Although all works of fiction and narrative nonfiction have characters — be they animals, hobbits, dragons, humans, werewolves or whatever — I've found that there are some books in which these characters are three-dimensional and awfully interesting. (Whether or not they're likable is another question.) These characters become, as the story progresses, more and more real to me. It's as though they've become good friends.
Honey is the most natural of sweeteners, coming to us directly from bees and flowers.
Well, maybe not so directly. These days, a long supply chain often links beehives half a world away with the jar of honey in your kitchen. And there's suspicion in that supply chain: global trade disputes; accusations of unfair competition; even honey identity-switching.
Originally published on Mon December 12, 2011 6:18 pm
Mike Naumes thinks Oregon schoolchildren should be eating more Oregon pears. And not just the D'Anjou, Bartlett and Bosc pears approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's School Lunch Program, but the lesser-known Comice pears of southern Oregon's Rogue Valley.
Anyone who's ever tasted a Comice pear would have a hard time arguing with that. They're fat and green, extraordinarily sweet and juicy — a world apart from your typical supermarket pear.
Sharon Jordan (lower left) and her family (clockwise from top left: Rydell, Nikera and Anisha) are working with Bank of America and a Boston nonprofit to repurchase their duplex at its current market price — about half of the original value.
Credit Aarti Shahani / NPR
Elyse Cherry is chief executive officer of Boston Community Capital, a nonprofit that is buying homes at market value and reselling them to current homeowners at a slight mark-up, so the homeowners can actually afford payments.
There's an unfamiliar trend emerging in America's troubled housing market. Big banks are volunteering to lose money — hundreds of millions for themselves and investors — in order to save homes at risk of foreclosure. And they're doing it in record numbers.
The year closed with a new trend: In 30 percent of private loan modifications, banks are doing a principal writedown — that is, hacking away at the amount owed as far down as the current market value. They're doing it so borrowers can actually afford payments. Two years ago, that 30 percent was just at 2 percent.
A picture released by the official website of Iran's Revolutionary Guards on December 8, 2011 shows Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Brig. Gen. Amir-Ali Hajizadeh (R) looking at what Iranian officials claim is a U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel high-altitude reconnaissance drone that crashed in Iran on December 4.
Originally published on Mon December 12, 2011 7:02 pm
The United States is officially asking Iran for the return of a drone surveillance aircraft lost earlier this month.
"We have asked for it back. We'll see how the Iranians respond," President Barack Obama said during a White House news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Monday.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking at a State Department news conference, told reporters that the U.S. had "submitted a formal request" for the craft's return, but that "given Iran's behavior to date, we do not expect them to comply."
Mitchell Zuckoff is a professor at Boston University and the author of Lost in Shangri-La.
I taught my last class of the semester the other day. Inevitably, my students — all of them journalism majors and most of them seniors — hijacked the lesson plan to vent their hopes and fears about what awaits them after graduation.
This happens every December, and each year I do my best to calm and encourage them, to let them know it's OK to be worried but it's not OK to despair. I give them what I've come to consider my pre-commencement address.
Maryland farmer Josie Johnson listens to a lecture on extending the farming season using caterpillar tunnels. The lesson was part of a conference for young farmers held in Tarrytown N.Y., in early December.
Credit Maggie Starbard / NPR
Maryland farmer Josie Johnson learns about extending the farming season by growing crops under caterpillar tunnels. The lecture was part of a conference for young farmers held in Tarrytown N.Y., in early December.
Credit All photos by Maggie Starbard / NPR
Steven "Shepsi" Eaton and Liz Moran are expecting a baby and say they hope to start their own farm soon. "[Farming] isn't to make a living," Moran says. "It's to create a certain lifestyle for myself and for the people around me".
For decades, as young people have been leaving farms behind, the average age of the American farmer has been rising. The last time the government counted farmers, in 2002, the average farmer was 55-years-old.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki shakes hands with President Obama in the Oval Office at the White House on Monday. The two leaders met as the U.S. prepares to withdraw the last of its combat troops from Iraq.
President Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met at the White House on Monday and pledged to maintain strong ties after the U.S. withdraws the last of its troops, but nagging concerns remain about Iraq's security and neighboring Iran.
Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow prayed in the end zone — tebowing — before the start Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears.
Credit Julie Jacobson / AP
Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow bows his head on the sidelines — the gesture that's been enshrined as "tebowing" — after scoring a touchdown against the New York Jets on Nov. 17. With Tebow at the helm, the Broncos have won six in a row.
Originally published on Tue December 13, 2011 6:43 am
He's the hottest topic in sports, and now Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is a word, kind of.
The online Global Language Monitor, which professes to track what's hot in the world of words, announced today that is has declared "tebowing, the act of 'taking a knee' in prayerful reflection" during an athletic activity is now "an English language word."
It's the kind of news that parents of a premature baby would grasp at: One of the world's smallest preemies, born weighing a mere 9.8 ounces, is now a 22-year-old college student who's living a normal life.
But doctors who deal with low birth weight babies say parents shouldn't think that sort of bright future is assured.
A U.S. Border Patrol agent patrols along the U.S.-Mexico border in Naco, Ariz., in September. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a legal challenge to Arizona's tough new law on illegal immigration.
The United States Supreme Court added another red-hot rocket to its docket on Monday, all but ensuring that it will resolve a major immigration case just weeks before the major parties hold their conventions next summer.
The court agreed to hear a challenge to a controversial Arizona law that targets people suspected of being illegal immigrants. This is a setback for the Obama administration, which had urged the justices to wait for the lower courts to thoroughly examine the constitutionality of the issues in the case.
Michelle and Al Ford relax at their home in St. Paul, Minn., before heading to work. The Fords suffered a combination of five layoffs in five years — including a time they each received a pink slip on the same day. Now they're happy to be working again.
Over the course of the recession, 7.5 million Americans lost their jobs, and some of them were unfortunate enough to collect more than one pink slip. Serial layoffs can be personally devastating, but they can also darken a resume and raise concerns for potential employers.
Al and Michelle Ford of St. Paul, Minn., know about multiple layoffs all too well. Their version of the Great Recession started about a year before the official one was declared.
Originally published on Mon December 12, 2011 4:03 pm
This just in: After 15 years of deliberation, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to decide whether it will approve a genetically modified salmon for human consumption.
Now there's a catchy lead. But the truth is, the long-running regulatory saga of AquaBounty's application to sell salmon with a growth hormone gene from one fish plus a promoter of an antifreeze gene from another — which help it grow twice as fast as typical farmed salmon — does not seem headed toward a conclusion.
Melissa Block speaks with Robert Perito, the director of the Security Sector Governance Center at the U.S. Institute of Peace, about the effectiveness of Provincial Reconstruction Teams, or PRTs, in Iraq over the years. Perito says the teams had a lot of problems from the beginning, but they got better with time.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's bid to return to his nation's presidency, an office he held from 2000 to 2008, picked up a surprise challenger Monday when Mikhail Prokhorov publicly declared his intention to run for the office, too.
Critics have long derided the world's biggest cities as disorderly, overcrowded and polluted. But in recent years, as the planet's population continues to rise past seven billion and more and more people flock to urban areas, some now argue that cities may hold the key to sustainable growth.
Millions of young girls around the world, some as young as five, are forced into marriage every year. The practice is forbidden by international agreements and outlawed in many countries. But many young brides end up in abusive relationships without access to courts or education.
Clean, fresh water is an essential element to life — not only do people and animals depend on it, but it also sustains many businesses and agriculture. The majority of the fresh water used worldwide goes to irrigation, and the need is expected to rise with the growing global population.
Three months after the tsunami and nuclear disaster struck Japan, AP photographer David Guttenfelder ventured into the exclusion zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The only non-Japanese photographer allowed in, he captured crumbling reactor buildings and haunting footprints.
Occupy protesters clash with Long Beach Police Department officers after blocking the road leading to SSA Marine, a shipping company that is partially owned by investment bank Goldman Sachs, at the Port of Long Beach on Monday.
"A war is ending, a new day is upon us," President Obama said this afternoon at a joint news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at which the two leaders are marking the departure of the last U.S. troops after nearly nine years in Iraq.
For his part, Maliki said the two nations' relations "will not end with the departure of the last American soldier ... it has only started."
Michael C. Hall plays Dexter Morgan, a forensics expert for the Miami Police Department who harbors a deep secret: He's a serial killer who channels his murderous impulses by hunting other serial killers.
On Dec. 18, the Showtime drama Dexter presents its sixth-season finale. The show stars Michael C. Hall — who played the repressed mortician David Fisher on HBO's Six Feet Under — as Dexter Morgan, a serial killer who kills other serial killers, and who also works for the Miami police as a blood-spatter expert.
Originally published on Mon December 12, 2011 11:33 am
By deciding to stop advertising during the TLC network's All-American Muslim reality TV show after hearing that some conservatives object to the program, Lowe's Home Improvement is now hearing complaints from others who accuse it of religious bigotry.
California State Sen. Ted Lieu (D), The Associated Press says, may call for a boycott of the home improvement chain.
Extra-virgin olive oil is a ubiquitous ingredient in Italian recipes, religious rituals and beauty products. But many of the bottles labeled "extra-virgin olive oil" on supermarket shelves have been adulterated and shouldn't be classified as extra-virgin, says New Yorker contributor Tom Mueller.
Originally published on Mon December 12, 2011 10:27 am
Arizona's controversial immigration law will indeed be getting a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court, it was just announced.
Long expected, the court's decision to weigh in could help settle whether the law — known as SB 1070 for its bill number in the Arizona Senate — encroaches on federal law because, in large part, of its provision that would require the police to determine the immigration status of a person they have detained and whether the suspect is in the country illegally.