This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And I'm Renee Montagne.
It appears as if the bitter fighting in Congress is about to come to an end just in time for Christmas. Today, the House and the Senate are expected to approve an extension of the payroll tax holiday and benefits for the long-term unemployed. This required a major reversal for House Republicans who, earlier this week, voted to reject a nearly identical compromise.
Over the last year, many dictators have fallen from power. To name a few: Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was killed, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il died. Linda Wertheimer talks to Susan Glasser, with Foreign Policy magazine, about the year that was and which of the world's remaining strongmen need to worry about what 2012 has to offer.
After the fall of the Taliban, Abdul Wahkeel was the first potter to return to the Afghan village of Istalif.
Istalif had been home to generations of potters who crafted teapots, dishes and pots that glow a jewel-like blue. But Wahkeel and other villagers left after the Taliban torched workshops, smashed pottery and — it was said — killed birds in their cages.
When NPR's Renee Montagne first arrived in Istalif in 2002, she heard Wahkeel's story as he was centering clay on his potter's wheel.
"It is two months now that I have returned back to my home," he told her.
Willa Booker, 53, has been out of work for more than two years. A former medical records administrator in Chicago, Booker says she just wants someone to give her a chance.
Credit Cheryl Corley / NPR
Jonathan Gandy worked as a project coordinator for an insurance company and then as a computer consultant for a nonprofit through Americorps. He's been searching for a full-time job for a year and a half.
Originally published on Fri December 23, 2011 9:32 am
Although the U.S. gained more than 120,000 jobs last month, the numbers of long-term unemployed barely shifted, and unemployment rates for African-Americans continued to go through the roof.
A recent NPR and Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows that although the long-term unemployed face many of the same difficulties regardless of race, there are distinct differences between blacks and whites struggling to find work.
Texas Congressman Ron Paul is anything but an establishment GOP candidate. Yet, he is at the top of the polls in Iowa, largely because his message appeals to more than just the typical Republican caucus-goer. That was made clear when he met John McCarthy and Michelle Godez-Schilling, both of whom attended a campaign stop in Dubuque, Iowa.
"I would like to say I'm an independent, and for the first time in my life I'm affiliated with one of the two major parties because of you," McCarthy told Paul.
Sixth Street in downtown Austin, Texas, is one of the city's premiere live music districts. Guitar-shaped Christmas decorations hang on light poles, and the street is alive with bands and bars. Tonight you can hear Austin Heat at the Thirsty Nickel, Mike Milligan and the Altar Boys at Maggie Mae's, or you could catch Misbehavin' at the Dizzy Rooster.
Daniel Davis, a tall, thin birch tree of a man, is willing to eat almost anything. Indeed, cooking and eating are two unadulterated pleasures in Dan's life. But he recently revealed to me, his wife, that there is one dish that, as a kid, he actually feared as Christmas drew near: ambrosia salad.
Everybody loved Cora Lee Collins — known to all, including her children, as Sug.
"Oh, I called her Mama, too, but I called her Sug," her daughter, Penelope Simmons, tells her own daughter, Suzanne Wayne. "When she was a little kid, she would climb up on the kitchen table and eat sugar out of the sugar bowl, and so they started calling her Sugar."
Simmons grew up in Lake Charles, La., with two brothers, Otis and Jamie. "Sug loved us, but she was nowhere near a hovering mother. I mean, we did run wild."
A screen grab from "America the Beautiful" by The Agenda Project. According to PolitiFact, videos like this one used elderly actors to falsely suggest that Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicare plan would adversely affect current senior citizens.
Fact-checking sites like PolitiFact referee assertions by politicians, public figures and pundits. The fact-checking movement has been gaining momentum — and fans. But PolitiFact has come under fire after announcing its "Lie of the Year": a claim by some Democrats and liberals about a House Republican plan to change Medicare.
The Associated Press and Reuters are reporting that House Republicans have relented and will vote on a two-month extension of the payroll tax. On Tuesday, the House had voted to move the bill into conference, but the Senate had already left town.
What resulted was another Washington showdown with Senate Democrats — who passed the bill in rare bi-partisan fashion — refusing to negotiate further and House Republicans insisting that a year-long extension was the only way to go.
With official Washington trapped in partisan gridlock, doctors who treat Medicare patients are once again facing the prospect of a big cut in pay that almost no one supports.
And this time Medicare officials say they won't be hold onto the bills for longer than the usual 10-day processing time to wait for Congress to act. A 27 percent cut is set to take effect Jan. 1, unless Congress stops it.
The trillion-dollar budget bill that Congress passed last weekend includes plenty of non-spending provisions tucked into it. One of these so-called riders is aimed at saving the 100-watt incandescent light bulb.
But the move is more about politics than light.
Strictly speaking, the issue is this: Old-fashioned incandescent bulbs waste a lot of energy. So under federal law, they're being slowly phased out. The first to go, starting on New Year's Day, is the 100-watt bulb.
Bill Ferguson, a courier for FedEx, loads his truck at a sorting facility in Chicago on Dec. 12 — the company's busiest day in its history.
Credit M. Spencer Green / AP
Couriers load packages onto vehicles as other packages move down the belt at the FedEx station in Marina del Rey, Calif. Online shopping made a big mark on FedEx's business this year, as more retailers are offering later-guaranteed arrivals than ever.
This week marks the busiest time of the year for shipping services like UPS, FedEx and the Postal Service. The post office handled 600 million cards and letters alone on Tuesday, and UPS says it is delivering 300 packages per second, on average.
At one FedEx facility in Washington, D.C., the logistics of last-minute shipping are on full display.
Originally published on Thu December 22, 2011 2:10 pm
As he continued his bus tour on Thursday, Mitt Romney may have been hoping to connect with regular folks. At a service station in Randolph, N.H., he pumped the gas himself.
But voters weren't necessarily buying his 'just folks' demeanor. When he joked with a woman at the service station about buying a classic car her family owns, she asked, "$10,000?" — an echo of his unfortunate bet with Texas Gov. Rick Perry in a recent debate.
Originally published on Thu December 22, 2011 1:27 pm
The military hearing to decide whether Pfc. Bradley Manning, 24, will face a court-martial has come to an end in Fort Meade, Md. As the AP reports, during the hearing a military prosecutor argued that Manning, an Army intelligence analyst, had "defied the nation's trust" by allegedly leaking 700,000 documents, including tens of thousands of classified diplomatic cables, to the website WikiLeaks.
Pentagon spokesman George Little, speaking Thursday, said U.S. and Pakistani forces both made mistakes that contributed to the Nov. 26 shooting that killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers along the border with Afghanistan.
Credit Luis M. Alvarez / AP
Relatives of Pakistani soldier Havildar Mumtaz Hussain gather in front of his grave this month in the village of Bhagwal, about 70 miles southeast of Islamabad. Hussain was one of 24 Pakistani soldiers killed in a NATO shooting on Nov. 26.
In snowy Norway, nothing evokes Christmastime like a pot of glogg brewing on the stove. The traditional Scandinavian winter drink mixes wine, port and brandy with spices like caraway, cardamom and cinnamon to make for a brew that smells divine and tastes even better.
Urd Milbury, cultural attache from the Norwegian Embassy in Washington, D.C., and her husband, Todd, teach NPR's Lynn Neary how to make the holiday treat.
Originally published on Thu December 22, 2011 12:10 pm
As we've reported before, North Korea's state news agency is fond of assigning supernatural occurrences to their Dear Leader. Over the past two days, the news agency has published an array of stories about Kim Jong Il's death. But late yesterday and today, they are revealing that "peculiar natural wonders" occurred just as Kim died.