Turn on the news on any given day, and you're likely to hear about the Dow Jones industrial average. It is the most frequently checked, and cited, proxy of U.S. economic health. But a lot of people — maybe most — don't even know what it is. It's just the stock prices of 30 big companies, summed up and roughly averaged. That's it.
And what does the daily movement of this number have to do with the lives of most Americans? Not much.
In December, Freddie Mac CEO Charles Haldeman (from left), FHFA acting Director Edward DeMarco and Fannie Mae CEO Michael Williams testified on Capitol Hill about the Federal Housing Finance Agency's performance.
Members of the Egyptian military stand guard as officials raid the offices of a nongovernmental organization in Cairo. Egyptian investigating judges referred international NGO workers to trial for allegedly being involved in banned activities and illegally receiving foreign funds, security officials said.
Credit Courtesy of the National Democratic Institute
A voter checks a sample ballot outside a polling station during the second round of municipal elections in Egypt. The National Democratic Institute says it has helped mobilize volunteers and make parties aware of citizens' needs in Egypt without promoting a particular ideology.
American lawmakers are furious about a mounting diplomatic crisis in Egypt, where dozens of nongovernmental workers, including 19 Americans, could face trial.
The United States says Egypt needs to let pro-democracy groups continue their work to help the country's transition, but Egypt accuses them of operating illegally.
The work of democracy promotion groups has raised suspicions in many countries, but Lorne Craner, who runs the International Republican Institute, says he has never seen anything like what's going on now in Egypt.
You didn't have to look hard to see this one coming.
Catholics and GOP candidates have attacked the Obama administration's plans to require most employers — including religious hospitals and schools — to provide coverage of prescription contraceptives. Now the debate is moving to Capitol Hill.
Fresh off his hat trick in Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum campaigned in Texas on Wednesday, speaking to a group of pastors at Bella Donna Chapel in the town of McKinney.
Forty miles north of Dallas, where black prairie dirt meets the fresh poured concrete of suburbia, this is Rick Santorum country.
This satellite image provided by DigitalGlobe, taken in 2010, shows the Yongbyon nuclear complex in North Korea. The Institute for Science and International Security monitors satellite images for updates to nuclear facilities.
Credit Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images
New START negotiator Rose Gottemoeller speaks to reporters in 2010 in Washington, D.C. The acting undersecretary of state for arms control is looking into ways social media tools can help regulate nuclear weapons.
Credit DigitalGlobe / AP
This satellite image of Sudan was made available by the Satellite Sentinel Project in 2011. It appears to be a mass grave, offering the first aerial photographs from a conflict zone that outside observers can't access.
Here are two things you don't often hear mentioned in the same sentence: social media and nuclear weapons.
Rose Gottemoeller, acting undersecretary of state for arms control, quickly links those two unlikely partners in conversation. She's behind a campaign to discover how new communications tools can help rid the world of some of the dangers of nuclear weapons.
Crowdsourcing Nuclear Problems
Gottemoeller is an avid user of Twitter, and it made her wonder how Twitter and other methods of crowdsourcing a problem can help her in her work.
Liang Sicheng, known as the father of modern Chinese architecture, lobbied Mao Zedong to preserve ancient buildings in Beijing. Despite efforts to have his former courtyard home in Beijing preserved as a cultural relic, it was recently demolished.
Credit Louisa Lim / NPR
Yan Lianke is one of China's most famous authors, known for his absurdist stories about sensitive subjects. He moved into a new house in 2008, and a year later was told it would be knocked down to make way for development.
Credit Anonymous / AP
Children play in a traditional residential district in Beijing that is undergoing demolition, in April 2011. Despite public protest, historic and new homes are being destroyed all over the city to make way for development.
Down a quiet Beijing alleyway on a recent day, as the winter wind whistles, two men stand guard over a pile of bricks hidden behind a corrugated iron fence.
The pile of rubble was once the home of the man known as the father of modern Chinese architecture, Liang Sicheng. The Orwellian reason for its demolition? "For maintenance," according to a Xinhua news agency report, citing the developer, Fuheng Real Estate company.
Morning Edition has been asking people what music makes them move, in order to create The Ultimate NPR Workout Mix. The mix already includes a good selection of Kanye West, 2Pac and Madonna — which is just fine for some people.
The Earth's continents are in constant motion. On at least three occasions, they have all collided to form one giant continent. If history is a guide, the current continents will coalesce once again to form another supercontinent. And a study in Nature now shows how that could come about.
You can think of continents as giant puzzle pieces shuffling around the Earth. When they drift apart, mighty oceans form. When they come together, oceans disappear. And it's all because continents sit on moving plates of the Earth's crust.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's losses on Tuesday, while not very meaningful in the race to accumulate delegates, have raised questions once again about his ability to inspire passion from his party's base and about his viability in the general election.
Rival Rick Santorum's victories in Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota dealt a setback, if not exactly a body blow, to Romney — whom Santorum routinely dismisses as a candidate with a big machine but no core.
Ask Detroit teachers about their biggest challenge and many will say, "You can't teach kids who don't come to class." Last year, the average Detroit public high school student missed at least 28 days of school.
Now, as part of its effort to get parents more involved, the district has launched a major initiative to improve attendance. The effort includes parent workshops and attendance agents charged with pushing parents to send their kids to school every day.
Mother and calf common dolphins are transported to the beach by a team from the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the New England Aquarium before being released back into Cape Cod Bay on Jan. 14. So far, area rescuers have counted 147 dolphin strandings this winter alone.
Dolphins have been stranding themselves along the shores of Cape Cod, Mass., since the Pilgrims' times, and this winter is no different. What is different is how long the latest round of strandings has lasted — almost a month. So far, rescuers have counted 147 strandings and 38 successful rescues and releases.
Russian feminist collective Pussy Riot stages a protest in Moscow's Red Square against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Members were arrested and detained briefly after their mid-January protest.
Credit Corey Flintoff / NPR
"Kot" (left) and "Schumacher," members of the feminist collective, say their group will be staging more illegal anti-government performances around Moscow in the weeks leading up to the March 4 presidential elections. They say they were galvanized originally by their opposition to government policies against women.
Anti-government protests in Russia are taking many different forms, from mass rallies and marches to defiant street art and music.
Just recently, members of a feminist punk group were arrested in Moscow's Red Square after they performed a song ridiculing Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The group, which calls itself Pussy Riot, says it's planning more stunts before March's presidential elections.
A Mitt Romney supporter holds up a sign showing her love for Romney and Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow at a rally for the GOP presidential candidate at Arapahoe High School this week in Centennial, Colo.