NPR Staff

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Maintaining a long-term relationship can be difficult, but Romy Madley Croft, Oliver Sim and Jamie Smith have managed to do it — and they've become megastars in the process. They make up the band The xx, and they've been making music together since they were kids.

Donald Trump is still two weeks from his presidential inauguration, but new Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer sounds ready to do battle with a Republican-controlled Senate, House and White House.

"We're going to hold Donald Trump's feet to the fire," the New York Democrat told NPR's Audie Cornish on All Things Considered while sitting in front of the fireplace near his desk. "Our job is going to be to hold Donald Trump and the Republican majority accountable."

When Donald Trump won the presidential election, he made a pledge to every citizen: that he would be president for all Americans. In the weeks before Trump's inauguration, we're going to hear about some of the communities that make up this nation, from the people who know them best, in our series Finding America.

In Roane County, Tenn., the legal and personal costs of the opioid epidemic collide at the county courthouse.

"Difficult woman" is a loaded term, but writer Roxane Gay isn't afraid of taking on ideas with baggage. (A few years ago, she wrote a book of essays called Bad Feminist.) Her new short story collection, Difficult Women, explores women's lives and issues of race, class and sex.

Warning: Today's post deals with sexual content and may not be appropriate for all audiences.

Dear Sugar Radio is a weekly podcast from member station WBUR. Hosts Steve Almond and Cheryl Strayed offer "radical empathy" and advice on everything from relationships and parenthood to dealing with drug problems or anxiety.

If you find yourself at a loss to name even one Native American food dish, you're not alone. But a growing number of Native chefs are trying to change that.

Freddie Bitsoie is one of those chefs, working to bring back indigenous foods from centuries ago, and adapting them for today's palate so people can learn not just about their cuisines, but their cultures too.

As 2016 comes to a close, we wanted to take the time to hear from a few people whose words and actions influenced the nation this year.

One such person is actor and activist Jesse Williams. Many may know him as Jackson Avery, one of the many good-looking doctors on Shonda Rhimes' long running medical drama Grey's Anatomy.

In addition to starring in Grey's Anatomy, Jesse Williams dabbles in a lot of things: He's launched two mobile apps, hosts a basketball podcast and is in the midst of filing a remake of the 1990 thriller Jacob's Ladder.

If movies were trying to be more realistic, perhaps the way to summon Batman shouldn't have been the Bat-Signal — it should have been the bat squeak.

New research from the Bat Lab for Neuro-Ecology at Tel Aviv University found that bats are "vocalizing" more information than many researchers previously thought. And researchers were able to decipher what the bats were squeaking to each other about — often they were bickering over things like food, sleep and mating.

How big was the writer Ring Lardner? He helped create what's still called The Golden Age of Sportswriters, the ones who wrote about The Babe, The Ironman, Dempsey, DiMaggio, and Joe Louis. And he went on to write short stories, novels, songs, and plays. He was an inspiration to Ernest Hemingway, who read his columns growing up outside Chicago, and later a favored writer of Maxwell Perkins and confidant of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Professor Kimberly Marten of Barnard College is a scholar of U.S.-Russia relations, and she joins us now. Welcome to the program once again.

KIMBERLY MARTEN: Thank you.

SIEGEL: What effect do you expect these sanctions would have on Russia?

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(SOUNDBITE OF SAM SPENCE SONG, "THE EQUALIZER")

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

We're heading into the last weekend of the NFL's regular season, and there's just one wildcard playoff spot still up for grabs. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are still mathematically eligible.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia once called the solicitor general's argument gobbledygook.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

He deemed a majority opinion pure applesauce.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Tonight is the fourth night of Kwanzaa. People who are celebrating the seven-day festival will gather around a candelabra called a kinara and light the black candle.

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About a year ago, tattoo artist Brian Finn began offering free tattoos to people to cover their scars from trauma: domestic abuse, human trafficking, self-harm.

Since NPR last visited with Finn, he's received what he estimates to be thousands up thousands emails, and attracted so many new followers on Instagram that he had to turn off notifications. He learned that tattoo artists around the world — Brazil, Australia, the United Kingdom — had taken up his idea.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

It was a violent Christmas weekend in Chicago. Sixty-one people were shot, 11 killed. That brings the number of murders in Chicago this year to over 750. It's a 58 percent increase over last year, and it's the most of any American city.

When Donald Trump won the presidential election, he made a pledge to every citizen: that he would be president for all Americans. In the weeks before Trump's inauguration, we're going to hear about some of the communities that make up this nation, from the people who know them best, in our series Finding America.

Historian Free Egunfemi worries that the history of the black community in Richmond, Va., is getting lost.

Six years ago, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis starred in a Broadway revival of August Wilson's Fences. Now they also star in the play's film adaptation, which Washington has directed.

Fences tells the story of Troy and Rose Maxson, a married couple living in 1950s Pittsburgh. Troy, a sanitation worker, is having an affair, and over the course of the play Rose begins to realize what she gave up by staying with her husband.

Shirley Jackson was a fairly famous writer in her short lifetime. She wrote a number of novels, two of them best sellers, one nominated for the National Book Award; probably the most famous book was called The Haunting of Hill House, published in 1959. But about a decade earlier, she wrote a short story for the New Yorker magazine which started conversations all over the country. The story was called "The Lottery."

Jeneyah McDonald is tired of using bottled water for everything: drinking, cooking, bathing.

In order to keep her two children safe, the resident of Flint, Mich., told them the city tap water was poisonous.

"I don't know any way to explain to a 6-year-old why you can't take a bath anymore every day, why you can't help mommy wash the dishes anymore," McDonald said earlier this year. "So I told him it's poison. And that way, he'll know I'm serious — don't play with it."

NPR's national security correspondent Mary Louise Kelly sat down for a 52-minute interview Thursday with CIA Director John Brennan at CIA headquarters in northern Virginia. Kelly asked about Russian interference in the U.S. election, how the CIA views President-elect Donald Trump and the future of Syria. Brennan also shared some of his plans for his post-CIA life. (Hint: He won't be writing a spy thriller).

There was no shortage of sad news in 2016.

And because we're a blog that covers global health and development, we covered a lot of those sobering stories: the toll of diseases like Zika, the bombing of hospitals in conflict zones, the suffering caused by poverty and by discrimination against women.

But we published a lot of hopeful stories as well. We asked our team at Goats and Soda to pick some of the stories from this year that inspired them the most. We hope you're inspired too.

When Donald Trump won the presidential election, he made a pledge to every citizen: that he would be president for all Americans. In the weeks before Trump's inauguration, we're going to hear about some of the communities that make up this nation, from the people who know them best, in our series Finding America.

Donald Trump should deal with how to handle his business holdings before he takes office, says former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, an adviser to the president-elect. But Gingrich says it would be "an absurdity" to put Trump's holdings in a blind trust.

It's hard to imagine a time when red and green weren't synonymous with Christmas, but they haven't always been the holiday's go-to colors. Arielle Eckstut, co-author of Secret Language of Color, attributes the palette's rise to two things: holly and Coca-Cola.

An interview on All Things Considered earlier this month got us thinking about Christmas tree ornaments — and the stories behind them. We asked readers and listeners to send us the memories attached to their most cherished ornaments. Here are a few of our favorites, edited for length and clarity:

Martin Scorsese's new film, Silence, is steeped in religious thought and questions. Set in Japan in the 17th century, it follows a pair of Portuguese Jesuit priests who sneak into the country to find their mentor, a priest who has reportedly given up the faith and apostatized. The Japan they find themselves in is pushing back violently against interference from outside influences.

We met up with pastry chef Aggie Chin again this past week to bring you her recommendation for a family-style dessert perfect for a holiday dinner: pear upside down spice cake.

She cooked this delectable one in a kitchen with NPR's Ailsa Chang.

Listen to their conversation at the link above, and check out the recipe here.


Pear Upside Down Cake Recipe

2 pears

2 oz sugar

Water

1 oz butter

1/4 tsp Vanilla

2 oz butter, at room temperature

4 oz brown sugar

4 oz sugar

There's a grim chapter in American history that involves forced sterilization. And for much of this past century, California had one of the most active sterilization programs in the country.

A state law from 1909 authorized the surgery for people judged to have "mental disease, which may have been inherited." That law remained on the books until 1979.

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