Longtime listeners recognize Jacki Lyden's voice from her frequent work as a substitute host on NPR. As a journalist who has been with NPR since 1979, Lyden regards herself first and foremost as a storyteller and looks for the distinctive human voice in a huge range of national and international stories.

In the last five years, Lyden has reported from diverse locations including Paris, New York, the backstreets of Baghdad, the byways around rural Kentucky and spent time among former prostitutes in Nashville.

Politics
3:23 am
Sat December 31, 2011

This Year In Congress: Much Drama, Little To Show

House Speaker John Boehner, surrounded by Republican House members, speaks during a news conference in Washington in December. The House initially rejected a plan to extend a tax cut for two months to buy time for talks on a full-year renewal. It later compromised — a rare event in 2011.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Sat December 31, 2011 7:05 am

Congress got plenty of attention this year, but it was for all the wrong reasons.

There were at least three countdowns to shutdown, there was the debt-limit fight, plus the will-they-or-won't-they drama earlier in December over the payroll tax holiday. Looking at how few bills were actually signed into law this year, one might conclude this session was mostly sizzle and not much steak.

"I mean, I knew it was going to be bad this year, but I didn't realize like how bad it was," says Tobin Grant, an associate professor of political science at Southern Illinois University.

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Around the Nation
3:16 am
Sat December 31, 2011

Iraqi Refugees Struggle For Peace In America

Hesham Abdul Ghani and his wife, Oras Touma, came to Michigan to escape religious persecution.
Jacki Lyden NPR

Originally published on Sat December 31, 2011 7:17 pm

The Iraq War may be officially over, but for thousands of Iraqis who fled to America during the conflict, there's no going home. Many left successful careers to settle in Detroit, where finding their future is a challenge.

The U.N. estimates several million Iraqis are now refugees — either inside Iraq or outside the country. Almost 60,000 of them have come to the Detroit metro area since 2006, drawn by the large Arab community that's been there for years.

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Politics
3:16 am
Sat December 31, 2011

Obama's Grade In Foreign Policy 2011: 'Incomplete'

President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and members of his National Security team receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House. A classified document seen in this photograph has been obscured.
Pete Souza White House

Originally published on Sat December 31, 2011 2:24 pm

One of the most important things to understand about global affairs is how much lies beyond any one country's control, even for the most powerful country in the world.

Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies says the limits on American power were especially apparent this year.

"American power has always had many real-world limits," he says.

In some ways, he says, that makes President Obama's accomplishments all the more notable.

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It Was A Good Year For...
3:15 am
Sat December 31, 2011

Midwest Learns To Manufacture More With Less

Midwestern manufacturers are bouncing back — revenues are up at Chicago White Metal Casting for the second year in a row. And the company is hiring, but mainly specialists, such as die-cast machinists and the people with the skills to fix those machines.
Niala Boodhoo WBEZ

CEO Eric Treiber walks out onto the factory floor of Chicago White Metal Casting. Workers are busy making aluminum, zinc and magnesium metal parts for cars, swimming pools and farm equipment.

The floor's a lot louder than it was a few years ago. At Chicago White Metal Casting, revenue is up 4 percent from 2010 — and that year was better than the one before.

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Around the Nation
3:14 am
Sat December 31, 2011

Peanut Prices Make A Go-To Snack More Expensive

A peanut combine rolls over rows of peanuts, picking them off the vine on Benny Johnston's farm in Ocilla, Ga. Because of the weather and other crop prices, the price of peanuts has been rising.
Joy Carter

It's lunchtime at the Barber home in Macon, Ga. Three-year-old Samuel has just gotten up from his nap, and he's hungry for a creamy peanut butter sandwich.

Carol Barber says Samuel eats peanut butter for lunch almost every day. He's not the only one; she has three other little boys.

Millions of Americans love peanut butter sandwiches. It's easy to make, a "kid favorite" and, until now, relatively inexpensive. But in November, the price of peanut butter increased by more than a third.

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Newt Gingrich
3:13 am
Sat December 31, 2011

For Gingrich, A Week Of Attacks And Falling In Polls

Newt Gingrich wipes away a tear while speaking about his deceased mother Friday in Des Moines, Iowa.
Andrew Burton Getty Images

Originally published on Sat December 31, 2011 11:25 am

It's been a week of marathon campaigning for GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich: five or six campaign events each day, hitting Rotary meetings, pizza restaurants and coffee shops.

With the caucuses just days away, it's time for closing arguments in Iowa. Gingrich says his argument is that he's a supply-side conservative with experience both in balancing the budget and in making government work.

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Politics
2:00 am
Sat December 31, 2011

After A Year of Struggles, Obama Finds His Footing

President Obama walks onstage Dec. 22 to urge members of Congress to vote on a short-term compromise that extended the payroll tax cut.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Sat December 31, 2011 7:05 am

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.

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The Best Of Fresh Air 2011
12:58 am
Sat December 31, 2011

Fresh Air Weekend: The Critics' Best Of 2011 Lists

Larry David returned for an eighth season of Curb Your Enthusiasm this year. David Bianculli called his show "one of the funniest and [most] daringly different shows ever made for TV."
HBO

Originally published on Mon December 3, 2012 7:14 am

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors, and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

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The Two-Way
4:18 pm
Fri December 30, 2011

College Football Bowl Preview: Compelling Matchups, Dead Ahead

Quarterback Darron Thomas of the Oregon Ducks (right) threw for 30 touchdowns with only 6 interceptions this season. The Ducks beat UCLA in the Pac-12 Championship to earn a spot in the Rose Bowl, where they'll face Wisconsin.
Steve Dykes Getty Images

Originally published on Mon January 2, 2012 9:56 am

College football is set to enter its final week, and that means the biggest bowl games are coming up. This weekend will see teams such as Auburn, Oklahoma and Georgia Tech in action. And the first week of 2012 will feature marquee matchups like Oregon vs. Wisconsin, and Oklahoma State against Stanford.

Update at 1 p.m. ET: We'll have a separate preview of the BCS title game between Alabama and LSU later this week. Our original post continues:

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