Best Books Of 2011
11:01 pm
Mon December 12, 2011

7 Books With Personality: Nancy Pearl's 2011 Picks

Priscilla Nielsen for NPR

Although all works of fiction and narrative nonfiction have characters — be they animals, hobbits, dragons, humans, werewolves or whatever — I've found that there are some books in which these characters are three-dimensional and awfully interesting. (Whether or not they're likable is another question.) These characters become, as the story progresses, more and more real to me. It's as though they've become good friends.

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The Salt
11:01 pm
Mon December 12, 2011

Funny Honey? Bringing Trust To A Sweet Sector Fraught With Suspicion

A Chinese beekeeper harvests honey beside a rape seed field in Anhui province. China is major producer of honey and bee products.
AFP AFP/Getty Images

Honey is the most natural of sweeteners, coming to us directly from bees and flowers.

Well, maybe not so directly. These days, a long supply chain often links beehives half a world away with the jar of honey in your kitchen. And there's suspicion in that supply chain: global trade disputes; accusations of unfair competition; even honey identity-switching.

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Poisoned Places: Toxic Air, Neglected Communities
11:01 pm
Mon December 12, 2011

EPA To Unveil New Rules For Power Plants

More than 20 years ago, Congress ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate toxic air pollution. It's done that for most industries, but not the biggest polluters — coal and oil-burning power plants.

The EPA now plans to change that later this week, by setting new rules to limit mercury and other harmful pollution from power plants.

When Congress first told the EPA to regulate toxic air pollution in 1990, pediatrician Lynn Goldman was investigating the impact of mercury from mining operations on Native American families living near a contaminated lake.

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It's All Politics
11:01 pm
Mon December 12, 2011

Congress At Impasse Over Must-Pass Measures

House Speaker John Boehner speaks to reporters at the Capitol on Monday.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Tue December 13, 2011 11:29 am

Congress is supposed to head home for the holidays at the end of this week, but there's a whole lot of work to do before then. And for now at least, the parties remain divided over a number of other must-pass measures.

This is the part of the tango of Congress where the Republican House offers a plan.

"The House is going to do its job, and it's time for the Senate then to do its job," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, at a press conference Monday.

Then, as if on cue, the Democratic Senate balked.

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Digital Life
11:01 pm
Mon December 12, 2011

Hot This Season: Getting In Touch With A Tablet

Customers look at the iPad 2 displayed at an Apple store. Black Friday sales for the iPad were up 70 percent from last year.
Martin Bureau AFP/Getty Images

Tablet computers are on a lot of people's wish lists this year.

A recent Nielsen survey found the Apple iPad is the most wanted gift for kids ages 6 to 12. Some have even taken their appeals to YouTube. But if an iPad isn't in the budget, there are some 30 other tablets out there to choose from.

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Business
11:01 pm
Mon December 12, 2011

Airplane Mechanics: A Farm Team For Everyone Else?

The best airplane mechanics are skilled at everything from metal part fabrication to electronics to lavatory plumbing. Other, better-paying companies soon become interested in their skills.
Courtesy AAR

Originally published on Tue December 13, 2011 7:21 pm

Talk of jobs — or lack of them — dominates the national conversation right now. But there are places in the economy where willing, qualified workers are hard to come by.

One such place is AAR Aircraft Services Corp., an aircraft maintenance facility in Oklahoma City. There, American capitalism is on display with all its strengths and weaknesses. AAR services jet aircraft, including passenger planes from carriers like Alaska Airlines, Mesa Air and Allegiant Air.

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Library
8:55 pm
Mon December 12, 2011

Library upgrades offer advanced educational tools

Rachel Vaughn, of Cooper, browses the internet on one of the new computers recently installed at the Commerce Public Library.

COMMERCE - The Commerce Public Library has recently installed a new computer server with six terminals, an integrated and more user friendly service for customers. 

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The Salt
5:15 pm
Mon December 12, 2011

Oregon Senator Pushes Local Pears For School Lunches

Comice pears are super-yummy, but not approved for schookids.
iStockPhoto.com

Originally published on Mon December 12, 2011 5:18 pm

Mike Naumes thinks Oregon schoolchildren should be eating more Oregon pears. And not just the D'Anjou, Bartlett and Bosc pears approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's School Lunch Program, but the lesser-known Comice pears of southern Oregon's Rogue Valley.

Anyone who's ever tasted a Comice pear would have a hard time arguing with that. They're fat and green, extraordinarily sweet and juicy — a world apart from your typical supermarket pear.

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Crisis In The Housing Market
5:03 pm
Mon December 12, 2011

In Mortgage Crisis, Some Banks Agree To Cut Losses

Sharon Jordan (lower left) and her family (clockwise from top left: Rydell, Nikera and Anisha) are working with Bank of America and a Boston nonprofit to repurchase their duplex at its current market price — about half of the original value.
Aarti Shahani NPR

There's an unfamiliar trend emerging in America's troubled housing market. Big banks are volunteering to lose money — hundreds of millions for themselves and investors — in order to save homes at risk of foreclosure. And they're doing it in record numbers.

The year closed with a new trend: In 30 percent of private loan modifications, banks are doing a principal writedown — that is, hacking away at the amount owed as far down as the current market value. They're doing it so borrowers can actually afford payments. Two years ago, that 30 percent was just at 2 percent.

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The Two-Way
4:48 pm
Mon December 12, 2011

U.S. Asks Iran For Spy Drone's Return; Iran Says It's Extracting Secret Data

A picture released by the official website of Iran's Revolutionary Guards on December 8, 2011 shows Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Brig. Gen. Amir-Ali Hajizadeh (R) looking at what Iranian officials claim is a U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel high-altitude reconnaissance drone that crashed in Iran on December 4.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon December 12, 2011 6:02 pm

The United States is officially asking Iran for the return of a drone surveillance aircraft lost earlier this month.

"We have asked for it back. We'll see how the Iranians respond," President Barack Obama said during a White House news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Monday.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking at a State Department news conference, told reporters that the U.S. had "submitted a formal request" for the craft's return, but that "given Iran's behavior to date, we do not expect them to comply."

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