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In 1620, the Rev. George Thorpe sent a letter from a plantation near Jamestown, Va., to England describing a "good drinke of Indian corne" that he and his fellow colonists had made. Historians have speculated that Thorpe was talking about unaged corn whiskey, and that his distillation efforts on the banks of Virginia's James River might have produced America's first whiskey.

Sometimes, when Philip Pullman is tired or anxious, a floating speck appears in his field of vision. "I first saw it when I was playing the piano and I couldn't read the music because there was a damn dot in the way," he says, as we sit in the pleasantly jumbled living room of his farmhouse in Oxfordshire.

The floating dot will expand into a flickering ring of light, like a miniature, personal aurora. It can happen when he's driving, and he'll pull over to wait it out, or sleep it off when he's at home.

Here's hoping that within 50 years or so, Kelly and Zach Weinersmith's book Soonish becomes hopelessly obsolete. As we lounge in our self-adjusting hammocks on the moon, reading our daily reports about which asteroids our robots are mining, our matter-printer might produce another round of fancy cocktails. Meanwhile, helpful nanobots will install our new 3-D printed livers to make sure all that drinking doesn't mess with our metabolisms. And we'll smile at each other and say, "Remember that book from 2017 that predicted all this?

It's a bright fall morning in Santa Cruz County, Calif., and the tennis area at Brommer Street Park is overrun with dozens of people. But they aren't here for tennis. Instead, cadences of pick-pock sounds fill the air as doubles players — many in their 50s and older — whack yellow Wiffle-like balls back and forth on eight minicourts.

This recreational craze, which has an estimated 2.8 million players nationally, has a quirky name: pickleball.

It was the Friday before a Monday deadline, and federal health officials in Washington, D.C., were working feverishly with their counterparts in Oklahoma to finalize the details of a new state reinsurance program.

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The bare, plaster walls of Yu Zu'en's new government-issued apartment are adorned with three decorations: an old photo from his years as a soldier, a shelf for his harmonica, and a poster featuring the busts of every Chinese Communist Party secretary since Chairman Mao. He points to the newest one and smiles.

"I wouldn't be here without Xi Jinping," he says. "Under his wise leadership, we're now taken care of. Before, we barely survived. Our village was up in the mountains. Corn didn't grow well, no roads. Then the leaders mobilized us and the entire village moved here."

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The day before Hurricane Maria hit, Puerto Rico's governor predicted that the island would soon need, quote, "help from all our fellow citizens."

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Sonoma County is famous California wine country, but it's also a center of marijuana cultivation. And the devastating wildfires in Northern California hit pot growers hard. Tonya Mosley of member station KQED reports.

Updated at 5:15 a.m. ET

Spain was preparing to impose direct rule over semi-autonomous Catalonia after the region's leader Carles Puigdemont declined to categorically renounce an independence referendum, the prime minister's office announced Thursday.

Spain's government said it would hold a special Cabinet meeting and "approve the measures that will be sent to the Senate to protect the general interest of all Spaniards."

If there's one thing President Trump's critics want from him, and he refuses to give up, it's his tax returns.

The returns didn't come up during Wednesday's hearing in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan. But the hearing was the first step in a process that could loosen Trump's grip on them.

If the next step goes the plaintiffs' way, the case could make the president's tax returns surface.

Editor's note: This story contains graphic language.

As women around the world tell their stories of sexual harassment and assault using the phrase "#MeToo," one prominent voice added her own harrowing account.

Four American soldiers were killed in action in Niger this month.

Their deaths made a few headlines at the time. But this week they are in the news again, with far more prominence, because of a bitter political debate over presidential condolence calls.

The sudden prominence of the soldiers' deaths — but in a way that highlights political tension and factual disputes, rather than honoring of sacrifice — has left some military advocates struggling for words and striving to redirect attention back to the original loss.

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For more on President Trump's role in all of this, NPR's Geoff Bennett joins us now from the White House. Hi, Geoff.

GEOFF BENNETT, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

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A rerun of the annulled presidential election in Kenya is in jeopardy. Two top election officials say they cannot guarantee a fair process. NPR's Eyder Peralta reports one of them fled to the United States fearing for her safety.

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