Federal Reserve officials end a two-day meeting on Wednesday amid signs that the U.S. economy is slowly mending. David Greene talks to David Wessel, economics editor of The Wall Street Journal, about the Fed's last meeting of the year.
Germans are serious about their beer. Serious enough for the European country's main brewers association to urge the United Nations to recognize that fact.
The brewers association wants a five-century-old law governing how German beer is made to become part of the UNESCO World Heritage list. It would join the Argentinian tango, Iranian carpet weaving and French gastronomy, among other famous traditions, that are considered unique and worth protecting.
Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 11:21 am
As a young woman, I had an attack of nostalgia for a possibly imaginary cookie. It was prompted by a walk up New York's Third Avenue, where I saw in the bakery case of a local delicatessen a stack of small round cookies, covered in the tiny rainbow sprinkles known as nonpareils. Instantly, I was ambushed by a flashback to the tiny Italian pastry shop of the small riverside town just north of Manhattan where I grew up, and where, I felt sure, I had been given star-shaped sprinkle cookies of a similar kind as a reward for my excellent behavior.
If your holiday shopping trip includes a stop at the bookstore, you might consider adding audiobooks to your gift list. And this year, as you slip on headphones to sample the offerings, what you hear might surprise you.
According to Robin Whitten, the founder and editor of AudioFile magazine, the genre has far surpassed the conventions of the taped readings of yore.
Political innocent I may be, but I find great irony in that, while everybody agrees there is massive inequality in the United States today, it's in sports where the American dream still lives — more than ever.
Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 4:05 am
Our Milky Way galaxy has four arms instead of two, according to just published results of a 12-year study by scientists in the U.K.
The findings, published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, affirm what astronomers surmised in the 1950s but began to doubt in 2008 after seeing images from the Spitzer Space Telescope that could only confirm two spiral arms.
Originally published on Tue December 17, 2013 7:21 pm
Congress got a jolt Tuesday when three House members announced they will step down at the end of their terms, creating 2014 pickup opportunities for both parties.
The retirements of Republican Reps. Frank Wolf of Virginia and Tom Latham of Iowa came as welcome news to Democrats, who need a net gain of 17 seats to capture a House majority in the midterm elections.
Originally published on Tue December 17, 2013 7:34 pm
That's the number the Federal Reserve Board's policymakers wanted to see this year. Having an annual inflation rate of 2 percent would confirm that the U.S. economy is strengthening — workers are getting raises and companies are seeing enough customer demand to mark up prices.
But the 2 percent target turned out to be too high.
Doctors talking up drugs to other doctors has been quite lucrative for pharmaceutical companies — and the physicians who moonlight as their salesmen.
Drugmakers learned long ago that deputized doctors were effective pitchmen. A doctor paid by a company to give a dinner speech or to chat over lunch with colleagues can go a long way toward changing their prescribing habits.
Two decades ago, the strongest critics of the North American Free Trade Agreement were members of labor unions. They warned that the trade deal would mean the loss of manufacturing jobs to Mexico and lower wages for U.S. workers.
Today, 20 years since NAFTA's passage, unions feel as strongly as ever that the deal was a bad idea.
As we near the end of 2013, NPR is taking a look at the numbers that tell the story of this year. They're numbers that, if you really understand them, give insight into the world we live in.
This year, for the first time, national polls show a majority of Americans support the legalization of marijuana. Gallup has been asking the question for four decades, and now it says 58 percent favor legalization.
Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 2:13 pm
Make no mistake, Ron Burgundy is a terrible human being. In 2004's Anchorman, it's true, he learned a lesson (sort of) about the dangers of his overinflated ego and the lies of his culturally inherited misogyny. But everything came out OK in the end, and he ended things as a semi-likable rogue — casually misogynist, lackadaisically racist, generically insensitive and oblivious, but still a guy who loves his dog, his lady and his Scotch, and who isn't afraid to cry.
Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 8:43 am
I'll say this for Neil LaBute: The man sticks to his guns. Critics may carp about his sour vision of human nature, but he keeps plugging away at his micro-studies of the cruel struggle for interpersonal domination.
LaBute is a master of stagecraft, of course; I'm not sure why he works in film at all, other than to broaden his audience. Aside from the substantially more cinematic Nurse Betty, almost all of his movies are essentially stage plays, ably transposed to the screen but with minimal concession to the switch in medium.
In 2009, snowboarder Kevin Pearce was riding high, soaring skyward, twisting his body into breathtaking acrobatics. He was 22, one of the world's top halfpipe riders, and a favorite to make the U.S. Olympic team for the 2010 Vancouver Games.
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
On Capitol Hill today, a truce in the budget wars. A dozen Republican senators agreed to let a bipartisan budget deal proceed to a final vote. That was the bill's last obstacle. It's expected to easily garner the 51 votes it needs for passage.
But as NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, the deal still has many critics in the Senate on both sides of the aisle.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block. The government's health insurance website has a new Mr. Fixit. The Obama administration has hired a former Microsoft executive to oversee improvements. Kurt DelBene will take over for Jeff Zients, the former management consultant and White House staffer who was brought in in late October to help turn the troubled website around.
News of DelBene's appointment comes as President Obama met today with a group of high tech CEOs. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.
If you want to understand the tension between tech workers in San Francisco, who often make six figures, and many of the city's other residents, try standing on the southwest corner of 24th Street and Valencia around 7:30 on a weekday morning.
Today, one of the biggest drug companies in the world announced changes to its marketing practices. GlaxoSmithKline says the idea is to be more transparent about how it sells its drugs. Among the changes, the company will stop paying doctors to tout its products to other doctors.
As NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports, the public interest community says this is a step in the right direction for an industry that's faced many legal problems.
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
Russia has agreed to a multibillion-dollar bailout for Ukraine. The deal comes amid a political crisis in Ukraine, as tens of thousands of demonstrators keep up a weeks-long protest. They're demanding the country's president step down. As NPR's Corey Flintoff reports from Moscow, the bailout may buy some breathing room for President Viktor Yanukovych, but it triggered new outrage among his opposition.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
We're going to venture out onto the sea now off the coast of Britain. Yesterday, we heard about a British cultural institution called the Shipping Forecast. Every night, landlubbers who know nothing of the sea tune into BBC radio, to hear about sea and weather conditions off the British Isles. Songs and poems have been devoted to the forecast.
A decade ago, President George W. Bush announced an unprecedented global health initiative: $15 billion over five years to fight HIV in developing countries.
"There are whole countries in Africa where more than one-third of the adult population carries the infection," Bush said in his 2003 State of the Union address. "Yet across that continent, only 50,000 AIDS victims — only 50,000 — are receiving the medicine they need."
Dahab, Egypt, just north of Sharm el-Sheikh on the Sinai Peninsula, is perfect for free-diving. A diver can have tea in a simple beach cafe and then take just a handful of steps into the Gulf of Aqaba, where the seafloor plunges more than 100 yards into a wine-glass-shaped blue hole.
That lawsuit over NSA surveillance would likely never have happened if former NSA contractor Edward Snowden hadn't leaked classified documents that showed what the agency was doing. Snowden also revealed that the U.S. government was monitoring the communications of foreign leaders, among other secret activities. Intelligence officials say they're still coping with the ramifications of all these unauthorized disclosures.
NPR's Tom Gjelten has been covering the Snowden leaks since they became known in June, and he joins me now.