Retail sales fell in October, for the first time in several months. Analysts largely blamed the hurricane. If they're right, sales will bounce back this month and the economic recovery will continue (slowly, slowly).
That's the big picture. To get a sense of the small picture — messier, more ambiguous — I visited three small businesses on Cross Bay Boulevard, in Howard Beach, Queens. The storm swept in here and flooded the neighborhood.
A U.S. Marine patrol walks across the charred oil landscape near a burning well near Kuwait City in March 1991. Concerns about oil supply were at play when the U.S. and its allies intervened during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. But American policy is changing now that Mideast oil imports to the U.S. are declining.
Credit Hassan Ammar / AP
The U.S. maintains a strong naval presence in the Persian Gulf in order to safeguard key shipping lanes. Here, aircraft are parked on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln as a U.S. destroyer patrols the Arabian Sea in the Strait of Hormuz in February.
Within the next two decades, the United States may barely need any oil from the Persian Gulf, due in large part to increased domestic production. That dramatic shift could shake the foundation of U.S. interests in the Middle East.
Credit Thorsten Wiehle / Berlin Forestry Commission
Some 3,000 wild boars are estimated to roam Germany's capital. This 2008 picture provided by the Berlin Forestry Commission shows a sow and her offspring that decided to make their home outside an apartment building. Recently, a wild boar attacked and injured four people in a Berlin neighborhood.
Credit Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson / NPR
Wild boar, shown here inside an enclosure in a Berlin city park, are considered smart and quickly learn how to avoid hunters.
Credit Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson / NPR
In Berlin, streetwise swine often tear up grassy areas in city parks, residential areas, cemeteries and stadiums as they search for food.
Originally published on Wed November 21, 2012 10:29 am
"PIGS" are a hot topic in Germany's capital.
Attend any press briefing about how German Chancellor Angela Merkel is going to solve the European debt crisis, and you're likely to hear that acronym, which stands for "Portugal, Ireland (or Italy), Greece and Spain."
But recently, pigs of an altogether different variety made headlines in Berlin.
We're heading toward that time of year when self-help industry publishers rub their hands together in anticipation. The holiday season and the inevitable New Year's resolutions that follow tend to turn our minds toward happiness — getting it, keeping it and maintaining it. But journalist Oliver Burkeman says whatever your plan, you are most likely doing it wrong.
After Superstorm Sandy, the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties in Neptune, N.J., is filled with water bottles, canned food and other goods. But these supplies are going out almost as fast as they come in.
Credit Pam Fessler / NPR
Clothes, food, even the floors and wall boards at Project PAUL, in Keansburg, N.J., were destroyed when the storm flooded the town.
Food banks in New York and New Jersey were already hard-pressed to meet the demands of families struggling with a bad economy. Add to that a natural disaster and the upcoming holidays, and they're looking at a whole new set of challenges.
Preparation did help some organizations. Five days before Superstorm Sandy hit the Jersey Shore, the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties got its new generator up and running. Thank goodness for that, says Executive Director Carlos Rodriguez.
Many people keep cremated remains in an urn on the mantle or scatter their loved one's ashes over a sacred place.
Now, a company has pioneered a new twist: putting cremated remains into ammunition.
For $850, Holy Smoke will take cremated remains and put them into various types of shotgun shells and bullets for rifle and pistol shooters. The Stockton, Ala., company was started a year ago by two state game wardens.
Olga Veloso protests banking giant Bankia last month in Madrid. Veloso and her neighbors have twice blocked bailiffs from evicting her from her apartment after she lost her job and stopped paying the mortgage.
Originally published on Tue November 13, 2012 5:20 pm
For months, demonstrations have been popping up on otherwise quiet residential streets across Spain. The protesters form human chains, forcibly blocking bailiffs from evicting residents who've fallen behind on their mortgages. Sometimes the protests turn violent.
The demonstrations are another sign of just how pinched people are feeling as Spain's economic crisis continues to roil. With Spanish unemployment above 25 percent, hundreds of people have been losing their homes each day.
The main street in Oberhausen — Germany's most indebted city — is dotted with vacancies. Despite its economic woes, Oberhausen, like other western German cities, must make "reunification" payments to the former communist East. The payments help explain German voters' reluctance to bail out Greece and other eurozone countries.
Credit Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson / NPR
Tackenberg elementary school in Oberhausen, slated to close by mid-2015, is one of the casualties of the city's required austerity measures.
Germany, the economic engine of Europe, has been a key player in bailing out the Continent's most troubled economies.
Yet there are places in the former West Germany — like Oberhausen — that are struggling with their own debt problems, even as they pay hefty sums to revitalize former East German cities with transfers known as "Solidarity Pact" payments.
Many veterans aren't just looking for a job; they're looking for a career, a calling and, of course, financial stability. Those recently separated from the military have to confront what is still a fairly weak civilian job market.
Many farmers want their farms to be located close to a city - especially organic farmers who'd like to sell their produce at big urban farmers markets. But the price of land within range of a big city is sky high and only getting higher.
Most small farmers buy their land, but some are now looking to lease in suburban or exurban areas. And to do that, they're using something straight out of Fiddler On The Roof: A matchmaker.
Afghan villagers look at a translator as U.S. soldiers tend to an injured local Afghan man, who was shot for being suspected of planting a roadside bomb in Genrandai village at Panjwai district, Kandahar, on Sept. 24.
Credit Anja Niedringhaus / AP
An Afghan boy watches an Afghan National Army soldier on patrol in Logar province, eastern Afghanistan, on May 17. NATO forces are scheduled to leave Afgahnistan by the end of 2014.
Credit Sean Carberry / NPR
In the Panjshir Valley, where mujahedeen commander Ahmed Shah Massoud fought off the Soviets and the Taliban, Afghans are hopeful, but nervous, about the country's future after NATO troops leave in 2014.
Credit Sean Carberry / NPR
The mausoleum of Ahmed Shah Massoud, the rebel commander who fought the Soviets in the 1980s and the Taliban the following decade.
Uncertainty is gripping Afghanistan as the clock ticks toward the withdrawal of NATO combat troops by the end of 2014.
People and money are leaving the country. Housing prices are falling. Construction is slowing down. Many Afghans are trying to be hopeful, but even the most optimistic admit that a number of troubling variables could determine what post-2014 Afghanistan looks like.
The Panjshir Valley, some 60 miles north of Kabul, is one of the most scenic places in Afghanistan. The Panjshir River winds its way through barren mountains.
As part of Virginia's waiver to opt out of mandates set out in the No Child Left Behind law, the state has created a controversial new set of education goals that are higher for white and Asian kids than for blacks, Latinos and students with disabilities.
Virginia Democratic state Sen. Donald McEachin first read about the state's new performance goals for schoolchildren in a newspaper editorial.
Daily Show host Jon Stewart recently called writer Jon Ronson an investigative satirist. As Ronson himself puts it: "I go off and I have unfolding adventures with people in shadowy places. I guess I tell funny stories about serious things."
Ronson has collected many of these stories in his new book, Lost at Sea. He talks to Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered, about the characters and places he has encountered along the way.
Housing is always in short supply in New York City, and Superstorm Sandy just made things much worse. The government is paying hotel costs for many of those displaced, while others are staying with friends and family.
That still leaves many people still looking for a spare bedroom, and some are now turning to the social networking website Airbnb – a site that matches people seeking vacation rentals — to find a place to stay.
One scene has become increasingly common amid Spain's economic crisis: Thousands of people, many of them immigrants, are searching trash dumpsters by night. Some scour the garbage for food, but many others are involved in a black-market trade for recycled materials.
The scavengers have slowly become a sad fixture in many barrios across Spain, like the well-dressed, middle-aged man on a Barcelona street corner on a recent night. He averts his eyes from onlookers as he reaches his arm down deep into a dumpster.
Each year around this time, weekends on All Things Considered welcomes world music DJ Betto Arcos onto the show to share some of his favorite nominees from this Latin Grammys, the 2012 installment of which is coming up next week. Arcos hosts the program Global Village on KPFK in Los Angeles; his picks include singer-songwriters from Mexico and Brazil, a Chilean rapper and a Puerto Rican-American jazz saxophonist.
One hundred fifty years ago today, Giuseppe Verdi first mounted his opera La Forza del Destino ("The Force of Destiny") on a stage in St. Petersburg, Russia. Today, La Forza is considered one of Verdi's masterpieces, but it wasn't always that way. The story of Don Alvaro, whose love for the aristocratic Leonora incurs the wrath of her family, is violent and chaotic, and it flopped on its first run.