Robert Smith is a correspondent for NPR's Planet Money where he reports on how the global economy is affecting our lives.

If that sounds a little dry, then you've never heard Planet Money. The team specializes in making economic reporting funny, engaging and understandable. Planet Money has been known to set economic indicators to music, use superheroes to explain central banks, and even buy a toxic asset just to figure it out.

Smith admits that he has no special background in finance or math, just a curiosity about how money works. That kind of curiosity has driven Smith for his 20 years in radio.

The Salt
4:52 am
Fri December 30, 2011

In China, Finding A New Way To Eat In Times Of Plenty

Anna Hu at the Ao Hua Farmers Market in Shanghai. After years of working long hours and eating only in restaurants, Hu has learned how to cook vegetables and eat more healthfully.
Eliza Barclay NPR

Originally published on Fri December 30, 2011 10:05 am

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 middle class, are discovering that you don't have to eat and eat just because there's plenty of food available.

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Planet Money
4:50 am
Fri December 30, 2011

Coconut Water Companies Sell Image, Not Taste

godutchbaby Flickr

Originally published on Wed January 4, 2012 6:13 pm

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."

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States Of The Economy
4:45 am
Fri December 30, 2011

Fla.'s Economic Pain, Anger Could Shape 2012 Race

The housing market collapse has taken a toll on Florida families and may affect how they vote in the presidential election.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Fri December 30, 2011 8:07 am

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.

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Television
12:01 am
Fri December 30, 2011

Oprah Winfrey Network Still Finding Its Footing

Oprah Winfrey talks to reporters during a press tour that followed the launch of her cable network, OWN, in January.
Frederick M. Brown Getty Images

Ratings have been a major disappointment for the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), but that could change now that Oprah Winfrey is about to debut her own show on the cable channel.

When Winfrey ended her longtime show on broadcast TV earlier this year, there were lots of tears and endless tributes to the queen of daytime talk.

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Business
12:01 am
Fri December 30, 2011

Happy Holidays? Indeed, For Some Stuck At Work

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.
Sara Carothers NPR

It's the last workweek of the year, and just about half of American workers have been in the office.

If that sounds like a drag, well, meet Louise Tucker-Mitchell.

She works for Enterprise Rent-A-Car at Washington, D.C.'s Reagan National Airport. For her, at least, being stuck at work between the holidays is a secret pleasure.

Things are unusually quiet. Traffic is uncharacteristically light. "This is the free time when you can sort everything out and get it done," she says.

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The Two-Way
6:14 pm
Thu December 29, 2011

Basil Al-Sayed, Who Chronicled The Syrian Uprising, Is Dead

Basil al-Sayed, a Syrian citizen journalist who lost his life documenting the uprising in Homs.
Rami Jarrah

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The Salt
5:19 pm
Thu December 29, 2011

What The World Eats For A Better, Luckier 2012

In Denmark they eat a towering cake called kransekage for New Year's Eve.
Jeremy Noble via Flickr

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.

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Shots - Health Blog
5:09 pm
Thu December 29, 2011

Transplants Bring New Faces In 2011

Charla Nash received a full-face transplant after she was mauled by a chimpanzee in 2009.
HO AFP/Getty Images

If there's a medical advance that seized the public imagination this year, we'd venture to say it was facial transplant surgery.

Three transplants gave severely injured patients completely new faces in 2011. Now the doctors involved have revealed details about the complex cases in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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The Two-Way
5:07 pm
Thu December 29, 2011

China Officially Sets Its Sight On The Moon

China laid out its vision for space exploration in a white paper released today. In it, China declares its intention to put a man on the moon, a feat accomplished last by the United States almost 40 years ago.

The Financial Times says that while the prospect has been discussed by scientists in the past, the paper is "the first public government document to enshrine it as a policy goal."

The Times adds:

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