Discovering Brazil has been a series of wonderful revelations for me. As principal conductor of the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra for the past year, I have been deeply moved and even changed by my exposure to this culture of passion and positivity.
Brazil's inherent societal belief that music improves quality of life, contributes to improved social behavior, and is an important vehicle to establish a peaceful society filled with tolerance and respect is a philosophy I once thought existed only in my utopian dreams.
If there's one common language that some recent immigrants in Dayton, Ohio, seem to share, it's soccer.
The first Dayton World Soccer Games kicked off earlier this year, an initiative hosted by the city to welcome an influx of immigrants. On the field, a rainbow of brightly colored jerseys represented nearly 20 of the different immigrant communities in the city.
"I've been really surprised to see that there's a lot of soccer going on in Dayton," says Adolphe Bizwinayo, who left Rwanda as a refugee.
The nation's largest gun owners group had said little in the immediate aftermath of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. But the National Rifle Association's executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, broke that silence Friday with a call to place armed guards at all of the nation's schools.
The idea was met with immediate criticism from Democrats in Congress.
With Christmas on Tuesday, the last-minute holiday shopping this weekend should make for some of the biggest spending all year. Those busy stores are also going to be on the lookout for shoplifters, especially in self-checkout lanes, where it is a big problem.
In a news conference Friday, President Obama said there were still things the parties could agree on about the automatic tax-rate increases and spending cuts at the end of the year. But he said parties would have to work together to get a plan approved in the next 10 days.
"Call me a hopeless optimist, but I actually still think we can get it done," he said, after meeting with Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and speaking to Republican House Speaker John Boehner.
President Obama's nomination of Democrat John Kerry to be secretary of state sets off a chain of events that could put another Kennedy in the Senate, at least on an interim basis.
And it gives ousted Republican Scott Brown a fighting chance of returning to the Senate by midyear.
On Friday, Obama nominated Kerry, the senior senator from Massachusetts, to replace Hillary Clinton as the nation's chief diplomat. A 27-year veteran of the Senate and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry should win easy Senate confirmation early in the new year.
The New York borough of Staten Island was hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy. Almost two months after the storm hit, many residents will not be back in their homes by the Christmas holiday.
One organization is trying to make the season a bit brighter for uprooted families with a free toy store on the island. This all-volunteer effort looks like a real toy store, but it feels more like a community of neighbors.
The shop boasts shelves filled with toys like model cars, Monopoly, dolls, craft supplies and books — almost everything you would want in a regular toy store.
An entrepreneur says he's got a plan to curb urban blight in parts of Detroit. He's buying up acre after acre of abandoned lots and planting thousands of trees. But where backers of the plan see a visionary proposal, critics see a land grab.
Entrepreneur and Detroiter John Hantz, owner of Hantz Farms and the tree-planting effort called Hantz Woodlands, wants to plant at least 15,000 trees on about 140 acres. Hantz promises to clear out all the trash and keep the grass cut, things the city cannot afford to do now.