NPR Staff

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Professor Kimberly Marten of Barnard College is a scholar of U.S.-Russia relations, and she joins us now. Welcome to the program once again.

KIMBERLY MARTEN: Thank you.

SIEGEL: What effect do you expect these sanctions would have on Russia?

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

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

(SOUNDBITE OF SAM SPENCE SONG, "THE EQUALIZER")

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We're heading into the last weekend of the NFL's regular season, and there's just one wildcard playoff spot still up for grabs. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are still mathematically eligible.

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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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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NPR first spoke with performance artist Taylor Mac this September, during rehearsals for a marathon physical and artistic feat: a 24-hour-long show covering the history of American popular music from 1776 to the present. Mac performed the full show, A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, on Oct. 8, and it was a huge success. All 700 tickets sold out — and most people stayed awake the whole time.

December is the time of year when music critics go back through all the albums of the past 12 months and rank them. This year, there's one artist who appears on nearly everyone's list, but isn't around to hear the praise.

In 2007, mashup artist Jordan Roseman — better known as DJ Earworm — took the top 25 songs from that year and wove them into a single track. He called it "United State of Pop," and he's been doing it every year since.

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.

Amy Grant, a veteran of Christian pop music, has released four Christmas albums in her nearly 40-year career. But she says her latest holiday album, Tennessee Christmas, takes a slightly different approach. "I just feel like I've done the sort of musically cinematic approach to Christmas. But what I feel now, in my mid-50s, is how much sadness there is," she says.

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."

Hanukkah commemorates the Macabee family's rebellion against Greek attempts to suppress the Jewish religion. So it makes sense, perhaps, that a group of musicians looking to tell the story of that holiday would turn to music inspired by another rebellion: the American Revolution.

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.

Kadhja Bonet's latest album, The Visitor, is the product of a quarter-life crisis. She was 25 years old when she realized she wanted to take her life in a different direction. "I was in film school, I was miserable ... and I wasn't able to express myself," she says. So she found another outlet: music.

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:

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.

Move over Mariah Carey. There's a new holiday star in town.

Behold, a new Christmas carol for the 2016 holiday season! Have a listen:

Perhaps the flat delivery, the Christmas word salad and the elementary melody tipped you off to the computer-generated nature of this performance.

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.

In Memoriam 2016

Dec 19, 2016

Music suffered heavy losses in 2016, a year like no other in recent memory. We bid unexpected farewells to the very brightest stars — David Bowie and Prince — but we also lost masters from every corner of the music world, from classical composers and jazz greats to world music superstars, soul singers, country giants, prog-rock pioneers and record producers. They left us with unforgettable sounds and compelling stories. Hear their music and explore their legacies here.

(Credits: Tom Huizenga, producer; Mark Mobley, editor; Brittany Mayes, designer)

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

On a Sunday night in Washington D.C., a white-haired grandmother is warming up for her set at a local dive bar. She taps out a simple melody on her keyboard, then pauses to address those listening. "You know what that is?" she asks, chuckling. "'Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.'"

Neil Diamond is celebrating 50 years in the music business, and he has a lot of fans to celebrate with him. In the past half-century, he has sold more than 125 million records, released more than 40 albums, and put songs into the minds of millions. Now, Diamond is back with another album: Acoustic Christmas.

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.

In hundreds of cities across the U.S. –- and a few abroad, too –- tuba and euphonium players are gathering for an annual tradition: TubaChristmas. The mandate of the event is simple: Gather a group of tuba and euphonium players and play holiday songs. Its scope, however, is large: These gatherings can include hundreds of tuba players, and this weekend alone, there are more than 60 TubaChristmas events from Hattiesburg, Miss, to Las Cruces, N.M. to San Ramón, Costa Rica.

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.

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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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