Deborah Hersman, known to many Americans because she's the face of the National Transportation Safety Board at the scene of plane crashes and other transportation-related disasters, is stepping down as head of the NTSB.
Chairman of the NTSB since 2009 and a member of its board since 2004, she is departing in late April to be president and CEO of the National Safety Council, a nonprofit group chartered by Congress and based in Itasca, Ill. The council describes its mission as "partnering with businesses, government agencies, elected officials and the public in areas that can make the most impact - distracted driving, teen driving, workplace safety, prescription drug overdoses and Safe Communities." It was formed in 1913.
NPR's Brian Naylor notes that as head of the NTSB, "Hersman was a familiar face at agency briefings on everything from the crash landing of an Asiana Airlines jet last summer to conferences on distracted driving."
"If you are lucky in life, you get a chance to have a dream job. If you are really lucky, you get to have more than one dream job. I look forward to continuing to improve the safety landscape with the Board of Directors and employees of the National Safety Council, another organization dedicated to saving lives and preventing injuries. And yes, I know how lucky I am."
Bloomberg News adds that "as chairman, Hersman broadened the board's mission to transportation risks such as drunk and drugged driving and fatigue across modes, rather than just responding to accidents."
For the millions of people with allergies, spring can mean months of antihistamines, nasal steroids and avoiding nature.
So we were intrigued when we came across the concept of nasal filters - tiny devices that claim to block pollen and other allergens from ever entering nasal passages.
The devices are sort of like contact lenses you can put up your nose. Some are adhesive, while others clip on to your septum. And though a quick trip to a drug store close to NPR didn't turn up any, several varieties are available online.
These little contraptions even had their 15 minutes of fame when the inventor of an adhesive version was offered $4 million on the reality show "Shark Tank".
But do they work? Researchers in Denmark say their version has shown success in a small clinical trial. Their study found that the filters reduce throat irritation and runny noses in allergy sufferers, compared to a filter-less placebo device.
Most people in the study said they stopped noticing the device after wearing it for an hour. And the patients didn't tend to switch to breathing through their mouths while they were wearing the device.
"It needed to have excellent breathability. And it needed to be comfortable to wear," says Peter Sinkjaer Kenney, a medical student at Aarhus University in Denmark and the developer of Rhinix. The results were published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
But this clinical trial only included 24 patients, and the researcher also plans to sell the devices, so he's hardly a disinterested party.
Still, allergists say the nose filter is an intriguing idea. "I think over all it's a good concept," says Dr. Andy Nish, an allergist from Georgia. Even though the nose filter idea has been floating around since the 1990s, there hasn't been any consensus on their value as a medical treatment. Nish told Shots: "My impression is maybe [these filters] not quite ready for prime time yet."
Nish says he's never recommended nasal filters to any of his patients. That was true with two other allergists we spoke to as well.
"We don't really use it in our practice," says Dr. Flavia Hoyte, an assistant professor of medicine at National Jewish Health in Denver, Colo. And allergists aren't taught about nasal filters in their training. Hoyte says she'd want to know more before recommending the devices. "But we don't discourage it if patients choose to use it."
Another cold snap could change things, of course, but it appears that after a long winter the Great Lakes have come close to — but won't break — their recorded record for ice cover.
The latest data from the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory show the lakes are about 84 percent ice-covered, down from a peak this season of just over 92 percent and well short of the 95 percent high mark sent in 1979.
In an email, NOAA/GLERL scientist George Leshkevich tells us that satellite imagery also indicates "that ice cover is starting to break up on the Great Lakes."
Lake Michigan, though, can lay claim to a new record, at least in terms of what's in the data from recent decades. Its ice cover peaked at 93.3 percent on Saturday. Leshkevich says the lake's previous record, 93.1 percent, was set in 1977. The researchers at NOAA/GLERL began collecting the data in 1973.
By the way, Lake Michigan's ice caves haven't been safe to visit for a few weeks. As the Detroit Free Press has reported, "milder temperatures and high winds have broken up the ice sheet on the lake side of the formations, and open water is visible near the caves."
As of Monday, though, the Green Bay Press Gazette was writing that Lake Superior's ice caves were still attracting tourists.
A Swedish journalist was gunned down in a heavily guarded section of the Afghan capital that is home to Westerners working for aid agencies, embassies and news organizations.
Nils Horner, 51, who has dual British-Swedish nationality, worked for Swedish Radio and had been in Afghanistan for only a few days prior to Tuesday's attack in Kabul.
The Guardian reports that Horner was killed "when travelling from his hotel to the ruins of a restaurant bombed by the Taliban in January. He had been planning to meet a survivor there for a report."
A "senior source" at the city's criminal investigation department tells the newspaper that Horner was taken to a hospital where he died from his injuries. It says the gunman, who used a pistol with a silencer, fled the scene but that two suspects were later arrested.
[Add at 1:00 p.m. ET: NPR's Sean Carberry reports from Kabul that witnesses say they heard "normal-sounding" gunshots — not a silencer-equipped pistol — and that although three people were questioned in connection with the attack, no arrests have been confirmed.]
"The journalist had got out of a Toyota Corolla car and was walking down the street, when he was shot, witness Zubair Atta Mohammad was quoted by the newspaper as saying. "He was shot in the head and the road was covered with blood," Mohammad said, adding that he had not seen the attackers.
"Nils was one of our absolute best and most experienced correspondents and what has happened to him today is terrible," said Swedish Radio's director-general, Cilla Benkö, tells Reuters.
"The attack was the first time in years that a Westerner appeared to have been specifically targeted and killed in Kabul. The journalist's death sent a fresh wave of concern through the sizable community of diplomats, journalists, aid workers and others who live and work in the Afghan capital.
"The city once had a thriving, albeit limited, expatriate social scene. There were a handful of restaurants and bars that catered almost exclusively to foreigners - Afghans are legally barred from drinking — and regular parties at the lightly guarded homes in which many Westerners here live.
"But the deteriorating security situation in many rural areas of Afghanistan and a number of high-profile attacks on Afghan officials, Western embassies and coalition forces in Kabul in recent years has forced many foreigners, especially diplomats, to live under tighter security restrictions."
Growing up in Taiwan, ShaoLan Hsueh stuck out.
She liked writing in Chinese.
"I know all the children hated it, but I was a bit odd in that I loved writing Chinese characters," says Hsueh, the daughter of a Chinese calligrapher.
Now living in London, she later discovered that the love she had for Chinese language felt like "torture" to her two British-born children. "I found it really challenging to try to convince them that it's really cool to read Chinese," she said. "No one in their environment would be interested or have contact with Chinese-speaking people."
Her solution is a system that helps readers learn Chinese characters through cute illustrations. The pictograms, developed with a team of visual designers, are now published in a new book called Chineasy.
There are tens of thousands of Chinese characters, but learning the 400-plus characters featured in the book is enough to read at a basic level, according to Hsueh, who also presented her language learning system at a TED Conference last year.
She adds that while learning to read may be challenging to Chinese-language learners, it can provide a deeper understanding of Chinese culture. For example, she points to the character for "female" (?), which when appearing twice to form another character (?) can mean "a quarrel" or "stupid." Hsueh says it's a sign of gender inequality that's embedded within traditional Chinese culture.