NEAL CONAN, host:
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.
Millions of people across the country find themselves in places they've never been before: in food pantries and free health clinics, online at unemployment, paying for groceries with food stamps, shopping for clothes at Goodwill -options that help in their to struggle to pay our bills, feed the family and stay healthy, but alternatives many thought we'd never need.
Some say they're ashamed or embarrassed to seek assistance from the government or charities. Today, asking for help for the first time. If that's you, tell us your story. Our phone number is 800-989-8255. Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can join the conversation on our Web site. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.
Later in the program, writer Bill Barich's search for the great Irish pub. But first: Volunteers at the Center of Hope Christian Cupboard in Ravenna, Ohio, report a lot of new people there asking for help. Sister Denise Stiles is the manager at the Center of Hope and joins us now from the studio in Kent, Ohio. Nice to have you on the program today.
Sister DENISE STILES (Manager, Center of Hope Christian Cupboard): Thank you. It's good to be here.
CONAN: And how is it that you can spot a newcomer?
Sister STILES: Most of the people that come in new hang back from the action that's going on in the Center, and some of them will even come up and kind of whisper to me or my assistant that they're in need of food. They are mostly embarrassed to come in, and need to be helped along the way to see that they're more than welcome to be asking for food from our place.
CONAN: Embarrassed to come in because up until, what, a little while ago, they were able to provide for their families themselves.
Sister STILES: Right, young men that had maybe a house and two kids and the wife, and have lost their job and now have nothing.
CONAN: How are they different from the population that you're more accustomed to serving?
Sister STILES: We - generally, we're serving a population that for a long time, had been coming to us, people who were getting food stamps and weren't - didn't have enough and still needed to come to us, and older people. This group is a younger group of people.
CONAN: A younger group of people, too.
Sister STILES: Yes.
CONAN: And do they find themselves - well, do they talk to you about where they're living, how they are doing?
Sister STILES: Usually not the first time they come. Usually, they're just a little nervous about what's going on. As they come back each time and we get to know them, they will express themselves as to - if they're having any luck with a job or how many times they've been out looking, those kind of things.
CONAN: Any tensions between the older group and this new bunch?
Sister STILES: No. Everyone is, very accepting of each other in our place. We have a group of people that comes in for a hot meal every day. The same group comes every day, along with a whole - another group of people that is in and out, and we never have any problems with people not getting along.
CONAN: And I wonder - you talked about that sense of shame that some people have of having to come in and ask for some of the most basic things for their families.
Sister STILES: Right. We had, this Christmas, people who last Christmas, donated toys and food to our Christmas giveaway, who this year found themselves coming in and asking for that help.
Sister STILES: And that spoke to all of our volunteers and staff about the dire needs that are out there at this time.
CONAN: Many of us say there, but for fortune - and well, fortune, for lot of people, has not been so good this year.
Sister STILES: Right.
CONAN: Yeah. And in addition to seeing these new people hanging back at the edges, do you find people sort of hovering outside, debating whether to come in the door or not?
Sister STILES: We generally - the word's out that we generally work on an appointment kind of system, so that we move people through and they aren't there for long periods of time. If you're embarrassed, you really don't want to stay for a long period of time. So we mostly get phone calls from people in advance, and they ask us questions about what they need to bring and all those things. Sometimes we will have people walk in, and we certainly help them when they come in. But basically, people have appointments.
CONAN: And I assume all of this is putting a strain on your operations, too. You're seeing a lot more people then you've seen before.
Sister STILES: We are seeing more people, and we very - are being very fortunate that the people in Ravenna are continuing to support us generously.
CONAN: Well, thanks very much for your time today, and thanks for all your good work.
Sister STILES: Thank you.
CONAN: Sister Denise Stiles is the manager at the Center of Hope, a food bank and soup kitchen in Ravenna, Ohio, and joined us today from a studio in Kent, Ohio. And let's see if we can get Ignacio on the line, Ignacio calling us from Lansing in Michigan.
IGNACIO (Caller): Hi, yeah. Can you hear me?
CONAN: Yes, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
IGNACIO: Okay. Yeah, so I just - it hit home for me, what you guys are talking about. I grew up, actually, as a child on food stamps, and that was embarrassing for me to have to go in and deal with that the first time around. So, I made a pledge to myself that I would never - I never imagine that I would have to resort to that again as an adult. And I'm an engineer. I have a degree in engineering, but the times came that I had to do so.
I was going to apply for everything across the board. At universities - I have experience working for universities, for mayors, for - you name it in the engineering industry. And I was literally applying to everywhere, getting interviews, but just being unsuccessful. And now it got to the point where I was even applying in - at restaurants to be a waiter and was unsuccessful in procuring a job in that capacity. So for me to have to resort to that was a necessity, but it brought back all those feelings that I had experienced as a kid, and it took it to the next level - way past that. And so it was unfortunately, something I had to do. Thankfully, I was able to find a position, finally, and…
CONAN: Oh, congratulations.
IGNACIO: What's that?
IGNACIO: Yeah, well, thank you. Thank you. But, so…
CONAN: Let me ask you, Ignacio: One difference is in the old days, food stamps was a booklet of stamps. If you put them down on the counter at the A&P, everybody noticed you were paying with food stamps. That's not the case anymore, is it?
IGNACIO: No, that's not the case anymore. I carry one of those food stamp -dollar in my wallet just to kind of remind of those days. And now it's card. It's an electronic - almost like a credit card, debit card, check card. But oftentimes, I mean, they - it seems a little less conspicuous. But oftentimes, I mean, it's just - something goes wrong with it or there's an issue, and then it comes back to light that if people around you and they're paying attention, they're going to know that you are using food stamps in one in the same - just it's all the way back to just as if I was laying them right on the counter, the actual paper food stamps.
So there's often problems. It's not being accepted, or the machine's down or different problems that come up. So it makes it just as embarrassing as it was before, but that's what I just wanted to share and comment on that. It hit near and dear.
CONAN: Well, again, congratulations on finding a job in Lansing. That couldn't have been easy.
IGNACIO: Yeah. Thanks a lot.
CONAN: All right. Ignacio, thanks very much - with us. Joining us now from the offices at the Washington Post, Amy Goldstein. She reports on national social policy for the newspaper. Nice to have you on the program today.
Ms. AMY GOLDSTEIN (The Washington Post): Hi, Neal.
CONAN: And well, Lansing, Michigan, I guess one of the places where you're going to hear a lot about people having to turn to places like food banks for the first time or sign up for food stamps.
Ms. GOLDSTEIN: That's right. Unfortunately, in this country, there are more and more communities where the same kind of problems that are happening in Lansing and are happening in this little town in Ohio that Sister Denise was describing, are going on. But some of the biggest pressures are in states not like Michigan, which has had a chronic problem with unemployment for some time now, but with places like Rhode Island or South Carolina, where the unemployment rate has shot up a lot lately.
For instance, in South Carolina, where I just was a couple of weeks ago to work on a story about the strains on nonprofits such as food banks and other kind of places that provide emergency help, the unemployment rate there has gone from 5.7 percent January of a year ago, to 10.4 percent. You can just imagine the kind of financial pain that's causing within that community.
CONAN: And again, as you point out, the strain on these, well, soup kitchens, I guess, is not too strong a word.
Ms. GOLDSTEIN: Well, that's right. I mean, this country basically has two kinds of spheres where people turn for help for - that are - comprise a social safety net in this country. One, are government programs, and those are things like food stamps, and Medicaid and welfare. And there are more and more people pouring into offices and online to apply for all of those programs all around the country.
The other is the private sector, and those are things like food pantries, Salvation Army, little nonprofits that do credit counseling, people that provide free legal assistance, people that provide emergency help paying utility bills - and all of those are getting slammed.
CONAN: Let's get another caller on the line. This is Gayle(ph). Gayle calling us from Memphis.
GAYLE (Caller): Yeah. I lost my job six months ago and held on for a while and then finally broke down and went and got - applied for food stamps and got them. And you know, at first, it was a little demoralizing. I've felt ashamed, and then I thought, why the heck not, you know? I work hard, and I'm looking for a job, and I'm trying to create as many revenue streams as I can. But you know, I think that it's been de-stigma-fied lately because so many people are in the same boat.
CONAN: You say you broke down to apply for food stamps, really accepting that as a defeat.
GAYLE: Yeah. I mean, I just finally said, yeah, I could use that $176 a month. And you know, I don't - I'm a frugal person. I have always gone to thrift stores. I've always home cooked. I, you know, we don't go out to eat and fairly self-sufficient. So a lot of this, you know, tightening of the belt isn't new to me. But you know, I urge anybody who's even thinking about it to do it because that's what, you know, you work for, that's what your tax dollars are for.
CONAN: And she's absolutely right about that. Amy Goldstein, if you're falling - that social safety net, such as it is, that's for you.
Ms. GOLDSTEIN: Well, that's right. But what's happening at the moment is that both parts of the social safety net, the public programs and the private nonprofits, are really strained. And it's a problem that's worsening. And what the ultimate solution is going to be remains very unclear because as these callers are attesting, the outpouring of need from people who never imagined that they'd be looking outside their own families for economic support is happening at the exact same time that this very - same economic problems are creating a diminishing supply of help to those programs.
So, for instance, in the last few months, about 19 states, last I knew, had made cuts in their Medicaid programs to try to cope. When I was in Columbia, South Carolina, I met with some people at the local legal services office who had recently had to lay off a couple of their paralegals because they had lost some of their foundation support. So you just have this collision between need and ability to provide it.
(Soundbite of music)
CONAN: Gayle, good luck to you.
GAYLE: Thank you very much.
CONAN: Appreciate the phone call.
GAYLE: Mm-hmm. Bye-bye.
CONAN: Amy Goldstein covers social policy for the Washington Post. We're talking about the experience of asking for government or charity help for the first time. If this is your story, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, email@example.com and stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.
More than 5 million Americans now claim unemployment benefits, more than at any time on record. And many of those people find themselves with little choice but to ask for help from government or from charity for the first time. If that's you, give us - tell us your story. Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can join the conversation on our Web site, that's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.
Our guest is Amy Goldstein, who reports on national social policy for the Washington Post. And let's see if we can get John(ph) on the line. John's on -with us from Chico in California.
JOHN (Caller): Hi. How's it going?
CONAN: Oh, not too bad.
JOHN: Good. Yeah, I was just calling in - I'm on unemployment for the first time, and that was a really interesting experience going through that.
CONAN: Interesting how?
JOHN: Well, just going and…
(Soundbite of laughter)
JOHN: …applying for the unemployment, you have to go to a meeting and then you sit at a table with all the other folks that have lost their jobs. And there was a lot of, you know, there's a wide variety of folks in there that had been working for years and, you know, trained folks. I have a master's in biology. I worked contract to contract, so I've had a wide variety of employers. But it's getting harder and harder.
CONAN: So the gap between one gig and another got too big and…
JOHN: Oh, yeah.
CONAN: …no choice.
JOHN: I'm looking at going back to school. I have, like I said, I have a master's degree, but I'm looking at going back to school and getting a teaching credential in science because it seems a stable and relatively well-paid career path.
CONAN: And did your - was there anything - problem with your self-image as you went to that unemployment office for the first time?
JOHN: You know, I'm kind of detached from that. I kind of felt like, you know, there was really no choice. And it - and as other folks have said - it is what these programs are for. It was kind of a strange feeling. I just, you know, I like to support myself. I like to work. I enjoy my career. I love my career. I'm very self-motivated.
So, it was just odd. It was just very strange. It wasn't - it didn't really demoralized me. The longer I've been out of work, though, it has been kind of -there's sort of - there are some depressing aspects about it, especially going to interview after interview. I mean, I've had a lot of close calls and yet, nothing.
CONAN: Yeah. A lot of silver medals doesn't help.
JOHN: I just recently got a four-month contract.
CONAN: Well, good.
JOHN: To do some work. So that's good.
CONAN: There you go.
JOHN: But I think, you know, in California here, it's interesting because right when I got laid off, I got laid off from a federal position. And they've cut a lot of those over the past, you know, eight years. A lot of things have gone, the contracting and whatnot.
JOHN: Which I don't know is so great, you know, people that work in the government are actually taxpayers, too.
JOHN: And I believe in…
CONAN: But aren't you a contractor, John? Don't you…
JOHN: Well, I'm kind of a freelancer, in a way. I was working - I was recently working on a contract between the feds and the state as a biologist.
CONAN: I see. All right. Well, good luck with the new contract.
JOHN: Thank you.
CONAN: Appreciate it. And, well, the situation that John finds himself in, Amy Goldstein, a whole lot of people are finding themselves on these lines for the first time, with no expectation that they'd ever be there.
Ms. GOLDSTEIN: No, that's exactly right. You know, I'm thinking, as I was listening to him, to some time that I spent a couple of months ago in Fort Myers, Florida, working on a story about people who were, for the first time in their lives, very unexpectedly applying for welfare benefits.
And one of the points that your last caller made was something that I ran into there, which is, how many different kinds of professional and economic backgrounds the people in the room who were waiting to apply for benefits have previously been in, and how shocked some of them were to find themselves in that room. I'm thinking, in particular, of one couple that actually was applying online so that they wouldn't have to publicly face anybody and…
Ms. GOLDSTEIN: …you know, sort of appear to be doing this. And, you know, these were the antithesis of people who have been living close to the edge previously. The husband, they were in their 30s, the husband had been an investor who had been very, very successful. At one point, his assets and a whole bunch of commodity accounts had swollen to $7.2 million.
And his wife was a Realtor. And they had moved to - this was Cape Coral, Florida, right next to Fort Myers - a number of years ago after looking through lists of the 10 best places to live in the country. And they moved there because it was on that list. And the economy just collapsed from under them. Their assets just fell apart.
The wife was unable to sell houses, and they were very, very reluctantly - and after, I think it's fair to say, a lot of difficult debate between the two of them over whether they should go ahead and do this - they were applying for welfare.
CONAN: Well, let's find out more about what's going on there. Joining us now from a studio at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana is Dawn Bontrager. She's a therapist and social worker at the Madison County Community Health Center. Nice to have you with us today.
Ms. DAWN BONTRAGER (Social Worker, Madison County Community Health Center): Thank you. Nice to be here.
CONAN: And the people you have spoken with there at the community health center, the new ones that are just coming in for the first time, what are they feeling when they - they're asking for help?
Ms. BONTRAGER: I think there's a sense, again, of people having - their stress level has been crossed, and they can't handle it anymore. And there's a sense of - a lot of depressive symptoms, anxiety, intense worry, feelings of inadequacy, failure, that kind of thing, because they never. ever envisioned themselves being in this position.
CONAN: Yet, there are so many in that position.
Ms. BONTRAGER: Yes, and that's what I often tell people, is that it's - you know, I know there's been a stigma and, you know, that's not something that I've ever supported as that. But because there are so many people in the same position, we have to reach out and help each other and give each other support and encouragement. And that, as people have said already on the show, that's what those services are for, the food banks and the food stamps. They're not, you know, they are for the times of emergency such as this that people need in order to survive and take care of themselves and their families.
CONAN: Do you find that the stigma, that sense of shame that can be very serious for some people, do you find it prevents some people from asking for help?
Ms. BONTRAGER: Yes, I think so. I think that sometimes, depressive symptoms can just really engulf a person to the point of, you know, isolation and a loss of interest and lack of motivation and difficulty concentrating and just, you know, kind of wanting to stay home. It really can - the symptoms can just be overwhelming. And that's, again, when we're saying, you know, you have to reach out and help each other.
CONAN: Yeah. But you're depressed about reaching out for help and the thing you need to do.
Ms. BONTRAGER: Yeah. Well, it's each of us watching each other and watching each other's symptoms, you know? Do I need to go and talk to my friend or my neighbor about my concern for them? Do I need to talk to, you know, that person's loved ones?
Ms. BONTRAGER: I think it's about watching.
CONAN: But some of these people, you're not going to find out about.
Ms. BONTRAGER: That's right.
Ms. BONTRAGER: That's right. And I'm hoping that shows such as this, and other things that have been done locally, will give people permission to reach out and get help that they need.
CONAN: And other than thinking, hey, we're all in the same boat, is there another way to help people, well, at least lift depression enough to come in and ask for help?
Ms. BONTRAGER: Yes. Well, I think one of the things - it's easier - it's easy to kind of start losing perspective. It's easy to just sort of get lost in this depression. And one of the things, I think, makes it worse is when we don't take control. What can we do? I was really impressed, like, with caller John who - he said, this is what I keow I needed to do. And a couple of the other callers, this is what I knew what I needed to do for myself.
And to sit back and, you know, do we need to go talk to a financial planner? Or, you know, what do I need to do to try to take control of what I can over this situation?
CONAN: Let's see if we get another caller on the line. This is Linda, Linda calling us from Fort Wayne, Indiana.
LINDA (Caller): Yes, hi. I was pretty much in the same situation, where my husband's been laid off for two years. We're in kind of an unusual situation, maybe. My husband was an attorney for a company. He wasn't a litigator. He wasn't bringing in, you know, a lot of income. I mean, we were just, I would say, on moderate income. I volunteered at school for all these years. We're 57, both of us. For many years, I was just volunteering at school. That doesn't look good on a resume, you know. There's no place that you can put experiences for volunteering, especially on a computerized resume these days. There's just no space for it. I'm in this situation where we have not gone to a doctor for two years. And I have high cholesterol.
There is a charity clinic, I guess I'd call it, and it's a matter of embarrassment because, you know, I know the doctors. There's a lot of them that volunteer at these clinics. I know some of the staff that volunteer at these clinics. And for the past two years, we've been just trying to save face and pretend everything is fine. We cashed in…
CONAN: But it's not.
LINDA: We cashed in a small pension so that we're able to make our mortgage payments and things like that. But, you know, we've cut back. We don't take vacations. We're eating, you know, just kind of minimally.
CONAN: Yeah, Linda, I hear you. Dawn Bontrager, do you have any advice for Linda?
Ms. BONTRAGER: Yeah, it's really, really tough when you're in that position. I think at the end of the day, a person has to take care of themselves. I mean, what is it - you know, we're going to get out of this at some point. And what you don't want to do is end up having problems that, you know, because we don't take care of ourselves during this time. It's tough. I mean, there's no easy answers except to just make yourself go and, you know, maintain your own sense of respect and dignity, but go and do what you need to for yourself.
LINDA: It's kind of a problem because, you know, we have friends who are very caring, but you know, they don't want to hear depressing stories every day, either. So it's a real pretend game where you just, you know, try to keep a stiff upper lip and pretend everything is fine just so that you don't lose your friends, you know, and have a support system there. You know, it's not been easy. We've - I had a wedding for one daughter during this past two years…
LINDA: …and we've paid for the last year of our younger daughter's college tuition. So we've managed to get through that with no debt. We don't have credit card debt. You know, we drive older cars.
CONAN: But Dawn, you can't not take care of yourself. You've got to go see the doctor.
Ms. BONTRAGER: Absolutely. You have to. And, you know, I think the other thing is, is that sometimes, people don't always want to hear it because, as you said earlier, Neal, there by the grace of, you know, good fortune go I. You know? I mean, it's like people are just - everybody's hanging on. And so many people are one paycheck away from the same struggles. And…
CONAN: And their - Linda, there have to be a lot of people, maybe even in that very same clinic, whose situation is not all that different from yours. It's not as if that corner of Indiana is booming.
LINDA: Yeah. And if I can say, you know, for employers who aren't taking applications, we've had the problem for the past two years where he would apply to a law firm, and they, you know, they were very optimistic about hiring him. In fact, at Christmastime, they were about to send an offer letter, and we went four months negotiating salary. And then right after Christmas, the economy, you know, went further down the tubes and they just said no. I was already packing up the house.
(Soundbite of laughter)
LINDA: So, you know, employers have to be aware of this, too. It's like, you know, don't drag your feet if you can't hire. Just be upfront with that, you know.
CONAN: Linda, thanks very much. And good luck to you and your husband.
LINDA: Thank you.
CONAN: Okay. Here's an email that we have, this from Angie in Tulsa. The notion that people needing help from government and charitable organizations are embarrassed or ashamed that they never thought they'd be in that position insults others who have been in these situations in the past. It somehow indicates that these folks thought they were better than asking for help. I hope people take the lessons of humility with them as they emerge from the crisis, and maybe take a different opinion of the homeless, etc. It really could be any of us. And, well, Dawn, I have to ask you about that. Is, you know, people never thought they'd be in these situations, and of course the first time in, it's going to be difficult.
Ms. BONTRAGER: It is going to be difficult. I have to say that I certainly - I hear that email's point. People pride themselves in, you know, having made good decisions - going to school, choosing a career path, making sure that they're never in that position, and then you find yourself there. And I think also, we have done a - kind of a poor job in society of creating this stigma of, you know, assuming we have this American dream, and everybody should be able to get everything that they want. And that's not always the way it works. And so, you know, I think, again, it is right - maybe we can have more healthy perspective in terms of people that do have to use the system. And also, I would say that it's a - I've often said that there's plenty of us that would not have a clue how to manipulate getting what we need from the system. It's a tough game out there. And so, we're having to - you know, people are having to learn it that have never even imagined that they would have to, and perhaps have been some of ones that have caused humiliation for those who have been in it for a while.
CONAN: Dawn Bontrager, thanks very much for your time today. Appreciate it.
Ms. BONTRAGER: Thank you so much. It was a pleasure.
CONAN: Dawn Bontrager, a clinical social worker at the Community Mental Center, with us today from WSND in South Bend, Indiana. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
And Amy Goldstein at the Washington Post is still with us. Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. This is Morgan, Morgan with us from Cincinnati.
MORGAN (Caller): Hi, how are you?
CONAN: Go - I'm very well, thanks.
MORGAN: Good. I was just calling to share my experience. I just graduated from college, and I expected to get out and be making, you know, X amount of dollars by X months and so far, that hasn't happened. So I've had to apply for food stamps - excuse me. And now, I'm trying to find help to have my rent paid, or part of it paid, because I'm just out of luck. I've applied to over 40 jobs in the past six months, and just nothing.
CONAN: And when did you graduate?
MORGAN: I graduated last June.
CONAN: And you're just about to have a whole new crop of competitors out there?
MORGAN: Yes. Yes. It's amazing. You know, I never would have expected this.
CONAN: And what was it like to do that for the first time?
MORGAN: It was - kind of embarrassing, I guess, because they kind of look at you as if - or I felt they did, you know, as if I'm taking something that I shouldn't be, in a way. They ask, you know, well, aren't you looking for a job? And I explain that, you know, absolutely. I've been looking for a long time, but that - I don't know. I kind of was made to feel embarrassed, I felt.
CONAN: Amy Goldstein, this sense that somehow there's a - well, we all remember the story about "The Scarlet Letter." There's a scarlet L somehow emblazoned across our foreheads, for loser.
Ms. GOLDSTEIN: Or a scarlet U for unemployment.
Ms. GOLDSTEIN: You know, one of things that I saw when I was in Columbia, which really, I thought, was very touching, was that the largest food bank there, which is called Harvest Hope, sometimes will make very private home deliveries to first-time clients who just can't bring themselves to come in, but are home and hungry. And, you know, I was thinking about your point about don't deny yourself care that you really need or help that you really need or food that you really need.
So I think that some of these nonprofits are trying to accommodate that extreme discomfort that their new clients have. The other point that I want to make is this theme that we keep hearing about, about how hard it is to keep looking and looking and looking and looking for work when there isn't work to be found. When I was writing about the increase in people newly applying for welfare, one of the things that really struck me was that the country's welfare rules, which have been in effect since 1996 now, require that people look hard for jobs as a condition of getting welfare benefits. And that's very hard to do when jobs aren't there.
CONAN: It's hard to hear no all the time.
Ms. GOLDSTEIN: It's hard to hear no all the time.
CONAN: Unless you're an actor, I guess you're used to it.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: Morgan, good luck to you.
MORGAN: Thank you.
CONAN: And we wanted to thank Amy Goldstein for her time today. Thanks very much.
MORGAN: Thank you for having me.
CONAN: Amy Goldstein is a national social policy reporter for the Washington Post, and joined us today from the studio at the newspaper there.
Up next: We raise a pint to the search for the authentic Irish pub. What is it that makes a great pub? Give us your suggestions and a phone call: 800-989-8255. Or zap us an email: email@example.com. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.