It's tempting to say what a snake-bit year this was, a year when American troops were lost abroad, a year of economic struggle and cynical politics. But it was also a year when troops came home, and people started new jobs. Steve Inskeep says it's to soon to judge 2011.
Thank goodness it's Friday unless you live in the island nation of Samoa. In which case it's Saturday. The country is skipping a day — shifting its calendar — to join the same time zone as trading partners Australia and New Zealand.
Two years ago, Doug Edmisten was home for his son's birth when a runaway construction truck smashed through his house. More recently, a van smashed through the house in the same spot on Christmas Eve. An apologetic neighbor explained that he'd been working on the brakes of the van.
GOP presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann wrapped up her bus tour of Iowa's 99 counties Thursday. She's been on the road for most of the last two weeks in a final push to generate support before Tuesday's caucuses.
Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry has been aboard a bus touring Iowa hoping to score an upset in next Tuesday's caucuses. Perry spent Thursday trying to reverse the surge that challenger Rick Santorum has seen in a recent poll.
The State Department is calling on Egyptian authorities to stop the harassment of non-governmental organizations. Egyptian security forces earlier raided the offices of 17 NGOs. The military claims some of them were operating without permits.
As people's incomes rise in a developing nation, so does the amount of food they eat. That's what has been happening in China for the past 30 years. But many people, especially in the the middle class, are discovering that you don't have to eat and eat just because there's plenty of food available.
A couple of years ago if you wanted to drink coconut water, you had to buy your own coconut, bring it to your kitchen, and start whacking away with a knife.
Today, you can find packaged coconut water in a convenience store, Wal-Mart or your friendly neighborhood yoga studio.
"I think it was a great year for coconut water, " says Alejandra Simon, an assistant manager at the Laughing Lotus yoga studio in New York City. "I can't walk down the street without seeing someone with coconut water in their hands."
Is there anybody on TV more adorable than Zooey Deschanel on Fox's new hit sitcom New Girl?
She's playing a woman who moved in with three guys after a bad romance. We've seen Deschanel play this character countless times over the last 10 years: quirky, bohemian, earnest and a little dorky. Fox even used the term "adorkable" just to describe her.
But she's also the leading edge of a trend that defined television in 2011: the Funny Female.
The Iranian drama A Separation has popped up on more than a few critics' lists of the best films of 2011, despite little exposure in the U.S. thus far. It will open in limited release December 30, and as Howie Movshovitz of Colorado Public Radio reports on Friday's Morning Edition, it serves as both a family drama and a piece of social observation about life in Iran.
Florida is once again poised to play an important role in selecting the president in 2012. Its Republican primary on Jan. 31 is the nation's fourth nominating contest.
But Florida is a very different state than it was four years ago. It is reeling from the housing collapse — more than 200,000 homes are facing foreclosure — and suffering from an unemployment rate well above the national average.
Louise Tucker-Mitchell laughs on the phone with a customer at Enterprise Rent-A-Car at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. She says she likes working the week between Christmas and New Year's, as it's calmer and a good time to catch up.
Afghanistan sits at a crossroads between central Asia, Iran and the Indian subcontinent, and the country's music reflects that. Kabul hosted two international music festivals this fall — one traditional, the other a rock concert — but music is still a sensitive issue. International donors, including the U.S., have helped refurbish a conservatory in Kabul, but some of the students say they still face disapproval from extremist elements, even at the university.
For Isabel Sobozinsky-Wall, New Year's Eve marks a special time. That's when she met her future husband, Scott, during a trip to New York City 20 years ago.
"I was single and feeling very lonely on New Year's Eve," Scott says. "I was actually wandering the streets of Manhattan, and I ended up in the Paris Cafe. There was this ravishingly beautiful woman, wearing a beautiful dress. And I introduced myself. But I was very surprised when you asked me for my ID."
Many cultures greet the New Year with a feast that symbolically sets the table for the year ahead. As they sit down to traditional dishes, people often try to internalize their hopes and goals for the coming year.