Talk of the Nation on WKNO HD-2

When Americans want to be a part of the national conversation, they turn to Talk of the Nation, NPR's midday news-talk show.

The best sports writing forces us to confront wonder, horror, disappointment and joy. These days, those stories are found not on the sports pages, but in magazines and on the Web.

Jane Leavy, editor of The Best Sports Writing 2011, shares her favorites, including Jake Bogoch's piece on hockey, "School of Fight: Learning to Brawl with the Hockey Goons of Tomorrow."

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NEAL CONAN, host: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. If the threat of prison is supposed to deter crime, it's not working; record numbers are behind bars. And while all those bad actors off the street may contribute to lower crime rates in recent years, many believe there have to be better ways.

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NEAL CONAN, host: Demonstrators continue to march and camp out in cities across the country, inspired by Occupy Wall Street. But yesterday, protesters in Oakland tried something different. Thousands marched through the city in what they called a general strike. They paraded through the streets through much of the day then down to its busy port where they blocked entrances and closed it down. Later, police in riot gear fired teargas as some protesters broke windows and lit fires downtown.

As international forces prepare to leave Afghanistan, deep questions remain about the country's security and its government. Former NPR reporter Sarah Chayes lives part of the year there. She has served as special adviser to two commanders of NATO forces in Afghanistan, and Adm. Mike Mullen.

Historians have long struggled to explain how the West became the preeminent political and economic force in the modern world, and why so many people aspire to emulate the lifestyles, fashions and popular culture of America and Western Europe.

Now, historian Niall Ferguson says he has the answer. In his new book, Civilization: The West and the Rest, Ferguson credits six "killer apps," or social developments: competition, science, property, medicine, consumption and work.

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