It's Sunday evening, and services are just getting underway at the House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver. Nearly 200 worshipers sit in circles of plastic chairs around a simple altar table. Together they follow traditional Christian rites. They sit. They stand. They sing.
We're only at halftime for the 113th Congress, but if current trends hold, it's well on track to being the least productive lawmaking effort in the nation's history.
During this Congress' first yearlong session, just 58 bills became law — and many that did were about naming post offices or transferring federal lands. In fact, the most memorable act of Congress this year may well have been its failure to act in time to avoid a government shutdown.
Being a news consumer means you're constantly on the receiving end of bad news. War, unemployment, crime, political dysfunction — it can be enough to make you think we humans aren't doing anything right. But good news: We are. As the year draws to an end, here's a look at a few areas of real progress in the U.S. and around the world.
Let's start with flying. It's not a lot of fun: baggage fees, pat-downs, cramped seating, disappointing snacks.
Jeff Duford is standing next to an A-10, one of the most beloved planes of all time. It's painted green, a clue that it was designed for a threat that has disappeared — it was built at the height of the Cold War.
"The reason why it's painted this way is because at that time, this airframe was expected to stop Soviet tanks from rolling through Germany," says Duford, curator of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. "So it's painted to kind of match the terrain that one would find in Central Europe."
The Pentagon has announced it is sending 150 U.S. Marines to Africa, for a possible mission to evacuate Americans in South Sudan, where political and ethnic violence has claimed hundreds of lives and left hundreds of thousands homeless.
NPR's Tom Bowman says the Marines are being sent from Spain to beef up the U.S. military presence at a base in Eastern Africa. Officials say they'll await orders and could head into South Sudan.
In an unusual move, a group of politicians and community leaders in Atlanta is urging President Obama to withdraw some candidates nominated to sit on the bench in the Northern District of Georgia. The group says the candidates aren't diverse and some are racially insensitive.
It was reported that some 40 million people may have been victims of a hacking spree at Target recently. What should people who may have been in that group do now to protect themselves and their accounts? Robert Siegel speaks with Mark Rasch, a security expert and former Department of Justice cyber crime prosecutor, for more advice for those who may have been affected.
Here's a number for you: 725. That's the minimum hourly wage in the United States, as set by the federal government. It hasn't budged in four-and-a-half years. President Obama is pushing to increase it. Some state and local governments are doing that on their own. As 2013 draws to a close, we're hearing about the year in numbers
Today, NPR's Scott Horsley on 725.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: 725 is a number that Mary Coleman knows all too well.
MARY COLEMAN: I work at Popeye's here in Milwaukee. I make $7.25 an hour.
The inventor of the iconic AK-47 automatic rifle, Mikhail Kalashnikov, has died. Kalashnikov's simple, durable and easily maintained gun became the world's most popular rifle, with more than 100 million in circulation. Kalashnikov was modest about his invention, saying he created it solely for the defense of the motherland. Some analysts say his domination of Soviet and Russia weapons design actually kept the country from entering the modern age of small arms.
The economy grew really quickly this summer. At least, that's the government's best guess for now.
The BEA said Friday that GDP rose at an annual rate of 4.1 percent between July and September. That's the highest it has been in years. But in its previous estimate for summer growth, the government said the economy was growing at an annual rate of 2.8 percent.