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Playwright Tracy Letts says that by the time the 2016 election happened, he was almost finished writing The Minutes.

"It was a job of work to keep the blinders on and not make the play about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or — actually, to escape into the world of the play during that political moment was great, was solace," he says.

The artistic director of Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Anna Shapiro, says The Minutes was solace for her too. Letts sent her the play just a few weeks after the election.

Pope Francis, in speaking to a group of journalists Saturday, addressed the importance of a free and responsible press while also warning against falling "prey to the sins of communication."

He was speaking to members of the Italian Periodical Press Union and the Italian Federation of Catholic Weeklies and said that in a field "dominated by the anxiety of speed, by the drive for sensationalism," reliable information is at a premium.

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

31 Years Later, Spike Lee Puts A New Spin On 'She's Gotta Have It': In a new 10-part Netflix series, Lee revisits his story of a young black artist who loves sex but isn't interested in a committed relationship.

Bluff The Listener

Dec 16, 2017

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BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR news quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. We are playing this week with Mo Rocca, Tom Bodett and Negin Farsad. And here again is your host filling in for Peter Sagal at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Mike Pesca.

(APPLAUSE)

Panelist Questions

Dec 16, 2017

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

BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago. This is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR news quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. We're playing this week with Negin Farsad, Mo Rocca and Tom Bodett. And here again is your host filling in for Peter Sagal at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Mike Pesca.

(APPLAUSE)

Despite the flood of new music in 2017, there were songs I came back to over and over again. I still star-rate my downloaded songs in iTunes (the main reason I don't care to migrate to Spotify), so when the end of the year arrived I sorted my songs by star ratings and went back over the best of the bunch, then narrowed things down to a list of my 50 favorite songs of 2017, eliminating duplicates from the same record.

Austria finalized a deal late Friday to make 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz Europe's youngest leader and to form a new governing coalition that will include a far-right party with Nazi roots.

Exactly two months after Austrians went to the polls, Kurz struck a deal to join his conservative Austrian People's Party with the right-wing Freedom Party, led by Heinz-Christian Strache.

Updated at 3:34 p.m. ET

Trump Administration officials at the Department of Health and Human Services are pushing back on a report saying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a mandate to no longer use words and phrases including "fetus," "transgender" and "science-based."

The deadliest mass shooting in modern American history claimed the lives of 58 people, injured 546, and profoundly affected thousands more.

Melissa Barham was at the Jason Aldean concert on Oct. 1 when the shooter began his fusillade. She was sitting with her son and his girlfriend. Barham's daughter sat not far away, near the stage.

In Sidney, Neb., Cabela's corporate headquarters and flagship superstore sit up on a hill like a castle over the prairie. Pretty much everybody in town has deep ties to it. Melissa Norgard got her first job there working in the store's deli when she was 16.

"When I was growing up here, no, I never would have ever thought, Cabela's leaving, no," Norgard says.

On the evening of Saturday, Nov. 4, the authorities in Saudi Arabia began rounding up dozens of businessmen, ministers and princes. It was a striking start to an anti-corruption campaign spearheaded by the young and powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Limericks

Dec 16, 2017

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MIKE PESCA, HOST:

Coming up, it's Lightning Fill In The Blank. But first, it's the game that goes aabba, limericks. If you'd like to play on the air, call or leave a message at 1-888-WAITWAIT. That's 1-888-924-8924. Or go to waitwait.npr.org and click on Contact Us, and that will enable you to contact us.

(LAUGHTER)

Lightning Fill In The Blank

Dec 16, 2017

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MIKE PESCA, HOST:

And now it's time for a Lightning Fill In The Blank. The rules are these. Panelists get 60 seconds in which to answer as many fill-in-the-blank questions as possible. Each correct answer is worth 2 points.

Bill, can you give us the scores?

Prediction

Dec 16, 2017

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When NBC News correspondent Katy Tur was a little girl, her parents pioneered aerial journalism. Flying over Los Angeles in a helicopter, they captured car chases, fires and shootouts – events which often horrified a public who hoped for the best but dared not look away. Maybe that's why Katy's bosses thought she'd be the perfect person to assign to cover the campaign of Donald Trump. Her new book Unbelievable chronicles her time on that beat.

By now, millions of people around the world have seen the video: A polar bear, gaunt and weak from starvation, pawing through garbage at an abandoned fishing camp on Baffin Island. The bear seems so exhausted from hunger, it can barely stand. The filmmakers believe the bear was just hours from death.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

Chris Newman used to be a software engineering manager, well-paid, but he worked long hours, ate fast food and went to the doctor a lot.

Eventually, enough was enough. He and his wife moved from the Washington, D.C., area to Charlottesville, Va., to become farmers. Now he is healthier, has fewer stomach problems and can eat dairy products again. He raises pigs, ducks and chickens.

Cemeteries Turn To Swamps As Alaska's Permafrost Melts

Dec 16, 2017

This past September, after Maggie Mary Otto passed away, the village of Kongiganak, Alaska — also known as Kong — celebrated her life with a four-course feast. People filed into the old high school gym and piled their plates with seal stew and walrus meat, while children wrestled by the bleachers. It was crowded. Mrs. Otto was an elder and the de facto marriage counselor in town. She was beloved.

Mrs. Otto's daughter, Betty Phillip, sat in a corner. They put her mother to rest on high ground, she said, but not all of her family in Kong is so lucky.

Dawn and Dana Ceniceros always enjoyed walking visitors through their artsy Ojai, Calif., home in the remote Matilija Canyon. But the couple never expected to tour what was left of it.

Caught in the path of the massive wildfire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties — one of the largest fires in California history — their home is now mostly a pile of rubble and ash. It's one of more than 700 homes destroyed by the blaze that has already consumed more than a quarter of a million acres.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The Democrats' Future In Alabama

Dec 16, 2017

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

We begin this hour with the Russia investigation.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They're spending millions and millions of dollars. There is absolutely no collusion.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Earth is facing an extinction crisis – and humans shoulder the blame.

Wildlife poaching and illegal trade. Climate change. Urbanization. Mining. These are some of the myriad things we do that endanger animals and, in the process, damage our own well-being.

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