It's Round 10 of Three-Minute Fiction, the short story contest from weekends on All Things Considered. Here's the premise: Write a piece of original fiction that can be read in about three minutes (no more than 600 words).
Our judge for this round is author Mona Simpson, whose most recent book is My Hollywood. She most recently won a Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, among other prizes. Here's her twist for Round 10:
Write a story in the form of a voice-mail message.
The Obama administration on Friday issued another set of proposed rules — and asked for yet another round of public comments — in a continuing quest to find a way to ensure that women receive no-cost contraception as part of a package of preventive health services under the 2010 Affordable Care Act without requiring religious employers to violate their beliefs.
The economy shrunk in the fourth quarter — for the first time in three years — and one of the critical reasons was a drop in defense spending. Apparently, contractors took precautionary steps and held onto money in case the federal government failed to avert the fiscal and tax crisis known as the fiscal cliff.
But there's now a new deadline — automatic budget cuts, known as sequestration, which may hit at the beginning of March.
The Obama administration has issued a proposal detailing how coverage for contraception will be paid for under Obamacare. The health overhaul law requires insurance plans to provide birth control coverage, but those opposed to artificial contraception argue they should not be made to use their own funds to pay for it. Audie Cornish talks to Julie Rovner.
In the U.S., farmers and farm workers alike say the current system to import temporary workers, especially in agriculture, is slow and fraught with abuses.
But the shape of a new guest-worker program is still being hashed out. Some say the U.S. should import temporary workers the same way Canada does. For nearly four decades, the governments of Canada and Mexico have cooperated to fill agriculture jobs that Canadian citizens won't do, and that Mexicans are clamoring to get.
As cocaine consumption falls in the United States, South American drug traffickers have begun to pioneer a new soft target for their product: big and increasingly affluent Brazil.
And the source of the cocaine is increasingly Bolivia, a landlocked country that shares a 2,100-mile border with Brazil.
As Brazilian police officers and border agents can attest, the drug often finds its way to Brazil by crossing the Mamore River, which separates the state of Rondonia from Bolivia in the heart of South America.
On 53rd Street and Vermont Avenue in South Los Angeles, violent members of at least six gangs run the streets. A landmark church is boarded up and tagged. There are liquor stores and abandoned lots. On Tuesday night, there was a drive-by shooting two blocks away, and folks are expecting retaliation.This is an area where murders, robberies and rapes are common — and so are guns.
"There's too many guns out there," says Randolph Wright, 18. "I can tell you right now, every hood has an AK[-47]. Regardless of whatever other gun they got, they have an AK."
Over the past year, small gnomes started springing up all around Oakland, Calif. The elfin creatures are hand-painted on wooden boards; each is about 6 inches tall, with red hat, brown boots and white beard. They're bits of urban folk art from an anonymous painter who surreptitiously screws them onto the base of utility poles.
Somehow, Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith makes a case of the deep blues sound sweet. The new album Forever Endeavour is his 13th, and the songs show him, at midlife, reflecting a lot on the passage of time.
"I think there's always something comforting about sad songs," Sexsmith says. "It's a shared thing that everyone can relate to."
Adam Mansbach is the author of the forthcoming novel Rage is Back.
Stealing my 9-year-old nephew's copy of The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill was the best thing I did last summer. I was his age the first time I read it, and twice his age the last time I went back to it. I'm twice that old again now, but as soon as I dove into this intimate, majestic tale of war writ small — of a battle between the pushcart peddlers and the truckers of New York City — I realized how timeless, and how deeply a part of me, the story was.
The jazz musician Butch Morris was beloved by his fellow musicians and acclaimed by critics and fans for his ability to conduct improvisation. While that may sound like a contradiction, Morris pulled it off — with jazz musicians and symphony orchestras around the world.
A resident of New York City, he died yesterday in a Brooklyn hospital of cancer. He was 65 years old.
When a ferry crashed in lower Manhattan earlier this month, ambulances took dozens of people to hospitals around the island.
Bellevue Hospital took in 31 passengers, but they all had minor injuries. The most seriously hurt patients from the crash went elsewhere. Dr. Suzi Vassallo said that's because Bellevue still can't handle serious traumatic injuries.
Francois Brunelle is a French Canadian photographer whose work gives new meaning to the phrase "double exposure."
For the past several years, Brunelle has been documenting doppelgangers — people who happen to look strikingly similar but aren't related. He's on a quest to make 200 black-and-white portraits, and plans to eventually turn the project into a book.
Congress has now agreed to give some $60 billion to states damaged by Hurricane Sandy. A lot will go to Long Island, one of the hardest hit areas. Besides damages to homes and businesses, its system of protective barrier islands and beaches were partially washed away.
Scientists are trying to find out where that sand and sediment went, and whether it can be used to rebuild Long Island's defenses.
While few outside the film and radio industries may recognize the name Stefan Kudelski, his Nagra recorder — meaning "will record" in Kudelski's native Polish — transformed the world of sound recording for radio, television and film.
Kudelski, inventor of the first portable professional sound recorder, died Saturday in Switzerland at the age of 84, according to a statement from the Kudelski Group.
The battle between cat lovers and bird lovers has been going on for a long time. Cats and birds just don't mix. But trying to get a handle on how many birds and other animals are being killed by cats isn't easy. Just figuring out how many cats there are is tough enough.