NPR Staff

The era of the real-life whodunit series is upon us. The podcast Serial first attracted legions of listeners drawn to the question of whether a young man should have been put in prison for the murder of his former high school girlfriend. HBO's documentary The Jinx focused on a trail of murdered and missing intimates of a troubled scion of a wealthy family.

Our food-obsessed media landscape has proven fertile ground for wordplay. There are now new words to describe every food niche or gastronomical preference.

Can't stand little kids running amok in your favorite Korean fusion restaurant? You might have bratophobia. And you could be a gastrosexual if you use your cooking prowess to attract that new special someone.

In his new book, Eatymology, humorist and food writer Josh Friedland has collected many of these neologisms in a 21st century food dictionary.

As part of a series called My Big Break, All Things Considered is collecting stories of triumph, big and small. These are the moments when everything seems to click, and people leap forward into their careers.

We often hear about school districts that struggle with high poverty, low test scores and budget problems. But one district has faced all of these and achieved remarkable results.

In just over three years, Superintendent Tiffany Anderson, who oversees the Jennings School District in Jennings, a small city just outside St. Louis, has led a dramatic turnaround in one of the worst-performing systems in Missouri.

Music lovers were shocked and saddened to hear of the death singer Natalie Cole on New Year's Eve. Cole was 65.

She was the daughter of jazz icon Nat King Cole but went on to create her own legacy, selling millions of albums across a wide range of genres and winning nine Grammy awards.

Two of Natalie Cole's younger sisters, twins Casey and Timolin Cole, run a nonprofit called The Nat King Cole Generation Hope, which is dedicated to supporting music education in public schools.

In the face of growing protests, police departments across the country are pledging to try to reduce the use of deadly force.

This week, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said his police department will double its supply of Tasers and will train officers to use them.

The Fayetteville, N.C., police department will spend the next year and a half trying to implement 76 recommendations issued in December by the Department of Justice. Those recommendations range from better record keeping and better information-sharing to trying to reduce the racial disparity in traffic stops.

Mona Haydar is a Muslim — and she wants to talk about it.

So much so, in fact, that she set up a stand outside a library in Cambridge, Mass., with a big sign reading "Ask a Muslim." Along with a free cup of coffee and a doughnut, Haydar offered passersby an opportunity for conversation.

She says the idea occurred to her husband, Sebastian, and her over dinner one evening. As they were eating, she says, Sebastian remarked: "What if we did something kind of crazy?"

Christmas with children usually means lots of toys under the tree. And sometimes those toys aren't quite ready for the kids straight out of the packaging.

The dreaded words "assembly required" can make any post-Christmas day more stressed than relaxed. We asked some of our listeners and readers to share their most memorable — and panicked — experiences putting together toys, with any advice for minimizing frustration along the way.

Clay Crawford, Pensacola, Fla.

For centuries, Chesapeake Bay oysters were harvested by skipjacks, those tall, sleek, singled-masted sailboats.

The skipjacks are mostly gone now, replaced by more efficient, less majestic ways of fishing. But one skipjack captain refuses to fade away.

Kermit Travers, 78, is one of the first and last African-American skipjack captains. He's been sailing the Chesapeake for most of his life.

Cooking gadgets seem to be a solid go-to when you're not sure what to give someone. Who wouldn't be charmed with a laser-guided pizza cutter? A one-click butter dispenser? An electric bacon-bowl maker?

This holiday season, one popular Christmas carol has been raising some questions here at NPR headquarters. Namely:

"Oh, bring us some figgy pudding, oh, bring us some figgy pudding, oh — "

Wait. What is figgy pudding?

First of all, it's "absolutely delicious," says Debbie Waugh, who recently served the dish at a tea at the Historic Green Spring House in Alexandria, Va.

Figgy pudding — also known as plum pudding or Christmas pudding — is a staple of the British Christmas table, she says.

Christmas is coming, and by now you've probably heard all the standards, whether you want to or not — the chestnuts, the jingle bells, the usual deal. But if you're looking for something different this year and your politics lean left, then Grammy-winning soul singer Macy Gray has something for you.

How many times have your teachers or editors told you that every word counts? Now, it turns out that every character you send counts, too.

In fact, it turns out that the best way to punctuate a text message may be by not punctuating it at all: Researchers at Binghamton University have found that ending your text with a period — full stop — may make you seem more insincere.

During a sensitive time of global scrutiny surrounding Islam and Muslims, one unexpected image relating to the religion drew a more positive light.

Ali Kadri, a Muslim man living in Brisbane, Australia, posted a picture to his Facebook page last weekend that got the attention of tens of thousands of people. The picture showed Kadri with an imam, taking part in evening prayers at a Mormon church after having been invited to the Christmas program by his Mormon friend Michael Bennallack.

When NBC announced The Wiz -- the African-American version of The Wizard of Oz, presented as a hit Broadway musical and a movie — would be produced as a live television production, some TV watchers may have groaned.

Previous live telecasts of other musicals have gotten attention mainly as a target for hate-watching. But The Wiz Live! seems to have broken that spell: When it aired earlier this month, it earned 11.5 million viewers — and more if you count DVR replays.

Interviewing a sitting president is no small deal. There are the physical logistics of it — getting together the interviewer, editors, producer, engineer, and a five-person video crew, plus all that audio and video equipment. And then, importantly, the preparation that goes into asking timely, tough and interesting questions.

In municipal council races in Saudi Arabia a week ago, 21 female candidates were elected to office. In the country's third-ever elections, the monarchy gave women the right to vote, as well as to seek election to office.

Nearly 1,000 women ran throughout the country, but while there were 1.36 million men registered to vote, according to the Wall Street Journal, only 130,000 women could vote.

One of the hottest gifts of the season is a little too hot — hot enough to catch fire.

Hoverboards have been burning up because of problems with their lithium-ion batteries.

Pain, grief and emotional loss follow mass shootings in America, and there are also other costs that add up to violence's financial toll. It's Ted Miller's job to crunch numbers on social ills like mass shootings. He's a health economist with the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation.

Aja Raden's new book, Stoned, is about jewelry, but on the first page she lays out a bold statement: "The history of the world is the history of desire."

"There's no more powerful statement than 'I want,' " Raden tells NPR's Audie Cornish. " 'I want that. I want them.' ... Even if it's an issue of survival, you still are driven by what you want and what you are compelled to take or have or maintain."

"Usually when you illustrate a book, you're working on something that nobody's read before," notes Jim Kay.

But when you get tapped to add the illustrations to new editions of the entire Harry Potter series, as Kay did, the situation is more than a little bit different.

"It took a long time to get over the sort of terrible panic which grabs you," Kay says, "because you don't want to ruin the most successful children's book franchise in history."

Former Attorney Gen. Eric Holder's career has been a series of firsts.

As the first African-American to serve as this country's top law enforcement official, he came into office in 2009 promising to rebuild the Justice Department's Civil Rights division.

The Manchester, N.H., regional airport put out a special holiday message this year. And no, it wasn't about trying to bring liquids on board or keeping watch for Santa Claus on radar.

It's meant for people who will get drones this holiday season. "Aircraft operating within a five-mile radius of the airport must contact the airport communications center," they wrote.

"She had red hair — it was red hair out of a bottle, but it was still red hair. And she was a spitfire," Chloe Longfellow begins. "If you messed with her and she didn't think it was right, she would tell you."

Longfellow is speaking here of her grandmother, Doris Louise Rolison, on a recent visit to StoryCorps. When Longfellow was just a child, her father died and her mother took up multiple jobs in order to support the family. That left Longfellow with a lot of time to spend at her grandparents' house in Arizona.

Children's personal information isn't supposed to be an online commodity. But whether kids are using Google apps at school or Internet-connected toys at home, they're generating a stream of data about themselves. And some advocates say that information can be collected too easily and sometimes, protected too poorly.

The ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip has damaged hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities, leaving major gaps in health care.

Children with cancer, in particular, struggle to get the proper treatment they need. They often have to travel to Israel or much farther.

So one American nonprofit — called the Palestine Children's Relief Fund — aims to change that. The PCRF is building a large new pediatric cancer center in Gaza.

The former president is remembered for progressive views on the state, but his views on race were decidedly regressive. With his legacy at Princeton now disputed, Brian Balogh and Peter Onuf, historians and co-hosts of the public radio show BackStory, weigh Wilson's complex history.

The attack in San Bernardino that left 16 people dead, including the shooters, came just five days after the shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.

The resettling of Syrian refugees in the U.S. has become a political and religious flashpoint. On Friday, for instance, Texas dropped its request for a federal court to immediately block Syrian refugees from entering the state. A Syrian family, including two young children, is now expected to arrive in Dallas on Monday.

Much is still being learned about the shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., but one thing was clear very early on: how the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, stood on the attack.

The Muslim community group called a press conference almost immediately after Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik were named as suspects.

Farook's brother-in-law appeared at the conference, and a CAIR official, speaking on behalf of the local Muslim community, deplored the shooting.

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