Ari Shapiro

A few times a year, the Treasury Department publishes a long list of names announcing all of the Americans who have lately abandoned their U.S. citizenship.

According to the legal website International Tax Blog, the number hovered around 500 a decade ago. Last year, it hit a record high of nearly 3,000.

This was not a gradual change. It was a sudden spike. It's a story of dominoes falling, one after another, leading to an unexpected outcome.

The drive into Prague is like a journey into the past. As you approach, grand castles and cathedrals appear on the horizon and pull you into an old-world city that could be the setting for a fairy tale.

Three years ago, Norm Eisen made this journey in a motorcade. It was his first day as U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic. He was returning to the land where his mother, Frieda, had been born almost 90 years ago.

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The children's author Roald Dahl died almost 25 years ago and yet today, you can find more musical adaptations of his work than ever.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Parts of England have been underwater for more than six weeks now, since storms began pummeling the west of Great Britain around Christmas. While many of those areas are still submerged, the situation keeps getting worse.

Now the floodwaters are lapping near Windsor Castle, as the Thames overflows its banks. Thousands of people have fled their homes, with more evacuating every day.

South Africa has a stable government that makes wildlife protection a high priority. But even in that country, there's been a dramatic surge in poaching, particularly for rhinos.

A decade ago, fewer than 100 rhinos were killed in a year. Last year, it was more than 1,000, says Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"When you're talking about something that is more valuable than gold, and it is easily accessible, you're going to create the atmosphere where people are going to take advantage of that," he says.

Parliament in London is an old-fashioned place. When members gather in the House of Commons, the sea of faces is generally wrinkled, white and male.

The chaplain who leads them each day in prayer is emphatically not.

The Rev. Rose Hudson-Wilkin is the first black woman to serve as chaplain to the speaker in the House of Commons. She broke the same barrier when she was appointed chaplain to Queen Elizabeth II. She was also the first woman, and the first person of color, to run her parish in Northeast London.

Ronald Reagan once joked that the game Trivial Pursuit had a special economists' edition: It came with 100 questions and 3,000 answers. Economists are notorious for being unable to agree on anything. So it's striking that on the finances of the Olympics, they almost all agree.

"Investing in the Olympics is not worth the investment," says Andy Zimbalist of Smith College.

"You build all these facilities that are perfect for the Olympics, that are not really as desirable once the circus leaves town," says Allen Sanderson of the University of Chicago.

NPR correspondents Ari Shapiro, in London, and Joanna Kakissis, in Athens, teamed up for this joint look at Olympics economics.

The Winter Olympics in Sochi are just a few days away. Russia has spent $50 billion on everything from construction to security, making these the most expensive games in history.

Countries often justify the Olympic-sized price tag by saying the investment pays off in increased business and tourism.

After three weeks in London, I'm finally starting to understand some local customs and mores. Yet I confess that political cartoons remain a challenge. They often reference obscure government ministers or historical practices in such an oblique way that I totally miss the joke.

So it was with some relief that I stumbled upon a cartoon over the weekend whose meaning was unambiguously clear. In the black-and-white drawing, a glutton with a gaping mouth full of sharp teeth steps on a poor, miserable man, who lies pinned to the floor.

On the outskirts of London, in a basement room of the British National Archives, a historian delicately turns pages that have the brittle feel of dead leaves. Each is covered in text — some typewritten, some in spidery handwriting from a pen that scratched across the page 100 years ago.

"Saturday, the 26th of September, 1914," reads one. "The most ghastly day of my life. And yet one of my proudest, because my regiment did its job and held on against heavy odds."

When relocating to a new country, it's important to establish routines and traditions. My ritual here in London is spending an hour on the phone with the bank every day.

It's a strange thing about 2014 — we've got one collective foot planted squarely in the 21st century, while the other is stuck in back in the 19-something-or-others.

My email, Facebook, and Twitter accounts don't care whether I'm in Dublin or Dubai. I can jog along the Seine in Paris to the same music on Spotify that I listen to when I'm running along the Willamette River in Portland.

Centuries before the U.S. was colonized, the British were handing down estates and titles from father to son. Never from mother to daughter.

Then came the royal pregnancy last year. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, aka William and Kate, had a boy, George. But before the prince was born and his sex known, Parliament changed British law so a first-born girl could inherit the throne. And a group of female aristocrats began fighting to apply the principle more broadly.

People in the United Kingdom are racing to save a beloved icon, in a mission that in some ways resembles efforts to save the giant panda in China, or the polar bear in the Arctic.

But this icon isn't threatened by habitat loss or climate change. The problem here comes from companies like Apple, Samsung and Nokia.

"Mobiles have taken over," laments Mark Johnson, the man in charge of pay phones for BT (formerly known as British Telecom).

I arrived in London a few days ago for my new NPR assignment. As an unofficial part of my orientation, I decided to take a guided walking tour of the old city.

Yes, the history was fascinating. Yes, the city is beautiful. Well, most of it. Parts are not exactly my taste.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

By many standards, President Obama had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

President Obama heads

Every year, on the day after Thanksgiving, almost 100 volunteer decorators show up at the White House. They spend the next five days stringing garlands and hanging ornaments, making the White House sparkle for the holidays.

At NPR, we have a related tradition. This is the fourth year in a row that White House correspondent Ari Shapiro has brought us the voices of some of those volunteers.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

It's Day 4 of the White House's new messaging push for the Affordable Care Act. Today the goal is to tell the stories of people with pre-existing conditions who are now entitled to coverage under the new health care law.

One such story comes from within the White House.

Michael Robertson, deputy assistant to the president and deputy cabinet secretary, was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer 16 months ago. He was 35.

Feeling extra American this week? Wanna keep that post-turkey glow going? Well, how about a very American beverage: cider?

We're not talking about the hot mulled stuff that steams up your kitchen, or the sweet pub draft in a pint glass. This cider is more like sparkling wine.

"This is a phenomenally funky, sour, even mildly smoky cider that has to be tasted to be believed," says Greg Engert, one of the owners of a bar in Washington called ChurchKey. He's pouring cider from a tall champagne-style bottle that retails for around $15.

John Mayer has made multi-platinum albums, won Grammys, dodged paparazzi, kind of self-destructed, escaped to Montana and spent more than a year without speaking or singing publicly to allow his damaged vocal chords to heal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is one of the most prominent critics of the U.S. deal with Iran. While President Obama calls the agreement a breakthrough, Netanyahu calls it a "historic mistake." It's far from the first time the Israeli and American leaders have clashed.

Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu took charge of their countries within a few months of each other. They were hardly a matched pair.

The White House has been fighting to prevent the disastrous rollout of the health care law from defining President Obama's second term. While that struggle continues, another story is unfolding this week that could shape this president's legacy.

Diplomats from the U.S. and other countries are going to meet for a second round of negotiations on Iran's nuclear program, and a breakthrough there could shape history's view of Obama.

A team of surveillance experts on Wednesday delivered preliminary recommendations to the White House on whether and how to amend U.S. spying policies.

President Obama's poll numbers have hit just about the lowest point of his presidency.

They started sinking after the Obamacare website's miserable debut last month. Now, only around 40 percent of Americans think Obama is doing a good job. More than half disapprove of his performance. (A year ago, the numbers were the opposite.)

It seems obvious to say that a high approval rating helps a president, while a low approval rating hurts him. But here are five reasons Obama's numbers might not be as troublesome as they sound.

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