The Boston Citgo sign, all 3,600 square LED feet of which has served as the backdrop to Red Sox games since 1965, is now officially a "pending landmark."

Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dalí spent much of the 1940s in the U.S., avoiding World War II and its aftermath. He was a well-known fixture on the art scene in Monterey, Calif. — and that's where the largest collection of Dalí's work on the West Coast is now open to the public.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

The middle of summer is when the surprises in publishing turn up. I'm talking about those quietly commanding books that publishers tend to put out now, because fall and winter are focused on big books by established authors. Which brings us to The Dream Life of Astronauts, by Patrick Ryan, a very funny and touching collection of nine short stories that take place in the 1960s and '70s around Cape Canaveral, Fla.

When the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union last month, the seaside town of Port Talbot in Wales eagerly went along with the move. Brexit was approved by some 57 percent of the town's residents.

Now some of them are wondering if they made the wrong decision.

The June 23 Brexit vote has raised questions about the fate of the troubled Port Talbot Works, Britain's largest surviving steel plant — a huge, steam-belching facility that has long been the town's biggest employer.

Solar Impulse 2 has landed in Cairo, completing the penultimate leg of its attempt to circumnavigate the globe using only the power of the sun.

The trip over the Mediterranean included a breathtaking flyover of the Pyramids. Check it out:

President Obama is challenging Americans to have an honest and open-hearted conversation about race and law enforcement. But even as he sits down at the White House with police and civil rights activists, Obama is mindful of the limits of that approach.

"I've seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change," the president said Tuesday at a memorial service for five law officers killed last week in Dallas. "I've seen how inadequate my own words have been."

Mice watching Orson Welles movies may help scientists explain human consciousness.

At least that's one premise of the Allen Brain Observatory, which launched Wednesday and lets anyone with an Internet connection study a mouse brain as it responds to visual information.

The FBI says it is giving up on the D.B. Cooper investigation, 45 years after the mysterious hijacker parachuted into the night with $200,000 in a briefcase, becoming an instant folk figure.

"Following one of the longest and most exhaustive investigations in our history," the FBI's Ayn Dietrich-Williams said in a statement, "the FBI redirected resources allocated to the D.B. Cooper case in order to focus on other investigative priorities."

This is the first in a series of essays concerning our collective future. The goal is to bring forth some of the main issues humanity faces today, as we move forward to uncertain times. In an effort to be as thorough as possible, we will consider two kinds of threats: those due to natural disasters and those that are man-made. The idea is to expose some of the dangers and possible mechanisms that have been proposed to deal with these issues. My intention is not to offer a detailed analysis for each threat — but to invite reflection and, hopefully, action.


Speechwriters: After Bland First Inaugural, Obama Faces Tougher Second

Jan 18, 2013
Originally published on January 18, 2013 5:09 pm

A presidential inauguration is an event defined by huge, sweeping optics: the National Mall full of cheering Americans; a grandiose platform in front of the Capitol building; the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. And the centerpiece: a speech.

On Monday, President Obama will give his second inaugural address — and he faces a challenge in crafting a speech for this moment.

The last time Obama gave an inaugural address, millions of joyous people tuned in around the world, ready to be inspired by a man who rose to prominence on the incredible power of his words. The president knew that the American economy was teetering on the brink of disaster.

And four years later, the verdict on that address is pretty unanimous from former White House speechwriters of both parties:

  • Speechwriter Mary Kate Cary, who wrote for President George H.W. Bush: "I think most people would have a hard time quoting you a line back from it. ... It just seems like there were a lot of platitudes."
  • Jeff Shesol, who wrote for President Bill Clinton: "There really aren't very many lines in President Obama's first inaugural address that stood out even in the moment. ... It didn't have an animating idea. It didn't have a clear theme."
  • George W. Bush speechwriter John McConnell: "I had to go back and look at Obama's inaugural address to really remember lines that I had at the time paused over."
  • Clinton speechwriter Michael Waldman: "There's the old adage: You only get one chance to make a first impression. And I think President Obama might hope that's not true."

They all know firsthand that one of the toughest speeches to write for any president is also one of the most high-profile addresses he'll give. They generally agree that the closest thing Obama had to a standout line four years ago was not even an original: "In the words of scripture: The time has come to set aside childish things."

The blandness of the president's first inaugural address reminds Cary of a game speechwriters sometimes play, inspired by wine drinkers who cover a label and try to guess the grape by its taste.

"They take a sip of wine and they can say, 'That's a 2009 pinot from Napa Valley,' right? So I'll take a speech and put my hand over the top of the speech, and if I can read the speech and say, 'This was Barack Obama, inaugural address, 2009, Washington, D.C.,' then I know it's a well-written speech," Cary says.

By that test, the president fumbled on his first go-round. And Clinton speechwriter Waldman says his challenge this time is even greater.

"First inaugurals often mark a change. They're easier to write and easier to give," he says. "It's harder to give a good second inaugural because, in fact, there's continuity."

People have been listening to this president talk for years. It's hard to come up with something new to say. And many of the crutches that speechwriters often turn to are off-limits in an inaugural address: Jokes are a no-no. Statistics don't belong there. Quotes by the likes of Mark Twain and Yogi Berra are out of place.

Most importantly, says Clinton speechwriter Shesol, inaugural addresses should look relentlessly forward.

"More than probably in any other speech a president will give, people want the vision. They want to know where we are headed and what it looks like when we get there," Shesol says.

Vision, yes. But policy? No. Save the laundry list for the State of the Union next month, says Bush speechwriter McConnell.

"Look, President Obama is going to make more news in his next press conference than he's going to with his second inaugural address," McConnell says. "It's just the nature of things."

So what does that leave? A very high bar, for one. All of these speechwriters agree that the key to cracking an inaugural address is to remember that this is the opposite of a campaign speech. It's the democratic equivalent of a coronation.

"An inauguration is not a political event. It is an official event," McConnell says.

This is a moment when the country wants to feel unified, even if the country is divided by bitter partisanship.

Clinton speechwriter Shesol says on Monday, Obama must acknowledge both realities.

"He's got to be inclusive in his rhetoric and not divisive, and I'm sure he will," Shesol says. "But he's also got to seem realistic and not naive. And that's a difficult balancing act to pull off."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney declined to preview Monday's address. But he said the president generally writes his speeches in longhand on a yellow pad — "and I've seen some yellow pads filled with writing of late."

Copyright 2013 National Public Radio. To see more, visit