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Italy has been described as the world's biggest open-air museum.

And with illegally excavated antiquities, looting of unguarded, centuries-old churches and smuggling of precious artworks, it's also an art theft playground.

But thanks to an elite police squad, Italy is also at the forefront in combating the illicit trade in artworks — believed to be among the world's biggest forms of trafficking and estimated to be worth billions.

Earthy 'Lotus' Is A Fascinating Flower

Jan 11, 2017

"A Newborn Calf Isn't Afraid of Tigers" is a typical chapter title in Lotus, Lijia Zhang's compelling debut novel. Readers will find the entire text rich in Chinese proverbs, as well as folk wisdom of a more prosaic variety.

The novel Lucky Boy focuses on two women and two very different pictures of immigration. In one story, 18-year-old Soli enters the U.S. from Mexico without papers. In the other, an Indian-American woman named Kavya is struggling to have a baby with her husband, who works in Silicon Valley. Their stories converge around a baby, the "lucky boy" of the book's title.

What Is Driving The 'Unbanking Of America'?

Jan 10, 2017

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For a lot of writers, crafting fiction can feel like an exercise in trying to describe something — a concept, a sensation, an emotion — that really doesn't want to be described. It's a problem that can be solved by sticking to obvious themes and well-worn story arcs, but the best writers would rather put down their pens forever before surrendering to cliché.

Many of us feel irked when we hear people speaking "incorrectly." Whether it's using "like" a few too many times, or the word "literally" to mean "figuratively," we have a sense that there is a correct way to speak, and that that isn't it. While new speech patterns might be irritating, the linguist John McWhorter says they can't possibly be wrong. His new book is Words on the Move: Why English Won't and Can't Sit Still (Like Literally).

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From head to toe, a first lady's look is heavily scrutinized, and Melania Trump will be no exception. But Trump is no stranger to the spotlight: In 2005, she was on the cover of Vogue in her Dior wedding dress, and she's modeled for Harper's Bazaar and posed nude for GQ. She also once sold her own line of costume jewelry and watches on QVC.

NPR's Audie Cornish talks to director Damien Chazelle about his latest film, La La Land, which is a modern version of 1930s Hollywood musicals. This story originally aired on Dec. 9, 2016 on All Things Considered.

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As the child of two Hollywood actors, Jeff Bridges can't remember the first time he was on a film set. He wasn't yet 2 years old when he appeared in the 1951 film The Company She Keeps with his mother, Dorothy Dean Bridges. Later, he and his brother, Beau Bridges, sometimes appeared in the TV series Sea Hunt, which starred their father, Lloyd Bridges.

But despite his early exposure to show business, Bridges tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies he wasn't always sure he wanted to be an actor.

She's one nasty woman, that Betty Fussell. Now 89, Fussell came of age in the heyday of bright and breezy Bettys — Betty Grable, Betty Hutton, Betty Crocker — but she clearly gravitated toward the one dangerous dame of the bunch, Bette Davis.

An essayist and author of some 20 books on food and travel, as well as the acclaimed memoir, My Kitchen Wars, about her marriage to and divorce from the late cultural historian Paul Fussell, Betty Fussell doesn't mince words.

Sunday night's Golden Globes were, in the great tradition of the Golden Globes, full of unexpected winners and a certain fondness for Hollywood itself. In this case, that fondness manifested itself in part through a sweep of the musical/comedy film awards for La La Land, which — in case you haven't yet heard — is about dreamers.

Elsewhere, Meryl Streep talked Trump, Donald Glover cleaned up, Tracee Ellis Ross had her moment, and awards shows continued to be the gift that may not keep on giving, but certainly keeps on going.

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We're going to talk about "Hidden Figures" for just a few more minutes. The movie is just out this weekend, but it is already a hit with young women of color who are interested in science, technology and math.

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And now we're going to take a few minutes to mark the passing of an artist you've probably seen many times without even realizing it. Indian actor Om Puri worked in short films, TV series and hundreds of movies including "Gandhi."

On Tuesday, President Obama will give his farewell address to the nation. It's a custom that goes all the way back to George Washington; these speeches, author John Avlon says, "serve as a bookend to a presidency."

For about 150 years, Washington's farewell speech was the most famous in American history, Avlon tells NPR's Michel Martin: "It was more widely reprinted than the Declaration of Independence. And yet today, it's almost entirely forgotten."

Availability is the best ability for Keith "Bang Bang" McCurdy.

"I'm waiting all the time for that call, because I know Justin Bieber may call me at three in the morning and I have to tattoo him at six. That has happened," McCurdy says.

Bang Bang is considered one of the most successful tattoo artists in the industry.

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"There must be something about me and orphans," says author Jerry Spinelli.

Several of Spinelli's novels tell orphan stories, including his Newbery award-winning book Maniac Magee.

"People come from other people," he says. "And if you remove one of the elements in that equation you're left with someone who is, in some sense, abandoned — and that changes the equation."

Manju has the body of a boy, the forearms of a cricketer, and a superstitious, arbitrary tyrant of a father who wants only one thing: To raise the first-best and second-best batsmen in the world.

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Psychic Soldiers Populate 'Throwaways' — With Style

Jan 7, 2017

Style matters, even when it's inside your brain. Caitlin Kittredge's comic Throwaways may deal with invisible and mysterious forces, but there's nothing low-key about artist Steven Sanders' character designs. The telekinetic protagonist, a psychic on the run from a top-secret military project, foregoes urban camouflage to let his freak flag — well, his Black Flag — fly. When he faces down several war wagons full of government agents, his t-shirt emblazoned with that band's logo — to say nothing of his sassy cerulean mohawk — almost steals the show.

Editor's note: Tunde Wey is a Nigerian chef. Lora Smith is a native of eastern Kentucky and co-founder of the Appalachian Food Summit.

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In the kitchen at Oakland Avenue Urban Farm, just north of downtown Detroit, Linda Carter and Shawnetta Hudson are in the final stages of making their newest jam creation: cranberry-apple preserves. Carter is meticulously wiping down tables while Hudson seals the lids on jars. Then comes the logo — a beautiful graphic of a black woman with afro hair made of strawberries. The kitchen is small and basic, but for the past year it has served as the hub of a community-based product called Afro Jam.

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