The Death of Bees is a story about two young girls living in a Glasgow, Scotland, housing project. And if you believe the first sentences of a novel are often the most difficult to write, try this beginning paragraph:
"Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen. Today I buried my parents in the backyard.
Few Western countries are as conservative about home ownership as Germany, where less than half the country's citizens own property.
German banks have tough lending rules. Would-be buyers are usually asked to provide hefty down payments to secure mortgages, meaning few Germans even think about buying a home until they are settled and financially secure.
But the European debt crisis appears to be changing the traditions around home ownership. The resulting surge in homebuying, some officials warn, is driving prices too high and threatens the nation's economy.
This week saw both a frantic finale to the much-unloved 112th Congress and, hours later, the swearing in of the new 113th. The cast of lawmakers and their leaders is mostly unchanged. The same can be said for Capitol Hill's never-ending drama over taxes, deficits and spending.
What was arguably this week's most sensational congressional moment did not even take place in Washington. On Wednesday in Trenton, N.J., Republican Gov. Chris Christie blasted the GOP-led House for closing down the last Congress without even considering a Superstorm Sandy disaster relief bill.
The latest figures show December was another month of steady, moderate job growth. But for many people still struggling with long-term unemployment, the situation hasn't actually changed much at all.
For Alecia Warthen, the last eight months have been painfully stagnant.
She was the first person in her family to finish college, after growing up in one of the roughest sections of Brooklyn. She had earned an accounting degree and worked as a bookkeeper for most of the last decade.
Illinois' pension-fund shortfall is by far the largest in the nation, and the clock is ticking for the state's governor and lawmakers to tackle the problem before a new Legislature is sworn in next week. So far, their proposals have stoked frustration from state employees and retirees.
Originally published on Sat January 5, 2013 2:12 pm
An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.5 hit off the coast of southeastern Alaska just before midnight local time Friday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The USGS initially reported the event as a magnitude 7.7 quake.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says sea level readings indicate the quake caused a tsunami. "It may have been destructive along coasts near the earthquake epicenter," a NOAA report said.
On the tough side of Terpsichore Street in New Orleans stands a duplex — a two-story, wood-framed building with wood floors, high ceilings and a nice fireplace. But this old house is empty: no furniture, no walls, no electricity, no toilet. Iron bars hide the windows; there's a lockbox on the door. The facade is three different shades of blecch, blurgh and blah.
Old Aristocracy Hill isn't a part of Springfield, Ill., that draws a lot of attention. The quiet neighborhood dates back to before the Civil War, its historic homes now carefully preserved by proud business owners.
But outside a stately funeral home, a large black-and-chrome Harley Davidson motorcycle trike pulls out of the parking lot, towing a matching casket in its glass-sided trailer.
It's not something you would expect to see, but it's exactly what 67-year-old Lew Bird says his friend Dave Rondelli wanted: one last ride.
Originally published on Fri January 4, 2013 8:31 pm
For 15 years, an Icelandic teenager has been called her given name, Blaer Bjarkardottir, by everyone except government employees and other officials. That's because "Blaer" (reportedly Icelandic for "light breeze") isn't on a list of government-approved names for girls.
So, in school and at the bank, she is often addressed as "stulka" — "girl" — before she explains the situation.
Originally published on Wed January 9, 2013 10:14 am
Fiscal cliff week has mercifully ended with a deal done, hurricane relief approved, President Obama vacationing, and both parties bickering internally over what was won — and lost — in the early hours of the new year.
What we have found most intriguing is the vigorous post-facto wrestling within the liberal community over what the fiscal cliff negotiations say about President Obama.
Hugo Chavez has dominated Venezuela for so long that it's hard to imagine what the country would be like without him in charge. Opposition leaders are hoping for a new, more democratic system. But powerful factions in Venezuela want things to stay just as they are. Because the country is a key player in the region, NPR's Tom Gjelten says the U.S. is now making its own plans for life after Chavez.
Crowdsourced review sites like Yelp can be just the trick for finding a great restaurant or avoiding a bad one.
But when it comes to finding a good doctor, there still aren't enough reviews on sites that rank doctors to make them reliable, a study of urologists' ratings suggests.
Urologists averaged just 2.4 reviews on the big online doctor rating sites like Healthgrades.com, Vitals.com and RateMDs.com. The paltry number of participants means that one cranky patient's complaint — or a rave from one doctor's relative --can skew a rating.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
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And I'm Audie Cornish. Scientists throughout the west are investigating a mysterious disappearance. Mule deer are vanishing. In Colorado, Wyoming and Utah, populations are half what they were in the 1970s. From Aspen Public Radio, Luke Runyon reports on some possible reasons.
President Obama may be going into the next big budget fight without his long-time treasury secretary. Timothy Geithner had been planning to leave before the start of the president's second term, but that would mean he is departing with the debt ceiling still looming and the Treasury scrambling to keep up with the government's bills.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now. And, Scott, Secretary Geithner has made no secret of his plans to leave the government, but it sounds like his departure could be complicated.
Coptic Christians will celebrate Christmas on Monday, and many will do so outside their native Egypt. Since the revolution there, their future in the country has looked uncertain, and many are resettling in the United States.
Their population in the U.S. may have grown by nearly 30 percent, according to rough estimates. One church that has felt its membership swell with new arrivals from Egypt is in the Queens borough of New York. St. Mary and St. Antonios Coptic Orthodox Church boasts more than 1,000 families, says the Rev. Michael Sorial.
Cody ChesnuTT's debut album, 2002's The Headphone Masterpiece, was the result of two years spent recording alone in his bedroom. The double-length record is at once both sprawling and intimate; it encompasses a wide array of genres, but ChesnuTT sings and plays nearly every part.