Alabama authorities say a home burglary suspect has died after police used a stun gun on the man.  Birmingham police say he resisted officers who found him in a house wrapped in what looked like material from the air conditioner duct work.  The Lewisburg Road homeowner called police Tuesday about glass breaking and someone yelling and growling in his basement.  Police reportedly entered the dwelling and used a stun gun several times on a white suspect before handcuffing him.  Investigators say the man was "extremely irritated" throughout and didn't obey verbal commands.

Montgomery Education Foundation's Brain Forest Summer Learning Academy was spotlighted Wednesday at Carver High School.  The academic-enrichment program is for rising 4th, 5th, and 6th graders in the Montgomery Public School system.  Community Program Director Dillion Nettles, says the program aims to prevent learning loss during summer months.  To find out how your child can participate in next summer's program visit Montgomery-ed.org

A police officer is free on bond after being arrested following a rash of road-sign thefts in southeast Alabama.  Brantley Police Chief Titus Averett says officer Jeremy Ray Walker of Glenwood is on paid leave following his arrest in Pike County.  The 30-year-old Walker is charged with receiving stolen property.  Lt. Troy Johnson of the Pike County Sheriff's Office says an investigation began after someone reported that Walker was selling road signs from Crenshaw County.  Investigators contacted the county engineer and learned signs had been reported stolen from several roads.

NPR Politics presents the Lunchbox List: our favorite campaign news and stories curated from NPR and around the Web in digestible bites (100 words or less!). Look for it every weekday afternoon from now until the conventions.

Convention Countdown

The Republican National Convention is in 4 days in Cleveland.

The Democratic National Convention is in 11 days in Philadelphia.

NASA has released the first picture of Jupiter taken since the Juno spacecraft went into orbit around the planet on July 4.

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The Senate is set to approve a bill intended to change the way police and health care workers treat people struggling with opioid addictions.

My husband and I once took great pleasure in preparing meals from scratch. We made pizza dough and sauce. We baked bread. We churned ice cream.

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Parents are busy. For some of us, figuring out how to get dinner on the table is a daily struggle. So I reached out to food experts, parents and nutritionists for help. Here is some of their (and my) best advice for making weeknight meals happen.

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Police in Baton Rouge say they have arrested three people who stole guns with the goal of killing police officers. They are still looking for a fourth suspect in the alleged plot, NPR's Greg Allen reports.

"Police say the thefts were at a Baton Rouge pawn shop early Saturday morning," Greg says. "One person was arrested at the scene. Since then, two others have been arrested and six of the eight stolen handguns have been recovered. Police are still looking for one other man."

A 13-year-old boy is among those arrested, Greg says.

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Freedom Has Its Own Constraints

Nov 7, 2012

Now that the election is over and we have a winner, we can move on to consider questions that are of concern to any presidency. In fact, the question I'd like to consider today goes to the very core of scientific research and the way it functions in modern democracies, fomenting intellectual and technological innovation.

Are scientists who receive funds from the government free to create?

Let me explain. In order to do research, academic scientists must rely on grants. These pay for equipment, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, travel to conferences, publication charges in academic journals and administrative support from the universities and colleges where the research is done. They may even include a salary component for the researcher.

There are many kinds of funding agencies, from the federal government to foundations. There is also industry-related funding which, of course, is mostly driven toward a specific goal, the creation of new technologies that will increase the company's bottom-line. Naïvely, one would think that the more removed from applied research, the freer a scientist is to pursue his goals. To a certain extent that is true. But how free is a scientist to create?

Although there has always been an alliance between science and the state (even Archimedes designed weapons for the king of Syracuse), the Second World War changed things forever. Scientists developed the technologies that were key in changing the course of the war, and this at huge expense to their governments. They came out as the heroes who could control the powers of Nature to create formidable weapons and machines.

Since then, the National Science Foundation (NSF), founded in 1950, has been the major force behind abstract or basic scientific research in the United States. The NSF proposes that scientists should have the freedom to create, to think deeply about fundamental problems in order to promote seminal advances in our understanding. The process works as best as it can. I certainly owe a lot to the role of NSF funding in my own career.

Still, it must be remembered that grants are based on a peer-reviewed process (how else can you insure the quality of a proposal?) and peer-review is never "pure": there are trends in research, often dictated by a few prominent scientists who determine, even if indirectly, which avenues are best to pursue, which directions are promising.

Even if, as Stuart Firestein argued so well in his book Ignorance: How It Drives Science, every grant proposal is a statement of ignorance and not of knowledge, this ignorance is based on questions coming out of the research process. The research process itself is rooted in the academic community's current preoccupations, documented in journals and argued over at conferences. Those preoccupations are linked to a previous flow of questions and results. So, even in basic research, in principle far removed from any applied goal, there are intellectual trends limiting a scientist's creativity if he wants to get funding. And the need for funding is a fact of life.

We should, of course, be grateful for agencies like the NSF and their mandate to support basic research. But we should also be aware that in science, as in politics, freedom is not freedom from everything. Freedom is the privilege to choose to what one must commit.


You can keep up with more of what Marcelo is thinking on Facebook and Twitter: @mgleiser

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