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.
This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
Shakespeare's Iago is one of the great defining villains of literature. He masquerades as a friend, and that disguises his schemes to manipulate, betray and destroy. He fools Othello into believing that his wife is betraying him - she's not - then manipulates his old friend and commander into having her killed in a fit of engineered jealousy.
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."
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.
For the past several years, a group of friends has gathered every week in the living room of a suburban home in Logan, Utah, to sing long-forgotten songs. It's a fun way to spend the evening, but it's also therapy for a dear friend.
Until several years ago, Barre Toelken was a folklorist at Utah State University. He'd spent much of his life preserving sea shanties and other antique songs, but then he had a stroke and was forced to retire.
"I used to know 800 songs," Toelken says. "I had this stroke, and I had none of these songs left in my head. None of them were left."
Tonight, New York's Metropolitan Opera will premiere a new piece with music that's hundreds of years old. It's called "The Enchanted Island" and it features arias by several Baroque composers, including Handel and Vivaldi, and mashes up the plots from two Shakespeare plays. And, oh yes, it stars Placido Domingo as the sea god Neptune. Jeff Lunden has still more.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden. After nine years, the official U.S. military involvement in Iraq ended this month. The withdrawal of U.S. troops has meant a shift in focus for a veterans group who that opposed the war. Iraq Veterans against the War says it will now turn its attention to ensuring that vets are not forgotten as they try to reintegrate into civilian society. Elizabeth Fiedler of member station WHYY in Philadelphia spoke with a couple of those veterans and they begin her story.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.
In February of the New Year, the British will prepare a major celebration. It's not another Royal wedding. It's the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, marking the 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne. It's an exceptionally long reign; only one other British monarch has reigned as long, her Royal Majesty Queen Victoria.
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown — perhaps that's why the queen often appears in such an impressive array of hats. Throughout history, the hat has signified a variety of things, from a crown to a team baseball cap.
A dazzling traveling exhibition celebrates centuries of hats. Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones began at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 2009 and is now at the Bard Graduate Center in New York City through April 2012.
You've probably seen the paintings — women, often nude, always glamorous, the epitome of Jazz Age elegance in Paris in the 1920s, done with a particular cubist, finished fashion. The art deco painter is Tamara de Lempicka, and she's the subject of a new novel by Ellis Avery.
The Last Nude imagines a hidden affair behind one of de Lempicka's most critically acclaimed works. The novel explores the relationship between the painter and Rafaela, the model featured in several of de Lempicka's works from 1920s Paris.
Even as President Obama relaxes with his family in Hawaii over the holidays, he knows what's on the horizon when he returns to work in Washington.
He will start where he left off, facing new skirmishes with Congress over a push to extend a temporary cut in payroll taxes. That temporary extension was approved just days before Christmas after a high-stakes gamble that finished only after most of Congress had left for the year.
What if you could hold on to time in your hands? You can, you know. You can crack open, on this New Year's Eve, the unsullied, unhurried, un-trammeled pages of an old-fashioned datebook — the kind that still arranges seven days into a week; the kind you write in with a pen and which never, ever, beeps at you to remind you of a meeting or errand.
For many people, the New Year begins with popping a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine. It's the go-to drink for the celebratory moments in our lives.
Yet champagne is far more versatile than many people think. Beyond just pouring it into a glass, you can mix it with any number of spirits to create a range of champagne cocktails.
"One that starts off a little simpler is a French 75," respected mixologist Greg Seider tells Weekend Edition guest host Jacki Lyden. "[It's] gin, lemon juice, a slight bit of agave, topped with prosecco or champagne."
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Coming up: A couch potato's holiday. It's time for sports.
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SIMON: This weekend, the NBA gets going. The NFL gets extra thrilling. And the Boise State Broncos got to clean out their lockers. The boys in blue demolished Arizona State, 56 to 24 in the MAACO-Las Vegas Bowl. Now they got ahead home while lower ranked teams compete in the official bowl championship series games.
NPR's Tom Goldman joins us from Portland. Tom, thanks for being with us.
Christmas falls on a weekend this year; a chance for many families to curl up with a good film that's stood the test of holidays past. But what if you've already seen "It's A Wonderful Life" and "Bad Santa?" What's left? Cameron Crowe joins us now from Los Angeles. Mr. Crowe is the esteemed screenwriter and director whose films include "Say Anything," "Almost Famous," "Jerry Maguire," the documentary "Pearl Jam Twenty," and the just-released, "We Bought A Zoo," starring Ben Affleck's best friend. Thanks for being with us, Mr. Crowe.
There's a Purple Heart in the window of the A-Z Outlet pawnshop in Holland, Mich., right between a silver necklace and an inexpensive watch.
Bryan VandenBosch says a young man walked into his shop just before Thanksgiving to pawn a medal that the U.S. government awards to soldiers who have been "wounded or killed in any action" while serving.
He says that he doesn't know why the young man needed or wanted to pawn his medal.
Korean pop music groups turned a corner in 2011, expanding their audience worldwide, despite the language barrier. Two of the most popular bands are 2NE1, whose music projects ideas of self-worth, and Girls' Generation, which has nine members.
Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Australian actress Rachel Griffiths, best known in the U.S. for her work on HBO's Six Feet Under and ABC's Brothers and Sisters, has made an acclaimed Broadway debut in the new play Other Desert Cities.
Griffiths, who is well-known in Australia for her stage work, tells NPR's Scott Simon she would have been happy if all she had ever done was act onstage.
"Theater was where I began and what I really thought my career would be in Australia," she says. "That was my thing. ... The movies were an unexpected joy, and television even more unexpected."
Nine months after Japan's nuclear accident, life in Tokyo seems to have snapped back to normal, with a vengeance. The talk shows are back to their usual mindless trivia about pop stars and baseball contracts. The date of the tsunami and nuclear accident, March 11 — known here as just 3/11 — has faded into the background.
But while the horror has receded, for many of us, particularly women with families, things will never be the same.
There's no getting past the fact that the nuclear accident dumped radioactive particles into the atmosphere, soil and sea.
This is the time of year that either has you humming about a one-horse open sleigh or bah-humbugging the various versions of "Jingle Bells" you've heard in stores, on hold and in commercials. Wherever you reside on the Christmas cheer spectrum, we have something to annoy even those who wear reindeer sweaters.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
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SIMON: When the bright lights beam under the Big Top of the Big Apple Circus, Grandma shuffles in. She's got a silver hair, a slow walk, a sly smile, and a purse so huge you think she might have New Jersey somewhere in there. I mean Grandma the Clown.
Lots of comments came in this week about host Scott Simon's remembrance of Laura Nyro. We also heard from several Krampus revelers, who celebrate the Christmas Krampus, a horned, mythical kind of dark sidekick to Santa Claus. Host Scott Simon reads listener reaction to last week's program.