Originally published on Sat September 1, 2012 2:32 pm
Like a quietly efficient operating system whirring away in the innards of a supercomputer, a vast array of Americans — mostly unseen and unsung — spend hours and hours of every week working together to find ways to make their communities — and the whole country — better.
This is Participation Nation.
In a monthlong blog that ended Aug. 31, NPR collected stories of people actively helping other people, animals and the planet. Here is an executive summary of what we discovered.
Originally published on Wed September 19, 2012 4:14 pm
There are so many cooking apps out there, it's easy to get lost. Good thing the iGrill has Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg on its side.
Sales of the $80 device spiked by 400 percent after Zuckerberg updated his Facebook status on Aug. 19 with an enthusiastic thumbs up for the iGrill, a cooking thermometer that uses Bluetooth to connect to the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
Blindsided is what North Carolina Republicans felt four years ago when President Obama won the state, though by the slightest of margins — a mere 14,177 votes out of 4.3 million cast.
Republicans admit they had taken as a given a 2008 North Carolina victory by Sen. John McCain. And who could blame them? No Democratic presidential candidate had won the state since Jimmy Carter in 1976.
But as McCain learned to his grief, history isn't always destiny. Obama's campaign had an effective strategy to win the state, and did.
The charter school movement is now at a crossroads. More than 2 million students will be enrolled in charter schools in the fall — a big number for a movement that's barely 20 years old. The publicly funded, privately run schools have spread so fast, they operate more like a parallel school system in some places.
Greece is trying to raise cash by reviving an ambitious program to privatize state assets. The country's lenders, which include the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, hope the sell-off will cut the country's enormous debt.
But Antonis Tsifis, who runs a betting shop in a working-class neighborhood in Athens, is upset that the government is going to sell its stake in OPAP, the giant gaming firm that oversees his betting shop.
Every day, one-third of the people of Copenhagen ride their bikes to work or school. Collectively, they cycle more than 750,000 miles daily, enough to make it to the moon and back. And city officials want even more people to commute, and over longer distances.
So a network of 26 new bike routes, dubbed "the cycling superhighway," is being built to link the surrounding suburbs to Copenhagen.
Lars Gaardhoj, an official with the Copenhagen capital region, says the routes will be straight and direct.
Anyone with a 401(k) retirement plan has been painfully aware of the gyrations in the stock market in recent years. The market has come back up lately, but the economy is still in low gear, so many analysts aren't too bullish in the short term. Also, treasuries and CDs are offering tiny returns.
So what's the average American trying to save for retirement to do? Answers are percolating at an annual economics retreat in Maine.