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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

South Korea's president delivered this message yesterday to North Korea: It will respond strongly to any provocations under North Korea's new leader, Kim Jong-un. However, in a televised speech, Lee Myung-bak also promised that North-South relations could improve if Pyongyang halts its nuclear weapons program.

Reporter Doualy Xaykaothao recently hit the streets of Seoul, to find out what South Koreans think of the power shift in the north. And for many the answer is simple: They don't care.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

American Idol, The Sing-Off, The Voice — there's no shortage of over-the-top, glitzy, ratings-driven music competitions on TV. And now Aretha Franklin is getting in on the singing contest circuit, but she's turning her searchlight on the world of classical music. That's right — the Queen of Soul is searching for the next great opera singer.

Fed Will Now Forecast Interest-Rate Changes

Jan 3, 2012

The Federal Reserve will now tell the public its expectations for short-term interest rates. In the minutes of the Fed's Open Market Committee Dec. 13 meeting , the Fed said it would update that forecast four times a year, beginning after its Jan. 24-25 meeting.

The AP reports:

One of the more surprising moments in U.S. foreign policy last year occurred when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Myanmar, long ruled by a repressive military government and shunned as a pariah nation.

The six-word memoir conceit grew into a popular series of books, but the editors know it's tough to share a meaningful story in so few words. So Smith Magazine released The Moment: Wild, Poignant, Life-Changing Stories from 125 Writers and Artists Famous and Obscure, a collection of longer tales.

Larry Smith,editor of the collection, joins NPR's Neal Conan to talk about the moments included in the book, and to hear listeners' stories of the moments that changed their lives.

Tell us: When was the moment your life changed?

Body Found On Queen Elizabeth II's Country Estate

Jan 3, 2012

A dog walker found a body on Queen Elizabeth II's Sandringham estate in Norfolk, England. The royals spend the holidays every year on the sprawling, 20,000-acre estate.

The Norfolk Constabulary issued a statement saying the female body was found on Sunday, while the Royals were at home, and that the office has launched a murder investigation.

Can We Expect An Organic Milk Shortage In 2012?

Jan 3, 2012

It's been a tough few months for dairy, with Norway's butter shortage and now an ominous cloud looming over 2012 for some drinkers of organic milk.

Letters: Lives Lost In 2011 And Farm Work

Jan 3, 2012

NPR's Neal Conan reads from Talk of the Nation listener comments on previous show topics, including our annual show remembering remarkable lives lost, and a recent proposal to change the laws governing what work children may do on farms.

Crime rates dropped sharply in the past twenty years, according to FBI data, a trend that continues despite the recession and a recent decrease in prison populations. Criminologists see a clear trend, but can't fully explain what's driving the decline in violent and property crime rates.

Two-thirds of Americans are overweight. And when many of them try to take off the extra pounds, their bodies fight to stay fat. Tara Parker-Pope, who described "The Fat Trap" in The New York Times Magazine, and Dr. Arthur Frank talk about why some people appear more biologically prone to obesity.

When Facebook engineer Arturo Bejar observed users were reporting pictures of themselves, not those with illegal content, he recognized the need for a better way for users to resolve internal conflicts. Bejar talks about how Facebook is trying to encourage compassion in online social interaction.

A major medical group issued ethical guidelines on Monday that take the provocative position of urging doctors to consider cost-effectiveness when deciding how to treat their patients.

The American College of Physicians, the second-largest U.S. doctors' group after the American Medical Association, included the recommendation in the latest version of its ethics manual, which provides guidance for some 132,000 internists nationwide.

We knew defense cuts were coming, but The New York Times is reporting that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will unveil $450 billion in cuts this week. With the announcement, reports the Times, will also come a new philosophy for the Pentagon.

The Times reports:

On the last day he'll have New Hampshire to himself, GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, who bypassed the Iowa caucuses, plans to travel from Pembroke to Peterborough in search of enough votes to break into the top three in next week's Granite State primary.

With his presidential opponents scrambling for last-minute support in advance of Tuesday's Iowa caucuses, Huntsman has been methodically wooing New Hampshire voters in nearly 150 events over the past few weeks.

Most everyone's spirits are a bit deflated after the holidays. So, as a literary antidote, I recommend a just-published anthology called New York Diaries: 1609 – 2009. Editor Teresa Carpenter has collected four centuries worth of diary excerpts written by people, great and small, who've lived in or just passed through one of the greatest cities in the world.

U.S. Defiant As Iran Threatens Its Aircraft Carrier

Jan 3, 2012

Iran issued a threat to a U.S. aircraft carier, today, which further complicates the tense relationship between the two countries. The threat comes just a day after Iran performed naval maneuvers in the Strait of Hormuz.

Make a list of the world's most popular scientists, and Stephen Hawking's name will be near or at the very top of the list.

Hawking, the author of A Brief History of Time and a professor at the University of Cambridge, is known as much for his contributions to theoretical cosmology and quantum gravity as for his willingness to make science accessible for the general public, says science writer Kitty Ferguson.

"It's not dumbing down [science]; it's really making it accessible, hopefully, to a lot of people," she tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

In yet another sign that the economy is limping forward, the Commerce Department said today that spending on construction rose 1.2 percent in November for the third time in four months.

Candidates Make Last Push Before Iowa Voting Begins

Jan 3, 2012

Republican presidential candidates prepared Tuesday for their first major test of the primary season, making last-minute whistle-stops throughout Iowa in hopes of swaying many undecided caucus-goers.

Later tonight, Iowa Republicans will gather to cast ballots for the person they want to stand against President Obama in November. But after a bruising months-long campaign, more than a third of those participating in the caucuses say they still haven't made up their minds.

If you were listening carefully to NPR's Ted Robbin's report on Rick Santorum on Morning Edition, yesterday, you heard some pretty controversial comments from the Republican presidential candidate.

No, The School Nurse Is Not In

Jan 3, 2012

More than half of American public schools don't have a full-time nurse, and the situation is getting worse as school systems further cut budgets. This year, 51 were laid off in Philadelphia's public schools, 20 in a Houston suburb, 15 in San Diego and dozens more in other school systems nationwide.

Other schools have reduced their school nurse staffing.

Making The Best Of A Hospital Stay By Quitting Smoking

Jan 3, 2012

When smokers are in the hospital, they typically have to give up cigarettes for as long as they're there.

Most hospitals make little effort to screen patients for tobacco use or to help them kick the habit permanently. That's a missed opportunity.

In Iowa, It's Decision Day At Last

Jan 3, 2012

After months of campaigning, it's finally caucus day in Iowa. Polls still show a fluid race, with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum heading the pack.

The man police called "the most dangerous arsonist in Los Angeles County," may have been angered by the immigration hearing of a family member. The Los Angeles Times reports that Harry Burkhart, a 24-year-old from Germany who was arrested and charged in connection to a string of arson fires in Los Angeles, went on an anti-American tirade recently.

The Times reports:

Scotch Wiskey From A Can?

Jan 3, 2012

A maker of Scotch whiskey plans to start selling its product in a can. You can buy a 12 ounce can — 80 shots of 80 proof whiskey — in a container that cannot be re-sealed. The company says it hopes to eventually develop a can you can close.

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