Like many American workers, you might be using up your vacation time over the holidays but starting tomorrow. employees at Wedding Wire don't have to worry about rationing their leave. They can take off as many days as they like, just as long as their work gets done and the manager gives the OK. Jenny Harding is the Human Resources director for the web-based event planning company. She says Wedding Wire's new unlimited vacation policy will actually be good for productivity.
LYDEN: It's the last week of the NFL season and a handful of teams are still trying to edge their way into the playoffs. The NBA season is just wrapping up its first week, but already the Miami Heat look to be steamrolling it past straight to those playoffs. And there's a playoff-worthy college basketball game today in Lexington, Kentucky. Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN the magazine joins us now. Howard, welcome and Happy New Year.
Now, to Howard's point with the stories out of Penn State and Syracuse this year, it's almost hard to remember when a scandal in college sports referred to grade fixing or dishonest boosters. But some say that what should be considered a scandal is the billions of dollars generated by college football and men's basketball with hardly any of that revenue actually going to the players.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden. After nine years, the official U.S. military involvement in Iraq ended this month. The withdrawal of U.S. troops has meant a shift in focus for a veterans group who that opposed the war. Iraq Veterans against the War says it will now turn its attention to ensuring that vets are not forgotten as they try to reintegrate into civilian society. Elizabeth Fiedler of member station WHYY in Philadelphia spoke with a couple of those veterans and they begin her story.
Tonight, New York's Metropolitan Opera will premiere a new piece with music that's hundreds of years old. It's called "The Enchanted Island" and it features arias by several Baroque composers, including Handel and Vivaldi, and mashes up the plots from two Shakespeare plays. And, oh yes, it stars Placido Domingo as the sea god Neptune. Jeff Lunden has still more.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.
In February of the New Year, the British will prepare a major celebration. It's not another Royal wedding. It's the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, marking the 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne. It's an exceptionally long reign; only one other British monarch has reigned as long, her Royal Majesty Queen Victoria.
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown — perhaps that's why the queen often appears in such an impressive array of hats. Throughout history, the hat has signified a variety of things, from a crown to a team baseball cap.
A dazzling traveling exhibition celebrates centuries of hats. Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones began at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 2009 and is now at the Bard Graduate Center in New York City through April 2012.
Tamara de Lempicka's <em>La Belle Rafaela</em>, painted in 1927, inspired Ellis Avery's novel <em>The Last Nude.</em> The art deco painter met Rafaela while on a walk in a Paris park. Rafaela became her model and her lover.<em></em>
Credit Tamara Art Heritage / Museum Masters International NYC
Ellis Avery is a creative writing professor at Columbia University, and the author of <em>The Teahouse Fire</em> and <em>The Smoke Week: September 11-21, 2001</em>.
You've probably seen the paintings — women, often nude, always glamorous, the epitome of Jazz Age elegance in Paris in the 1920s, done with a particular cubist, finished fashion. The art deco painter is Tamara de Lempicka, and she's the subject of a new novel by Ellis Avery.
The Last Nude imagines a hidden affair behind one of de Lempicka's most critically acclaimed works. The novel explores the relationship between the painter and Rafaela, the model featured in several of de Lempicka's works from 1920s Paris.
House Speaker John Boehner, surrounded by Republican House members, speaks during a news conference in Washington in December. The House initially rejected a plan to extend a tax cut for two months to buy time for talks on a full-year renewal. It later compromised — a rare event in 2011.
Congress got plenty of attention this year, but it was for all the wrong reasons.
There were at least three countdowns to shutdown, there was the debt-limit fight, plus the will-they-or-won't-they drama earlier in December over the payroll tax holiday. Looking at how few bills were actually signed into law this year, one might conclude this session was mostly sizzle and not much steak.
"I mean, I knew it was going to be bad this year, but I didn't realize like how bad it was," says Tobin Grant, an associate professor of political science at Southern Illinois University.
The Iraq War may be officially over, but for thousands of Iraqis who fled to America during the conflict, there's no going home. Many left successful careers to settle in Detroit, where finding their future is a challenge.
The U.N. estimates several million Iraqis are now refugees — either inside Iraq or outside the country. Almost 60,000 of them have come to the Detroit metro area since 2006, drawn by the large Arab community that's been there for years.
President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and members of his National Security team receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House. A classified document seen in this photograph has been obscured.
Midwestern manufacturers are bouncing back — revenues are up at Chicago White Metal Casting for the second year in a row. And the company is hiring, but mainly specialists, such as die-cast machinists and the people with the skills to fix those machines.
It's lunchtime at the Barber home in Macon, Ga. Three-year-old Samuel has just gotten up from his nap, and he's hungry for a creamy peanut butter sandwich.
Carol Barber says Samuel eats peanut butter for lunch almost every day. He's not the only one; she has three other little boys.
Millions of Americans love peanut butter sandwiches. It's easy to make, a "kid favorite" and, until now, relatively inexpensive. But in November, the price of peanut butter increased by more than a third.
It's been a week of marathon campaigning for GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich: five or six campaign events each day, hitting Rotary meetings, pizza restaurants and coffee shops.
With the caucuses just days away, it's time for closing arguments in Iowa. Gingrich says his argument is that he's a supply-side conservative with experience both in balancing the budget and in making government work.
Even as President Obama relaxes with his family in Hawaii over the holidays, he knows what's on the horizon when he returns to work in Washington.
He will start where he left off, facing new skirmishes with Congress over a push to extend a temporary cut in payroll taxes. That temporary extension was approved just days before Christmas after a high-stakes gamble that finished only after most of Congress had left for the year.
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:
Quarterback Darron Thomas of the Oregon Ducks (right) threw for 30 touchdowns with only 6 interceptions this season. The Ducks beat UCLA in the Pac-12 Championship to earn a spot in the Rose Bowl, where they'll face Wisconsin.
College football is set to enter its final week, and that means the biggest bowl games are coming up. This weekend will see teams such as Auburn, Oklahoma and Georgia Tech in action. And the first week of 2012 will feature marquee matchups like Oregon vs. Wisconsin, and Oklahoma State against Stanford.
Update at 1 p.m. ET: We'll have a separate preview of the BCS title game between Alabama and LSU later this week. Our original post continues:
What if you could hold on to time in your hands? You can, you know. You can crack open, on this New Year's Eve, the unsullied, unhurried, un-trammeled pages of an old-fashioned datebook — the kind that still arranges seven days into a week; the kind you write in with a pen and which never, ever, beeps at you to remind you of a meeting or errand.
We saw a crazy market this year. It swung so wildly in both directions, that ending a day a couple of percentage points up or down became the norm.
But after much tumult, Wall Street closed its year today not far from where it started it.
The AP reports:
"In the final tally, despite big climbs and falls, unexpected blows and surprising triumphs, all the hullabaloo proved for naught. On Friday, the Standard & Poor's 500 index closed at 1,257.60. That's exactly 0.04 point below where it started the year.
R&B singer Chris Brown is back only a few years after what could have been a career-ending incident.
In 2009, just before that year's Grammy Awards show, Brown violently beat his superstar girlfriend Rihanna. He was 19. Brown later plead guilty to felony assault and was sentenced to 5 years of labor-intensive probation and a year of domestic violence prevention classes.
On Jan. 3, Iowans will caucus at 1,774 precincts across the state, in the first contest of the 2012 presidential nominating process. Above, Iowans caucus in 2004 at St. John's United Methodist Church in Des Moines, precinct 87.
In a cavernous Des Moines meeting hall just west of the state Capitol, progressive activist and writer John Nichols had a simple message for those involved in Iowa's iteration of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
"Learn to get cool with losing," Nichols told about 50 people who had come to hear advice from longtime activists, including veterans of the civil rights battle.
"Get comfortable that you absolutely will be told you can't succeed," he said, and with the notion of a long-term struggle "that may last beyond your lifetime."
For the long-term unemployed, getting a job isn't always the end of the story.
Randy Howland spent most of this past year working at a $10-an-hour customer service job. He used to make six figures. With this job, he was settling, just so he could have the satisfaction of working. It was essentially a call-center job.
Nga Truong (front) meets with social services advocate Lisa Gigliotti. Truong says she's struggling to rebuild her life after nearly three years awaiting trial for murder.
Credit Jesse Costa / WBUR
A screen shot of video footage attained by WBUR shows Worcester Police Sgt. Kevin Pageau (right) and Detective John Doherty as they interrogate Nga Truong, then 16, after the 2008 death of her baby boy.
Before his death in 2008, Nga Truong's son, Khyle, suffered from respiratory problems that required a nebulizer.