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.
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."
Some housing experts say New York's zoning code has discouraged the building of affordable housing by requiring that all apartments be at least 400 square feet. The city is interested in finding ways to rewrite the rules.
This housing model, showcased at the Museum of the City of New York, depicts possible space-saving methods in the city. Some housing experts say New York's zoning code has discouraged the building of affordable housing by requiring that all apartments be at least 400 square feet. The city is interested in finding ways to rewrite the rules.
Credit Jim Zarroli / NPR
Another space-saving housing model showcased at Making Room, the art exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York.
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.
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.
The U.S. military and law enforcement agencies have seen increased public scrutiny on the domestic use of the robotically piloted planes known as drones. Working on the sidelines of this debate, the U.S. Geological Survey has been trying to find a second life for retired military drones in the areas of environmental and wildlife management. Instead of watching the battlefield, these drones are watching birds.
Life on the Mississippi River is a roller coaster of highs and lows: record high floodwaters one year, a drought and near-record low water levels the next. And those are just two of the many problems faced by river stakeholders like barge operators, farmers and conservation groups.
Those stakeholders met recently in Chicago to discuss the Mississippi's most pressing needs, any common ground, and how to speak with a unified voice in advocating for the nation's largest river system.
Jeffrey Bronfman, UDV church national vice president; Solar Law, UDV church national president; and Tai Bixby, head pastor of the Santa Fe congregation. Churchgoers participate in a ceremony where hallucinogenic <em>huasca</em> tea is consumed, and some neighbors are trying to block the construction of a UDV temple.
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.
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.
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington. Last Friday evening the Boston Police Department tweeted the news that the city and the nation had been waiting for. Captured. The hunt is over. The search is done. The terror is over and justice has won. Suspect in custody.
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.
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."
<em>Mad Men </em>creator Matthew Weiner was also a writer and producer on <em>The Sopranos </em>for a time.
Credit Michael Yarish / AMC
<em>Mad Men'</em>s sixth season, which premiered April 7, revolves around (from left) Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley), Bobby Draper (Mason Vale Cotton), Betty Francis (January Jones), Gene Draper (Evan and Ryder Londo), Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka), Megan Draper (Jessica Pare) and Don Draper (Jon Hamm).
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."
President Obama, former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter attend the opening ceremony of the George W. Bush Presidential Center on Thursday in Dallas, Texas. The Bush library, which is located on the campus of Southern Methodist University, with more than 70 million pages of paper records, 43,000 artifacts, 200 million emails and four million photographs.
Credit Alex Wong / Getty Images
Left to right, Former President George H.W. Bush, President Clinton, former President Gerald R. Ford, and former President Jimmy Carter with first ladies, left to right, Barbara Bush, Lady Bird Johnson, Hilary Clinton, Betty Ford and Rosalyn Carter during a dinner in honor of the 200th Anniversary of the White House Thursday, Nov. 9, 2000 in Washington.
Credit Kenneth Lambert / AP
Vice President Nixon, foreground, President Eisenhower, immediately behind, former President Truman, left, and former President Hoover, right, stand on the inauguration stand in front of the Capitol, January 20, 1953, during the singing of "The Star Spangled Banner" at Eisenhower's swearing-in ceremony.
Outgoing President Harry Truman, at right, and new first lady Mamie Eisenhower, left, appear to be sharing a joke on presidential inauguration stand in Washington, Jan. 20, 1953, but ex-president Herbert Hoover, behind Truman, takes a serious view of the situation.
Credit WF / AP
President John F. Kennedy is joined by two former presidents during services at the grave of former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt in the rose garden of the Roosevelt estate at Hyde Park, N.Y., on Nov. 10, 1962.
Attending the 1961 funeral services for former House Speaker Sam Rayburn are President John F. Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon Johnson, and former presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Harry S. Truman.
Credit Ferd Kaufman / AP
This Oct. 10, 1981 photo released by the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands, shows former presidents Jimmy Carter, left,, Richard Nixon, center right, and Gerald Ford with then U.S. Chief of Protocol Leonore Annenberg aboard an Air Force jet carrying them to the funeral of Anwar al-Sadat.
President George W. Bush, center, with President-elect Barack Obama, and former presidents, from left, George H.W. Bush, left, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, right, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.
Credit J. Scott Applewhite / AP
First lady Michelle Obama, President Obama, former first lady Barbara Bush, former President George H.W. Bush, former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush arrive at the dedication for the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.
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.