NPR Staff

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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.

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.

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.

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.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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.

Sebastian Bach has sung, screamed and strutted for fans around the world as the frontman for the band Skid Row. When grunge overtook metal in the '90s and the band kicked him out, he found ways to keep on singing; that's been his passion since his days as a choir boy at All Saints Anglican Church.

It's been nearly a year since Mayor Karen Weaver declared a state of emergency in Flint, Mich.

Before she became mayor, the city switched its water supply to the Flint River in a cost-cutting measure. The water wasn't properly treated, which caused corrosion in old pipes — leaching lead and other toxins into the city's tap water. People were afraid to drink or even bathe in the water.

Since then, a lot has happened.

Thirty years ago, a new face debuted on daytime television: Oprah Winfrey.

The new podcast, "Making Oprah," produced by member station WBEZ, chronicles Oprah's rise to stardom. Journalist Jenn White tells Oprah's story from her early days on her first talk show, AM Chicago, through to the biggest, most outrageous moments when 40 million people a week were watching her national show.

Fake news played a bigger role in this past presidential election than ever seen before. And sometimes it has had serious repercussions for real people and businesses.

That's what happened to a pizzeria in Washington, D.C., recently, when an armed man claiming to be "self-investigating" a fake news story entered the restaurant and fired off several rounds.

We like to think our brains can make rational decisions — but maybe they can't.

The way risks are presented can change the way we respond, says best-selling author Michael Lewis. In his new book, The Undoing Project, Lewis tells the story of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, two Israeli psychologists who made some surprising discoveries about the way people make decisions. Along the way, they also founded an entire branch of psychology called behavioral economics.

Seventy-five years after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, some Americans have never stopped believing that President Franklin Roosevelt let it happen in order to draw the U.S. into World War II.

"It's ridiculous," says Rob Citino, a senior researcher at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. "But it's evergreen. It never stops. My students, over 30 years — there'd always be someone in class [who'd say], 'Roosevelt knew all about it.'"

More and more of the things we use every day are being connected to the Internet.

The term for these Internet-enabled devices — like connected cars and home appliances — is the Internet of things. They promise to make life more convenient, but these devices are also vulnerable to hacking.

Security technologist Bruce Schneier told NPR's Audie Cornish that while hacking someone's emails or banking information can be embarrassing or costly, hacking the Internet of things could be dangerous.

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