This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. The number of people applying for unemployment benefits has been dropping around the country as the new year begins. Companies are laying off fewer workers, and hiring may be picking up. The U.S. Labor Department reported yesterday that the unemployment rate is now 8.5 percent, the lowest level in almost three years.
Now the story about one woman's effort to bring attention to the invisible wounds of war. The playwright Kate Wenner says she was stunned by investigations that showed thousands of U.S. troops were coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan with traumatic brain injuries and didn't receive the help they need. So Ms. Wenner decided to raise awareness through art. She's written a play about troops with traumatic brain injuries.
NPR's Daniel Zwerdling went to a production and has this report.
Iowa and New Hampshire are not demographic snapshots of America. They are smaller, less diverse and more rural than California, New York or Illinois, which have a lot more votes.
But Iowa and New Hampshire win a lot of attention early in an election year. As an old political columnist, now departed, once told me over the din of clinking cups in an Iowa diner, "If the first presidential caucuses were in Hawaii, congress would give federal subsidies to make gasoline out of pineapples."
Anyone who lives with a cat knows that fruits and vegetables do not top the feline food chart. So it's a surprise to hear that some cats do crave mushrooms.
This tale starts with Ellen Jacobson, an amateur mushroom hunter in Colorado. As she was cooking up a bolete mushroom, her cat Cashew started brushing against her legs. She put some of the mushrooms in a bowl, and Cashew gobbled them up. "He didn't like them raw," she told The Salt. "He only liked them cooked."
President Obama acknowledged Friday that the economic recovery has a long way to go. Still, he was able to share some good news. The Labor Department reported that U.S. employers added 200,000 jobs in December, and the unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent.
"Obviously, we have a lot more work to do," he said, "but it is important for the American people to recognize that we've now added 3.2 million new private sector jobs over the last 22 months."
Those better-than-expected numbers could help Obama, as he tries to hang on to his own job.
Elizabeth McGovern is back — though she was never really gone. She just moved across the pond.
She was 19 when a star — hers — was born, after she played the love interest in Robert Redford's film Ordinary People. She went on to co-star with some of Hollywood's leading men, including Robert De Niro, Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, and landed an Oscar nomination for Milos Forman's big-budget film Ragtime.
But in the early '90s, McGovern married a British guy and gave up Hollywood for London. She raised a family and developed a British acting career.
When Mitt Romney kicked off this past week with a blitzkrieg tour of Iowa, he had no way of knowing just how true this statement would be: "You guys in Dubuque, you're the best. Get out there and vote tomorrow. I need every vote!"
He wasn't kidding. When the final numbers were tallied in Iowa, the former Massachusetts governor edged his closest rival, Rick Santorum, by the smallest margin in Iowa history — just eight votes.
Italy's new prime minister, technocrat Mario Monti, wants to stimulate growth by boosting productivity and competitiveness. A new law that went into effect Jan. 1 allows shops, cafes and restaurants to stay open 24/7 all year long, holidays included. This deregulation puts Italy ahead of many European countries, but many Italians are resisting.
Friday — the Day of the Epiphany — was the first holiday of the year. In Rome, however, hardly anyone took advantage of the liberalized shop hours.
President Obama took a controversial step this week in making appointments to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and National Labor Relations Board during what the White House considered a congressional recess, bypassing any objections from lawmakers.