Jennifer Ludden | KUNC

Jennifer Ludden

Jennifer Ludden helps edit energy and environment stories for NPR's National Desk, working with NPR staffers and a team of public radio reporters across the country. They track the shift to clean energy, state and federal policy moves, and how people and communities are coping with the mounting impacts of climate change.

Previously, Ludden was an NPR correspondent covering family life and social issues, including the changing economics of marriage, the changing role of dads, and the ethical challenges of reproductive technology. She's also covered immigration and national security.

Ludden started reporting with NPR while based overseas in West Africa, Europe and the Middle East. She shared in two awards (Overseas Press Club and Society of Professional Journalists) for NPR's coverage of the Kosovo war in 1999, and won the Robert F. Kennedy Award for her coverage of the overthrow of Mobutu Sese Seko in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. When not navigating war zones, Ludden reported on cultural trends, including the dying tradition of storytellers in Syria, the emergence of Persian pop music in Iran, and the rise of a new form of urban polygamy in Africa.

Ludden has also reported from Canada and at public radio stations in Boston and Maine. She's a graduate of Syracuse University with degrees in television, radio, and film production and in English.

On her first day back at work after giving birth, Tricia Olson drank copious amounts of coffee, stuffed tissues in her pocket, and tried not to cry. After all, her son Gus was just 3 weeks old.

Olson, 32, works for a small towing company and U-Haul franchise in Rock Springs, Wyo., and she could not afford to be away from work any longer.

"The house bill's not going to pay itself," she says, her voice breaking in an audio diary she kept as part of a series on the challenges facing working parents airing on NPR's All Things Considered.

A powerful drug that's normally used to tranquilize elephants is being blamed for a record spike in drug overdoses in the Midwest. Officials in Ohio have declared a public health emergency, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says communities everywhere should be on alert for carfentanil.

The synthetic opioid is 100 times more potent than fentanyl, the prescription painkiller that led to the death earlier this year of the pop star Prince. Fentanyl itself can be up to 50 times more deadly than heroin.

Orientation at Arkansas Tech University this year included a surprising topic for a Bible Belt state that pushes abstinence-only in high school. Every freshman was shown a newly produced video in which real students talk about the struggle of an unplanned pregnancy, and the challenge of staying in school as a parent.

Standing before several dozen students in a college classroom, Travis Rieder tries to convince them not to have children. Or at least not too many.

He's at James Madison University in southwest Virginia to talk about a "small-family ethic" — to question the assumptions of a society that sees having children as good, throws parties for expecting parents, and in which parents then pressure their kids to "give them grandchildren."

Why question such assumptions? The prospect of climate catastrophe.

One of the country's most outspoken abortion providers has filed a civil rights complaint against the hospital where she works, saying that it has wrongly banned her from giving media interviews.

The trials of six Baltimore police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray were supposed to have been over by now. It was a year ago Tuesday that the 25-year-old black man died of a severe neck injury sustained in custody.

His death touched off violent protests, and — in a stunning announcement just days later — criminal charges.

State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby said she had heard protesters' calls for "no justice, no peace."

But so far, there's been one hung jury, lots of legal maneuvering and delays.

When a doctor found that Kenicer Carty's 1-year-old daughter had a dangerously high level of lead last year, it triggered an alarm of sorts. Officials sent an inspector to Carty's 1930 row house in northeast Baltimore. It turned out that every single window had hazardous chipping lead paint.

At Southwest Baltimore Charter School, preparing lunch takes a few extra steps.

"We don't use the water from the building for cooking, not at all," say cafeteria worker LaShawn Thompson, shaking her head.

Her colleague, Christine Fraction, points to a large water bottle sitting on the counter of a stainless steel sink.

"We having greens or something like that, we having vegetables, we'll just turn it over into the pan and then put it on the stove," she says.

Janice Wright's sixth-grader loves politics. The family lives in Crosby, Texas, and they're big supporters of Ted Cruz. Last week they were late pulling up the Republican debate on their laptop when Janice saw a social media reference to Marco Rubio's "small hands" comment. It was a veiled reference to Donald Trump's private parts. Wright nixed the debate, telling her disappointed son the candidates "weren't acting like adults."

The U.S. Supreme Court next month is scheduled to hear its biggest abortion case in at least a decade, and the reach of that decision is likely to be impacted by the absence of Justice Antonin Scalia, who died over the weekend.

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