In Pakistan, there's a cafe called the Second Floor. It's listed in a local Karachi social blog as one of the coolest cafes in town. Since it opened its doors five years ago, it's become a haven in a city more known for its violence than its civil discourse. NPR's Dina Temple-Raston paid a visit.
DINA TEMPLE-RASTON, BYLINE: The artwork on the front stoop of the Second Floor Cafe in Karachi says it all.
SABEEN MAHMUD: I wanted something right at the entrance...
The Death of Bees is a story about two young girls living in a Glasgow, Scotland, housing project. And if you believe the first sentences of a novel are often the most difficult to write, try this beginning paragraph:
"Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen. Today I buried my parents in the backyard.
Few Western countries are as conservative about home ownership as Germany, where less than half the country's citizens own property.
German banks have tough lending rules. Would-be buyers are usually asked to provide hefty down payments to secure mortgages, meaning few Germans even think about buying a home until they are settled and financially secure.
But the European debt crisis appears to be changing the traditions around home ownership. The resulting surge in homebuying, some officials warn, is driving prices too high and threatens the nation's economy.
On the tough side of Terpsichore Street in New Orleans stands a duplex — a two-story, wood-framed building with wood floors, high ceilings and a nice fireplace. But this old house is empty: no furniture, no walls, no electricity, no toilet. Iron bars hide the windows; there's a lockbox on the door. The facade is three different shades of blecch, blurgh and blah.
For some, bringing in the new year means praying for good things to come. Kristina Olsen ponders the reasons for prayer in her song, "Prayer Flags." She tells the story behind it in the latest edition of What's in a Song, a series from the Western Folklife Center.
There is nothing new about the Congress coming to a hostile halt at a critical moment - fussing and fuming, holding impromptu news conferences at the Ohio Clock - that's a nearly 200-year-old timepiece that counts the hours outside the Senate Chamber - or representatives stopping to chat in the beautiful Rayburn reception room outside the House with George Washington looking disapprovingly down from his portrait.
President Obama says immigration reform will be a priority for the White House early next year. The last time Congress tried to tackle the divisive issue it failed. In the meantime, states have become the center of debate following Arizona's lead in passing their own strict laws intended to curtail illegal immigration. NPR's Debbie Elliott has been following the issue. She joins us now. Good morning, Debbie.
This last weekend of the year, we're looking back on some of the best books of 2012. In this encore broadcast, Glen Weldon highlights two graphic novels from the past year, starting with one called "Drama" by Raina Telgemeier.
GLEN WELDON: "Drama" is a young adult graphic novel about a middle-school girl named Callie...
France is known as a tolerant country on many social issues, yet the country is embroiled in a debate about same-sex marriage and adoption.
President Francois Hollande is following through on a campaign promise to bring full rights to gay couples. France legalized civil unions more than a decade ago, though same-sex couples must still go abroad to marry or adopt.
But opposition to Hollande's measure has been unexpectedly fierce, something the Socialist government wasn't expecting.
Even though the top four congressional leaders left their White House meeting with the president separately and silently on Friday, they cast the hourlong encounter in a positive light back at the Capitol.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi described the tone of the discussion to head off across-the-board tax hikes and spending cuts as "candid." An aide to House Speaker John Boehner put out a statement that noted that the group agreed the next step should be the Senate's — a tacit acknowledgement that Boehner is no longer the lead negotiator with President Obama.
It's been almost a decade since Johnny Cash died, but fans still travel from around the world to see the place the music legend often described as key to his development: his boyhood home in the eastern Arkansas town of Dyess. The small house will soon serve as a museum — not only as a tribute to Johnny Cash, but also to tell the history of the town.