During the years before the Civil Rights movement got underway, segregated American cities helped give birth to a touring circuit that provided employment for hundreds of black musicians and eventually brought about the birth of rock 'n' roll. Today, rock historian Ed Ward looks at two books, Preston Lauterbach's The Chitlin' Circuit and the Road to Rock 'n' Roll and Fever, Susan Whitall's biography of Little Willie John, one of the Chitlin' Circuit's last stars.
YouTube is out with its most-viewed video list for the year and if you didn't know that Rebecca Black's Friday would be on top, than you're among the (dare we say?) lucky few who didn't get her song stuck in their head this year.
CNN's Piers Morgan has been testifying today before the British Parliament about the country's phone hacking scandal. Morgan, who was the editor of two British tabloids, became a figure in the scandal when a British politician said Morgan had "boasted" about hacking into phones.
For Americans saving for retirement, 2011 was another lackluster year, filled with lots of risks but few rewards.
Savers who tried to avoid risks by putting money into federally insured savings accounts earned almost no interest. The money just sat there, even as inflation ate away at its value, with consumer prices rising nearly 3.5 percent this year.
And for those who invested in a broad array of U.S. stocks, the results were â at best â mixed.
Two weeks from Tuesday, Iowa voters will head out to almost 1,800 caucus sites to help select a Republican presidential nominee. It could be cold. It could also be snowing. And the campaigns know they'll have to work hard to make sure their supporters show up. Those get-out-the-vote efforts could make all the difference in a race that now appears to be up for grabs.
During the holidays, many beer manufacturers roll out seasonal brews. But there's a relative newcomer for the festival of lights: Hanukkah beer.
Lompoc Brewing, in Portland, Ore., is one small, craft brewery that has added it to its winter lineup.
"We had a Jewish gentleman here ... and he wanted to make a Hanukkah brew," says David Fleming, the head brewer. "So we thought it was a great idea. We already had six Christmas beers going anyhow, so why couldn't we have a seventh one for Hanukkah?"
Fresh Air's TV critic David Bianculli liked so many shows this year that he says he couldn't pick just 10 favorites. Instead, he split his favorites into several lists, including best documentaries and best scripted comedies/dramas.
Bianculli also highlights some of the worst shows to hit TV screens this year â including not one but two shows featuring Snooki.
Despite his Snooki misgivings, Bianculli says it was a banner year for TV.
"There is more good television on a weekly basis than there has ever been," Bianculli says. "I am absolutely certain of it."
New polls â both in Iowa and nationwide â show front-running GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich losing his edge. Over at the New York Times' blog FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver's latest forecast shows Ron Paul taking the lead in Iowa.
Hospitals across the country are trying to clamp down on frequent readmissions in anticipation of new penalties Medicare is readying. But it's a bigger problem at hospitals that treat lots of low-income patients.
There was a 9.3 percent rise in "housing starts" last month vs. October, the Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development just reported.
"Single-family housing starts in November were at a rate of 447,000," the agencies say. "This is 2.3 percent above the revised October figure of 437,000." The really big increase was in construction of buildings with five or more living units. Starts in that category were up 32.2 percent.
Originally published on Tue December 20, 2011 12:23 pm
Update at 12:56 p.m. ET. House Rejects Bill:
Voting mostly along party lines, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to send a Senate bill extending unemployment benefits and a payroll tax cut to conference. With the Senate in recess, the move leaves the bill in limbo and could mean that come January, 2 million Americans will lose their long-term unemployment benefits and 160 million workers could see their taxes rise by 2-percentage points.
Before the vote, Democrats and Republicans went head to head on the House floor.
Plenty of folks have their unshakable obsessions. Indiana Jones sought the Holy Grail. Captain Ahab pursued the Great White Whale. For New York Times columnist Gail Collins, it's her fixation on the voyages of an Irish Setter named Seamus.
"For some reason, the idea that you've got this guy who would drive all the way to Canada with an Irish setter sitting on the top of the car â it absolutely fascinated me," Collins says.
The body of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is now lying in state at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang â enclosed in a glass coffin and surrounded by flowers. He died Saturday and the period of mourning is set to continue until well into next week.
Good morning. I'm Linda Wertheimer. If you were ready for some football last night, too bad. The aptly named Candlestick Park in San Francisco lost electricity twice, causing a Monday Night Football lighting malfunction. The game started 20 minutes late due to darkness. The second-quarter blackout lasted almost as long.
Suspended Steeler James Harrison Tweeted: If I can't play, can't nobody play. Lights out. When the lights came on, the '49ers won. It's MORNING EDITION. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
The misery of holiday flying can be made even worse by who you end up sitting next to. So KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is unveiling a new feature allowing flyers to link up their social media profiles during check-in then pick a flying buddy from other passenger profiles.
Bob Brookmeyer began his career in the 1950s. From the beginning, Brookmeyer was credited with a highly distinctive personal style â first as an improviser, then as a composer and arranger for big-band jazz. And his primary instrument is one that's rarely heard â the valve trombone â instead of a slide.
An economic war of words has broken out between France and Britain as both nations try to hang on to their coveted AAA ratings. There is speculation that France will be downgraded soon. Meanwhile, the head of France's central bank suggested that rating agencies might want to take a closer look at Britain.
Just days after the final withdrawal of U.S. troops, Iraq is in the midst of a growing political crisis. Aides to Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki say one of his main rivals, ordered attacks on Shiite politicians.
Morning Edition asked listeners to write in about a dish they only make during the holiday season. Monica Bencomo of Albuquerque, New Mexico, wrote in to tell us about her favorite holiday dish: menudo, a red chili-based soup that her mother makes almost every December.
It's winter and the Great Plains has gotten walloped:
"From northern New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle through Oklahoma and northwestern Kansas," The Associated Press writes, "blizzard conditions [on Monday and into today] put state road crews on alert and had motorists taking refuge and early exits off major roads."
During the holidays, beer manufacturers roll out seasonal brews. And now, in addition to Ebenezer Ale and Santa's Private Reserve, there's a relative newcomer for Chanukah: a chocolate rye porter from a micro-brewer in Portland, Oregon.
New York Times columnist Gail Collins feasts on the foibles of elected officials, with a lively take on politicians past and present. As NPR's David Folkenflik reports, this election season, Collins has brought a laser-like focus to a shaggy dog story with a political tie.
As residents of the Chinese village of Wukan continue their rebellion against local government land seizures, NPR is uncovering evidence of the scale of the problem. Many villages around Wukan â which has been sealed off by police and paramilitary troops â also accuse corrupt officials of selling off their land.
This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And I'm Renee Montagne.
The body of North Korea's late leader Kim Jong Il lies in state today in a glass coffin in the capital, Pyongyang. In the three days since his death, little has emerged about what's next in North Korea, other than a state funeral has been set for next week.
Governments around the region are monitoring for signs of instability, and they're also debating how to respond to the events.
NPR's business news starts with a mobile phone patent wars.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
WERTHEIMER: Smartphone makers have filed dozens of lawsuits against one another for patent infringement. Yesterday, a federal agency handed Apple a limited victory in a closely watched case. It's one of the first of many mobile patent disputes to be decided.