NPR Staff

Tracing your genealogy has become a popular hobby in the United States. More than 1 million people around the country have taken these tests. Shows like PBS's Finding Your Roots have shown the public how much information you can find out about your family tree with a simple DNA test.

The latest films in the Star Wars and Hunger Games franchises were not just box office smashes. They also shared something else in common: Both tapped into a widespread debate about casting.

The Old Vic Theatre in Bristol, England, is spending this year celebrating its 250th anniversary. And they're doing something pretty dramatic. They're taking a cue from their predecessors, by reviving some of the antique ways of producing sound effects for the stage.

For this summer's production of King Lear, the theater is using technology from the 18th century to create effects for rain, wind and thunder. Using old-fashioned wooden wheels, wooden gutters and wooden balls, they can recreate the sounds of a thunderstorm.

It's 1977 and an 11-year-old dancer named Mira is struggling to find her place in the competitive world of New York City ballet. Dance is her escape from her parents' failing marriage — but instead of a sanctuary, Mira finds the opposite: a dark threat intermingled with her dreams of being a star ballerina. Sari Wilson gives us a glimpse into this world in her new novel — it's called Girl Through Glass. Sari spent her own childhood dancing, like her protagonist, and she tells NPR's Rachel Martin that she found it exhilarating, in the beginning.

In front of one of the colleges at Oxford University, a statue of Cecil Rhodes stands overlooking the campus. Rhodes, a South African businessman, started the De Beers diamond company and went on to become the namesake of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.

He was also a colonialist who believed in the superiority of Anglo-Saxons, and he enforced a policy of racial segregation in South Africa.

Now, because of that history, a growing number of students at Oxford say it's time to take down the statue of Rhodes.

Forgive us if you've heard this (and heard it, and heard it) already: The East Coast is getting its fair share of snow this weekend.

If you have, chances are you've also heard another little anecdote. When folks get snowed in for a couple of days — the urban legend goes — the population in that area is likely to see a boost in births just nine months later. In other words: Blizzards might be prime baby-making time.

Julia has a gift — or is it? Ingrid Betancourt's new novel, The Blue Line, is about a woman in 1970s Argentina who can see the world through the eyes of others. Usually what she sees are terrible events, and that makes her different from the millions of Argentines who say they don't know about the detentions, disappearances, tortures and murders by which Argentina's military government ruled and quashed dissent in what is known as The Dirty War.

Have you spent most of this election cycle trying to ignore it? We don't blame you. With the Iowa caucuses just a week away, it might be time to get plugged in.

NPR's campaign reporters have spent months on the trail listening to and analyzing the candidates' movements, speeches and policy. But you don't need months because three of those reporters — Tamara Keith, Don Gonyea and Sarah McCammon — have distilled what you need to know to just 100 words and 60 seconds. Click above or read — and listen — on:

On Sunday, the FBI's Fox Mulder and Dana Scully will once again start taking on unsolved cases of the paranormal kind. That's right: The X-Files is back.

Actors Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny are reprising their roles of Scully and Mulder in six new episodes. The show is being revived under the helm of its original creator, Chris Carter. Duchovny and Anderson tell NPR's Scott Simon how their characters have changed in the years between the original X-Files and this reboot.

With about a week left until the Iowa caucuses, the NPR Politics Podcast team discusses the emerging rifts between GOP candidates and the return of a certain Alaskan politician — and her endorsement of Donald Trump.

Special guest Ari Shapiro, host of All Things Considered, joins the podcast this week. He shares some nuggets from his interview with Hillary Clinton, including how she's talking about Bernie Sanders and her surprising go-to snack on the campaign trail.

On the podcast:

When Marine Cpl. Zach Skiles returned from Iraq, he couldn't sleep, hold down a job or pay rent. Earlier this year, he and his father sat down to talk for the first time about his life after the war.

UPDATE January 26, 11:52 a.m.: This live Q&A has ended. Watch a recorded version in the player above.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

When Sunil Yapa's laptop was stolen, he didn't just lose his computer — he also lost the 600-page novel saved on it. Yapa summoned the will to write it all over again — but a little shorter this time. This second version has turned into a newly published novel about recurring themes in American history.

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist was inspired by a real-life event; in 1999, thousands of demonstrators disrupted a meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle. Badly outnumbered police resorted to using tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets.

Featuring teams in Boston, Buffalo, Connecticut and New York City, the National Women's Hockey League has become home to some of the best players in the world. Meghan Duggan, for example, who was the U.S. Olympic Team captain in the gold-medal game in 2014 in Sochi, plays for the Buffalo Beauts.

It was that hockey final that inspired the league's commissioner and founder, Dani Rylan, to start it. The pro league launched in October. Its first all-star game is scheduled Jan. 24.

In their book published this month, In a Different Key: The Story of Autism, journalists John Donvan and Caren Zucker delve into the history of the good and bad intentions, sometimes wrongheaded science and shifting definitions that can cloud our understanding of what has come to be called the autism spectrum.

Ever scratch your head over political polls that seem to be looking at similar questions — say, how a candidate might do in Iowa — but predict wildly different outcomes?

Polls drive so much of the political news coverage you see and hear. Lots of politics and media reporters follow those polls and report on them — but they don't always explain where they came from, how they were conducted, or why exactly they're so important in the first place.

You know his voice, playing the title roles on the animated TV series Bob's Burgers and Archer, not to mention a can of vegetables in the movie Wet Hot American Summer.

But none of that is why the 20-year comedy veteran Jon Benjamin spoke with All Things Considered. Instead, it was for the most "public radio" of reasons: He has recorded an experimental jazz album.

The country remembers the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday. More than four decades after his death, many people see the Black Lives Matter movement as the modern incarnation of the drive for human dignity and legal standing that Dr. King embodied.

But others, including members of an earlier generation of activists, find fault with the group, seeing it as an aimless, formless group that still lacks direction and follow-through. Meanwhile, younger activists sometimes see their seniors as too narrow in their focus and rigid in their methods.

Across the country, tens of thousands of rape kits are sitting in police evidence rooms — waiting to be tested.

The Sesame Street of your childhood has changed. Elmo has moved into a new apartment, Big Bird has a new nest and Oscar the Grouch is hanging out in recycling and compost bins, alongside his usual trash can.

But the biggest change may be how you watch Sesame Street. The 46th season of the classic children's show premieres Saturday on HBO, the subscription-based network that's home to provocative shows like Game of Thrones and Girls. New episodes of Sesame Street will air on its traditional home, PBS, nine months later.

A quartet of siblings and assorted spouses, lovers and friends all spend a holiday in the English family summer house they'll have to sell. Do you think everything will go just swell for those three weeks? Or will tensions simmer, and secrets break out of storage as quarrels, tears and fatal attractions roil the old house in the summer heat? Tessa Hadley's novel The Past has already been praised in Britain, and now it's out in the U.S. She tells NPR's Scott Simon that she loves to set stories in old houses. "A house is like a metaphor.

The FBI will now track animal abuse the way it tracks arson or assault.

This could help save more animals — and, perhaps, people: Research has shown that animal abuse is often a precursor to other acts of violence. And tracking acts of violence against animals may help law enforcement intervene before that develops into violence against people.

John Thompson, deputy executive director of the National Sheriffs' Association, has been instrumental in moving this idea forward.

In the mid-1960s, Tom Houck left high school to join the civil rights movement. After meeting Martin Luther King Jr. at an event, Houck decided to volunteer for King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

So, Houck made his way to Atlanta.

"I was standing outside waiting for somebody to come pick me up," Houck says, remembering the day he arrived in Atlanta. "All of a sudden, Dr. King drove down the street. He said, 'Tom, you're here.' "

Investigative reporter Dawn Anahid MacKeen's latest story is one her mother always wanted her to tell. It's about her grandfather and how he survived the 1915 Armenian genocide in which 1.5 million Armenians living in modern-day Turkey were killed. (Turkey doesn't recognize the slaughter as a genocide, but says they were the result of widespread conflict across the region.) In journals that became the seeds of MacKeen's new book, The Hundred-Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey, her grandfather told the story of how he escaped a forced march through the desert.

Many Americans know Dame Maggie Smith as the elegant and formidable Dowager Countess of Grantham. But at 81, Smith is now starring in a role that's a long way from Downton Abbey. In The Lady in the Van, Smith is Mary Shepherd — a homeless woman who lived in a derelict van parked in playwright Alan Bennett's driveway for 15 years.

"She was quite happy on the street," Smith tells NPR's Renee Montagne. "But I think Alan was so distressed watching her outside his window all the time that he thought he just had to help."

We don't always act like we're supposed to. We don't save enough for retirement. We order dessert when we're supposed to be dieting. We use the tickets we bought to a concert even though we're sick. In other words: We misbehave.

Our cars are getting smarter and smarter: They may help you park or switch lanes, dictate directions if you need them, link up with your phone to play your calls and music or make sure you stop before it's too late.

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