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.

1:28am

Fri August 12, 2011
It's All Politics

Iowa Debate Leaves Romney Unscathed As Bachmann, Pawlenty Rumble

The front-runner for a major party's presidential nomination is always happiest when his intraparty rivals turn their attacks on each other instead of him.

So by that measure, Mitt Romney had to be very pleased indeed because he was left largely unmolested by the seven other Republican candidates contending for the party's presidential nomination at the debate at Iowa State University Thursday evening.

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12:01am

Fri August 12, 2011
Europe

Remembering The Berlin Wall, 50 Years On

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 11:33 am

The wall between East and West Germany was torn down after 28 years on Nov. 12, 1989
John Gaps II AP

The Berlin Wall has now been torn down for nearly as long (22 years) as it stood (28 years). Yet it was such a powerful symbol of the Cold War that it still evokes a strong response today, a half-century after it was constructed in the summer of 1961.

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12:01am

Fri August 12, 2011
Planet Money

The Dollar Is Still Central To The Global Economy. That May Not Last.

Everybody wants some.
Phil Dokas Flickr

The U.S. economy is spooking investors. But every day, all around the world, foreign businesses are still eager to use U.S. dollars — even when their business has nothing to do with the U.S.

When South Koreans buy Chilean wine, they convert their Korean won to U.S. dollars, and send those dollars to the winery in Chile. The winery then converts the dollars into Chilean pesos. This kind of thing is routine in global trade, according to Barry Eichengreen, an economist at U.C. Berkeley.

Why not just go from won to pesos?

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12:01am

Fri August 12, 2011
Your Money

Wall Street's Ups And Downs Leave Investors Worried

Michael Mussio, a portfolio manager at FBB Capital Partners, says phones have been ringing more than normal in recent days. "I think the main thing is — don't panic," he says.
Tamara Keith NPR

It's been a volatile couple of weeks on Wall Street. With all of the major stock indexes down more than 10 percent since mid-July, individual investors are wondering what they should do.

When was the last time you checked the movement in your brokerage account, your 401(k) or IRA?

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12:01am

Fri August 12, 2011
Around the Nation

Book Closes On U.S. House's Storied Page Program

Paul R. Ashbrook tells House pages that the Cardinal rule is "courtesy first" at a coaching session just before the 76th Congress convened on Jan. 3, 1939. Pages have been a fixture of Congress since its inception, but the House program is now ending because of budget concerns.
Library of Congress

If you walk through Congress when it's in session you'll see teenage pages wandering the halls. Pages have been in Congress since its inception, but this week the leaders of the House of Representatives announced the page program is no more.

The pages are exceptionally well-dressed, with blue blazers and conservative haircuts. Who are they?

Well, one former page is NPR's own Guy Raz, weekend host of All Things Considered. Raz, who was a page in the spring semester of 1991, was fascinated by politics, and he wanted to see government up close.

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12:01am

Fri August 12, 2011
Around the Nation

Mexican Theater Chain Projects Its Future In U.S.

The Mexican theater chain Cinepolis has opened its first luxury cinema in the United States in San Diego's affluent Del Mar beach community.
Amy Isackson

Cinepolis doesn't look like a typical movie theater. Dave and Kris Litvak, patrons of the new cinema in San Diego, say it's more like a chic hotel.

Before the building was renovated, "it looked like a horrible kind of movie theater," Dave Litvak says. Now, he says, "it's modern, and it's elegant."

The lobby floors are dark hardwood, and there's an art gallery. General Manager Antonio Garcia points to people sipping cocktails at the bar.

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7:27pm

Thu August 11, 2011
The Two-Way

The Cases Of Two Women, Turned In For Looting In London

Two young women are accused of looting during the riots that have taken over several British cities this week. How they came to the attention of the courts provides a glimpse into the unrest — and how far the fractured country has to go to heal itself.

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6:28pm

Thu August 11, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

'I Will No Longer Be Disfigured': First Photos of Transplant Patient Released

Charla Nash received a full face transplant after she was mauled by a chimpanzee in 2009. The procedure was performed last month by a team of plastic and orthopedic surgeons at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
HO AFP/Getty Images

The Boston hospital that gave Charla Nash a new face in May has released the first post-surgery photo of the transplant's results.

Nash's face was mauled by an out-of-control chimpanzee in 2009. Before the transplant, she wore a veil to conceal the grotesquely misshapen face that was the best plastic surgeons could do.

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6:00pm

Thu August 11, 2011
It's All Politics

Iowa GOP Debate: What To Expect

Based on everything we've seen so far in the contest for the Republican presidential nomination, what should we expect from the candidates at Thursday's debate at Iowa State University in Ames?

In the two-hour Fox News/Iowa GOP debate to start at 9 pm ET, Mitt Romney, the frontrunner, will likely stick tightly to his message, which is that President Obama has failed to lead, and his approach, which is to play it safe.

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