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The six faith leaders President-elect Donald Trump has invited to pray at his inauguration come from diverse backgrounds, but they have something in common: All have personal ties to Trump or his family or have in some way signaled their approval of him, his politics or his wealth.

For the first time in Japanese history three women of different political persuasions are in positions that could be stepping stones to the prime minister's office.

It's especially notable in Japan, where women's labor force participation remains among the lowest among developed nations, and gender roles are traditionally-defined.

"Women have not really been coached or mentored or encouraged to take on leadership roles," Kyoto University diplomacy professor Nancy Snow explains. "Also, women aren't allowed [culturally] to often show ambition, to sort of telegraph that."

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a survey today that it says shows widespread tactics used by debt collectors to threaten consumers. The watchdog agency, which is considering strengthening regulations of the industry and its conduct, says more than a quarter of the consumers it surveyed felt threatened by the debt collectors.

Donald Trump's plan to shift management of his businesses to his sons doesn't go nearly far enough to address conflict-of-interest concerns, former presidential ethics lawyers say.

So far, more than half of all U.S. states have legalized marijuana for medical use, and eight (plus the District of Columbia) have legalized the drug for recreational use. Varieties of cannabis available today are more potent than ever and come in many forms, including oils and leaves that can be vaped, and lots of edibles, from brownies and cookies to candies — even cannabis gummy bears.

Ben Carson, President-elect Donald Trump's choice to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, would not say that housing properties owned by Trump won't benefit from HUD programs at his confirmation hearing Thursday.

The former neurosurgeon and Republican presidential candidate was pressed on the matter by Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who asked Carson for assurance "that of all the housing grants he [has] the ability to bestow," not one dollar will go to benefit either the president-elect or his family.

The 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, from Fort Carson, Colo., has begun moving into Poland as part of the biggest U.S. military deployment in Europe since the end of the Cold War.

It's part of an Obama administration effort to deter perceived growing Russian aggression in Eastern Europe. The Kremlin isn't happy.

"These actions threaten our interests, our security," President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. "Especially as it concerns a third party building up its military presence near our borders. It's not even a European state."

The U.N. Secretary-General said today he was hopeful that peace talks on Cyprus, being held in Geneva, could lead to a breakthrough, though he cautioned that "we are not here for a quick fix."

Flanked by Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades, Secretary-General António Guterres said a breakthrough is what the world needs now.

It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it. NPR's Kelly McEvers talks to Mike Sutter, food critic for the San Antonio Express-News, about his "365 days of Tacos" series, in which he eats at a different taco joint every day for a year. He's done it before, in Austin, where he ate more than 1,600 tacos in 2015. But now he's moved to San Antonio, and he's finding that the taco scene there is a bit different, and in fact is tied to a cultural identity that spans back many decades.

When a man vanishes in a Hollywood studio movie, the disappearance is usually the prelude to disclosing a hidden, violent life. But Claire in Motion is an indie domestic drama, so its revelations are less sensational. In fact, they're kind of bland.

Claire (Breaking Bad veteran Betsy Brandt) and Paul (Chris Beetem) are a faculty couple at Ohio University. Their shared surname is Hunger, but Paul is the only one who's been experiencing it.

The firm of Wahlberg and Berg, LLC is a highly specialized one. Patriots Day, an absorbing and detail-rich account of the terrorist bombing of the 2013 Boston Marathon and the four-day manhunt that followed, marks the third time in three years that director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg have collaborated to dramatize recent history. (Deepwater Horizon, their thriller about the 2010 Transocean oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, came out all of four months ago.)

Rummage through the many movies that get dumped into distribution in the run-up to Oscars night and you'll often find, amid all the prestige, cinematic awards-bait, a smaller film that's perfectly fine — not great — yet that tells us something consequential about the culture that produced it. That's 100 Streets, a sour-sweet British drama about a bunch of walking-wounded Londoners crossing paths as they struggle through life-crises we all recognize — a marriage on the skids, a longed-for child, an uphill battle to rise above poverty and petty crime.

When Otto and Anna Quangel, a middle-aged couple in early '40s Berlin, receive a letter informing them their only son has died in the Battle of France, they take the news with curious resignation. Otto can't even bring himself to open the envelope, leaving his wife alone to process its contents. Their reaction is somewhere between shock and a grim acceptance of the inevitable, and it stands in sharp contrast to a city buoyed by Nazi victories and nationalist propaganda. They've lost their child and they've lost their country, perhaps long before.

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President Obama awarded outgoing Vice President Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Thursday afternoon.

Calling the former longtime Delaware senator "the best vice president America's ever had" and a "lion of American history," Obama gave his White House partner the surprise award in an emotional ceremony, initially billed as a farewell.

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Free speech advocates see President-elect Trumps's testy relationship with the media and his middle-of-the-night tweets reacting to critics as evidence that he is — at best — insensitive to the First Amendment. And they say one recent controversy, the decision by Simon & Schuster to publish a book by social media provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, has grown out of an atmosphere that encourages hate speech.

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After Steve Flatow's daughter was killed in a terrorist attack, he wanted justice. He embarked on a legal quest to get the right to sue a country: Iran. His case opened the doors to a new technique for deterring funding of terrorists, but it also interfered with the U.S. government's diplomatic efforts.

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Washington, D.C., is not a place that welcomes surprises, but this afternoon, President Obama had a big surprise for his vice president.

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President-elect Donald Trump took to Twitter again Thursday morning, this time to urge his followers to "Buy L.L.Bean," and support one of his campaign backers.

"Thank you to Linda Bean of L.L.Bean for your great support and courage," he tweeted Thursday. "People will support you even more now. Buy L.L.Bean."

In the closing weeks of 2016, an explosive document was floating around in media and security circles. Reporters tried, and failed, to verify the claims it contained — that Donald Trump colluded with Russia, and the Kremlin held lurid blackmail material as leverage over Trump. Reporting on the document, which was first compiled as opposition research, was rare and carefully vague.

Six years ago, Don Cameron, the general manager of Terranova Ranch, southwest of Fresno, Calif., did something that seemed kind of crazy.

He went out to a nearby river, which was running high because of recent rains, and he opened an irrigation gate. Water rushed down a canal and flooded hundreds of acres of vineyards — even though it was wintertime. The vineyards were quiet. Nothing was growing.

"We started in February, and we flooded grapes continuously, for the most part, until May," Cameron says.

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