The bright lights of the political conventions dimmed. President Obama and Mitt Romney hit the campaign trail Friday. Both candidates headed for the politically critical states of Iowa and New Hampshire. We asked reporters in those both those places to find out how voters are feeling about the two questions that dominated the conventions: Are you better off now than you were four years ago? And which presidential candidate has the best plan for country? We go first to Sarah McCammon of Iowa Public Radio.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Once again, this week, European officials sat down and tried to figure out what to do about the debt crisis, and once again, they came up with a plan that they say will help heavily indebted countries, including Spain and Italy, turn a corner. Investors seemed to like the plan. Stock prices rose, but the plan still faces hurdles, including a major court ruling in Germany next week.
NPR's Jim Zarroli joins us from Berlin. Jim, thanks for being with us.
JOSH ROGERS, BYLINE: I'm Josh Rogers in Concord, New Hampshire. Pretty much every poll in this race shows the Granite State as a tossup. Economic issues tend to dominate here, and even though New Hampshire has weathered the recession relatively well - unemployment stands at just 5.2 percent - you wouldn't know it by talking to voters at Manchester's Red Arrow Diner.
NEAL POITRAS: I ran into a tough situation where I actually bought a house five years ago and I just recently sold it for a $46,000 loss.
Leonard Cohen is known for distinctive, haunting and provocative songs. His music inspired one artist in the Bay Area with amounts to a vision: that there ought to be a community choir of men singing a cappella exclusively from the Leonard Cohen songbook. Lisa Morehouse spent some time with the group. They call themselves the Conspiracy of Beards.
LISA MOREHOUSE, BYLINE: The Beards, as they're known, don't all have beards, but they do stand out.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. The presidential candidates are back on the campaign trail, sprinting, now that the political conventions are behind them. President Obama and Mitt Romney were both in Iowa and New Hampshire yesterday. Both of their message were affected by some bad news on the job's front as NPR's Scott Horsley reports.
After long deliberations, the U.S. State Department has designated one of Afghanistan's deadliest insurgent groups to be a terrorist organization. The Haqqani network has been blamed for many attacks on U.S. troops and the embassy in Afghanistan. Although the group is made up primarily of Afghan fighters, it is based in northwest Pakistan.
Public schools in Macon, Ga., and surrounding Bibb County have a lot of problems. Most of the 25,000 students are poor enough to qualify for free and reduced lunch, and about half don't graduate.
Bibb County's Haitian-born superintendent Romain Dallemand came into the job last year with a bag of changes he calls "The Macon Miracle." There are now longer schools days, year-round instruction, and one mandate nobody saw coming: Mandarin Chinese for every student, pre-K through 12th grade.
Cuban ballet dancer Carlos Acosta has a bold plan to transform a long-abandoned, incompletely built ballet school in Havana into a global cultural and dance center. But some fear the plan is a step toward "privatization."
Credit Nick Miroff for NPR
As Cuba drew closer to the Soviet Union, the campus of what was supposed to be the National Ballet School, and its avant-garde architects, came under fire.
Credit Ian Gavan / Getty Images
Costa left Cuba and gained fame dancing with London's Royal Ballet. Here, he is shown with Viengsay Valdes during a photo call for Swan Lake performed by the Ballet Nacional De Cuba at the Coliseum in London, on March 30, 2010.
A radical proposal to restore one of Cuba's most important architectural landmarks is rekindling a 50-year-old controversy. At the center is ballet superstar Carlos Acosta, who left the island and went on to a lead role in London's Royal Ballet. Acosta wants to return to the island and restore an abandoned ballet school with help from one of the world's most famous architects.
But the proposal has opened old wounds from the school's past and stirred a debate about the future of Cuba's state-sponsored cultural model.
Stephen Tobolowsky calls his book, The Dangerous Animals Club, a group of "pieces." They are partly essays, partly short stories, partly memoir. They are anecdotes, stories and insights that are shuffled in and out of order, like cards in a deck.
The members of Sauti Sol rehearse in a cramped recording studio above a chapati restaurant off a noisy highway in Nairobi. Bien-Aime Baraza, Delvin Mudigi and Willis Chimano — the founding members, all 25 — have been friends since they sang together as part of a gospel ensemble in high school. When they graduated in 2005, they didn't want to stop singing, so they formed Sauti Sol. Sauti is Swahili for voice, while sol is Spanish for sun. "Voices of light."