Originally published on Fri October 19, 2012 1:10 pm
It's Christmas Eve, and many Latinos will celebrate the holiday tonight by unwrapping a delicious little present: tamales.
At its essence, a tamale consists of masa (a type of starchy corn dough) that's been wrapped in leaves, then steamed or boiled. Some come bundled in corn husks, others in plantain, banana or mashan leaves. Some are sweetened with molasses, others spiced with mole. Some are plain, others filled with meats or vegetables.
Australian actress Rachel Griffiths, best known in the U.S. for her work on HBO's Six Feet Under and ABC's Brothers and Sisters, has made an acclaimed Broadway debut in the new play Other Desert Cities.
Griffiths, who is well-known in Australia for her stage work, tells NPR's Scott Simon she would have been happy if all she had ever done was act onstage.
"Theater was where I began and what I really thought my career would be in Australia," she says. "That was my thing. ... The movies were an unexpected joy, and television even more unexpected."
With the 2012 presidential election on the horizon, NPR's Debbie Elliott heads to Camden, S.C., to hear from the close-knit Gaither-James family. Like other African-Americans — considered the political base for President Obama — they're concerned about the economy and today's political climate.
A skeleton dressed in a Santa Claus costume is part of the holiday displays at the Loudoun County Courthouse in Leesburg, Va. Many local residents are not pleased with the "Skele-Claus" or other displays by secular activists and atheists.
An "alternative Nativity scene" was set up at the Wisconsin State Capitol by the secular, nontheist organization Freedom from Religion Foundation when its request that a traditional creche be removed was not met.
Joseph, Mary, and ... the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
Nativity scenes have long been a part of holiday displays at city halls and small-town courthouses across the country. This year, some proponents of secularism are finding new ways to protest the time-honored tradition. They're putting up their own versions of the creche — and causing quite a commotion in places like Leesburg, Va.
An official from the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (right), wearing a protective suit and mask, rides on a bus taking journalists by the crippled Fukushima nuclear power station in northeast Japan in November. Japanese officials say the plant is stable, but concerns about radioactivity remain a constant worry in many parts of Japan.
Nine months after Japan's nuclear accident, life in Tokyo seems to have snapped back to normal, with a vengeance. The talk shows are back to their usual mindless trivia about pop stars and baseball contracts. The date of the tsunami and nuclear accident, March 11 — known here as just 3/11 — has faded into the background.
But while the horror has receded, for many of us, particularly women with families, things will never be the same.
There's no getting past the fact that the nuclear accident dumped radioactive particles into the atmosphere, soil and sea.
This year has something unpleasant in common with the years 1979 and 1986. In 1979, a nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania melted down. In 1986, the Soviet reactor at Chernobyl blew up and burned.
This year's meltdown occurred in Fukushima in Japan, and nuclear power isn't likely to be the same as a result.
Nuclear power had enjoyed 25 years of relative quiet, but the Fukushima accident reminded people that despite improvements in safety, nuclear plants could still go horribly wrong.
Audience members listen to Texas Gov. Rick Perry at a campaign meet and greet in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. In an article in The Atlantic, a University of Iowa professor resurfaced the question of Iowa's importance in the presidential race, pointing out ways Iowa does not accurately represent the U.S.
Every caucus season, swarms of politicians and journalists descend on Iowa. Inevitably the question arises: Why should this state have so much influence?
This year, one particularly harsh article about Iowa is getting almost as much attention in the state as the candidates themselves. The article, written by Iowa resident Stephen Bloom, raises some old questions about the state's role in selecting the nation's president.
The Justice Department has blocked a new South Carolina voting law, saying it violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The state law requires voters to present a photo ID in order to vote. The Justice Department says the law disenfranchises minorities, but the state says it protects against voter fraud. For more, Robert Siegel talks to NPR's Pam Fessler.