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President-elect Trump held a phone conversation yesterday with Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, breaking nearly four decades of diplomatic practice. NPR's Rob Schmitz joins us from Shanghai. Rob, thanks so much for being with us.

ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

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We're reporting this week on the most common reading disability. Ask just about anyone what dyslexia is, you'll almost certainly hear something like this.

Europeans are anxiously watching Italy where a Sunday referendum on constitutional amendments could bring down the government and make it the latest casualty of the anti-establishment wave sweeping the West.

Italians are being asked to vote "yes" or "no" to constitutional changes aimed at bringing the Italian political system more in line with the European norm.

The changes involve sharply reducing the size of one of the chambers of parliament, the Senate, shifting its powers to the executive, and eliminating the Senate's power to bring down government coalitions.

Protesters have been camped for months at the construction site of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. Now, winter has arrived, dumping almost 2 feet of snow on the encampment in the last week of November. The winter storm hit just before news that President-elect Donald Trump indicated he supports completion of the pipeline.

The brilliantly-colored shapes reminded Carol Vincent of fluorescent deep-sea creatures, and they floated past her languidly. She was overwhelmed by their beauty — and then suddenly, as if in a dream, she was out somewhere in deep space instead. "Oh, wow," she thought, overwhelmed all over again. She had been an amateur skydiver in her youth, but this sensation didn't come with any sense of speeding or falling or even having a body at all. She was just hovering there, gazing at the universe.

On Nov. 23, a morning talk show on Morocco's state television aired a segment on using makeup to conceal bruises from domestic violence. It was part of a promotional effort for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, coming up two days later.

The reaction was swift and negative. The TV station apologized.

So you're trying to find some information about the schools in your community. Did students perform well on tests? How many students in a school are from low-income families? What's the demographic breakdown? Most folks would start to look for this by searching the web. But, depending on the state you live in, finding that information can be a real challenge.

Four days. 92 volunteers. And 150 pounds of gingerbread.

That's just part of what goes into decorating for the White House for Christmas.

Volunteers went to work the day after Thanksgiving, stringing thousands of bow ribbons and crystal ornaments throughout the mansion. Military families got a sneak peak at the decorations this week.

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Let's pause now to remember a British actor best known for playing a Spanish waiter in a 1970s BBC series that lasted only 12 episodes - Andrew Sachs. He died at age 86. As NPR's Ted Robbins tells us, his relatively small role left a big impression.

This week in race: Sports (dog) whistles, protection for Dreamers, a special book—and some hunky calendar men. Really.

Now that the turkey endorphins have worn off, the leftovers are a distant memory, and the Obamas prepare for their last Christmas in the White House, we thought we'd put some of the things that happened over the holiday weekend (and this week) on a platter and offer them to you. No thank you notes required.

Race and Immigration:

For six years, Haitian activists have demanded that the United Nations accept responsibility for cholera in Haiti.

Yet many seemed almost shocked on Thursday by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's apology for the U.N.'s role in the outbreak. Shocked — and pleased.

In the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, tens of thousands of people have fled a brutal, Russian-backed regime offensive against rebel-held parts of the city. Many have fled deeper into the tightening siege, which started over the summer. Others have sought safety on the government-held side.

My conversation with a woman who recently fled the siege begins with her asking how I am. She's safe now, but is still afraid to give her name. She fears for her son — still fighting with the rebels — and for other male relatives who've been detained by the regime for questioning.

The Dallas County District Attorney has reached an agreement to drop assault charges against former Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, as long he as meets conditions such as attending an anger management course and a substance abuse program.

Retired Gen. James Mattis' nomination to be President-elect Donald Trump's secretary of defense may, well, march through the Senate, but there is one potential obstacle to maneuver around: the retired general part.

The National Security Act of 1947, which established the current national defense structure, had a key stipulation, requiring that the secretary of defense be a civilian well removed from military service. In fact, the law is quite clear:

Each year, a glowing mass of clouds forms over the South Pole, high in the atmosphere, trapped between Earth and space.

From the ground they look wispy and shimmery, like a blue-white aurora borealis. From space, they look like an electric-blue gossamer haze.

If you're curious about what people really think about some of the hottest of hot-button food controversies, the Pew Research Center has just the thing for you: a survey of attitudes toward genetic modification, organic food and the importance of eating healthfully.

The survey results are published in a 99-page report that can keep you occupied for days. But if you're pressed for time, here are some of the most interesting highlights that caught our eye.

Friday afternoon, four candidates for Democratic National Committee chair will gather in Denver to debate the future of the embattled party.

For Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, the forum will be a chance to respond to a growing backlash against his bid to run the DNC.

Ellison appeared to be the early favorite when he entered the race. He earned endorsements from two powerful voices – Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Updated at 6:40 p.m. ET

The jury in the murder trial of former North Charleston, S.C., police Officer Michael Slager told the judge on Friday afternoon that it's having trouble coming to a unanimous verdict.

They will resume deliberating Monday.

Slager is accused of murder for shooting Walter Scott multiple times as he ran away from the officer in 2015, after a routine traffic stop.

Donald Trump kicked off his postelection "thank you tour" with a Thursday-night rally that sounded a lot like any of his campaign rallies. He said trade was dangerous, he warned about refugees, and his mention of his former opponent, Hillary Clinton, prompted supporters to chant "lock her up."

As was the case at many times on the campaign trail, Trump's presentation of facts requires some fact-checking and context. Here's a look at the president-elect's Thursday-night speech.

"I lost more than 80 percent of my university friends," recalls Jagannath Lamichhane.

After silently struggling with depression for two decades, Lamichhane published an essay in Nepal Times about his mental illness. "I could have hid my problem — like millions of people around the world," he says, but "if we hide our mental health, it may remain a problem forever."

Updated 12/7/16: A sprawling health bill that passed the Senate Thursday by a 94 to 5 vote and is expected to gain President Obama's signature is a grab bag for industries, academic institutions and patient groups that spent oodles of time and money lobbying to advance their interests.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calls it "the most important legislation that Congress will pass this year."

Who wins and who loses?

Here's the rundown of what's at stake in the 21st Century Cures Act:

In eastern Tennessee, officials say a wildfire that tore through resort towns in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains earlier this week killed at least 13 people and destroyed nearly 1,000 structures, according to local officials and the state emergency management agency.

The confirmed death toll in and around the tourist town of Gatlinburg in Sevier County has climbed steadily since the fire raced into town overnight on Monday.

In a shocking upset, election officials say an opposition candidate has defeated Gambia's longtime leader in the country's presidential vote. This sets the stage for what could be the small West African country's first-ever peaceful transfer of power since it gained independence from the U.K. in 1965.

Unemployment dropped by 0.3 percentage points, to 4.6 percent, last month — the lowest rate since 2007 — according to the monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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