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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

If you're in South Sudan and something big happens in your life — you get married, you buy property or pay a penalty for a crime — cows are most likely involved. Cows are currency and credit card and bank account rolled into one. In South Sudan, banks can go bankrupt — cows are more reliable. At least that's how it used to be.

Updated at 4:58 p.m. ET

Republicans are sprinting to push their tax plan through Congress by the end of the year, and with that quick timeline comes a breakneck news cycle. The Senate tax overhaul plan underwent some big changes overnight, with GOP members in that house confident they could get the bill passed. But with a GOP senator now saying he opposes the bill and several others uncommitted, it could have a tougher time passing.

Updated at 1:25 p.m. ET

Richard Cordray, the embattled director of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, announced Wednesday that he will leave the agency by the end of November.

"I am confident that you will continue to move forward, nurture this institution we have built together, and maintain its essential value to the American public," Cordray wrote in an email to the agency's staff.

Jeff Stevens decided to give up alcohol when he was 24.

He's 50 now — and he's had no regrets about going sober for the sake of his health. Except for one thing: He has really missed good beer.

"If you're drinking, you have an infinite amount of things you can drink," Stevens says. Shelves are full of craft IPAs, stouts and bitters. "Whereas only about half the bars I've been to have a non-alcoholic beer. And if they do, it's usually just one choice."

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Think "renewable energy" and the wind and sun come to mind, but someday it may be possible to add ocean energy to that list.

At MedStar Washington Hospital Center, doctors and nurses are moving as many patients as they can from intravenous medications to the same drugs in pill form.

As more executives accused of sexual harassment are being ousted from companies around the nation, including NPR, many are rethinking whether human resources departments are willing or able to handle the job of fielding and investigating complaints. Many have grown skeptical, after recent news stories suggesting some HR departments knew of issues, but failed to adequately respond. Many others have lost faith in HR through experiences of their own.

Updated at 12:01 ET Nov. 16

There are a lot of anxious graduate students at universities around the country right now.

That's because to help pay for more than $1 trillion in tax cuts for U.S. corporations, the House Republican tax plan would raise taxes on grad students in a very big way. These students make very little money to begin with. And many would have to pay about half of their modest student stipends in taxes.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

For Yamyria Morales, her baby daughter and 2 year old son Jonael, home for now is a couple of cots in an elementary school gymnasium in Vega Alta, an hour west of San Juan.

"I've lost track of when I arrived here," Morales says. "It's been really hard."

Morales, a 25-year-old single mom, came to the shelter with her kids and her father just days after Hurricane Maria destroyed her wooden home in Sabana Hoyos, about 20 miles away.

"Whatever little I had, I lost," she says.

So, $1.4 trillion is a lot of money. It's what all of the NFL teams together are worth, and then some. It's more than twice the Defense Department's 2016 budget. It's enough to buy nearly 3.2 million homes at the median U.S. home price right now.

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When it comes to shop-till-you-drop capitalism, there's no match for China.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DOUBLE ELEVEN DAY")

PHARRELL WILLIAMS: (Singing) If your friends are asking where you've been today...

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And this is the sound of the political moment we're in.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Wait.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Oh, boy, oh.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Oh.

Vanity Fair has named Radhika Jones as its new editor-in-chief. Condé Nast, the magazine's parent company, announced the surprise selection Monday.

"Radhika is an exceptionally talented editor who has the experience and insight to drive the cultural conversation—balancing distinctive journalism with culture and humor," Bob Sauerberg, president and CEO of Condé Nast, said in a statement.

Less than a week after the iPhone X release, a Vietnamese security firm says it has done what others couldn't — trick the phone's facial recognition software. How? One very creepy mask.

Trump In Asia: A 'Rebalance' Toward Trade

Nov 13, 2017

As President Trump nears the end of his five-country and multiple-summits Asia trip — the most expansive visit to Asia in 25 years by a sitting U.S. president — one might well ask, as Monty Python does in The Meaning of Life, "What's it all about?"

The trip has provided a bewildering message of impulses, priorities, pronouncements and tweets, but one theme stands out: The Trump administration intends to push for fair and reciprocal trade and economic practices from allies and nonallies alike.

Republicans in Congress say cutting corporate taxes would improve the balance sheet for U.S. businesses, giving them more money to spend on jobs and investment.

But how does anyone know that's what will happen?

It's the question at the heart of the debate taking place on Capitol Hill right now about whether to lower corporate taxes, and by how much.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Buena Vista winery in Sonoma Valley, founded in 1857, is considered the birthplace of California wine. The cavernous cellar, carved into a hill by Chinese laborers, has survived earthquakes, several owners and last month's fires in Northern California.

Now, the black tree stumps and scorched hills right next to the winery's buildings show just how close the flames came — less than 30 feet, says Tom Blackwood, general manager at Buena Vista.

There was a time in China when the solid steel-framed bicycle was the perfect representation of its pace of life. A man in a black cap pedaling down a market street, bearing fruits and vegetables in his front wire basket — that was the full expression of Chinese commerce.

But that has long since changed. Bicycles began disappearing from Beijing and other cities two decades ago, replaced by cars as China's fortunes rose. There are now 6 million cars on Beijing's streets alone; last year, some 28 million cars were sold across China.

Trump Talks 'America First' In Asia

Nov 11, 2017

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

President Trump has brought America First to Asia. Here he is Friday in Da Nang, Vietnam, at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

When Republicans began assembling their tax overhaul proposals they were aiming to make them revenue neutral; the tax cuts could not lead to increased deficits. Holding the line on deficits has long been the goal of Republican deficit hawks.

Digital lip-syncing aimed at teens is officially a big, big business: Chinese tech company Bytedance has announced it plans to "merge" with — acquire — Musical.ly, a popular lip-synching app launched in China in 2013.

Financial terms of the deal weren't included in today's announcement, but news reports put the deal's value at between $800 million and $1 billion.

A new study is bolstering the case for putting more autonomous vehicles on the road sooner rather than later — at the same time that self-driving cars are hitting a milestone in parts of the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Uber has encountered another setback in the U.K., as a tribunal told the ride-hailing giant — once again — that drivers are workers entitled to protections like time off, regular breaks and a guaranteed minimum wage.

An employment tribunal ruled in favor of the drivers more than a year ago, but Uber appealed. The company lost its appeal on Friday.

Uber plans to appeal the decision once again.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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