All Things Considered for Monday, December 16, 2013

The American auto industry has grown by 50 percent since 2009 — from just over 10 million cars to over 15 million. The last five years have seen the one of the most tumultuous periods for any industrial segment — bankruptcy, public relations disaster after public relations disaster, government takeovers, and recalls are just some of the issues the industry faced. But today, from Wolfsburg, Germany to Detroit to Shanghai, the auto industry has settled into a rhythm that could last for another generation.
For a look into the emerging trends in the auto industry, Dan Neil, The Wall Street Journal's automotive columnist, tells Melissa Block what kinds of cars we'll be seeing in 2014.
A woman in Miami Shores, Fla., is suing her town after it forced her to remove vegetables from the garden in her front yard, which she had tended for 17 years. She's being backed by a a national public interest law firm, but the town says it's a long-standing zoning ordinance that won't be overturned.

Is Silicon Valley Automating Our Obsolescence?

Silicon Valley has created mind-boggling amounts of wealth. Entire industries have been invented here. Billionaires are minted annually, but inequality is rising rapidly and the middle class is thinning out. Could the same technology that's making so many so rich undermine the labor market?

Seniors Talk Back About Tech In Their Lives

A few weeks ago, All Things Considered asked listeners to share how their relationship with technology has changed with age. From the tech savvy to the technologically slow, listeners responded with their stories.
Britain is a maritime nation that a century or two ago boasted the world's largest navy. Today, the names of shipping areas in the surrounding seas are embedded in the British national psyche — thanks to the BBC's Shipping Forecast bulletin, a cultural phenomenon beloved by seafarers and land-lubbers alike.
Tiny plastic beads used in some cosmetics and toothpaste are making their way into the bellies of fish in the Great Lakes, and it's raising concern among environmentalists. Dr. Sherri Mason, a chemistry professor at the State University of New York at Fredonia, has been researching the issue, and she joins Audie Cornish to explain what this means for the Great Lakes ecosystem.
Every brake screech, whistle and rattle from the movie The Polar Express came from recordings of a historic locomotive, the Pere Marquette 1225. After four years of costly repairs, passengers can once again jump onboard and travel to see Santa Claus at the North Pole (imagination required).
Alan Cheuse gives us the books you must give this holiday season. His top three for the year? The Collected Stories of John Updike, a sprawling collection of T.C. Boyle's stories, and critic and cultural historian Stanley Crouch's Kansas City Lightning, The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker.

Budget Deal Faces Key Vote In Senate

A modest but potentially tone-changing budget deal now faces a key test in the Senate. It was approved by the House last week, with the support of a majority of House Republicans. Now at least five Senate Republicans will have to support the plan for it to reach the critical, 60-vote threshold needed for passage.
This week the Fed's influential Open Market Committee meets to discuss some unfinished business. With Chairman Ben Bernanke getting ready to turn things over to Janet Yellen, Fed policymakers must decide whether it's time to start winding down the "quantitative easing" program put in place years ago to protect the recovery.
Actor Peter O'Toole was recognizable by his whip-thin frame, brilliant blue eyes, and the way he commanded the stage and screen. O'Toole died over the weekend in London at the age of 81. Melissa Block remembers the legendary actor, whose films include Lawrence of Arabia and The Lion in Winter, and his love for Shakespeare's sonnets.
Dr. Tim Ihrig has almost become a member of the Avelleyra family. He's helping Augie and Phyllis, who've been married 60 years, lead the best lives they can under trying health circumstances. When Phyllis was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, Ihrig asked what she wanted from the rest of her life.
City College of San Francisco is one of the biggest community colleges in the country, and it may be about to close. The fault was not the quality of City College's education, problems cited were fiscal and administrative. A lot of people in higher education are watching closely what's happening at City College, as it symbolizes a larger fight between two visions of what community college should be: a place for non-traditional or non-credit students to find enrichment or a place that efficiently sends students to job placement or university degrees.

Denmark's 'Fix Rooms' Give Drug Users A Safe Haven

Government-sponsored drug consumption rooms may be helping save the lives of drug users in Denmark. Addicts can use drugs safely and without being judged in the "fix rooms," which have medical staff on duty to treat overdoses.
Film star Joan Fontaine died Sunday at age 96. She was best known for her roles in films directed by Alfred Hitchcock, including Suspicion, which earned her an Academy Award in 1941.

Spike Jonze Opens His Heart For 'Her'

In the director's sci-fi romance, a man (Joaquin Phoenix) falls very much in love with his computer operating system (Scarlett Johansson). Jonze spoke with NPR's Audie Cornish about going to the future to direct an old-fashioned love story.
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