A big reason for the slow recovery has been that the nation's battered banks haven't been able or willing to lend. There are signs that's changing and that bank lending is helping to support stronger growth.
Paul Kasriel, chief economist at Northern Trust, a Chicago-based bank, say his reading of Federal Reserve data has convinced him that banks have finally taken the baton from the Fed and are now making credit more available.
"We've seen a sharp increase in business loans on the books of banks," he says.
In Florida, members of Congress and the state legislature are scrambling to decide what districts they'll run for in this year's election. The legislature recently released maps that redraw the districts. It's a once-in-a-decade process every state goes through to reflect population changes since the last census. Because of its growth, Florida is gaining two seats, but there is bipartisan unhappiness with the maps. And NPR's Greg Allen reports that the battle over how they were drawn may ultimately be decided by the courts.
When Brian O. Selznick wrote The Invention of Hugo Cabaret — a graphic novel about an orphan in 1930s Paris — he imagined the secret spaces of a Paris train station. For inspiration, he visited Grand Central Terminal in New York City. But the scenes in the book — hidden tunnels, secret rooms, the giant clock tower — were all drawn from Selznick's imagination and later turned into the movie Hugo by Martin Scorcese, which is nominated for 12 Academy Awards.
Oil-rich Venezuela is awash in hundreds of thousands of homeless. Many find places to live where they can — in half-finished shopping malls or under the grandstand at a race track. The huge number of homeless has become an election issue for President Hugo Chavez, who is seeking his fourth, six-year term.
Host Audie Cornish talks with writer and director Barak Goodman about his latest project, Clinton, part of the American Experience: Presidents series. The first of two installments airs Monday night on PBS.
The eurozone crisis has focused attention on debt-burdened Greece spiraling into decline. Meanwhile, Portugal is seen as the international creditors' poster-child for obediently slashing spending and welfare benefits.
Nevertheless, the Portuguese national debt continues to grow, and the country is mired in recession and soaring unemployment.
The Portuguese national character has long been identified with Fado music. Raquel Freire, an activist with the local Occupy movement, says the melancholy style helps explain decades of resignation.
Originally published on Mon February 20, 2012 5:00 am
If you can bear it, it pays to read the intense, disturbing stories in Krys Lee's justly heralded debut collection, Drifting House, twice. The first time through, you're liable to be so overwhelmed by grim details such as a severed arm in a kitchen sink or a homeless man desperately stabbing a would-be thief with metal chopsticks that you may miss the deep humanity underpinning Lee's dark vision.
Heller McAlpin is a New York-based critic who reviews books regularly for NPR.org, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, The San Francisco Chronicle and other publications.