The Iranian drama A Separation has popped up on more than a few critics' lists of the best films of 2011, despite little exposure in the U.S. thus far. It will open in limited release December 30, and as Howie Movshovitz of Colorado Public Radio reports on Friday's Morning Edition, it serves as both a family drama and a piece of social observation about life in Iran.
Louise Tucker-Mitchell laughs on the phone with a customer at Enterprise Rent-A-Car at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. She says she likes working the week between Christmas and New Year's, as it's calmer and a good time to catch up.
Afghanistan sits at a crossroads between central Asia, Iran and the Indian subcontinent, and the country's music reflects that. Kabul hosted two international music festivals this fall — one traditional, the other a rock concert — but music is still a sensitive issue. International donors, including the U.S., have helped refurbish a conservatory in Kabul, but some of the students say they still face disapproval from extremist elements, even at the university.
For Isabel Sobozinsky-Wall, New Year's Eve marks a special time. That's when she met her future husband, Scott, during a trip to New York City 20 years ago.
"I was single and feeling very lonely on New Year's Eve," Scott says. "I was actually wandering the streets of Manhattan, and I ended up in the Paris Cafe. There was this ravishingly beautiful woman, wearing a beautiful dress. And I introduced myself. But I was very surprised when you asked me for my ID."
Many cultures greet the New Year with a feast that symbolically sets the table for the year ahead. As they sit down to traditional dishes, people often try to internalize their hopes and goals for the coming year.
China laid out its vision for space exploration in a white paper released today. In it, China declares its intention to put a man on the moon, a feat accomplished last by the United States almost 40 years ago.
The Financial Times says that while the prospect has been discussed by scientists in the past, the paper is "the first public government document to enshrine it as a policy goal."
But that's not the message you'll get if you call Republican Gov. Nikki Haley's office, where you'll be greeted with a cheery message: "It's a great day in South Carolina..."
And that's the same message you'll receive when calling call any other state agency. Or attend any recent event with the governor, like one last month in Columbia where TD Bank announced its plans to create a regional hub.
It's a question that has surely crossed the minds of many of you: Why is that mosquitoes tend to prefer certain people?
Scientists think they have an answer — at least to what attracts the the African mosquito Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto, which is partly responsible for the transmission of malaria. The researchers, led by Niels Verhulst of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, found that the blood suckers are attracted to certain people because of the kinds of bacteria on their skin.
In this photo released by the U.S. Marines and taken in December 2010, Lance Cpl. Dakota Hicks, from Laharpe, Ill., connects a radio battery to a portable solar panel communication system in Sangin District, in Afghanistan.The U.S. military is trying to wean itself off reliance on fossil fuels by employing solar energy and biofuels, among other measures.
Credit Shah Marai / AFP/Getty Images
Afghan policemen and locals watch a burned-out fuel truck, supplying a U.S.-run base, after being targeted by a bomb near Bagram Air Field near Kabul on Oct. 26. Attacks on convoys carrying supplies to U.S. troops are costly — both in monetary terms and in human life.
The heavy, mine-resistant vehicles that almost all U.S. military personnel use to move about Afghanistan are gas guzzlers. And even though the U.S. military buys that fuel at a reasonable price, the energy it takes to fly it and truck it to remote parts of Afghanistan drives the price into the stratosphere.
There's also a much greater cost, says Ray Mabus, secretary of the U.S. Navy.
The Twitter page for al-Shabab, the radical Islamic group in Somalia that has been branded a terrorist organization by the U.S. Such groups are active in social media, but have not attracted many recruits.
Terrorist groups seemed to be all over the Web in 2011. There were al-Qaida videos on YouTube, Facebook pages by Islamic militants in Somalia, and webzines – like Inspire magazine – produced by al-Qaida affiliates in Yemen.
If there were an award for the best known terrorist music recording in the past couple of years, it would probably go to the Somali militia group al-Shabab for a YouTube video that extolled the virtues of jihad, or holy war.
Singer-songwriter Guy Clark is a key figure in alternative country music. In the 1970s, his Nashville home was an axis of creativity, a hangout where musicians assembled to trade songs and stories, and where Clark mentored young songwriters at the time, like Steve Earle and Rodney Crowell.
Headlines claiming that celebrity-whose-famous-for-being-famous Kim Kardashian will be paid $600,000 to host a New Year's Eve party at the Tao nightclub in Las Vegas' Venetian hotel and casino and then return to the Tao a few more times in 2012 to make "special appearances," certainly catch your eye.
The opening moments of A Separation lay out the story you'd expect to see in a film about a wife who is leaving her husband: Simin (Leila Hatami) and her bank-clerk spouse, Nader (Peyman Moadi), are explaining heatedly to a judge why they want a separation. Or actually, why they don't want it.
Beginning Jan. 15, Verizon will charge you an extra $2 if you choose to pay your bill online or by phone. In a statement, the largest mobile service provider in the country said the "convenience fee" is "designed to address costs incurred by us for only those customers who choose to make single bill payments in alternate payment channels."
Verizon also lists seven ways that allow you to pay without incurring the fee and it reads a bit like the complex mobile bills you get each month. They are:
As we continued our Iowa travels in the days leading up to next week's presidential caucuses here, NPR photographer Becky Lettenberger and I have been struck by the utter seriousness of the state's Republican voters.
Presidential caucus seasons past have often been marked by fun and some frivolity at campaign events: Funny T-shirts and hats, jokes and punch lines offered up by candidates, a sense of hope and anticipation.
The news that the U.S. has finalized a deal to sell nearly $30 billion worth of F-15SA fighter jets and other equipment to Saudi Arabia comes, as every story about the agreement says, as America and its allies seek to further isolate and pressure Iran so long as that Persian nation continues to be a threat to others in the region.
The funeral procession of Kim Jong Il brought back memories of an era when images of Communist propaganda were ubiquitous. The visual backbone of the images or illustrations were usually order and symmetry, enacted on a grand scale.
Wednesday's event was no exception. An overall view of the snowy procession had it all: the framed image of Kim Jong Il in the foreground, the masses of mourners lined neatly on the sidelines, the motorcade in perfect sync and the order that is associated with a totalitarian regime — a regime with access to Photoshop.
For the first time in more than six decades, the United States is exporting more gasoline and diesel than it imports.
To be clear, we're talking about finished petroleum products, not crude oil. The U.S. still imports about half the crude it consumes.
Refineries are touting this new export statistic — after all, gasoline and diesel are manufactured products. They say a boost in exports keeps more manufacturing jobs in the U.S. But one reason exports are increasing is that demand for gas in this country is declining.
Cancer-fighter Avastin just came up short as a treatment for ovarian tumors.
Two studies found that the drug, which blocks the formation of new blood vessels, didn't extend the lives of patients with ovarian cancer.
Avastin did slow the progression of the cancers a little bit. But the patients getting Avastin as part of treatment with several medicines had more side effects, including blood clots and high blood pressure, than the people who didn't get it.
"'It would not be strange if they had developed the technology to induce cancer and nobody knew about it until now ... I don't know. I'm just reflecting,' he said in a televised speech to troops at a military base.
Another strong turnout this morning for Mitt Romney at a restaurant in Cedar Falls, though the small place wasn't quite as packed as yesterday's breakfast stop in Muscatine. Romney spent a lot of time shaking hands and posing for pictures with customers, supporters and restaurant staff, after he spoke for about 20 minutes. He usually takes a couple of questions from the crowd but did not today, preferring to spend more time than usual glad-handing.
Meatballs over pasta from Michel Richard's restaurant in Washington, D.C.
Credit Melissa Forsyth / NPR
The concept for Meatballs harkens back to Michel Richard's childhood in postwar France. "My mother used to make pork meatballs with potato and garlic. She was trying to raise five kids by herself. She was trying to keep food costs down," he says.
When I'm considering a gourmet lunch, meatballs don't exactly spring to mind. So I was more than a little surprised to hear that haute cuisine chef Michel Richard was opening a meatball joint just down the street from NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Our post-Christmas post about the estimated $41 billion worth of gift cards that haven't been redeemed since 2005 seemed to strike a chord. And our shout-out for ideas about what to do with cards you don't want or that only have a little bit of money left on them generated some good responses. Such as this: