General Motors may be facing a criminal investigation over its delay in recalling vehicles with faulty ignition switches blamed for 13 deaths and 31 accidents, The New York Times and Reuters are reporting.
Both news organizations are quoting a person familiar with the investigation.
As NPR's Sonari Glinton reported, GM is already facing a congressional inquiry into its actions. Allan Kam, a retired senior attorney for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, told Sonari that the issue here is that GM knew that its cars had ignition issues for 10 years, yet it only recalled 1.6 million vehicles last month.
The New York Times reports that the NHTSA is also investigating and the company has also launched its own internal review. The Times adds:
"It is rare, but not unprecedented for the Justice Department to consider criminal charges against an auto company for how it handles recalls.
"The department, for example, is currently in discussions with Toyota about settling a four-year criminal probe into how the Japanese automaker disclosed complaints related to unintended acceleration of its vehicles.
"The G.M. probe, while still in its early stages, reflects the escalating reaction among government officials to the company's admission to N.H.T.S.A. on Feb. 24 that it knew of problems with ignition switches at various times over the past ten years, but never moved to fix or replace the parts."
For more background on the story, here is audio of Sonari's story:
A lawyer for a group of detainees at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay Cuba is accusing the military of torture.
NPR's Martin Kaste filed this report for our Newscast unit:
"The military keeps hunger-striking detainees alive by forcing liquid food down their throats through a tube.
"Courts have refused to intervene, but lawyer Jon Eisenberg says he has new information that may change that.
"'They're speeding up the force-feeding process,' he said. 'And finally, we got numbers from one of these guys. He says he's gotten as much as 3,400 milliliters in a half hour.'
"Eisenberg says this causes intense intestinal pain reminiscent of a medieval torture called the "water cure."
"Eisenburg has filed a habeas corpus petition with the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia to slow down the pace of force-feedings. Pentagon spokesman Todd Brasseale dismisses the torture allegation as 'creative,' and says the feedings are performed only when medically necessary."
Back in July, The New England Journal of Medicine ran an editorial saying force feeding anyone against their wishes is never ethically acceptable. Guantanamo, the Journal editorial read, represents a "stain on medical ethics."
The Miami Herald's Carol Rosenberg, who covers Guantanamo, estimates that more than 100 prisoners have joined the hunger strike at some point. At its highest level, the prison was force feeding 46 prisoners last summer.
The military would not tell Rosenberg what that number is today.
Republican David Jolly wrung out a victory during a special election in Florida on Tuesday for the Tampa Bay-area district vacated by the late Rep. Bill Young.
As our friends at It's All Politics reported, the neck-and-neck race between Jolly and Democrat Alex Sink was seen as "a proxy for how President Obama and his signature health care legislation will play at the polls in November."
So, of course, observers will say that Jolly's victory signals that Republicans will keep their majority in the House after the November midterm elections.
In the end, Jolly beat Sink with a margin of about 2 percent.
Jolly ran on the promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act and also said that he supported the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
As The Tampa Bay Times reports, the battle wasn't just fought by Jolly and Sink. Outside money poured into the state during the campaign, totaling an "eye-popping" $12 million.
The Times adds:
"Jolly, a former aide to Young who went on to a lobbying career, was not a well-known figure in Pinellas County when he entered the race. Sink and her allies had attacked him for his lobbying and contended he wanted to undermine Social Security and Medicare, essential programs to the district's older voting population.
"But Jolly and outside Republicans hammered away at the Affordable Care Act, and had an unpopular president in their corner as well."
Jolly's victory, however, will be brief. He'll have to run for his seat again in November.
The Senate was a chamber divided in reaction to Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein's diatribe against the CIA for allegedly hacking into Senate computers.
A no-nonsense Feinstein, the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, took to the Senate floor Tuesday to speak at length and publicly for the first time about a dispute with the agency.
NPR's news blog, The Two-Way, provides much of the news and background on what happened Tuesday. The bottom line: Feinstein raises the prospect that the alleged actions of CIA employees violated the constitutional separation of powers and even criminal statutes.
She alleges that CIA employees illegally hacked into her committee's computers to remove documents related to her panel's CIA oversight duties and spy on the activities of Senate staffers. CIA Director John Brennan seemed to deny that, but said there was an internal investigation into the matter limiting what he could say.
Some Republican senators shared Feinstein's alarm, though they seemed to be willing to reserve ultimate judgment until a full investigation was concluded.
"If what they're saying is true about the CIA, this is Richard Nixon stuff," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. "This is dangerous to a democracy. Heads should roll. People should go to jail, if it's true. The legislative branch should declare war on the CIA, if it's true."
"It's very disturbing," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. "There needs to be a thorough and complete investigation."
But Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., the top Republican on the intelligence committee, indicated to reporters some disagreement with Feinstein assertions.
He called for a study to get to the truth. "Right now we don't know what the facts are." he said.
And Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., sounded more skeptical about Feinstein's charges. He told Bloomberg Television in an interview, "I think it's a bit more complicated than what's being put out there by Sen. Feinstein or others."
Rubio's skepticism was nothing compared to the hostility Feinstein's charges engendered beyond the Senate. Some compared her anger towards the CIA to her previous defense of the NSA. Feinstein was one of the NSA's more vocal supporters following revelations by Edward Snowden that the agency, as part of its counterterrorism efforts, collected telephone call information for virtually every American.
Smelling hypocrisy, Snowden said in a statement to NBC News that the situation was one "... where an elected official does not care at all that the rights of millions of ordinary citizens are violated by our spies, but suddenly it's a scandal when a politician finds out the same thing happens to them."
Similar concerns were expressed mainly by conservatives on social media. Feinstein may find herself in coming days being frequently asked to explain her very different reactions to the NSA and CIA.
When a plane crashes, it can take many months or years to find the black box that can provide clues as to what happened. Just what are these devices, how do they work, and why can they be so hard to find? We contacted the recorders division of the National Transportation and Safety Board to find out.
What is a "black box"?
An airplane actually has two black boxes: a flight data recorder, which stores information on specific parameters such as flight control and engine performance, and a cockpit voice recorder, which records background sound and conversations between crew members and air traffic control.
The black box isn't actually black at all. It is painted bright orange in order for it to be more easily spotted in wreckage.
How is the black box designed?
To protect the stack of memory boards that store information, black boxes are wrapped in a thin layer of aluminum and a 1-inch layer of high-temperature insulation, and then encased in a corrosion-resistant stainless steel or titanium shell.
The black box must be able to withstand an acceleration of 3,400 Gs (3,400 times the force of gravity), which equals an impact velocity of about 310 mph. It must also survive flames up to 2,000 degrees F for one hour, and the beacon should be able to emit a signal once per second while submersed in 20,000 feet of saltwater for 30 days.
The beacon cannot be heard by the human ear but can be easily be detected by sonar. The beacon is battery-powered, with a shelf life of up to six years.
Why does it take so long to find them?
Search teams must be in range of the beacon, about 15 miles. However, a beacon could be snapped off during a high-impact crash.
If a crash occurred at sea, Scott Hamilton, director of Leeham Co., an aviation consulting company, says finding the black box has "less to do with how deep the water is. What is more relevant is how soon debris is found and how close it is to the point of impact."
The more time it takes to find debris, the more time winds and currents have to carry it away. There are other factors, too, like how long it takes to mobilize search and rescue teams, and how sure authorities are of where the plane crashed. By the time debris is found, it could be miles away from the initial impact site.
Underwater terrain such as deep trenches could also affect how easily the pinging can be detected.
Where is the black box located?
The black box is typically installed in the tail of the plane, which is usually the last portion of the plane to impact.
How much data can a black box store?
A flight data recorder is required to store a minimum of 25 hours of flight information. A cockpit voice recorder is required to record a minimum of 2 hours of audio information.
What would it take to destroy a black box?
"It is extremely rare for a black box to be destroyed," says Hamilton. "Black boxes have traditionally outperformed their design."
Hamilton says he cannot think of a single case in which both devices have been damaged to the point to where there is no useful data.
"It would take a concentrated fire beyond its design strength, or an impact so high that it would be beyond what it could withstand."
Has a black box ever been destroyed?
There are a handful of cases in which black boxes have not been recovered, and a couple of cases in which the flight data recorder was found but not the cockpit voice recorder, or vice versa. Rarely, a recorder is recovered but blank or too damaged to read.
Could black boxes transmit information out rather than store it in, so that search teams don't have to go into dangerous terrain to find them?
"The viability of that technology is very good," aviation security consultant Chris Yates told Renee Montagne on Morning Edition. "Of course the big question is whether the airline industry that often bleats on out about the fact that it is constantly losing money hand over fist will want to invest in that technology."