Originally published on Sat September 1, 2012 12:32 pm
Like a quietly efficient operating system whirring away in the innards of a supercomputer, a vast array of Americans — mostly unseen and unsung — spend hours and hours of every week working together to find ways to make their communities — and the whole country — better.
This is Participation Nation.
In a monthlong blog that ended Aug. 31, NPR collected stories of people actively helping other people, animals and the planet. Here is an executive summary of what we discovered.
Art Garfunkel is best known as half of the legendary duo Simon & Garfunkel. The harmonies he created with Paul Simon left an indelible mark on American music, but less remembered is his string of Top 40 hits as a solo artist.
Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors, and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:
Regina Spektor: On Growing Up A 'Soviet Kid': The singer spent the first nine years of her life in the Soviet Union, where she and her family faced discrimination as Jews. She talks about Russia and her new album, What We Saw From the Cheap Seats.
Originally published on Wed September 19, 2012 2:14 pm
There are so many cooking apps out there, it's easy to get lost. Good thing the iGrill has Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg on its side.
Sales of the $80 device spiked by 400 percent after Zuckerberg updated his Facebook status on Aug. 19 with an enthusiastic thumbs up for the iGrill, a cooking thermometer that uses Bluetooth to connect to the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
Blindsided is what North Carolina Republicans felt four years ago when President Obama won the state, though by the slightest of margins — a mere 14,177 votes out of 4.3 million cast.
Republicans admit they had taken as a given a 2008 North Carolina victory by Sen. John McCain. And who could blame them? No Democratic presidential candidate had won the state since Jimmy Carter in 1976.
But as McCain learned to his grief, history isn't always destiny. Obama's campaign had an effective strategy to win the state, and did.
Anyone with a 401(k) retirement plan has been painfully aware of the gyrations in the stock market in recent years. The market has come back up lately, but the economy is still in low gear, so many analysts aren't too bullish in the short term. Also, treasuries and CDs are offering tiny returns.
So what's the average American trying to save for retirement to do? Answers are percolating at an annual economics retreat in Maine.
Many Copenhagen residents already travel by bike, and now the city is building high-speed routes designed to encourage commuters even in the outlying suburbs.
Credit Slim Allagui / AFP/Getty Images
NPR reporter Eleanor Beardsley rides in one of the new bike lanes in Copenhagen. The city is building more than two dozen lanes from the suburbs into the city. They cater to cyclists by including such things as rails and footrests at stoplights.
Every day, one-third of the people of Copenhagen ride their bikes to work or school. Collectively, they cycle more than 750,000 miles daily, enough to make it to the moon and back. And city officials want even more people to commute, and over longer distances.
So a network of 26 new bike routes, dubbed "the cycling superhighway," is being built to link the surrounding suburbs to Copenhagen.
Lars Gaardhoj, an official with the Copenhagen capital region, says the routes will be straight and direct.
Greece is trying to raise cash by reviving an ambitious program to privatize state assets. The country's lenders, which include the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, hope the sell-off will cut the country's enormous debt.
But Antonis Tsifis, who runs a betting shop in a working-class neighborhood in Athens, is upset that the government is going to sell its stake in OPAP, the giant gaming firm that oversees his betting shop.
The charter school movement is now at a crossroads. More than 2 million students will be enrolled in charter schools in the fall — a big number for a movement that's barely 20 years old. The publicly funded, privately run schools have spread so fast, they operate more like a parallel school system in some places.
Every Tuesday night at the 5 Spot, some 200 people show up the East Nashville bar for Two Dollar Tuesdays: a $2 coverage charge, $2 beers and five musical guests. It's hosted by Derek Hoke, an unassuming, laid-back guy with the cowboy hat and retro-vintage eyeglasses.
"I call it a speed showcase," Hoke says. "Everybody plays five songs, and I tell them to play the 'best of' — you know, get up there, kill and get off. There's somebody coming up right after you, and we have to plow through this thing."
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block. Mitt Romney made a last minute change to his travel plans today. On his first day as the official Republican presidential nominee, he and Paul Ryan were supposed to begin a swing state campaign tour. Instead, while Ryan headed to a previously scheduled event in Virginia, Romney flew to Louisiana.
And now to E.J. Dionne and David Brooks, our regular Friday political commentators, both just back from Tampa. Welcome home.
E.J. DIONNE: Thank you.
DAVID BROOKS: Good to be here.
BLOCK: I want to talk to you both about what we heard in Mitt Romney's speech last night and also what we didn't hear. We did hear a very explicit appeal to people who voted for Barack Obama in 2008. Let's take a listen.
Sophia Greenwalt, 13, is the founder of Helping Hats, a fundraising program in the Reeds Spring School District. Once a month, students and staff can wear a hat to school for a dollar donation. The money raised that day goes to a non-profit organization in the community.
In 2012, Sophia has gotten nine local businesses on board to match the money raised by the school. Helping Hats has raised more than $20,000 for organizations such as the Joplin School District (after a devastating tornado), the Humane Society and others.
Time now for your letters about an interview we aired yesterday. My co-host, Robert Siegel, sat down with Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire to talk about women and the GOP, specifically why polls show that women favor President Obama over Mitt Romney.
SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE: One of the things that is helpful about this convention - and that's why I think Ann Romney's speech resonated - is women do want to know about the whole person, and something about the person that will lead the country.
Jim Bouton is a former All-Star pitcher for the New York Yankees. His classic baseball memoir Ball Four, which was first published in 1970, came out as an e-book in April.
Bouton famously wrote about shenanigans in baseball, which have arguably gotten worse since then. But compared to other sports around the world, baseball players are hardly immoral at all. We're going to ask him three questions about people who really know how to cheat.
Barry Sonnenfeld either directed or shot some of the best movies of the '80s and '90s. He was the cinematographer on the Coen Brother's first movies and directed the Men in Black movies and Get Shorty, among other works of dark genius. His movie Men in Black III came out in May.
He plays a game called "Men in White," where he will answer three questions about people who play cricket.
There are good bands, there are great bands, and then there is the most amazingly great band ever in the history of bands: Tenacious D, also known as Kyle Gass and Jack Black. They released a new album called Rize of the Fenix in May.
We've invited Gass and Black to play a game called "Tenacious D, Meet Tenacious P." We tried to think of the singer who was the diametrical opposite of Tenacious D, and who better than Pat Boone? We'll ask three questions about the cleanest cut guy who ever cut a record.
Originally published on Fri August 31, 2012 4:27 pm
Every nation stockpiles vital resources — think of the U.S. Petroleum Reserve, for instance. In Canada, they have warehouses holding millions of pounds of maple syrup. And recently, one of them was the site of what may be "the sweetest heist of all time," as The Vancouver Sun reports.
Originally published on Sat September 1, 2012 12:22 pm
You've probably heard of thalidomide, the infamous sedative that ended up causing birth defects in the children of mothers who took it.
Back in the late 1950s, the drug was sold in 46 countries, though not the U.S., and was particularly popular in then-West Germany, the U.K. and Australia. But in 1961, the drug was taken off the market after the link to birth defects emerged.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
As they leave the convention in Tampa, Republican Party leaders are hoping their efforts in Florida will win over more Latino voters. Hispanic lawmakers were given high-profile speaking roles, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who introduced Mitt Romney last night. Recent polls suggests President Obama leads Romney 3 to 1 among Hispanics.
NPR's Cheryl Corley reports from Tampa on this week's Republican efforts at outreach.
Originally published on Fri August 31, 2012 4:39 pm
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.
Harvard University is investigating what it calls an unprecedented case of cheating. College officials say around 125 students may have shared answers and plagiarized on a final exam last spring. From member station WBUR in Boston, Curt Nickisch has reaction on campus.
CURT NICKISCH, BYLINE: This is not what a brand-new class of carefree 18-year-olds expected to be talking about as they went through freshman orientation today.
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. The floodwaters have begun to recede in Louisiana and Mississippi as the remnants of Hurricane Isaac move north. Utility companies are scrambling to restore power to hundreds of thousands of customers. In some places, floodwaters are hampering the recovery. That includes an area about 30 miles west of New Orleans where we find NPR's Joel Rose.
Should Muslims convicted of terrorism be allowed to gather together in prison to pray? That's the question being raised by John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban.
The U.S. citizen converted to Islam as a teenager. Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Lindh was caught in Afghanistan. He pleaded guilty to aiding the now defunct Taliban government there and to carrying a weapon.