Originally published on Sun January 1, 2012 4:26 pm
What's the economic prognosis for 2012?
"It's kind of a meh, it's a B-minus," says Annie Lowrey, an economic policy reporter for The New York Times. "It's not going to be very good, but it's also not going to be very bad."
Lowrey says that most of the trends seen at the end of 2011 will continue into 2012. The unemployment rate is high, but improving. Economists are excited about the housing market because the low cost of housing has started a house-building mini-boom.
There's a handful of people — roughly 10 percent of the global population — that has something in common.
Many mysteries and misconceptions surround this group. Its members have been called artistically gifted and self-reliant, but also untrustworthy and insincere. Most recently, several of them have been called the president of the United States.
The new Broadway production of the musical On a Clear Day You Can See Forever has been billed as a "reincarnation" rather than a revival. The premise is the same as before: A psychiatrist, Mark Bruckner, falls in love with the "past life" of one of his hypnotized patients. But this version replaces Daisy, the charming young patient first played in the 1960s by Barbara Harris, with Davey — a gay man harboring a female alter ego deep in his subconscious.
About 430 years ago, Pope Gregory XIII gave the West a calendar which divided 365 days into what was to be called a "year." With 12 months and 7 days bundled into so-called "weeks," the Gregorian calendar was hailed as a marvel of medieval accuracy. We use it today, despite its occasional messiness — drifting days, leap years and 28-day months.
2011 was a year of protest across the Middle East and North Africa. Amid each uprising, women were visible, fighting not just for the rights of their country, but often for rights of their own. Host Audie Cornish talks with Isobel Coleman of the Council on Foreign Relations about women in the Arab uprising and their role going forward.
One of the biggest political question marks going into 2012 is the fate of the Affordable Health Care for America Act. Audie Cornish speaks with Noam Levey of the Los Angeles Times about what's ahead for Americans in terms of health care in the new year, including a constitutional challenge to the law's mandatory health care provision.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.
Even though seven Republican presidential candidates ushered in the New Year, a new poll by the Des Moines Register in Iowa makes it look like a three-person race. We'll fill you in on the latest shuffle of front-runners in a moment. But first, how did the Republicans candidates spend New Year's Eve?
While all focus on has been on the future of the White House, the fate of the Senate hangs in the balance of 2012 as well. Host Audie Cornish talks with Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report about what's at stake in the U.S. Senate.
It's been only three days since the funeral for North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. In that time, his son, Kim Jung Un, has been elevated to the rank of supreme commander of the North Korean army. Meanwhile, North Korea has issued a series of scathing attacks on the government of South Korea. NPR's Mike Shuster reports it all looks like business as usual.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses journalists at EU headquarters in Brussels in December. It's possible that European leaders will come up with ways to manage the region's debt crisis in the new year, but the worst case scenarios are dire.
Last New Year's Day, most economic forecasters were predicting a good year ahead. But 2011 turned out to be another disappointment for stock investors and home sellers, and a discouraging time for job seekers.
Now, as 2012 begins, economists are hoping their crystal balls are working a bit better. Most are seeing a brighter picture.
Come 2012, there's a new food vocabulary: authentic, craft, small batch, artisanal, rustic and, of course, local. It's the opposite of processed, mass produced and factory farmed.
What might be called urban neo-ruralism has apartment dwellers canning tomatoes, keeping bees and churning butter.
The small farmer is the new gastronomic superhero, sourced on restaurant menus. Independent butcher shops are opening across the country with unfamiliar cuts like Denver steak, petite tender, flat iron. Expect more specialty meats, too, like bison, elk, goat and rabbit.
The beaches of Brazil lure in foreigners, but fortune-hunters are more interested in the opportunities offered by the rapidly developing South American state.
The global economic downturn is starting to affect Brazil, but the country has not nearly been as hard-hit as Europe and the U.S. The emerging economy is enticing to young, highly trained and educated workers like David Bailey of Britain.
Bailey plays piano as he and his roommates prepare for a party in Rio de Janeiro. They're all foreigners — from France, Switzerland, Spain — and all of them are here for work.
A little over three hours outside Des Moines, Iowa, in the northwest corner of the state, is the city of Le Mars. A sign proclaims this is the Ice Cream Capital of the World.
Saturday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney spoke in Le Mars at the Family Table restaurant. His speech, like all Romney campaign speeches, was about President Obama.
"This is an election to decide whether we're going to go further and further down the path of becoming more and more similar to a European welfare state, or whether instead we're going to remain an exceptional nation," he said.
The two "eyes" on the Anybot are actually a camera and a laser. The camera "sees," the laser points, and the person on the screen controls it all.
Credit Oli Scarff / Getty Images
Robot technology made several advances in 2011. Here, an iCub robot built by the Italian Institute of Technology tracks and grabs a red ball at the Robotville exhibition, held in London.
Credit AFP / AFP/Getty Images
The QA telepresence robot by Anybots chats with people on the floor at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January 2009. The CEO of one Silicon Valley startup uses an Anybots robot around the office when he's away on business.
Mike Fennelly isn't easily surprised by cutting-edge technologies, but when he started as an IT guy at a Silicon Valley startup called Evernote, he was caught off guard by a robot rolling around the office.
"It was slightly disturbing for not really knowing what the robot was for at the beginning, and then going, 'Oh, OK. That's Phil,' " he says.
CEO Phil Libin is also known as the company's "robotic overlord." Libin himself isn't actually a robot, but when he's out of town, his robot keeps an eye on things.
Phyllis Siegel (right) kisses her wife, Connie Kopelov, after the two exchanged vows at the Manhattan City Clerk's office. The couple were the first same-sex pair to tie the knot in New York City after the state's Marriage Equality Act went into effect on July 24.
Originally published on Sat December 31, 2011 9:04 pm
Because the news media abhor the absence of drama as much as nature supposedly detests vacuums, Rick Santorum's rise in recent polls of likely Iowa Republican presidential primary caucus voters definitely scratches a journalistic itch.
Santorum's ascent to the top three in Iowa polls, along with Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, has spiced up the race, especially after the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania spent so many months stuck in the caboose of GOP candidates.
The reward for Banana-Sam is now up to $5,000. The squirrel monkey was abducted from his cage, officials say, and the San Francisco Zoo is beefing up security to keep an eye on the rest of their animals.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports Banana-Sam was likely stolen late Thursday or early Friday by vandals who cut two holes in the mesh wall of his cage. The remaining 17 squirrel monkeys are now being kept indoors until the pen can be fixed.
Some might be inclined to think 2011 was a pretty bad year for space, what with the U.S. space program shutting down. While the Atlantis marked the last mission in NASA's decades-long space shuttle program, the agency still managed to have other significant launches this year. Crafts visited Mercury, a massive asteroid known as Vesta, and the moon. Another left for Jupiter, and the Voyager 1 spacecraft sailed out of our solar system. Guest host Rebecca Sheir talks to Neil deGrasse Tyson, head of the Hayden Planetarium, about whether all that made 2011 a good year for space exploration.
When scientists want to test new therapies for cancer or heart disease, they frequently turn to mice for help. For most mice, this isn't the best thing that could happen to them. Being a research subject has definite disadvantages, at least for mice.
But most people prefer a new therapy be tested in a rodent rather than making a human patient the guinea pig — if you'll forgive the twisted metaphor.
A vendor sells seafood at a market in East Broadway in New York City's Chinatown. There was a 17 percent drop in the population of New York City's Chinatown over the past decade, and some say it's a sign that Chinatown is becoming more of a symbolic touchstone.
Credit Rebecca Sheir / NPR
New York has seen a 17 percent decrease in the number of people living in Chinatown over the past decade.
Credit Bonnie Tsui
Author Bonnie Tsui gave NPR a guided tour of New York City's Chinatown.
The Chinese New Year begins on Jan. 23. On that day, people will celebrate the Year of the Dragon in Chinatowns across the country.
The neighborhoods known as Chinatowns sprang up in the U.S. during the Gold Rush. But since then, they've seen gradual yet significant changes — not so noticeable to the average visitor, perhaps, but quite drastic to those who've called these communities home.