NPR Staff | WYPR

NPR Staff

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.

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.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2017 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 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

"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:

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.

Tara Clancy has made a career sharing honest, funny tales about her life. Now she's put those stories into a new memoir called The Clancys of Queens. Clancy comes from a big, New York, Irish-Italian family. She was the sole only child in her extended family, and she spent her childhood bouncing between her maternal grandparents' house, her dad's converted boat shed and her mom's boyfriend's Hamptons estate (which she often traveled to via stretch limo).

Damien Chazelle's new movie, La La Land, is very different from his first one, Whiplash — which was about a jazz drummer and his abusive mentor.

La La Land is also about struggle and jazz, but instead of dimly lit rooms and a grey color palette, it's a brightly colored modern musical.

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.

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.'"

Bonnie Mackay has written an unusual sort of memoir: Tree of Treasures is the story of her life, told through Christmas tree ornaments.

Mackay is something of an ornament aficionado — starting with the first tree she decorated with a friend from college.

"We called it the tree of disarray ... " she tells NPR's Ari Shapiro. They adorned it with unconventional objects, including jewelry, scarves and kitchen items.

On Donald Trump's visit to Carrier in Indiana on Thursday, he mentioned a phone call that he made to the CEO of United Technologies, the air conditioning company's parent. As Trump describes it, that call led to Carrier announcing it will not move as many jobs to Mexico as it had planned.

"We can't allow this to happen anymore with our country. So many jobs are leaving and going to other countries, not just Mexico," Trump said.

The late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro loved baseball. And you may have heard that he was such a good player that years before the Cuban revolution, he tried out for the New York Yankees in Havana.

Or not. This myth has persisted for years, and though it might be fun to contemplate the historical consequences of this "What if?" scenario, Adrian Burgos Jr., University of Illinois history professor and author of Playing America's Game: Baseball, Latinos and the Color Line, says it simply didn't happen.

Stephen Moore, a senior economic adviser to Donald Trump, was once a doctrinaire libertarian and free-trader. Now, Moore says: "Donald Trump's victory has changed the [Republican] Party into a more populist working-class party in some ways that conservatives like myself will like and some that we'll be uncomfortable with."

Pages