The opinions of the major ratings agencies like S&P carry a lot of weight in the financial markets. Their own reputations, however, were damaged during the financial crisis when they awarded AAA ratings to what turned out to be toxic, mortgage-backed securities. Guest host John Ydstie speaks with Nikola Swann, a credit analyst at Standard & Poor's, about some of the criticism the company's received in the wake of the decision to downgrade the U.S. credit rating.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War. It's of particular importance to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, an organization for female descendants of Confederate soldiers.
The group includes 23 elderly women who are the last living daughters of those who served. One of them is black.
For generations, the United States and its debt — sold in the form of U.S. Treasuries — have been synonymous with safety. Now, though, the nation's sterling credit is tarnished. The ratings agency Standard & Poor's has downgraded the U.S. from AAA to AA-plus, one notch down. The downgrade has raised big questions about what this will mean for investors and for the nation as a whole.
At the center of the new Dinosaur Hall at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles is a display on T. rexes' growth and eating habits.
Credit Natural History Museum of Los Angeles
At the new Dinosaur Hall at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, visitors are greeted with the simulated sound of a dinosaur's roar. Some 300 dinosaur specimens are on display. It's also a hands-on show, with interactive games where kids can become paleontologists. The centerpiece of the revamped exhibit are three Tyrannosaurus rex skeletons, including the youngest known T. rex fossil in the world.
It could have been a typical service at any megachurch in the South, with a tight band, a great choir, big-screen projection, and a large congregation swaying and praying. But the speaker who drew the biggest response at the prayer rally in Houston on Saturday was Texas Gov. Rick Perry, looking resplendent in a red tie and his much-envied mane of dark hair.
The often combative Republican governor did not attack his nemesis, Barack Obama, who Perry often accuses of overreaching and whom he may try to defeat at the polls next year.
Centruroides sculpturatus, or bark scorpion, is the only scorpion species that is dangerous to humans. It lives mainly in Arizona but has turned up in New Mexico and southern Nevada.
Credit Monica Ortiz Uribe / NPR
Toxicologists refer to the American Southwest as the "Venom Belt" for its many venomous spiders, snakes and scorpions. In fact, doctors estimate there are about 250 severe scorpion stings a year in this country.
Most of those stung are children in Arizona, but the U.S. ran out of its own supply of scorpion antivenom nearly a decade ago. Mexican doctors, however, have been treating stings from venomous creatures for years, and what they've learned may now save American lives.
The quintessential coming-of-age film Stand By Me celebrates it's 25th anniversary this year. The movie was released in the summer of 1986 and tells the story of four twelve-year-old boys in a small town in Oregon and the Labor Day weekend that changed their lives forever.
Laurence J. Kotlikoff served as a senior economist on President Ronald Reagan's Council of Economic Advisors and is a professor of economics at Boston University.
Credit Courtesy of Boston University
When Standard & Poor's reduced the nation's credit rating from AAA to AA-plus, the United States suffered the first downgrade to its credit rating ever. S&P took this action despite the plan Congress passed this past week to raise the debt limit.
The downgrade, S&P said, "reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government's medium-term debt dynamics."
Fool's Gold founding members Luke Top (second from left) and Lewis Pesacov (center) discuss the changes they've made on the band's latest album, <em>Leave No Trace</em>.
Credit Courtesy of the artist
On its debut album, the L.A. band Fool's Gold presented an unusual marriage of influences, pairing African melodies with Hebrew lyrics. The record won over legions of fans and caught the attention of critics, who described it with words like "beguiling" and "joyous."
Fool's Gold's newest album is called Leave No Trace, and there's little trace left of Hebrew on it — the lyrics are mostly in English. In a conversation with NPR's David Greene, vocalist Luke Top and guitarist Lewis Pesacov, the band's two founding members, explain the new direction.