In 2010, we reported on a poor town in Haiti, where school was held in a small, one-room church.
Planet Money listeners were moved to donate some $3,000, which the principal of the school thought would be enough to build a school. A few months later, the money was gone, and all there was to show for it was a foundation, some concrete blocks and some rock and sand.
We thought that would be the end of it. Then we heard from Tim Myers, a retired contractor from Colorado who decided to go to Haiti to build the school — and who realized, in 2011, that the project would cost more than $100,000.
On today's show: We return to Haiti, to see how the project is going. And we hear from Tim Myers, who says, if he had it to do over, he might do things differently.
Lois Lerner, the Internal Revenue Service official who handled the division that deals with nonprofit groups seeking tax-exempt status, will invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination rather than answer questions at a congressional hearing set for Wednesday.
Lerner is accused of placing conservative groups under special scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. She was subpoenaed to testify Wednesday before the House Oversight Committee.
Speaking Tuesday, Lerner's attorney, William W. Taylor III, said that his client "has not committed any crime or made any misrepresentation, but under the circumstances she has no choice but to take this course."
A spokesman for committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said the subpoena would not be withdrawn, raising the possibility that Lerner would have to appear and then decline to answer question after question.
In a letter on Tuesday to Issa, Lerner's attorney asked that she be excused from testifying.
"Requiring her to appear at the hearing merely to assert her Fifth Amendment privilege would have no purpose other than to embarrass or burden her," Taylor wrote, according to Politico.
The 30-year-old Uzbek national accused of a terrorist conspiracy in Idaho and Utah waived his right to a detention hearing in Boise on Tuesday, and apparently avoided public disclosure of details of his alleged crimes.
According to a federal court document, an attorney for Fazliddin Kurbanov withdrew his client's request for the hearing. Kurbanov confirmed the decision through an interpreter and agreed to remain jailed pending a July 2 trial date.
The hearing was expected to include government witness testimony about the alleged conspiracy, which federal prosecutors say involves the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a "designated foreign terrorist organization." Indictments in Idaho and Utah say little about the case. Kurbanov is accused of providing material support to the Uzbek group and of providing training in the construction and use of a weapon of mass destruction.
The indictments refer to unnamed co-conspirators, but no additional arrests have been made, and officials said they had contained any threat of attack.
Federal prosecutors seemed ready to provide more details in arguing for Kurbanov's continued detention. Another document filed a few hours before the detention hearing disclosed the intent to provide evidence "obtained or derived from electronic surveillance or physical search conducted pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act" or FISA.
FISA is a controversial federal law that is used to circumvent normal procedures for obtaining search warrants in cases involving "foreign powers," including terrorist groups.
FBI agents had conducted a search of Kurbanov's Boise apartment, but no search warrant affidavit is in the federal case file posted on the Justice Department's PACER electronic documents system.
The FISA filing signaled the possible disclosure of surveillance or search evidence at the detention hearing, but Kurbanov's waiver made that possibility moot.
It's not known who else was involved in the alleged conspiracy, who or what was targeted, what kinds of acts were planned, or whether targets were in the United States or abroad.
Neither U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson nor public defender Dick Rubin, Kurbanov's attorney, responded to NPR's requests for comments.
When Randy Keller moved from Texas to the Oklahoma City area seven years ago, he couldn't find the house he was looking for.
"I was moving from Texas, where there are also a lot of tornadoes," says the professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Oklahoma who experienced the 1970 tornado in Lubbock, Texas. "But I just couldn't find one."
He didn't know it at the time, but Keller, who is also the director of the Oklahoma Geological Survey, says he later discovered that the soil and water conditions in the central part of the state turned out to be the reason for the shortage of basements.
"We've got a high water table and red clay that expands and contracts depending on how much moisture there is in the soil," Keller says. "That expansion and contraction causes cracks in basement wall, and cracks mean leaks."
He isn't the only prospective buyer to have noticed the paucity of below-ground residential accommodations.
"I've always been told our soil is not good for basements," says Russell Benson, an Oklahoma City real estate agent on Trulia, in response to a prospective buyer asking why basements were so rare in Oklahoma. "I have sold a few older homes that had basements, but they were never in that great of shape."
A realty agent friend told Keller that because basements in Oklahoma have such a reputation for leaks, they can actually be a barrier to resale.
The massive EF-5 tornado that swept through the region Monday, killing at least 24 people, missed Keller's basement-less home by only a few miles.
For John Hole, the president of Foundation King contractors, which operates in the Oklahoma City area, it was an even closer call. The twister hit just a mere six blocks from his house. But he and his wife weren't there at the time. They don't have a basement and decided instead to shelter at a nearby church, which does have one.
As the name of his company implies, Hole does foundations — but not many basements, especially in single-family homes. It's that shifting red clay that's the problem, he says, mostly for the central and northeastern parts of the state.
"Red clay is susceptible to water and heat. It moves; it causes cracks," he says. "So, you're going to need pumping systems and backup power to run the pumps because eventually the water's going to get in."
"For most homeowners, it just doesn't make sense, moneywise," he says.
According to Weather Underground, the frost line and Oklahoma building codes also might be a contributing factor:
"In the northeastern U.S., building codes generally require homes to be built with their footing below the frost line, which means that builders already excavate enough earth during construction to create a basement.
"In the southern U.S., however, building codes don't require this."
Adding a basement then would require more excavation than a contractor would normally be required to do.
Mike Hancock, president of Basement Contractors, says basements don't have to leak. In fact, on his company's website, there's a prominent link to a section called "debunking the myth."
"There's an old stereotype that you can't build basements in Oklahoma," says Hancock, whose business is one of a few in the area that will even build residential basements.
His theory is that basements are out of many contractors' comfort zone, so it's easier for them to say it's impossible than to admit they can't do a leakproof job.
Basements are so rare, Hancock says, that the listings service for local residential real estate doesn't even have a box to check for a basement. But the fear of tornadoes is a "prime concern" of many of his customers who do want a basement in their home, Hancock says.
"It's always in the back of their minds, what am I going to do if there's a tornado," Hancock says.
He says that a lot of times, he's asked to put a safe room inside the basement itself, with "extra-thick interior walls, FEMA-approved doors and concrete supports instead of wooden joists," which can splinter and become razor-sharp shrapnel during a tornado.
At a news conference Tuesday, Albert Ashwood, the director of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had funded similar safe rooms for more than 100 schools, but that the two schools flattened by Monday's tornado were not on the list. At least nine students were killed at the two schools.
Safe rooms, Ashwood said, are a "mitigating measure. It's not absolute." However, any safety measure could have helped the kids survive, he said.
One alternative, he said, is a small shelter dug under a garage that can fit perhaps six people. Hancock says his company doesn't do that kind of work, but he thinks it's a good idea.
"The only problem is that they're small and with debris piled on top, it could take rescuers some time — perhaps days — to reach the survivors," he says.
Keller, the geology professor, still puzzles over the basement thing.
"I guess it's not considered a plus," he says. "But, a few more of these situations like what happened yesterday and maybe people will change their tune."
Iran's powerful Guardian Council has disqualified two key candidates — a former president and a top aide to the current president — from running in the June 14 presidential election.
The Guardian Council, which vets all candidates, approved eight names Tuesday but left out former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, who was handpicked by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Mashaei said he would appeal the decision to the country's supreme leader; Rafsanjani did not comment.
The Associated Press has compiled a list of the eight approved candidates and their backgrounds. The two big names on the list are Saeed Jalili, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, who assumes the mantle of favorite, and former Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Velayati. Al-Jazeera reports:
"There have been wide speculations that Mashaei would be excluded from the list. But not Rafsanjani, a two-term president and current head of the Expediency Council, a position appointed by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader.
"Their exclusion from the June 14 presidential ballot gives establishment-friendly candidates a clear path to succeed Ahmadinejad, who has lost favour with the ruling clerics after years of power struggles.
"It also pushes moderate and opposition voices further to the margins as Iran's leadership faces critical challenges such as international sanctions and talks with world powers over Tehran's nuclear programme."
As NPR's Peter Kenyon reported last week, nearly 700 hopefuls had thrown their names into the race.
"Although not exactly a free-for-all, analysts say, there's a clear sense that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has failed to unify the political elite behind a single establishment candidate, Peter reported. "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the country's embattled president, is barred from running for a third consecutive term — though he continues to try to influence the field, throwing his weight behind his own handpicked candidate."
The Guardian Council also rejected the candidacies of all female candidates — about 30 in number.
"Just one approved candidate, Mohammad Reza Aref, might draw some moderate appeal because of his role as vice president under former reformist President Mohammad Khatami.
"The rest of the choices, at the very least, would create a possibly seamless front between the ruling clerics and presidency after years of political turmoil under Ahmadinejad, who tried to challenge the theocracy's vast powers to make all major decisions and set key policies. Iran's presidency, meanwhile, is expected to convey the ruling clerics' views on the world stage and not set its own diplomatic agenda."