How do you know you're in Kansas City, Missouri? Follow the smoke, and listen for this:
"Hi, may I help you?"
At the famed Gates Bar-B-Q in Kansas City, "May I help you?" is a kind of mantra.
It's how people standing in front of the barbecue pits greet all who walk in the door, while ribs, brisket, turkey, and for all I know, pillow stuffing sizzle, pop, and get saturated with smoke and the signature sauce of Ollie Gates, the barbecue master.
On a recent wintry day, Kansas City eighth-grader Yak Nak sat before a Missouri state Senate committee. He was there to tell lawmakers why his family had sacrificed to send him to a parochial school.
"Even though it was a struggle for my family, the reputation of the public schools in my area was not as good as my parents would have hoped," he said. "They knew there was no time to waste when dealing with young minds, and education was more valuable than any money they could save."
Consider this: Yak Nak and his family are refugees from Sudan.
Stepping out of my hotel on Friday evening, I could see cars backed up for miles, stretching all the way around the Benghazi's biggest lake, not far from the shores of the Mediterranean.
Horns blared in every direction, but not just car horns: bull horns, oo-gahhorns, vuvuzelas, aerosol-powered horns, even a bagpipe or two. The air smelled of exhaust, gasoline and the occasional whiff of hash. It was a cacophonous mess, overwhelming, painful to the ears, joyful, extraordinary.
In Cleveland, 2010 GED graduates from the Get On Track program parade down the aisle during their commencement. In today's economy, some experts say, the GED may not be enough to provide "gainful employment."
Every year, roughly 750,000 high school dropouts try to improve their educational and employment prospects by taking the General Educational Development test, or GED, long considered to be the equivalent of a high school diploma.
The latest research, however, shows that people with GEDs are, in fact, no better off than dropouts when it comes to their chances of getting a good job.
This is raising lots of questions, especially in school districts with high dropout rates and rising GED enrollments.
Hourly workers at General Motors will soon be getting profit-sharing checks of up to $7,000 each after the automaker reported record earnings this week. President Obama may also get a political dividend, two and a half years after a government-engineered turnaround.
Obama reminded a group of United Auto Worker members this week that, back in 2009, his rescue of GM and Chrysler had plenty of critics.
Bighorn Sheep Canyon in Colorado holds a chuckling ribbon of water, with a highway running alongside. Artist Christo wants to drape sections of it — almost 6 miles' worth — with long, billowing panels of silvery fabric.
"The silver-color fabric panel will absorb the color," he says. "In the morning, it will become rosy, in the middle of the day, platinum, and [during] the sunset, the fabric will become golden."
Country Music Award winner Gretchen Peters had an eventful 2010: The BP oil spill washed up on her doorstep, a good friend committed suicide, and her son announced that he's transgender. The last of those in particular, she says, got her thinking about personal conflict.
No celebrity can be truly world renown unless they have their own theme park. Mickey Mouse and Disney have theirs. Now, Napoleon might get his chance too.
Christian Mantei the head of Atout France, the tourism group supporting the endeavor, once told the The Economist that "bosses at Disneyland Paris once said that only Napoleon had the stature to take on Mickey Mouse".
Roberta Flack has been singing in a way that plucks at the heartstrings since 1969, when she recorded the breakthrough song "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." She followed that hit with many, many more, including, "Killing Me Softly with His Song," "Where Is the Love" and "The Closer I Get to You."
As he had promised, N.J. Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed a bill that would have allowed gay marriage in his state.
The governor issued his veto just a day after the state's legislature passed the bill. According to The Star-Ledger, Christie said that he was, however, appointing an "ombudsman to address complaints of same-sex couples and strengthen New Jersey's civil union's law."
Charles G. Dawes served under Calvin Coolidge from 1925 to 1929. Dawes is the only vice president to have both a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in World War I and a Billboard Top 10 hit, and neither had anything to do with his tenure as vice president.
Before serving under Lyndon B. Johnson, Hubert Humphrey was known as a "happy warrior" for liberal causes. Once in office, his silence on such matters earned him criticism from the left. Here he poses with actress Carol Channing in 1964.
Credit John Ruthroff / AFP/Getty
Vice President Dan Quayle visits his hometown of Huntington, Ind., in 1992. Quayle served under George H.W. Bush from 1989 to 1993.
Credit Keystone / Getty
Charles G. Dawes was Calvin Coolidge's second in command from 1925 to 1929. Dawes is the only vice president to have both a Billboard Top 10 hit and a Nobel Peace Prize.
Aaron Burr served as vice president under Thomas Jefferson from 1801 to 1805. In 1804, Burr killed political rival Alexander Hamilton in a duel over his reputation.
A New York lawmaker wants to put the brakes on eating donuts, and anything else for that matter, in the city's subway system. State Sen. Bill Perkins of Harlem says an eating ban would help combat rats and litter. But, the issue is stirring somewhat of a food fight among subway riders.
Originally published on Fri February 17, 2012 4:01 pm
I've spent the day in the company of Malik L, a Benghazi-based hip hop artist who seems to get stopped every 100 feet by either a friend or a fan. In between these conversations, I asked Malik about what celebrations were scheduled for tonight.
"I have no idea," he replied. "No one does. Libya has never done this before. We don't know how to celebrate an anniversary."
Police fired tear gas into crowds of demonstrators in Senegal's capital on Friday. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton was on what is usually a busy street in Dakar and she told our Newscast unit that all day there has been a cat-and-mouse game between police and young protesters.
Protesters are throwing rocks and pieces of concrete and police have responded with tear gas.
The 2012 Academy Awards are fast approaching, but behind all the glitz and glamor of Hollywood there is furious lobbying going on for that golden statuette. Robert Siegel talks with Christy Grosz, the awards editor at Variety, about the ins and outs of Oscar campaigning.
A number of Greeks are struggling to get by as the country's economy falters, including a group of middle class families in one Athens apartment building. They save they've lost hope they'll ever have a decent life again.
Melissa Block talks to E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Brookings Institution and Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor at the National Review, about the showdown between Republican presidential contenders Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney in Michigan and Arizona ahead of those states' primaries, and the extension of the payroll tax cut through the end of the year.
San Joaquin sheriff detectives sift for human remains that were excavated from an abandoned ranch near Linden, Calif., on Sunday. Authorities say Wesley Shermantine and Loren Herzog wantonly murdered an unknown number of victims before their arrest in 1999. Now, one of the convicted killers is leading investigators to burial sites that have yielded hundreds of bones.
Originally published on Fri February 17, 2012 1:59 pm
Now that Congress has passed the extension of the payroll tax cut and jobless insurance benefits for the long-term uninsured, as well as a fix that prevents cuts in Medicare reimbursements to doctors, there's the sense that not much else will get done on Capitol Hill, it being a general-election year and all.
Journalists don't talk about the danger. They don't usually recount the moments of agonizing terror that come after a bad decision to continue on down the road as the faint sound of mortar shells grows louder.
Multiple news outlets are reporting that federal authorities have arrested a man who thought he was about to undertake a suicide bombing attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Fox News, which broke the story, reports the man was arrested in Washington on Friday, after a lengthy investigation by the FBI. At the time the man was wearing a vest he thought was packed with explosives but was really provided by FBI agents he thought were al-Qaida associates.
In an email to staff of the besieged Sun tabloid, where ten current and former senior staff have been arrested since November, the 81-year-old media tycoon promised to "build on the Sun's proud heritage by launching the Sun on Sunday very soon.
The email came as Murdoch visited the paper's U.K. headquarters for a meeting with staff. According to the BBC: