2011 was a good year to be a reader of science fiction and fantasy, although lately every year has been a good year: Not only are the books getting more popular — thank you, Game of Thrones — they're getting more interesting, evolving and morphing in weird, fascinating ways.
They're also interbreeding with other genres to produce wild new hybrid forms, like historical science fiction romances and hard-boiled fantasy detective novels. They're commenting on current events and swapping DNA with literary novels.
The political wrangling continues in Washington as Republicans and Democrats try to get their priorities enacted even as several key deadlines fast approach.
Overnight, as The Associated Press reports, Republicans in the House "unveiled a massive $1 trillion-plus year-end spending package despite a plea from the White House for additional talks over a handful of provisions opposed by President Barack Obama."
We Americans have Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and the rest but residents of Enfield, North London, can expect a visit from Dobbey the reindeer this time of year. His owner Gordon Elliott takes him everywhere — to the local pub and with him on the subway or bus. On Christmas, Elliott dresses as Father Christmas and walks Dobbey through town.
Drivers near Coventry, England, experienced unusual weather conditions Wednesday: apples falling from the sky. About 100 rained down in a few minutes. Meteorologists blamed a freak wind. There are apparently no orchards nearby.
America's colors have been cased in Iraq — the flag was just symbolically put away at a ceremony marking the end of a war that lasted nearly nine years.
At the Baghdad airport a short time ago, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other officials were there to mark the occasion, NPR's Kelly McEvers reports. It was, she said on Morning Edition, a "quiet, small ceremony."
Jackson "Jax" Teller, the antihero at the heart of FX's blockbuster biker gang series Sons of Anarchy, is pretty easy to distinguish from a traditional hero. Just this season, Jax blew away a rival gang with an RPG missile, shot a Russian gangster in the head and got into some serious trouble while selling guns to the scariest gangsters on the planet.
And let's turn now to the latest volley in the ongoing tariff war. American politicians have vowed to fight new Chinese tariffs on U.S. made cars and SUVs. Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton has more.
TRACY SAMILTON, BYLINE: In 2010, the U.S. won a Chinese tire-dumping complaint before the World Trade Organization. Then China complained about U.S. poultry dumping. The U.S. said China subsidizes solar panels. Now the fight's over cars. Republican Congressman Kevin Brady of Texas heads a trade subcommittee.
President Obama has vowed to stay committed to Iraq. He emphasized that earlier this week when he met at the White House with Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki. Yesterday, the president marked the pullout of troops from Iraq in North Carolina. He and the first lady visited Fort Bragg to offer thanks and congratulations to the soldiers there.
Dave DeWitt of North Carolina Public Radio sent this report.
One of the year-end fights going on in Congress is about extending unemployment insurance. Democrats want to extend benefits for people long out of work. Republicans say, wait a minute, it's time to reform the program and lower its cost.
The stakes are high on this one. The Labor Department estimates that if Congress doesn't do something soon, some two-and-a-half million people could stop receiving checks by March. NPR's Andrea Seabrook reports now on the politics and on the realities of unemployment insurance.
Television has always loved heroes who sometimes act a bit like the bad guys — from cheeky gambler Brett Maverick to know-it-all bigot Archie Bunker. But today's TV shows seem addicted to the anti-hero, pushing audiences to fall in love with a meth dealer, murderous biker gang and a serial killer. TV critic Eric Deggans of the "St. Petersburg Times" explains why bad-guy heroes are so popular now.
Hewlett Packard has been under fire for the golden parachutes it awards outgoing CEOs. A chief let go earlier this year received nearly $10 million in severance and bonuses for what was less than a year's work. And the CEO fired before that received nearly $35 million when he left.
From Andy Warhol to David Hockney, artists of the 1960s flocked to Los Angeles and helped create a new, contemporary art scene that was an alternative to New York. Renee Montagne, talks to Hunter Drohojowska-Philp about her book, "Rebels in Paradise: The Los Angeles Art Scene and the 1960s," about art in post-war Los Angeles.
In 2008, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee was running for the GOP presidential nomination, and won the Iowa caucuses. Wednesday night in Des Moines, he hosted four current GOP contenders at a premiere for an anti-abortion film in which he appears. There was no endorsement from Huckabee. But there was a lot of talk about the need for abortion and other social issues to play a role in selecting a nominee.
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne. On what was once one of America's busiest bases in Iraq, the flag of U.S. forces was rolled up this morning, ready to be sent home to America. It's a ceremony known as the casing of the colors. And Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was there, marking the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq. We reached NPR's Kelly McEvers at that ceremony. And, Kelly, describe where you are.
In Alabama, a teacher who takes a Christmas ham as a gift from a student could get jail time. That's because of a new ethics law the governor wants changed. The new law severely restricts gifts to teachers.
Part of an ongoing series on unique holiday dishes
My great-grandma Mary Dusek kept alive the Czech heritage of her parents and immigrant husband through food. In the one photo I've seen of her, she's wearing a crisp, white apron. Our signature holiday dish comes from Mary's kitchen.
My mom, Dee Dee — Mary's daughter — is the keeper of the Dusek kraut tradition.
Death sentences dropped dramatically this year, marking the first time in more than three decades that judges and juries sent fewer than 100 people to death row, according to a new report from the Death Penalty Information Center.
Just 78 offenders were handed capital sentences, and only 43 inmates were executed — almost half as many as 10 years ago.
Lego doesn't call itself a toy company for boys. But look at the company's website, and its products are clearly geared towards boys' love of combat and action. There's Lego Star Wars, Lego Indiana Jones, Alien Conquest, Racers and Superheroes. One lonely set, called Belleville, is clearly for girls. It's pink-themed and features a horse.
In the past three years, the ability and willingness of Americans to move across town or to another state have fallen to their lowest level in more than half a century.
An NPR/Kaiser Family Foundation survey examined mobility among the long-term unemployed and underemployed. Of those two groups combined, 40 percent said they would be willing to move to another state to find a job.
One day last year I skipped school to wait for acceptances from colleges. It was the final day that letters or emails were supposed to be sent out.
I sat in front of my laptop by the front door for at least three hours, listening for the mailman while eagerly pressing the refresh button on my inbox. I admit, at one point, I checked my neighbor's mail. Getting my house skipped on the mail route was one of the less crazy hypotheticals I imagined while waiting.
Education has .edu, .gov belongs to the government, and now, adult entertainment has .xxx.
Starting last week, anyone can go online and buy a domain name ending in .xxx, but it's not all adult entertainment companies that are rushing to purchase the new addresses.
Colleges and other institutions have purchased .xxx domains preemptively to prevent others from doing so and associating their names with adult content. And many big names in the adult entertainment industry are opposed to the possibility of censorship by places that could block the entire .xxx domain.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Chairman Gregory Jaczko (center) speaks Wednesday during a meeting of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. His fellow commissioners, from bottom left: Kristine Svinicki, William Magwood IV and William Ostendorff.
The government organization charged with keeping nuclear power safe is having a meltdown. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission consists of five commissioners who direct the work of hundreds of nuclear engineers and other experts. They write the rules for how nuclear reactors operate.
Now four of those commissioners say the chairman of the NRC is a bully who's destroying their ability to do their job.
A Georgia school system has suspended all marching band activities after it launched an investigation spurred by the alleged hazing at Florida A&M University.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Dekalb County School System spokesman said they made the decision after uncovering "documented evidence of inappropriate activity that took place over the summer." The AJC adds:
When the head of the National Transportation Safety Board called for states to pass tough new laws banning drivers from using cellphones or hand-held devices, she said: "No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life."
While Tuesday's statement by NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman is undeniable, there are those who question the advisability of such a ban. Some state lawmakers and transportation experts say it could be difficult to enforce and that there's no real evidence yet that existing laws on hand-held devices have significantly reduced accident rates.
A tiny percentage of very wealthy Americans funded a relatively large chunk of the 2010 congressional midterm races, continuing a trend that has been growing for two decades, according to a new analysis of political contributions.
One of the major sticking points between the House and the Senate as they face off over end-of-year legislation is the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The bill the House passed Tuesday contains a provision forcing President Obama to decide on the pipeline within 60 days.
Republicans say this project should move ahead quickly because it will create thousands of jobs. But just how many jobs would be created is a matter of contention.
Women stand in line waiting to cast their votes in Suez, Egypt, on Wednesday. For months after the revolution, the port city had no government or services. Some voters are turning to the Salafists or the Muslim Brotherhood to bring about change.
Credit Khaled Desouki / AFP/Getty Images
Egyptian women line up to vote in Giza, southwest Cairo, on Wednesday, during the second round of parliamentary voting. Islamists swept to victory in the first stage.
A steady stream of voters showed up Wednesday at polling centers in the port city of Suez and in eight other governorates in Egypt. Islamists are expecting to boost their lead in the second phase of the country's landmark parliamentary elections.
The first phase was held last month, and the third and final phase will come next month as the country votes by region.