Alex Blumberg is a contributing editor for NPR's Planet Money. He is also a producer for the public radio program This American Life, and an adjunct professor of journalism at Columbia University. He has done radio documentaries on the U.S. Navy, people who do impersonations of their mothers and teenage Steve Forbes supporters. He won first place at the 2002 Third Coast International Audio Festival for his story "Yes, There is a Baby." His story on clinical medical ethicists won the 1999 Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI) award for best radio documentary.

Politics
3:33 am
Mon December 31, 2012

After Fruitless Weekend, Congress Still Seeks Fiscal Deal

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, leaves the Senate chamber to caucus in the Capitol on Sunday.
Molly Riley AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon December 31, 2012 5:46 am

It is almost unimaginable that both the House and Senate would be in session on a Sunday evening on the penultimate day of the year. And yet, they both were, with lawmakers hoping it was not merely a big waste of time and effort.

A bipartisan push by Senate leaders over the weekend has so far failed to forge a deal to spare American wage earners from tax hikes and shield government programs from drastic cutbacks.

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Planet Money
3:32 am
Mon December 31, 2012

The Fiscal Cliff: A Love Story

Originally published on Mon December 31, 2012 5:46 am

America, if you're scared by all the talk you've been hearing about the fiscal cliff, take heart: There are reasons for people across the political spectrum to love the cliff.

There's a lot for liberals to like in the fiscal cliff, says Matthew Yglesias, who writes wonky articles about economics for Slate.

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Books
3:31 am
Mon December 31, 2012

Listen Up! Audiobooks For Every Taste

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon December 31, 2012 5:46 am

  • Hear an excerpt of 'Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power'

If you're feeling overwhelmed by the holiday rush — too swamped, even, to spend an afternoon reading those books you got for Christmas, we have some recommendations for you — but these are audiobooks, so you can listen while you multitask.

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Book Reviews
5:55 pm
Sun December 30, 2012

Author Ben Fountain's Book Picks For 2013

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk and the short story collection Brief Encounters With Che Guevara." href="/post/author-ben-fountains-book-picks-2013" class="noexit lightbox">
Ben Fountain is the author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk and the short story collection Brief Encounters With Che Guevara.
Thorne Anderson

Originally published on Sun December 30, 2012 6:33 pm

Last spring, weekends on All Things Considered spoke with author Ben Fountain just as he released his widely acclaimed first novel, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. Later in the year, it was nominated for the National Book Award.

We asked Fountain to share with us what he's looking forward to in the book world next year. He says he's read about 25 books for release in 2013 and tells host Jacki Lyden, "The state of American fiction is really strong, at least from where I'm standing."

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Environment
5:32 pm
Sun December 30, 2012

2013: A Tipping Year For Climate Change?

Cracks form in the bed of a dried lake in Waterloo, Neb. The drought withered crops and dried out lakes across the nation's midsection in 2012.
Nati Harnik AP

Originally published on Sun December 30, 2012 5:55 pm

This year's extreme weather was one for the record books; 2012 is slated to be the hottest summer on record.

The worst drought in 50 years struck the South and Midwest, devastating the U.S. agriculture industry. Deadly floods and superstorms paralyzed the northeast and other parts of the country.

While the public is in shock by extreme weather events that have taken place, environmentalist Bill McKibben and other members of the science community say it is a result of climate change.

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Politics
5:05 pm
Sun December 30, 2012

A Look Foward: Immigration Reform In 2013

Arizona DREAM Act Coalition staff members, other advocacy group representatives and young immigrants line up in Phoenix last August for guidance about the federal program called Deferred Action, that would help illegal immigrants avoid deportation.
Ross D. Franklin AP

Originally published on Sun December 30, 2012 6:39 pm

This year we saw a great divide in the nation on the issue of immigration reform.

Much of the concern surrounds the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country — the majority of whom are from Mexico and Latin American countries, and about 10 percent from Asia.

President Obama won office again with 71 percent of the Latino vote. He has called pledge to reform current immigration law.

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NPR Story
5:00 pm
Sun December 30, 2012

'Fiscal Cliff' Talks Temporarily Stall

Originally published on Sun December 30, 2012 5:55 pm

Transcript

JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

This is WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

Time is quickly running out for Congress to strike a deal blocking automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that kick in within the New Year. Despite the presence of Vice President Joe Biden at the White House and a flurry of proposals passed back and forth today between Senate Republicans and Democrats, things seem to have reached an impasse this afternoon. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said that nothing will happen this evening.

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Around the Nation
4:50 pm
Sun December 30, 2012

A Tough Year For Unions, With Few Bright Spots Ahead

Despite huge protests at Michigan's state capitol building in Lansing, Republican lawmakers in the state made the union stronghold the 24th right-to-work state in the country.
Rebecca Cook Reuters via Landov

Originally published on Sun December 30, 2012 5:55 pm

This year was a tough one for organized labor.

In June, Scott Walker — the Wisconsin governor who banned collective bargaining for public employee unions — survived a recall election.

And, despite huge protests in Michigan, the union stronghold became the 24th right-to-work state, banning unions from requiring workers to sign up. That came just 10 months after Indiana passed a similar law.

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Music
12:03 pm
Sun December 30, 2012

It's Never Early To Think About 2013's Best Music

Radiohead's Thom Yorke leads Atoms for Peace, his supergroup with Flea, Nigel Godrich, Joey Waronker and Mauro Refosco.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed January 30, 2013 12:22 pm

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Music
5:38 pm
Sat December 29, 2012

'Prayer Flags,' A Song About Waiting On Heavenly Help

Musician Kristina Olsen says Tibetan prayer flags flying over porches near her home in Venice, Calif., became the inspiration for a song.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sun December 30, 2012 5:37 pm

For some, bringing in the new year means praying for good things to come. Kristina Olsen ponders the reasons for prayer in her song, "Prayer Flags." She tells the story behind it in the latest edition of What's in a Song, a series from the Western Folklife Center.

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U.S.
5:28 pm
Sat December 29, 2012

In Limbo: Stateless Man Stuck On American Samoa

Mikhail Sebastian lived in Los Angeles before his fateful trip to American Samoa.
Courtesy Mikhail Sebastian

Originally published on Sun December 30, 2012 7:42 am

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Politics
5:17 pm
Sat December 29, 2012

'Truth By Repetition': The Evolution Of Political Mudslinging

Opponents demonstrate against the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling at the Lincoln Memorial in October. The decision changed campaigning, but it apparently didn't make ads more fact-based.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Sun December 30, 2012 6:55 pm

There's always name-calling in national elections, but now there are more ways to get the message out, says political opposition researcher Michael Rejebian. During the past election, he says, the dirt was just flying more often.

Rejebian and Alan Huffman — both former investigative reporters — dig up background on their clients' opponents. While their currency is facts, many of the political attacks this election cycle were doling out something different.

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Law
5:17 pm
Sat December 29, 2012

Years Delayed, Detroit Starts Testing Rape Kits For Evidence

Originally published on Sat December 29, 2012 7:00 pm

Detroit is starting to sort through thousands of boxes of potential evidence in rape cases that have been left unprocessed. The 11,000 "rape kits" were discovered in 2009, and Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy has been leading the effort to process them.

In April, she told weekends on All Things Considered that they began with a random sample of 400 kits to get a snapshot of what they were dealing with. That sampling led to two trials, which resulted in convictions.

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NPR Story
5:02 pm
Sat December 29, 2012

Cautious Optimism For Behind-The-Scenes Fiscal Dealing

Originally published on Sat December 29, 2012 5:28 pm

Transcript

JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

This is WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

Three days, that's how long Congress has to pass legislation that would avoid the so-called fiscal cliff. The combination of expiring tax cuts and across-the-board spending cuts become effective midnight on Monday. So happy New Year.

It's not exactly the way Republicans, Democrats or most Americans want to celebrate the New Year. To find out if we're any closer to a deal, I'm joined by NPR's White House correspondent Ari Shapiro. Hi Ari.

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NPR Story
5:02 pm
Sat December 29, 2012

With Egypt's New Choices, The Burden Of Democracy

Originally published on Sat December 29, 2012 5:28 pm

With former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak ousted, there was space in 2012 for new political leaders to come forward. Host Jacki Lyden talks with NPR's Cairo correspondent, Leila Fadel, about the transformations that took place in Egypt in the past year.

Music Interviews
4:47 pm
Sat December 29, 2012

Beck Explains 'Song Reader,' An Album Fans Perform Themselves

Beck's newest album, Song Reader, is a collection of sheet music intended to be arranged and recorded by his fans.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed January 2, 2013 2:57 pm

Few artists have changed the face of music over the past two decades quite like Beck. Wherever his interests took him — through experiments in hip-hop, electronica, Tropicália, blues, funk, folk — Beck Hansen found a ravenous audience awaiting each new departure. For his latest project, however, he hasn't recorded a note.

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Arts & Life
6:13 am
Sat December 29, 2012

Graphic Novels That Flew Under The Radar In 2012

Originally published on Sat December 29, 2012 5:38 pm

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

This last weekend of the year, we're looking back on some of the best books of 2012. In this encore broadcast, Glen Weldon highlights two graphic novels from the past year, starting with one called "Drama" by Raina Telgemeier.

GLEN WELDON: "Drama" is a young adult graphic novel about a middle-school girl named Callie...

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL #1: (as Callie) What's up?

WELDON: ...who is a complete theater nerd.

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Analysis
6:13 am
Sat December 29, 2012

Looking Ahead At Immigration Reform In 2013

Originally published on Sat December 29, 2012 5:38 pm

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

President Obama says immigration reform will be a priority for the White House early next year. The last time Congress tried to tackle the divisive issue it failed. In the meantime, states have become the center of debate following Arizona's lead in passing their own strict laws intended to curtail illegal immigration. NPR's Debbie Elliott has been following the issue. She joins us now. Good morning, Debbie.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: Good morning.

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Commentary
6:13 am
Sat December 29, 2012

Recalling Battles Of Congress Past

Originally published on Sat December 29, 2012 5:38 pm

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

There is nothing new about the Congress coming to a hostile halt at a critical moment - fussing and fuming, holding impromptu news conferences at the Ohio Clock - that's a nearly 200-year-old timepiece that counts the hours outside the Senate Chamber - or representatives stopping to chat in the beautiful Rayburn reception room outside the House with George Washington looking disapprovingly down from his portrait.

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The Record
5:31 am
Sat December 29, 2012

Reflecting On EMI, An Industry Giant Felled In 2012

The London headquarters of EMI, whose sale this year brought the number of major labels from four to three.
Simon Dawson Bloomberg via Getty Images

Originally published on Sat December 29, 2012 5:38 pm

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It's All Politics
5:22 am
Sat December 29, 2012

Congressional Leaders Hopeful As Fiscal Cliff Deadline Nears

House Speaker John Boehner arrives at the White House on Friday for talks with President Obama and congressional leaders aimed at avoiding the "fiscal cliff."
Mandel Ngan AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat December 29, 2012 5:38 pm

Even though the top four congressional leaders left their White House meeting with the president separately and silently on Friday, they cast the hourlong encounter in a positive light back at the Capitol.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi described the tone of the discussion to head off across-the-board tax hikes and spending cuts as "candid." An aide to House Speaker John Boehner put out a statement that noted that the group agreed the next step should be the Senate's — a tacit acknowledgement that Boehner is no longer the lead negotiator with President Obama.

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Europe
5:22 am
Sat December 29, 2012

Same-Sex Marriage And Adoption: Unresolved Issues In France

A man wears a costume reading "Dad" and "Mom" during a demonstration against gay marriage and adoption by same-sex couples in Nice, France, in October.
Valery Hache AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat December 29, 2012 8:14 pm

France is known as a tolerant country on many social issues, yet the country is embroiled in a debate about same-sex marriage and adoption.

President Francois Hollande is following through on a campaign promise to bring full rights to gay couples. France legalized civil unions more than a decade ago, though same-sex couples must still go abroad to marry or adopt.

But opposition to Hollande's measure has been unexpectedly fierce, something the Socialist government wasn't expecting.

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The Two-Way
5:17 am
Sat December 29, 2012

Marvel Kills Peter Parker, But Spider-Man Will Live On (Sort Of)

The Amazing Spider-Man #700 is the final issue of the series.
AP/Marvel Comics

Originally published on Sun December 30, 2012 8:47 pm

All good things must come to an end, and so it is with Marvel Comics' web-slinging, wise-cracking superhero. Spider-Man is no more. Well, to be more precise, Peter Parker is no more.

In the 700th and final issue of The Amazing Spider-Man, writer Dan Slott's controversial story saw Spider-Man's mind switched with that of his dying arch-foe Dr. Otto Octavius, aka Doctor Octopus. The twist is that with his final effort, Spidey was able to give all of his memories and morals to his body-stealing enemy.

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Music Interviews
2:03 am
Sat December 29, 2012

Johnny Cash's Boyhood Home Tells The Story Of A Town

The Cash family house today.
Michael Hibblen

Originally published on Sat December 29, 2012 5:38 pm

It's been almost a decade since Johnny Cash died, but fans still travel from around the world to see the place the music legend often described as key to his development: his boyhood home in the eastern Arkansas town of Dyess. The small house will soon serve as a museum — not only as a tribute to Johnny Cash, but also to tell the history of the town.

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Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!
1:43 am
Sat December 29, 2012

Bluff The Listener

Originally published on Sat December 29, 2012 11:08 am

Our panelists tell us three stories of political adversaries coming together, only one of which is true.

Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!
1:43 am
Sat December 29, 2012

Tippecanoe And Carl, Too

Originally published on Sat December 29, 2012 11:08 am

Carl reads political slogans, our panelists identify which ones are real and which ones we just made up.

Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!
1:43 am
Sat December 29, 2012

Opening Panel Round

Originally published on Sat December 29, 2012 11:08 am

Our panelists answer questions about politics throughout history: The Number One Rule of Legislating.

Jane Ciabattari is the author of the short-story collection Stealing The Fire. Her reviews, interviews and cultural reporting have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Daily Beast, the Paris Review, the Boston Globe, The Guardian, Bookforum, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and Columbia Journalism Review, among others. She is a former president of the National Book Critics Circle.

Best Books Of 2012
7:11 pm
Fri December 28, 2012

Short Stories To Savor On A Winter Weekend

Nishant Choksi

Originally published on Sat December 29, 2012 5:38 pm

Hortense Calisher, a virtuoso of the form, once called the short story "an apocalypse in a teacup." It's a definition that suits the remarkable stories published this year by three literary superstars, and two dazzling newcomers with voices so distinctive we're likely to be hearing from them again. These stories are intense, evocative delights to be devoured singly when you have only a sliver of time, or savored in batches, at leisure, on a winter weekend.

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