NPR Staff

Former President Jimmy Carter may be on the brink of celebrating the birthday wish he made last year: the global eradication of Guinea worm disease. This year, there are only two confirmed cases, compared to 3.5 million a year in the 1980s. It's a medical milestone that took a nearly 30-year effort by the Carter Center and its partners.

Carter spoke to NPR's Robert Siegel about the fight against Guinea worm. An edited version of the interview follows.


Interview Highlights

You must be gratified to see Guinea worm almost gone.

We often associate climate change with too much water — the melting ice caps triggering a rise in sea levels. Now a new World Bank report says we also need to think about too little water — the potable sort.

At White House state dinners, it's customary for a president to nod to the strengths and contributions of guest countries. And when hosting Nordic nations on Friday, President Obama paid tribute to a particular Finnish export.

Amir Attaran, a professor in the School of Public Health and the School of Law at the University of Ottawa, isn't afraid to take a bold stand.

He has written a commentary for the Harvard Public Health Review, published this week, with the headline, "Why Public Health Concerns for Global Spread of Zika Virus Means that Rio de Janeiro's 2016 Olympic Games Must Not Proceed."

Detroit singer Mike Posner's latest hit on the pop charts is — ironically — about the down sides of having a hit on the pop charts. It's called "I Took a Pill in Ibiza."

If you came of age in the 1960s, chances are you think about rock 'n' roll as the music of youth, of rebellion, of fighting the establishment. But in Nigeria, which was in the middle of a civil war, rock was one of the ways in which people expressed their politics.

For hundreds of years, Timbuktu has had a place in the world's imagination. Located on the southern edge of the Sahara desert, the city flourished as a center of Islamic culture and scholarship in the 13th through 16th centuries. It was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988, recognized for the University of Sankore, which had as many as 25,000 students who studied the Quran, as well as the historic Djingareyber and Sidi Yahia mosques.

When Owen Husney first met Prince Rogers Nelson, the musician was barely old enough to vote — and still going by his government name. "When you meet someone before they became the unapproachable icon, you tend to have a different relationship with them," he says.

Earlier this month, Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, who came to the U.S. as an Iraqi refugee and is currently a student at the University of California, Berkeley, was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight because another passenger overheard him speaking on his cellphone in Arabic.

When Newbery award-winning author Kate DiCamillo talks to kids about how she became a writer, she sometimes shows them a photo of her own family.

"I would put up this picture of my mother, my brother and me and I would say to them, 'Who's missing?' " she tells NPR's Kelly McEvers. "Clearly it's my father." And kids get that right away.

DiCamillo was always getting sick as a child, and when she was 6 years old, her family moved from Philadelphia to Florida in hopes that it would help her get healthy.

The farm-to-table trend has exploded recently. Across the country, menus proudly boast chicken raised by local farmers, pork from heritage breed pigs, vegetables grown from heirloom varieties. These restaurants are catering to diners who increasingly want to know where their food comes from — and that it is ethically, sustainably sourced.

But are these eateries just serving up lies?

A new Rembrandt painting unveiled in Amsterdam Tuesday has the tech world buzzing more than the art world.

That's because the painting is the creation of a 3-D printer — and not the Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn himself, who has been dead for almost 450 years.

After he won a National Book Award, and one of the MacArthur Foundation's so-called genius grants, no one anticipated Ta-Nehisi Coates' next move.

"What's the good of getting a MacArthur genius grant if you can't go and write a comic book for Marvel?" Coates tells NPR's Audie Cornish. "I don't know. There are things that people consider to be genius, and then there are things that deep in my heart I've always believed to be genius."

The much-hyped consumer virtual reality headset, Oculus Rift, is finally hitting the market. The reviews have been mixed. As The Wall Street Journal put it, "the first totally immersive home virtual reality rig is a pricey, awkward, isolating—and occasionally brilliant—glimpse of the future of computing."

Over the past few years, pop songs have come to play so consistently in advertising that there are smartphone apps designed to listen and help you name that tune, and the word "sellout" has lost a lot of its bite.

As President Obama touched down in Cuba over the weekend, Cuban artists were making waves at the SXSW music festival in Austin.

Organizers of the so-called SXAmericas — or South By Americas — series held a "Sounds of Cuba" showcase. Record label reps, music press and Latin music fans got to see rappers, Afro-Latin jazz singers and more from the Cuban music scene. The show was the first of its kind, given the difficulty these artists have getting clearance to go abroad. Many of these Cuban musicians had never performed on a U.S. stage.

If you'd like to major in jazz — or classical music, or voice performance — you have plenty of options. Music programs at schools from the Berklee College of Music in Boston to the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, to the Julliard School in New York, all offer bachelor's degrees in these styles.

But if you want a degree in gospel music, well, your choices have been far more limited. You could study gospel music history, or you could get a classical voice performance degree — but nothing quite like what you'd be looking for.

Albert Woodfox has spent more time in solitary confinement than any man alive in the U.S. today — 43 years. He and Robert King are the surviving members of a group known as the "Angola Three."

Together with the late Herman Wallace, they spent more than 100 years in solitary confinement for the 1972 death of a prison guard, Brent Miller, at the maximum security Louisiana State Penitentiary, known as Angola. No forensic evidence tied the Angola Three to Miller's killing, and they always maintained their innocence.

The Apple-FBI standoff, where Apple is refusing to write special software that would help investigators crack into an iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters, is largely viewed as a battle between privacy and security.

It was a love of mystery novels that brought Gary Shulze and Pat Frovarp together — a love of God Is a Bullet by Boston Teran, to be specific.

"I was looking at books," Frovarp, who is 75, tells NPR's Ari Shapiro. "Gary and I had seen each other. We didn't know one another. And he walked over to me in this particular bookstore and handed me a book by Teran and said, 'You've gotta read this book, it's really good.'"

George Gershwin wrote An American in Paris after visiting Paris in 1928. The orchestral piece tells the story of an American swept up in the energy of Paris, but thinking of the jazz back home. It's still such a popular piece that old-timey taxi horns Gershwin calls for in the score are rented by orchestras all over the country.

More than 250,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced as a result of the conflict in Syria. But the destruction also extends beyond human lives. Significant parts of that country's heritage are now lost. Architecture, art and antiquities dating back more than a thousand years have been wiped out — in what some have called cultural genocide.

If you got a parking ticket in the city of San Francisco between 1995 and 2012, you may be owed some money.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency says it has identified a total of $6.1 million in overpayments — in other words, vehicle owners who sent the government too much money — for some 200,000 tickets.

San Francisco issues 1.5 million tickets a year, Paul Rose, a spokesman with SFMTA, tells NPR's Robert Siegel.

From now until March 3, people can get their money back. After that, the government will keep the money.

Last year, Ford asked people if they could imagine themselves buying or riding in a self-driving vehicle.

Out of the eight countries surveyed, India and China had the highest positive answers at 84 percent and 78 percent, respectively, compared to the U.S. and U.K. at 40 percent and 30 percent, respectively, the study found.

The day when you'll be chauffeured to work by your car may not be far off.

Right now, the legal groundwork is being laid to make way for the self-driving car around the nation. NPR's Robert Siegel is talking to several key players this week about the emerging world of self-driving cars.

In the latest conversation, he spoke with Brian Soublet, deputy director and chief legal counsel for the California Department of Motor Vehicles — an agency that robotic car advocates have accused of squelching innovation before it even gets on the road.

Apple shareholders will be voting on a proposal at the annual meeting Feb. 26. It's a proposal that the company opposes, which calls for the tech leader to increase diversity in its senior management.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

One more word on politics. Following Hillary Clinton's victory in the Democratic caucuses today, just moments ago, Bernie Sanders conceded in Henderson, Nev.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

Earlier this week, officials at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore announced they had received approval to begin conducting the first organ transplants from HIV-positive donors to HIV-positive recipients. This comes after a 2013 change in the law that lifted a ban in place since 1988.

Surgeons at Johns Hopkins say that they are ready to begin performing liver and kidney transplants as soon as the appropriate candidates are available.

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