Herman Blake grew up with his mother and six siblings just outside New York City. It was the early 1940s and the family was poor. This shaped their outlook on life.
"When I was growing up the great emphasis was on being able to get a job because we were on welfare, and it was so humiliating," Herman tells his brother Sidney, who is an Episcopal deacon, during a visit to StoryCorps in New York.
One of the Blake brothers, Henry, who wanted the family to stop depending on welfare, decided to drop out of school so he could help take care of their mother.
A small church in Santa Fe, N.M., has grown up around a unique sacrament. Twice a month, the congregation meets in a ritualized setting to drink Brazilian huasca tea, which has psychoactive properties said to produce a trance-like state.
The Supreme Court confirmed the UDV church's right to exist in 2006. The church doesn't seek new members and prefers to keep a low profile. It did, however, agree for the first time to open up to a journalist.
Consumer advocates call them "debt" traps. The banks that offer them call them direct-deposit advances and describe them as available funds for short-term emergencies.
But the cash advances have many of the negative characteristics of payday loans. And on Thursday, U.S. bank regulators took a step toward protecting consumers from the risks they pose. The regulators proposed standards for "deposit-advance products."
Longtime Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana announced this week that he would not seek re-election next year, ending four decades in Congress and leaving as chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee.
NPR's Robert Siegel spoke with Baucus Thursday about his recent vote against expanded gun background checks, his role in negotiations over President Obama's health care legislation, efforts to remake tax policy, and the legions of his former staffers now populating lobbying shops.
New York City is notoriously crowded, and it's only getting more so. The city estimates it will have 1 million more people by the year 2030, many of them single. Where to place all these newcomers is a major challenge.
Mayor Mike Bloomberg has announced plans to put up an experimental building of micro-apartments that could be replicated throughout the city. And the Museum of the City of New York is looking at ways to make better use of the city's housing stock.
At a time when so many major American news organizations are cutting back, foreign news agencies are beefing up their presence abroad and in the U.S. One of the biggest new players arrives from China and, more likely than not, can be found on a television set near you.
CCTV, or China Central Television, is owned by the Chinese government. With more than 40 channels in China and an offshoot in the U.S., the broadcaster has been highly profitable for the country's ruling Communist Party, which is liking profits a lot these days.
Broadway's newest family-friendly musical, Matilda, based on the Roald Dahl novel about a precocious child who proves smarter than all the adults in her life, opened earlier this month to some of the best reviews of the year.
While it's a brand-new show, seeing it jogged my memory — jogged it all the way back to my very first commentary for All Things Considered exactly29 years ago.
Originally published on Thu April 25, 2013 6:16 pm
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish. Has the so-called red line been crossed in Syria? Today, the Obama administration said it believes the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons and, as President Obama has said in the past, that is a red line that would trigger serious consequences. But as NPR's Mara Liasson reports, the administration says it still has to evaluate the evidence and decide what actions to take.
When you travel, do you want to drink Bellinis in Venice and yak butter tea in Tibet? Well, so do monkeys.
Monkeys will eat new, different food if they travel to a new place and want to fit in with the locals, according to a new study. But back home, they'll eat what Mama eats, shunning perfectly good food if it doesn't get her approval.
Rocky Balboa's sprint up the stairs of the Philadelphia Art Museum in Rocky is a scene that would have once been impossible to film. Camera innovator Garrett Brown made it possible when he invented the Steadicam, a body-mounted camera that stabilizes handheld shots.
Brown has received three Academy Awards for his technical inventions and holds 50 patents for cinematography devices. The college dropout-turned-inventor will be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in May.
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Another promising report today suggests that the economy in general and employment in particular continue to improve, but there's another statistic that's more troubling. More Americans than ever participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps.
Originally published on Thu April 25, 2013 11:50 am
Will history judge George W. Bush more kindly than his contemporaries have?
The man himself seems fairly indifferent.
"I don't think he really cares much at all, to be honest with you," says Kevin Sullivan, who served as White House communications director during Bush's second term. "I think he cares very little about where his approval rating stands today, compared to 2005 or 2008."
The sixth season of AMC's Mad Men, which premiered April 7, jumps forward in time a few months from where the fifth season concluded. The first episode of the season comes to a close on New Year's Day 1968. That date was designed to set the tone for the entire season.
That year, says Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, is, "as far as I can tell, in the top two or three worst years in U.S. history."
Originally published on Thu January 9, 2014 1:48 pm
Tough economic times and growing poverty in much of Europe are reviving a humble tradition that began some one-hundred years ago in the Italian city of Naples. It's called caffè sospeso — "suspended coffee": A customer pays in advance for a person who cannot afford a cup of coffee.
The brutal rape of a five-year-old girl in India has caused public outcry there, and led to the arrest of two men. Host Michel Martin explores what the case says about how India handles sexual assault cases. She speaks with Anand Giridharadas, a columnist at The New York Times.
We're going to switch gears now and tell you about a competition that is really about to take off - pun intended. We're talking about the nation's largest rocketry tournament, the Team America Rocketry Challenge.
If you think that making a model rocket is kids' stuff, listen to this: Teams must build a rocket that can fly as close to 800 feet as possible in about 45 seconds. The rockets have to carry two raw eggs into the air and bring them back safely. The top-ranked teams will compete in the national competition on May 11th.