less clear, though, is where the issue is headed in the GOP-controlled House.

Little boys play soccer in the afternoon heat at a makeshift camp near Libya's capital Tripoli. Their homes, or what's left of them, are in Tawargha, a small town about 20 miles from the Mediterranean coast.

The town has been empty since August of 2011. Its residents fled in cars and on foot, under fire from rebel militiamen from the nearby town of Misrata.

The siege of Misrata was one of the bloodiest battles of the Libyan war. Forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi shelled Misrata relentlessly, killing hundreds.

A radical shift in the world energy picture is raising environmental concerns in the United States.

Until recently, the U.S. had been expected to import more natural gas. But now, because of controversial technologies like "fracking," drillers are producing a lot more domestic natural gas; so much that prices are down, along with industry profits. And drillers are looking overseas for new customers.

House flipping is back.

A popular phenomenon during the housing boom, flipping is when a house is bought and sold within a six-month period. Flippers are real estate investors who buy houses, fix them up quickly and then resell them, making money off the renovation. In parts of California, it's happening at some of the fastest rates in a decade.

At a recent open house in Glassell Park, a neighborhood in northeast Los Angeles, curious buyers and neighbors streamed into a green stucco house that had just come onto the market.

Howard Lincoln of White Mountain, Alaska, doesn't always hear it when people knock on his door. He's 82 and he still has a little shrapnel in his jaw from a mortar shell that nearly killed him in the Korean War 60 years ago.

"We heard it whistling, but I was the third one in line running toward the bunker," he recalls.

Wounds to his face, arm and hip laid him up in a Tokyo hospital for quite a while. But he recovered, came home to Alaska in 1955 and says he never applied for Veterans Administration (now the Department of Veterans Affairs) benefits.

Political Battles Still Dog Redistricting In California

May 29, 2013

In most states, the power to draw lines for political districts rests with legislators. In recent years, California voters have tried to make the process less political by taking it out of lawmakers' hands. But not everyone is happy with how things are turning out.

To understand redistricting in California, consider this: Over a 10-year period beginning in 2000, there were 255 congressional races, and only one seat — that's right, one seat — changed parties.

One More Swing: 'Casey At The Bat'

May 28, 2013

Frank Deford puts aside his gripes this week to pay tribute to the poem by Ernest Lawrence Thayer, first published in the San Francisco Examiner 125 years ago June 3.

The Outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

Head Of White House Economic Council To Step Down

May 28, 2013

Alan Krueger, the chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, says he will step down to return to Princeton to resume his post as a professor of economics.

Krueger, who has served as CEA chairman for the past two years, will return to Princeton in time for the beginning of the fall term. The Associated Press quotes a source familiar with the situation as saying Jason Furman, who served in President Obama's 2008 campaign, will be tapped as a replacement.

Why Bob Dole's Advice To His Party Fell Flat

May 28, 2013

The reaction was predictably negative: When former Sen. Bob Dole on Sunday criticized how far the current party has shifted right and advised fellow Republicans to take a timeout for a party self-examination, conservatives almost immediately dismissed him as an anachronism.

One of the few — if not the only — Republicans who seemed willing to openly support the 1996 GOP presidential nominee and former Senate party leader Tuesday was another marginalized former senator, Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine.

Gulf Coast States Get Creative With BP Oil Spill Money

May 28, 2013

Gulf Coast states are lining up to spend $1 billion from BP on coastal restoration. The money is part of BP's legal responsibility to restore the Gulf of Mexico's natural resources in the aftermath of the worst oil disaster in U.S. history.

But the nature of some of the state projects, including boat ramps and a beachfront hotel, is raising questions about just what counts as coastal restoration.

The good news first: No deaths have been reported in a train derailment near Baltimore, Md., this afternoon.

President Obama's second trip to New Jersey to meet with Republican Gov. Chris Christie post-Superstorm Sandy was accompanied Tuesday with a familiar flurry of speculation.

The first time, last fall, Christie's gracious welcome of the president raised questions about whether it might affect Obama's re-election just weeks later.

This time, the questions were inverted: How might Christie's own presidential aspirations be affected by his friendly proximity to the president?

Wal-Mart Stores has agreed to pay $81 million in penalties as part of a guilty plea on criminal charges of improperly disposing of hazardous waste in California and Missouri.

Prosecutors said the violations occurred between 2003 and 2005 and included employees negligently dumping pollutants from stores into sanitation drains.

The Associated Press reports that the plea agreements announced Tuesday "end a nearly decade-old investigation involving more than 20 prosecutors and 32 environmental groups."

About 2,200 passengers were being flown back to Baltimore on Tuesday, a day after their cruise ship caught fire on its way to the Bahamas. There were no injuries aboard Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas.

But in the wake of the incident and others like it, the cruise ship companies have something of a black eye. The industry is now trying to reassure passengers it's OK for them to sail, adopting what it called a passenger "bill of rights."

Sixteen million men and women served in uniform during World War II. Today, 1.2 million are still alive, but hundreds of those vets are dying every day. In honor of Memorial Day, NPR's All Things Considered is remembering some of the veterans who have died this year.

"Tad Nagaki was a gentle, quiet farmer," says Mary Previte, a retired New Jersey legislator and former captive of the Japanese during World War II. That quiet farmer, who did extraordinary things, died in April at the age of 93 at his grandson's Colorado home.

Alaskan Clyde Iyatunguk grew up hearing stories about the U.S. Army colonel, Marvin 'Muktuk' Marston, who helped his father trade his spear for a rifle, to protect his homeland during World War II.

Marston is a household name with Native Alaskans. The nickname comes from an Eskimo eating contest — muktuk is whale skin and blubber, eaten raw.

After the Japanese reached the Aleutian Islands in 1942, Marston traveled by dogsled across Alaska looking for volunteers who knew how to fight and survive in the Arctic terrain.

Little Dog Does A Big Job In Oregon

May 28, 2013

He can't see, and he's not very big — but as dogs go, Xander the pug is having a big impact on his community in Klamath Falls, Oregon. The blind pup has even made the front page of the local paper, for bringing empathy and happiness to people for whom such things are in short supply.

Chinese doctors report they've seen signs that the bird flu virus infecting humans is able to overcome one of the few drugs used to fight it.

In a report published online Tuesday by The Lancet, doctors report on 14 patients infected with the H7N9 virus and admitted to the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center in April. All the people came down with pneumonia, and two died.

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