NPR Staff

For the pious Puritans of early America, witchcraft was a crime of the highest order.

Back then, the term "witch hunt" was not just an expression: In 1692, 19 women and men were hanged and one pressed to death with stones after being found guilty of witchcraft.

In her book The Witches, author Stacy Schiff follows the buildup of fear and outrageous tales of consorting with the devil. The witch trials were set in motion by two young Salem girls in the grip of strange and disturbing symptoms.

"The Unicode Consortium" may sound like the dark cabal of villains in a James Bond movie. And though they aren't plotting world domination in a volcano lair, they do hold a lot of power — over your text messages.

The Unicode Consortium's job has always been to make basic symbols work across all computers and other devices, but the emoji has put the group at the center of pop culture.

Lewis Carroll's Wonderland is a singular place. It's a place that symbolizes the beauty and strange, illogical nature of childhood; a place that has captivated children and adults for 150 years. This year, the anniversary of Alice in Wonderland has been celebrated in museums, and it's also being marked in literature.

What would you do if a stranger stopped you on the street, asked to take your picture and asked to hear your story?

For the past five years, photographer Brandon Stanton has been doing exactly that — on the streets of New York, no less — and thousands of people have said yes. Stanton has been not only collecting their stories and images, but also sharing them on his blog, Humans of New York.

A new James Bond movie tends to mean a few things: a new villain, two new Bond girls (one of whom may or may not be painted gold), and — perhaps most dependably — a new song playing behind the opening credits. Fifty years of Bond films has left much music to be analyzed, and the Oxford University Press does just that in a new book called The James Bond Songs: Pop Anthems of Late Capitalism.

Jamie Cullum, musician and BBC Radio 2 host, is constantly searching for the freshest sounds in jazz music. A frequent guest on Weekend Edition, he recently visited the program to share new music from Matthew Halsall & the Gondwana Orchestra, Daymé Arocena and Sons of Kemet. The sounds range from Coltrane-influenced spiritual jazz to acoustic club music informed by the traditional sounds of Ethiopia and West Africa.

Screenwriter Abi Morgan told Margaret Thatcher's life story in The Iron Lady, and co-wrote the controversial film Shame, about a sex addict. Her stories for movies and television have gotten Oscar nods, BAFTAs and plenty of other awards.

Oprah Winfrey lifts the popularity of almost anything she embraces. On Monday, Weight Watchers announced that the billionaire media mogul would be giving it her midas touch by acquiring a 10 percent stake in the diet company.

Winfrey will join the board and will lend her name and image to Weight Watchers marketing. Shares of the company more than doubled by the end of the day.

In the new film Room — based on the novel by Emma Donoghue — a young woman, held captive for seven years, breaks free with her son, who's never seen the outside world. All he knows is the world of Room, of Table and Lamp and Skylight, and occasionally Old Nick, the man who kidnapped his mother.

So if I say Aunt Jemima, you think what? Fluffy pancakes and waffles?

For sure.

Loving hospitality?


But for some, the title, the image, even the updated version sans headwrap, evokes other feelings, including anger, over a racial stereotype of a black woman with no apparent life of her own. One who is happiest in the kitchen getting ready to serve her white folks.

Well, just who were the real Aunt Jemimas, the real black cooks and chefs whose craft and skill did so much to define American cuisine?

Gotta grab a reader with the first sentence? Here's one from Fredrick Forsyth: "We all make mistakes, but starting the Third World War would have been a rather large one."

Forsyth has written masterful thrillers for more than 40 years, from The Day of the Jackal to The Dogs of War to The Odessa File and The Kill List. He's said he won't write an autobiography. But he doesn't mind sharing a few stories about the life and times that have shaped him, and his work.

City on Fire, the new novel from Garth Risk Hallberg, bears a price tag that may give some people pause. Not the listed $30 purchase price on the store shelf — the $2 million advance he received to write his first novel.

Secretary of State John Kerry stepped before a packed auditorium Thursday. He was at Indiana University for the opening of a school of international studies.

"I have managed to completely forget that when running for president in 2004, I was crushed in Indiana," he quipped.

Kerry was welcomed Thursday as he promoted the Obama administration's recent international agreements, like deals on Pacific trade and Iran's nuclear program.

The transformation of a young boy protected from war into a child soldier perpetrating war is at the center of the new film Beasts of No Nation.

The boy — named Agu — lives in an unnamed African country. He loses his family and his world when government troops hunting down rebels destroy his village. Agu escapes into the forest, only to be recruited into the rebel cause: A battalion of child soldiers. For them, survival depends on the brutal acts they're ordered to carry out.

From floating old food in Jell-O molds to casseroles to cold pizza, the way we reuse and eat leftovers in America is special.

And it turns out that if you track our relationship with leftovers over time, you will understand a lot about our economy and how we live.

In mid-November, diners at the New York restaurants Gramercy Tavern and The Modern may notice something new on their menus: higher prices, across the board.

From his roles in Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to the Dick Van Dyke Show and, most recently, the Night at the Museum movies, actor Dick Van Dyke has been in our collective consciousness for a very long time.

Though he seems to be ageless, the Emmy, Tony and Grammy Award-winning star turns 90 next month. And to help mark the occasion he's published a new book with author Todd Gold, Keep Moving: And Other Tips and Truths About Aging.

Colum McCann first won fans around the world with his bestselling novel Let The Great World Spin. The Irish author is now releasing a new collection of short fiction — a novella and three stories — called Thirteen Ways of Looking. They're tales that deal with parenthood, loss and just how arbitrary life can be. In one story, a mother searches desperately for her adopted and disabled son who has gone missing on coast of Ireland.

Steve Jobs was a man whose vision helped change how the world sees and uses technology. He was also an indifferent father, a selfish colleague and a mercurial, even abusive, boss.

A new film from director Danny Boyle shed light on all these facets of the complex founder of Apple. Boyle, together with screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and leading man Michael Fassbender, set out to create a tightly wrought record of one of the late 20th century's most iconic figures — which Boyle found to be a tall order.

As the debate over gun ownership and gun control is renewed following the shooting deaths of nine people, including the gunman, at an Oregon community college earlier this month, there's the voice of an evangelical leader whose views might be different from what some would expect.

When you think of a nuclear meltdown, a lifeless wasteland likely comes to mind — a barren environment of strewn ashes and desolation. Yet nearly 30 years after the disaster at the nuclear reactor in Chernobyl, in the former Soviet Union, a very different reality has long since taken root.

In and around Chernobyl, wildlife now teems in a landscape long abandoned by humans. The area has been largely vacant of human life since 31 people died in the catastrophe and cleanup.

Ted Hughes left behind a path of personal tragedy and destruction — and also some of the most beautiful poetry in the English language. The British Poet Laureate was the husband of writer Sylvia Plath, who famously committed suicide following his affair with Assia Wevill. Just six years later, Wevill took her own life, and also the life of the young daughter she had with Hughes.

It's Oct. 1, two days before the season's first Saturday Night Live goes on air. Guest host Miley Cyrus is rehearsing, rumors are flying that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is going to be on the show — and executive producer Lorne Michaels is in his office overlooking studio 8H, worrying.

Shortly after she left Northern California for Los Angeles, Andrea Crook began to experience things she'd never felt before: paranoid thoughts, delusions, erratic behavior. It was the first time she had shown symptoms of mental illness.

"Man, in New Orleans we really are fortunate — we got some of the best things in the world," Chef Paul Prudhomme once said. "And one of those things is the muffuletta sandwich."

And one of the best things about New Orleans was Prudhomme himself.

He was known for introducing blackened redfish to the rest of us, for his cooking demos and for his line of magic spices. Needless to say, Prudhomme changed the way the world saw Louisiana cooking.

He has died at the age of 75.

When comic book writer Kelly Sue DeConnick got the opportunity to reimagine Captain Marvel as a blond, blue-eyed fighter pilot named Carol, she made changes to the character that some fans didn't like.

Carol now wears a flight suit — not the sexy dominatrix outfit she used to wear back when she was Ms. Marvel. For that, DeConnick was accused of having a feminist agenda.

Ten years ago, Stephenie Meyer put a twist on the whole boy-meets-girl thing.

In her young adult novel Twilight, girl meets vampire and, later, werewolf. The supernatural romance between Bella and Edward sparked a saga that includes four best-selling books translated into more than 50 languages and five blockbuster movies.

For the past few years, crime has been mostly a good news story — the crime rate remains near record lows. But several major U.S. cities have been experiencing a rise in homicides and other violence this year.

Now, the Justice Department is bringing together police and prosecutors to figure out what's going on, and how the federal government can help.