It's tempting to say what a snake-bit year this was, a year when American troops were lost abroad, a year of economic struggle and cynical politics. But it was also a year when troops came home, and people started new jobs. Steve Inskeep says it's to soon to judge 2011.
Thank goodness it's Friday unless you live in the island nation of Samoa. In which case it's Saturday. The country is skipping a day — shifting its calendar — to join the same time zone as trading partners Australia and New Zealand.
GOP presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann wrapped up her bus tour of Iowa's 99 counties Thursday. She's been on the road for most of the last two weeks in a final push to generate support before Tuesday's caucuses.
Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry has been aboard a bus touring Iowa hoping to score an upset in next Tuesday's caucuses. Perry spent Thursday trying to reverse the surge that challenger Rick Santorum has seen in a recent poll.
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
And I'm Linda Wertheimer.
Egyptian security forces stormed the offices of 17 non-governmental organizations yesterday, including several American-based groups. Two of those, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, have been monitoring elections at the invitation of the Egyptian government. A third U.S.-based group, Freedom House, earlier this week, applied for official recognition.
As people's incomes rise in a developing nation, so does the amount of food they eat. That's what has been happening in China for the past 30 years. But many people, especially in the middle class, are discovering that you don't have to eat and eat just because there's plenty of food available.
A couple of years ago if you wanted to drink coconut water, you had to buy your own coconut, bring it to your kitchen, and start whacking away with a knife.
Today, you can find packaged coconut water in a convenience store, Wal-Mart or your friendly neighborhood yoga studio.
"I think it was a great year for coconut water, " says Alejandra Simon, an assistant manager at the Laughing Lotus yoga studio in New York City. "I can't walk down the street without seeing someone with coconut water in their hands."
Is there anybody on TV more adorable than Zooey Deschanel on Fox's new hit sitcom New Girl?
She's playing a woman who moved in with three guys after a bad romance. We've seen Deschanel play this character countless times over the last 10 years: quirky, bohemian, earnest and a little dorky. Fox even used the term "adorkable" just to describe her.
But she's also the leading edge of a trend that defined television in 2011: the Funny Female.
Florida is once again poised to play an important role in selecting the president in 2012. Its Republican primary on Jan. 31 is the nation's fourth nominating contest.
But Florida is a very different state than it was four years ago. It is reeling from the housing collapse — more than 200,000 homes are facing foreclosure — and suffering from an unemployment rate well above the national average.
The Iranian drama A Separation has popped up on more than a few critics' lists of the best films of 2011, despite little exposure in the U.S. thus far. It will open in limited release December 30, and as Howie Movshovitz of Colorado Public Radio reports on Friday's Morning Edition, it serves as both a family drama and a piece of social observation about life in Iran.
Louise Tucker-Mitchell laughs on the phone with a customer at Enterprise Rent-A-Car at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. She says she likes working the week between Christmas and New Year's, as it's calmer and a good time to catch up.
Afghanistan sits at a crossroads between central Asia, Iran and the Indian subcontinent, and the country's music reflects that. Kabul hosted two international music festivals this fall — one traditional, the other a rock concert — but music is still a sensitive issue. International donors, including the U.S., have helped refurbish a conservatory in Kabul, but some of the students say they still face disapproval from extremist elements, even at the university.
For Isabel Sobozinsky-Wall, New Year's Eve marks a special time. That's when she met her future husband, Scott, during a trip to New York City 20 years ago.
"I was single and feeling very lonely on New Year's Eve," Scott says. "I was actually wandering the streets of Manhattan, and I ended up in the Paris Cafe. There was this ravishingly beautiful woman, wearing a beautiful dress. And I introduced myself. But I was very surprised when you asked me for my ID."
Many cultures greet the New Year with a feast that symbolically sets the table for the year ahead. As they sit down to traditional dishes, people often try to internalize their hopes and goals for the coming year.
China laid out its vision for space exploration in a white paper released today. In it, China declares its intention to put a man on the moon, a feat accomplished last by the United States almost 40 years ago.
The Financial Times says that while the prospect has been discussed by scientists in the past, the paper is "the first public government document to enshrine it as a policy goal."
But that's not the message you'll get if you call Republican Gov. Nikki Haley's office, where you'll be greeted with a cheery message: "It's a great day in South Carolina..."
And that's the same message you'll receive when calling call any other state agency. Or attend any recent event with the governor, like one last month in Columbia where TD Bank announced its plans to create a regional hub.
It's a question that has surely crossed the minds of many of you: Why is that mosquitoes tend to prefer certain people?
Scientists think they have an answer — at least to what attracts the the African mosquito Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto, which is partly responsible for the transmission of malaria. The researchers, led by Niels Verhulst of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, found that the blood suckers are attracted to certain people because of the kinds of bacteria on their skin.
In this photo released by the U.S. Marines and taken in December 2010, Lance Cpl. Dakota Hicks, from Laharpe, Ill., connects a radio battery to a portable solar panel communication system in Sangin District, in Afghanistan.The U.S. military is trying to wean itself off reliance on fossil fuels by employing solar energy and biofuels, among other measures.
Credit Shah Marai / AFP/Getty Images
Afghan policemen and locals watch a burned-out fuel truck, supplying a U.S.-run base, after being targeted by a bomb near Bagram Air Field near Kabul on Oct. 26. Attacks on convoys carrying supplies to U.S. troops are costly — both in monetary terms and in human life.
The heavy, mine-resistant vehicles that almost all U.S. military personnel use to move about Afghanistan are gas guzzlers. And even though the U.S. military buys that fuel at a reasonable price, the energy it takes to fly it and truck it to remote parts of Afghanistan drives the price into the stratosphere.
There's also a much greater cost, says Ray Mabus, secretary of the U.S. Navy.
The Twitter page for al-Shabab, the radical Islamic group in Somalia that has been branded a terrorist organization by the U.S. Such groups are active in social media, but have not attracted many recruits.
Terrorist groups seemed to be all over the Web in 2011. There were al-Qaida videos on YouTube, Facebook pages by Islamic militants in Somalia, and webzines – like Inspire magazine – produced by al-Qaida affiliates in Yemen.
If there were an award for the best known terrorist music recording in the past couple of years, it would probably go to the Somali militia group al-Shabab for a YouTube video that extolled the virtues of jihad, or holy war.