Summer vacations are where we do some of our most serious thinking — whether we're sitting by the ocean, cradled in a hammock, or strolling alongside a river. And yet, when it comes to summer reading, we can be quick to grab the latest flashy espionage novel or an earthy romance slathered in buttery prose. Not that there isn't a time and place for brain popcorn, but lately, I find that I want my summer reading material to match my buzzing mind. And for that kind of constant engagement, I turn to memoir.
In 2011, NoViolet Bulawayo was awarded the Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story "Hitting Budapest." In this raw, fierce tale of a gang of near-feral children on the hunt for guavas, the young writer delivered one of the most powerful works of fiction to come out of Zimbabwe in recent years — a clear-eyed indictment of a government whose policies, in the decades since independence, have left many of its citizens destitute.
OK. The nomination we just heard about involves reaching across the aisle. That's not something we hear much about. When it comes to the federal budget, if it feels like we haven't heard about the budget in a while, there's a reason for that. The process is stalled. Back in March, the House and Senate passed vastly different spending plans. In theory, the next step would be a conference committee to hash out the differences, but a handful of senators are blocking that from happening.
President Obama is expected to name former Justice Department official James Comey as the next director of the FBI, sources tell NPR. Comey is a Republican who has a reputation for bipartisanship and even-handedness.
If you've ever wanted to own a piece of the Empire State Building, I guess now is your chance. The building's investors have approved a plan to turn the iconic New York high-rise into a publicly-traded company. This could mark the end of a bitter struggle over the buildings future.
Even as parts of the U.S. are being devastated by tornadoes, hurricane season it just beginning - officially this Saturday. One of the toughest decisions for people when a storm is approaching is whether to evacuate. Pets add to that dilemma, since most shelters don't accept animals. Georgia Public Broadcasting's Adam Ragusea tells us about a new evacuation center that's trying to change that.
You know what they say about the early bird? Well, a new species is vying for that title. Scientists have long-regarded an ancient creature, known as the Archaeopteryx, as the earliest bird known to science. But a discovery made in China could change that, according to a study published in Nature magazine. Scientists have found evidence of a feathered, chicken-sized species that's 10 million years older. It's called Aurornis xui, and it lived about 160 million years ago.
As nail-biting hockey fans know well, there has been a lot of drama in this year's playoffs. Last night in the NHL, no different. The Chicago Blackhawks advanced to the semifinals with a thrilling Game 7 overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings.
Chicago had the best regular season record in the NHL this year. But as NPR's Mike Pesca reports, that doesn't mean much when your back is against the wall in an elimination game.
Amazon asked subscribers of its video-streaming service to do the jobs usually left to focus groups and executives. The company released 14 pilot TV shows, then looked at customer reviews and view counts. Amazon announced five pilots have been approved for a full season.
Less than two years ago, Michele Bachmann's star seemed to be rising. The Republican congresswoman from Minnesota was full of energy and delighted her supporters - many in the Tea Party - when she announced she was running for president. Now, her presidential bid is being investigated. She won her congressional seat back - barely, and now she's announced she won't run again next year.
This has taken people by surprise, especially in her home district. Minnesota public radio's Conrad Wilson reports.
There were questions Wednesday about whether U.S. regulators will approve the takeover of Smithfield Foods Inc., the company that sells all-American hams, hot dogs and bacon, by China's Shuanghui International.
A farmer in Oregon has found some genetically engineered wheat growing on his land. It's an unwelcome surprise, because this type of wheat has never been approved for commercial planting.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it's investigating, trying to find out how this wheat got there. The USDA says there's no risk to public health, but wheat exporters are worried about how their customers in Asia and Europe will react.
And he looks ever the boy when he puts on an industrial-sized apron, thick gloves and a metal helmet - the tools of an apprentice welder at the Don Bosco center in this city in southern Colombia.
It's a big complex, complete with classrooms, basketball courts, a dormitory and work rooms. It's home to boys and girls, as well as very young adults, who defected from the FARC rebels or were captured by the Colombian army.
If your idea of ballet is a flurry of tutus and toeshoes, a new exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington will expand your vision. "Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes" shows the revolutionary impact a group of dancers, composers, artists and choreographers made on classical dance at the start of the 20th century.
In the middle of the night a few weeks ago, 15-year-old Yusra Hammed watched Israeli soldiers arrest her brother Tareq. Two years older than Yusra, Tareq Hammed was among several Palestinian teenagers taken into custody that night, accused of throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers in their village, Silwad, in the occupied West Bank.
While he was being detained, his mother described him as a patriot.
"He wanted so badly to do as same what his father did, to defend his country," Suhaila Hammed said, sitting on a tawny gold couch in their home in Silwad.
NPR's Uri Berliner is taking $5,000 of his own savings and putting it to work. Though he's no financial whiz or guru, he's exploring different types of investments — alternatives that may fare better than staying in a savings account that's not keeping up with inflation.
The Houston area produces about a quarter of the nation's gasoline, and about a third of the plastics that are in our cars, cupboards and just about everywhere else. So it is no surprise that this heavily industrial area has a problem with air pollution. But in the past decade, Houston's air has improved dramatically.
How that happened is a tale of good science, new technology and a Texas law that prompted companies along the Houston Ship Channel to disclose their emissions.
Here's a question: If you go to the movies and the scheduled showtime is, say, 7:30, when do you actually expect the movie to start? If you said 7:30, you go to very unusual screenings. If you said 7:45, you're closer to what many experience. If you said 7:50, you're still in range: There's often some advertising other than trailers, the limit for trailer length is 2 1/2 minutes, and theaters sometimes run seven or eight trailers. Eight would add up to 20 minutes.
Police in New York say preliminary tests of two threatening letters sent to Mayor Michael Bloomberg contained traces of ricin.
The anonymous letters, both addressed to Bloomberg, were opened Friday in New York at the city's mail facility and Sunday in Washington, D.C., at the headquarters of the nonprofit started by Bloomberg, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, according to authorities.
The American soldier accused of killing 16 villagers in Afghanistan last year plans to plead guilty in order to avoid the death penalty. Lawyers say Staff Sergeant Robert Bales will plead guilty to 16 counts of premeditated murder next week and that his sentencing trial will be held in September.
There is no shortage of wonders on display at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, under way this week outside Washington, D.C. Students are easily spooling off words such as wiesenboden and machicotage. But even the Scripps Bee judges were flummoxed when 7th grader Katie Danis made this request today.
KATIE DANIS: Would you mind if I were to, like, sing the letters, it would help me. I could do that.
BLOCK: The judges conferred, and said OK. So here's Katie Danis, sing-spelling stabilimeter.
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann's announcement Wednesday that she won't seek a fifth term unleashed a torrent of tweets and blog posts on the left lampooning the short-lived 2012 presidential candidate.
Yet the response — her retirement effectively dominated the news cycle — provided a glimpse of Bachmann's impact on Washington.
Move over Archaeopteryx, an older bird just landed on the evolutionary tree.
Scientists writing in Nature magazine, say a feathered, chicken-sized creature known as Aurornis xui, unearthed recently in northeastern China, challenges the "pivotal position of Archaeopteryx" — long regarded as the oldest bird.
Open a design magazine or turn on a home decorating show these days, and it's clear: Midcentury modern is hot. It first showed up in the 1950s and '60s — think low-slung sofas, egg-shaped chairs and the set of Mad Men. My first midcentury modern find was a dining set I bought on Craigslist for $75. There was something about the clean lines and gentle curves of the wooden chairs that got me.
This year, nearly 1.7 million students will graduate from college. Many of them are engaged in a new ritual of the digital age: cleaning up and polishing their online profiles. The demand is so great an entire industry has sprung up to help.
According to numerous surveys, the vast majority of hiring managers routinely Google potential job candidates. And what they see on that first page of search results matters — a lot. Just ask Pete Kistler, who was a college junior when he started applying to a bunch of computer software firms, looking for a summer job.