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Americans Reading Less for Fun

BILL WOLFF (Announcer): This is NPR.

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Hey, good morning everyone.

Pakistan's Supreme Court has dismissed most of the main legal challenges to General Pervez Musharraf's victory in last month's presidential election. Musharraf has promised to resign as army chief after the court cleared his reelection.

NPR's Jackie Northam is in Islamabad with details.

JACKIE NORTHAM: The 10 Supreme Court judges, all seen as government-friendly, dismissed five of the main challenges to Musharraf's right to have contested last month's election while he was still army chief. The final petition is expected be heard later this week.

The move by the Supreme Court opens a way for Musharraf to extend his presidency for another term. He also promised to stand down as Pakistan's army chief, which is a key demand of the U.S. and his political opponents here in Pakistan.

But the judges' decision is not likely to remove arguments about Musharraf's legitimacy because he virtually handpicked all of the judges in the reconstituted Supreme Court. It's widely believed that Musharraf purged the former high court because it was likely going to invalidate his bid for continued rule. The elections are scheduled for January 8th.

MARTIN: That was NPR's Jackie Northam in Pakistan.

Survivors of the powerful cyclone that killed tens of thousands of people in Bangladesh grieved and buried their loved ones today. Media reports and the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society said the death toll has already surpassed 3,000 and is likely to go up as rescue teams explore the outer banks of the coastline. Aid workers are trying to address the needs of some 3 million survivors who were either evacuated from their homes or whose homes were destroyed. More on this story coming up later in the show.

And the news closer to home, here's a headline for you, Americans, are reading less - not surprising, considering all the time we spend online. But now the National Endowment for the Arts says it's official.

The study called "To Read or Not To Read" is being released today. It says that in the year 2002, only 52 percent of college-aged Americans read a book voluntarily. The study also found a core relation between reading and academic success. Those young people who read more for fun - novels, poetry, short stories - are more likely to do better in school in a variety of subjects.

And speaking of not reading, people who watched "Saturday Night Live" on TV over the weekend saw this - a rerun of an episode with guest host NBC anchor Brian Williams.

(Soundbite of video clip, "Saturday Night Live")

Unidentified Man: In three, two…

Mr. BRIAN WILLIAMS (Anchor, "NBC Nightly News;" Guest Host, "Saturday Night Live"): Hi. I'm Brian Williams of "NBC Nightly News." A lot of people ask me quite often what it's like to be…

MARTIN: Meanwhile, a crowd of about 150 people got to experience a rare treat -a live, untelevised performance of "SNL" in a tiny Manhattan theater. "SNL" casts and writers collaborated to stage the special event, "Saturday Night Live on Strike," to benefit the behind-the-scenes staff affected by the writer's workout - walkout, rather.

Michael Cera of "Superbad" fame was the guest host, and the musical guest was Yo La Tengo. "SNL" could be setting the stage for other shows to follow suit. The cast and writers of "30 Rock" have also planned to stage a similar live performance tonight.

That's the news, and it's always online at npr.org.

WOLFF: This is NPR.

MARTIN: Robert and Alison.

ALISON STEWART, host:

Still wish I was one of the cool kids, I would have found out about that.

ROBERT SMITH, host:

I love this. Who needs TV if they're doing all this stuff live?

MARTIN: I know.

STEWART: I know.

MARTIN: Isn't that awesome? It would be so cool go there.

SMITH: We could do "CSI" on the streets of the city here and…

STEWART: Easily.

MARTIN: We're getting back to the artistic integrity of the whole thing.

SMITH: Exactly right. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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