Steve Inskeep

Palestinians in the West Bank don't get to vote in Israel's election on Tuesday, but they do have opinions.

And at a time when talks toward creating a Palestinian state have stalled, there are Palestinians like Ahmad Aweidah who are seeking alternatives to the traditional call for a two-state solution.

Aweidah is among those busy building the outward signs of a Palestinian state. Such efforts were visible when we went to visit him in the city of Nablus. His office is upstairs from the National Bank of Palestine, so named even though there is no country by that name.

While traveling in Israel this month, we asked several Israelis if they worried about the future of their country.

"Of course I'm concerned," answered Stav Shaffir.

"We're threatened from all over," said Anat Roth.

Both women are candidates for Israel's Knesset, or parliament, in Tuesday's election. They have a common concern about their country's future — its conflict with Palestinians, its relations with the rest of the world — that has driven them to vastly different political positions.

No matter how much you've read about the struggle for land in the Middle East, it deepens your understanding to visit an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

The Israeli settlements, founded in areas that Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, raise some of the more contentious issues in the conflict.

Israel is under pressure to stop building them, and eventually to surrender many of them to make way for a future Palestinian state. The United Nations long ago said they are not legal, and critics of Israel cite them as a reason to boycott or divest from the Jewish state.

When we walked into a shopping mall in Tehran, Pooya Shahsiah was waiting for us at the top of the escalator. She's the co-owner of a trendy little shop on the second floor that sells shirts, scarves, cups and jewelry. Cloth hangs along the walls in reds and yellows and blues.

There is, for example, a purple shirt with a colorful illustration of a rooster crowing. Parts of the rooster are made out of Persian words.

Iran is a country where people at rallies routinely chant "Death to Israel." It's also home to the largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside of Israel and Turkey.

Iran's Jewish population topped 100,000 in the years before the Shah of Iran was toppled in 1979 by the country's Shiite Muslim clerics. Today, the number of Jews has dipped to below 9,000.

Outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, speaking to NPR's Morning Edition, says he's concerned about retaining qualified U.S. military service members amid the "stress and strain" of more than 13 years of continuous warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is spending the holidays thinking about his future. Rubio was a prominent member of the contentious Congress that just ended. Some analysts labeled it the "worst Congress ever."

Shortly, Republicans will take control of both chambers. The new Congress, Rubio hopes, will be seen as "one whose work is relevant to people's daily lives."

"And right now, across America, that is, people that are reading all this news about how great the economy is doing, but they're not feeling it," he tells NPR.

Updated at 9:30 a.m. ET

Sen. Elizabeth Warren failed to stop a change in bank regulations last weekend, but she raised her profile yet again.

The Massachusetts Democrat tells NPR that her fight over a provision in a spending bill was a "warning shot." She intends to continue her fight against what she describes as the power of Wall Street, even though that fight brought her to oppose leaders of her own party.

In a shift driven partly by culture and largely by the economy, the number of grandparents living with their grandchildren is up sharply. According to recent U.S. census data, such families have increased by about a third over the past generation.

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Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is one of two independents in the Senate. Now, the self-described socialist says he may run for president.

Sanders is aligned with Senate Democrats, but he has spoken lately of a problem with the Democratic coalition that elected President Obama. He says working-class white voters have abandoned Democrats in large numbers. The party, he says, has "not made it clear that they are prepared to stand with the working-class people of this country, take on the big money interests."

I never meant to play you this story. Let me tell you why I had to.

Every so often I record interviews as part of a school benefit. People ask me to question their parents, or grandparents, to preserve family history. The stories that emerge are a little like our series StoryCorps.

Sometime after the polls close Tuesday night, we'll find out if Republicans managed a spectacular feat.

The party that lost the last two presidential elections is seeking a comeback, adding control of the Senate to control of the House. Republicans aim to dominate Congress with a fresh presidential election looming in 2016. It would be, in one of the hackneyed phrases of journalism, "a remarkable transformation."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit



Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit



Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit



The new commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection says he is reviewing scores of incidents in which agents have used deadly force.

R. Gil Kerlikowske made that statement during an exclusive interview with NPR's Morning Edition. It was his first extended conversation about controversial incidents in which the Border Patrol has killed civilians without apparent accountability. (Click here for a full transcript of the interview.)

The Department of Transportation on Friday announced that it's ordering General Motors to pay a $35 million civil penalty for the handling of its ignition switch problems.

Tijuana is itself a creation of the border. The borderline was drawn here in 1848, as the United States completed its conquest of the present-day American Southwest. The border, along with the growth of San Diego and Los Angeles, gave Tijuana a reason to be.

It's hard enough to drive through the Arizona desert, where the sun is harsh and the distances immense. This is the story of people who walk it.

In particular, it's the story of Brenda, who asked us to use only her first name. She told us yet another of the unbelievable stories you hear in the Borderland.

We met her in Nogales, Sonora, on the northern border of Mexico opposite Arizona. She was living in a shelter for deported people, where she told us of her brief and difficult stay in the United States.

Columbus, N.M., is all about the border. It's an official border crossing. Its history centers on a cross-border raid. In more recent years, it was a transit point for illegal weapons heading south into Mexico.

It's also the destination for children heading north to a U.S. school.

All the different strands of Columbus came together when we spent the day with the new mayor of the village. Phillip Skinner, former real estate developer and maquiladora owner-turned politician and school bus driver, was inaugurated early this month, on the morning we rolled into town.

We had just finished our time in Juarez, Mexico, when we had dinner with some distant relations on the U.S. side of the border. "You," one of my relatives said, "are the first Juarez survivors we've seen in some time."



A dust-covered car has been in our parking lot at NPR West this week. It was the vehicle that took Steve Inskeep and several colleagues along the entire border between the U.S. and Mexico. We've been hearing what they found in recent days, stories of people and goods and culture that cross the border. Steve's in our studio now with a rather difficult story to tell. Steve, what is that?

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We begin our next story with the sound of a parade this month in Brownsville, Texas.


We drove 2,428 miles on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, and it's safe to say that for much of the road trip, we were being watched.

Border Patrol agents, customs officers, cameras, sensors, radar and aircraft track movement in the Borderland. None of that has stopped the struggle to control the border, or the debate over how best to do it.

Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep stops in Zapata, Texas, in the latest installment of our Borderland series. Zapata is the hometown of the lead singer of Intocable, a band popular on both sides of the border. Ricky Munoz explains how listening to a mix of Mexican music, country hits and rock bands like Def Leppard while growing up influenced his band.

My colleagues and I drove 2,428 miles and remained in the same place.

We gathered a team, rented a car, checked the batteries in our recorders and cameras. We moved from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. We crossed deserts, plains and mountains. But all the while, we were living in Borderland — zigzagging across the frontier between Mexico and the United States.