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Back Home, Freed American Journalist Says He's 'Overwhelmed By Emotion'

by Eyder Peralta
Aug 27, 2014

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American journalist Peter Theo Curtis was back home in Boston today, after he was freed by a militant group in Syria.

Speaking to reporters, Curtis said he was "overwhelmed by emotion." Curtis, if you remember, was freed by Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaida affiliate operating in Syria, over the weekend.

Curtis was handed over to United Nations peace keepers just a week after another extremist group, Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, beheaded the American journalist James Foley.

Curtis said that he had no idea the kind of effort that was underway to get him back home. He said that total strangers had come up to him and told him they were glad he was home.

"I suddenly remember how good the American people are and what kindness they have in their hearts. And to all those people I say a huge thank you form the bottom of my heart," he said.

Curtis did not take any questions. He said he would at another time, but now it was time to bond with his mother and his family.

Meanwhile, the mother of freelance journalist Steven Sotloff, who is still being held captive in Syria, issued a direct plea to the Islamic State.

In the video, she says that Sotloff is simply an "innocent journalist" without control of the actions taken by the United States.

"I ask you to please release my child," Shirley Sotloff says.

Sotloff pleads with ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to grant her son amnesty, "to use your authority to spare his life and to follow the example set by the Prophet Mohammed who protected people of the Book."

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Scottish musician Jim Malcolm is featured in this week's Thistle & Shamrock. (Genie Dee)

The Thistle & Shamrock: Live & Kicking

Aug 27, 2014

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From the pubs and clubs of home to international festivals stages, some great live performances electrify this hour of music.

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A commuter walks down the platform before boarding a Manhattan-bound N train at Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard station in the Queens borough of New York. (AP)

Who's In The Office? The American Workday In One Graph

by Quoctrung Bui
Aug 27, 2014

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Researchers often look at the number of hours worked, but rarely do they ask the question of when. Fortunately, the government conducts an annual study called the American Time Use Survey that tracks how people spend their days.

The interactive graph below shows the share of workers who say they're working in a given hour, grouped by occupation. Play with the different job categories to see how the average workdays differ from one another.

The conventional workday remains pretty strong. The majority of people are at work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a small break in the middle of the day for lunch.

The graph shows that construction workers take the lunch hour the most seriously, with the largest drop in workers at noon (as measured from peak to midday trough).

Not surprisingly, servers and cooks have a schedule that's essentially the opposite of all other occupations. Their hours peak during lunch and hold steady well into the evening.

The only occupation where a large share of workers are up at 3 a.m. is protective services (like police officers, firefighters and private detectives). Even among blue collar workers, working at 3 a.m. is a relatively rare occurrence.

Still, Americans work more night and weekend hours than people in other advanced economies, according to Dan Hamermesh and Elena Stancanelli's forthcoming paper. They found that about 27 percent of Americans have worked between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. at least once a week, compared with 19 percent in the U.K. and 13 percent in Germany.

But there are limits to the data. For white collar work, the line between life and work can be blurred. Tasks like late-night emails and dinners with clients throw a wrench into how work hours are measured overall.

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Rice is just as nice as ice when it comes to bucket challenges. Right: Manju Latha Kalanidhi, inventor of the Rice Bucket Challenge, gives grains to a hard-working neighbor. (Courtesy of Manju Latha Kalanidhi)

Rice Bucket Challenge: Put Rice In Bucket, Do Not Pour Over Head

by Linda Poon
Aug 27, 2014

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There's the Ice Bucket Challenge. And now there's the Rice Bucket Challenge.

More than a million people worldwide have poured buckets of ice water over their heads as part of a fund-raising campaign for ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease.

But when word of the challenge made its way to India, where more than 100 million people lack access to clean drinking water, locals weren't exactly eager to drench themselves with the scarce supply.

And so, a spinoff was born.

Manju Kalanidhi, a 38-year-old journalist from Hyderabad who reports on the global rice market, put her own twist to the challenge. She calls her version the Rice Bucket Challenge, but don't worry, no grains of rice went to waste.

Instead, they went to the hungry.

"I personally think the [Ice Bucket Challenge] is ideal for the American demographic," she says. "But in India, we have loads of other causes to promote."

Kalanidhi came up with a desi version — that's a Hindi word to describe something Indian. She chose to focus on hunger. A third of India's 1.2 billion people live on less than $1.25 USD a day, and a kilogram of rice, or two pounds, costs between 80 cents and a dollar. A family of four would go through roughly 45 pounds of rice a month, she says.

That's why she's challenging people to give a bucket of rice, cooked or uncooked, to a person in need. Snap a photo, share it online and, just as with the Ice Bucket Challenge, nominate friends to take part, she suggests. For those who want to help more than one person at a time, she recommends donating to a food charity.

Kalanidhi kicked off the campaign on Friday, giving nearly 50 pounds of rice to her 55-year-old neighbor. He has a family of five to feed and makes a living selling breakfast to the neighborhood. But if he falls sick, his business suffers.

She took a photo with her neighbor, along with the rice, and posted it on her personal Facebook page. Responses poured in by the hundreds, prompting her to create a page for the campaign on Saturday. It received a hundred likes in just five hours. As of today, the number of likes has topped 40,000 in what she calls a "social tsunami."

With 3 to 4 billion people in the world depending on rice as a dietary staple, the challenge has spread beyond the India's borders. People in California, Canada and Hong Kong are among the participants.

Based on the photos, Kalanidhi estimates that at least 200 people have taken part and more than 4,000 pounds of rice have been donated. Another 4,850 pounds were donated Wednesday by 2,200 students at Apoorva Degree College in a town near Hyderabad, she says.

The photos have been pouring in: radio hosts, police officers, doctors and students have all taken part.

What if a recipient doesn't want to be photographed — or if the donor thinks it's not a good idea to take a picture? No worries, says Kalanidhi. A photo of the rice bucket will do.

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Take a moment to slow down with these TED Radio Hour stories. (iStock)

Playlist: Time Out

by NPR/TED Staff
Aug 27, 2014

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We made playlists of TED Radio Hour stories that will keep you curious about big ideas throughout the summer.

Summer's the perfect time to slow down, sit still, and reflect. Here are some compelling stories about listening, gratitude, and justice.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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