On Tuesday, Federal Reserve policymakers begin a two-day meeting where many analysts expect they will announce a reduction in the central bank's $85 billion monthly stimulus. Mark Wilson/Getty Images hide caption

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Number Of The Year

Year In Numbers: The Federal Reserve's $85 Billion Question

As 2013 wraps up, NPR is looking at the numbers that tell this year's story. When it comes to the economy, $85 billion is a good candidate. That's the amount the Federal Reserve has been pumping into the financial system each month trying to stimulate growth and bring down unemployment. On Tuesday, Fed policymakers begin a two-day meeting at which they'll decide whether to dial back that stimulus.

Texas Highway 130, a new Austin bypass toll road, is so far east of the city that it sees little traffic. The state recently raised the speed limit there to 85 mph in hopes of boosting its use. Wikipedia hide caption

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U.S. Commutes: The Way We Get To Work

Even An 85 MPH Highway Can't Fix Austin's Traffic Tangle

The Texas capital is growing rapidly, and its roads and freeways are packed. A toll road was built east of the city to help alleviate the problem, but few drivers use it. Experts agree that the city has to do something — and soon — to address its congestion woes if Austin is to retain its quirky character.

Southern California's San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, shown here in April 2012, was closed after small radiation leaks. Lenny Ignelzi/AP hide caption

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Energy

Environmentalists Split Over Need For Nuclear Power

One former anti-nuke activist says the world can't afford to dismiss nuclear power, if we're to rein in global warming. Nuclear plants provide a more reliable energy supply than wind or solar, he says, and without the high carbon emissions that fossil fuels produce.

On Tuesday, Federal Reserve policymakers begin a two-day meeting where many analysts expect they will announce a reduction in the central bank's $85 billion monthly stimulus. Mark Wilson/Getty Images hide caption

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Year In Numbers: The Federal Reserve's $85 Billion Question
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Attendees of a job fair in California in October fill out paperwork. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images hide caption

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Economists, Unemployed Fret Over Long-Term Jobless Aid Lapse
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No True Masterpiece Will Ever Be Complete Kaki King
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Holding The Severed Self Kaki King
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Texas Highway 130, a new Austin bypass toll road, is so far east of the city that it sees little traffic. The state recently raised the speed limit there to 85 mph in hopes of boosting its use. Wikipedia hide caption

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Even An 85 MPH Highway Can't Fix Austin's Traffic Tangle
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Texas Flood Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble
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Pride and Joy Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble
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City Lights Ray Price
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My Shoes Keep Walkin' Back to You Backtrack Professional Karaoke Band
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas [From Meet in St Louis] Frank Sinatra
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Santa Claus Is Coming to Town Bill Evans, Haven Gillespie, J. Fred Coots

Southern California's San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, shown here in April 2012, was closed after small radiation leaks. Lenny Ignelzi/AP hide caption

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Environmentalists Split Over Need For Nuclear Power
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El Paso Corey Christiansen
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Dying Californian Corey Christiansen
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Concerto, No6, B fl, Op4 - Allegro Moderato CBC Vancouver Orchestra
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Blank Pages The Album Leaf
Always For You The Album Leaf

Hands-on science activities like making bubble mitts at the Mission Science Workshop teach students about things like surface tension. Justin Jach/Courtesy of Mission Science Workshop hide caption

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To Make Science Real, Kids Want More Fun
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William Wong (standing) poses with his parents and nephew in an old family photo. Wong's mother immigrated to the U.S. from China as his father's "sister" to bypass the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Courtesy of William Wong hide caption

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Chinese-American Descendants Uncover Forged Family Histories
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Horses Lang Lang
Jianmin: A Night on the Lake Beneath the Maple Bridge (fengqiao ye po) Lang Lang

Some Steinway company representatives and employees — like Wally Boot, pictured here — have been working for the company for decades. Boot is the last person to touch every piano that leaves the factory in Queens, N.Y. Craig Warga/Bloomberg/Getty hide caption

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New Owner Promises Handmade Steinways For Years To Come
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Love's Message Vladimir Horowitz
Piano Sonata No. 3 in F sharp minor ("Etats d'âme"), Op. 23 Vladimir Horowitz
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