Here and Now

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Secretary of State John Kerry outlined a vision for how peace in the Middle East can be achieved in a farewell speech in Washington on Wednesday. The speech comes less than a week after the U.S. abstained from a U.N. Security Council vote condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, angering Israel.

Kerry defended the move, saying the U.S. couldn’t “stand in the way of a resolution at the United Nations that makes it clear that both sides must act now to preserve the possibility of peace.”

Actress Carrie Fisher, who found enduring fame as Princess Leia in the original “Star Wars,” has died. She was 60.

Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, released a statement through her spokesman saying Fisher died Tuesday just before 9 a.m PST. Lourd said her mother was “loved by the world and she will be missed profoundly.”

This year, the artist Christo (@xtojc_tweet) was finally able to present “The Floating Piers,” an ambitious project he and his wife and artistic partner the late Jeanne-Claude had begun to envision after completing “The Wrapped Coast” in Australia in 1969.

Charles “Wick” Moorman took over as president and CEO of Amtrak in September.

Moorman tells Here & Now‘s Meghna Chakrabarti about his plans to chart a course for Amtrak’s future growth, and what Donald Trump’s infrastructure spending plan might mean for improving and modernizing the railroad network.

The BBC’s Paul Gambaccini speaks with Here & Now‘s Robin Young about his friend, singer George Michael, who died on Sunday at the age of 53.

Michael rose to fame as a member of the duo Wham! in the early ’80s, and debuted solo with the album “Faith” in 1987. He sold over 100 million records worldwide.

Eight years after the financial collapse that sparked the Great Recession, two more major banks have reached a settlement with U.S. authorities for their role in creating and selling toxic debt.

Sunday marks the 25th anniversary of the resignation of President Mikhail Gorbachev and the end of the Soviet Union.

From a fantastic documentary on the beginnings of hip-hop, to a British comedy about the intersection of sexuality and religion, 2016 featured a lot of quality television that didn’t gain mainstream attention.

NPR TV critic Eric Deggans (@Deggans) talks with Here & Now‘s Meghna Chakrabarti about the shows that are still worth watching even though they won’t be on anyone’s top-10 list this year.

In 1966, a teenage mother and her boyfriend abandoned their baby in a random car. Her pregnancy, and the episode that followed, were kept hidden, and later the young couple married and had other children.

One of their kids found out he had a brother, and decided to search for him. Thanks to DNA testing, the brothers — and family — were reunited.

Two men with notorious reputations have led Syria for the past 45 years — the late Hafez al-Assad and his son, Bashar.

The lower chamber of the Russian Parliament today called for heightened security measures for the country’s diplomats after the ambassador to Turkey was assassinated in Ankara this week.

The Man Behind Atari's 'Secret Room'

Dec 21, 2016

The Atari video game console was king in the 1980s, and one of the most popular games was called “Adventure.” The medieval quest game was designed by Warren Robinett, but after he did not receive credit, he became angry and created a “secret room” or “Easter egg,” which hid his name within the game.

Tim Skoog from Here & Now contributor WBUR profiles Robinett, who revealed details about his secret message in “Adventure.”

As families gather for the holidays, some parents want their adult children to leave with more than new memories. They’re hoping to pass down antique furniture, collectibles and family heirlooms they feel have sentimental or financial value.

Climate scientists say polar bears have been showing up more frequently in villages along Alaska’s North Slope, looking for food as warming temperatures cause ice to melt in the Beaufort Sea.

Here & Now‘s Robin Young talks with Todd Atwood, research wildlife biologist with the United States Geological Survey’s Alaska Science Center.

Interview Highlights

On what makes polar bears come ashore

Russia is boosting security at its embassies around the world after its ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, was assassinated by an off-duty Turkish police officer at an art gallery in the capital, Ankara, on Monday.

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin says the assassination, “benefits those who want to drive a wedge between Russia and Turkey” and derail peace talks for Syria.

The gunman who killed the Russian ambassador to Turkey at a photo exhibition in Ankara shouted in Turkish “Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria!”

The man then yelled: “Stand back! Stand back! Only death will take me out of here. Anyone who has a role in this oppression will die one by one.”

While stories of “rogue electors” have been swirling in the media for weeks, there’s no evidence to suggest Monday’s Electoral College votes will result in anything other than a Trump presidency.

NPR’s Domenico Montanaro (@DomenicoNPR) joins Here & Now’s Robin Young to talk about precedent, and how Russia’s meddling has affected what is normally a ho-hum process.

China has agreed to return an underwater U.S. drone Beijing seized in the South China Sea last week.

The Pentagon says it was conducting routine operations. But Beijing says the drone was linked to American efforts to contain China.

Laughing is something most people do every day, but chances are we don’t really understand why we do it.

Robert Provine, a neuroscientist and professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, explains the science of laughter to Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson. Provine’s most recent book is “Curious Behavior: Yawning, Laughing, Hiccupping and Beyond.”

Do Tax Cuts Bring About Economic Growth?

Dec 12, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump has said he plans to cut taxes for individuals and corporations in order to stimulate the economy and create jobs.

Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush also cut taxes with the same reasoning during their time in office. But cutting taxes doesn’t necessarily guarantee economic growth.

Much of the post-game analysis among liberals after November’s election has focused on the working class, and the idea that Hillary Clinton did not do an effective job at reaching out to them.

But The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson (@DKThomp) says that Clinton actually did reach out to the middle class. She had a plan for coal miners and steel workers, for example, and she still lost.

Cold temperatures and wet weather are spanning the country today after big snowstorms hit the Midwest, Pacific Northwest and other northern regions over the weekend.

Here & Now‘s Robin Young speaks with Dean DeVore (@DeanPSUpa), a meteorologist for AccuWeather, about the winter weather impacting the country, and what to expect later in the week.

Change is afoot in Las Vegas.

A new casino resort opened this month and it’s catering primarily to Asian tourists. Its signs are in Chinese and English, and the hotel features authentic Chinese food. Two major hotel corporations are now charging for parking at their resorts.

President-elect Trump has said he will dismantle and replace the Affordable Care Act, and possibly privatize Medicaid — the insurance program for the very poor.

Several Republican governors say they’re putting their state’s Medicaid expansion on hold, as they wait to find out Obamacare’s fate.

Inside A Genetic Time Capsule For Seeds

Dec 9, 2016

Climate change has altered the growing season for many plants, including wildflowers. Observation has been the most powerful tool for scientists who study this shift. But it’s the plant’s seeds that may provide the most meaningful answers in the decades to come.

President-elect Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to enact stricter immigration policies.

He has said he wants to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA. He also said he wants to deport immigrants who have committed crimes, saying that would cover up to 3 million people.

[Youtube]

Two Tennessee teens are being held responsible for the wildfires that tore through the City of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and the surrounding areas of Sevier County. The fires killed at least 14 people, injured 176 and damaged more than 2,400 homes and businesses.

A war of words has erupted between President-elect Donald Trump and Chuck Jones, president of United Steelworkers 1999.

It began when Jones, who leads the local union branch representing workers at Carrier Corporation’s factory in Indianapolis, accused Trump of lying about the number of jobs he’d saved at Carrier. Trump responded through two tweets. Now Jones says he’s getting threats from Trump supporters.

Even before the election, critics had been drawing comparisons between Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler.

They’ve pointed to Trump’s promise to ban Muslims, deport millions of immigrants, crack down on the press and “make America great again.”

The tragic warehouse fire in Oakland, Calif., is raising fears of a backlash against the city’s artists and the way many of them live and work. If the city decides to red-tag buildings that don’t have permits, artists could lose their homes and studio spaces.

Stephanie Martin Taylor (@SMartinTaylor) from Here & Now contributor KQED reports.

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