NPR Staff

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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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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.

Author Jeanette Winterson has wrapped up a holiday present between two covers. Christmas Days is a book of 12 stories and just about the same number of recipes.

What do Pablo Neruda and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis have in common? Not much. He was a Chilean poet and Communist politician; she was the first lady at age 31 and a widow at age 34, when JFK was assassinated.

In 2008, NPR gathered more than a dozen voters in a York, Pa., hotel. They had dinner and got to know one another, and over the course of several meetings that fall they spent hours sharing their views on an often uncomfortable subject: race.

As a child, Francisco Ortega lived in rural Tijuana, Mexico, 100 miles south of where he lives with his family now.

"We were so poor, but I used to say my mother kept the best dirt floors ever," he told his 16-year-old daughter, Kaya during a recent visit to StoryCorps. "They were the cleanest dirt floors in the planet.

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David Miliband joins us now. He's the head of the International Rescue Committee and a former foreign secretary in Britain. Welcome to the program.

DAVID MILIBAND: Thanks very much.

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What defines a cuisine?

SARAH LOHMAN: When you think of food from anywhere on the planet, you can think about what spices, what flavorings are a big part of that cuisine.

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A reporting project out of Milwaukee, Wis., has spent the last two years documenting one problem - gun violence. The series is called Precious Lives.

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"Ads For Nicer Living" are as simple (and as nice) as they sound. Between now and Jan. 15, NPR is inviting our listeners and readers to write ads for things that just make life better. They're noncommercial commercials — for experiences, ideas and other things money can't buy.

Interested? First, go check out examples of the original ads for inspiration.

Over the past week, we asked our audience to help Goats and Soda come up with one of our first stories of 2017.

We asked: Is there a topic in the field of global health and development that you think we didn't pay enough attention to last year and that will loom large in the year ahead? Is there a small but important trend afoot?

Earlier this month, we received more than 100 questions on everything from deforestation to leprosy to human population. We put three of them up for vote. More than 300 people voted, and this question was the winner:

Updated at 12:39 p.m. ET

President-elect Donald Trump promised a press conference Thursday to clarify the role he would have with his international business entanglements after he becomes president.

He canceled.

The transition team said Monday that Trump is delaying his "announcement" until January. Later that night, Trump took to his favorite medium to go around the filter — Twitter — and made some news about his plans:

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.

The No. 48 bus runs through the Central District of Seattle.

We're near the end of an eight-year chapter in American history, one that began with the election of Barack Obama in 2008. It's ending as a new president takes power after another election that forced Americans to confront questions of race.

The path of the Ohio River snakes southwest out of Pittsburgh and forms the border between Ohio and West Virginia. Here, the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains rise along its banks, and beneath that Appalachian soil lie the natural resources that have sustained the valley's economy: coal — and now, natural gas.

To people far away, who consume goods made with energy fueled by the Ohio Valley, coal and gas may be harmful agents of global warming.

But to people in Ohio coal country, a good life on the ground is paid for by what's underneath it.

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