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Sitting inside a glass-encased cockpit, two men fiddle with joysticks controlling giant claws outside. They look like they're playing at a vending machine at a mall, where you try to grasp a stuffed animal. But these are engineers. The claws they're manipulating are as big as houses, and they're sifting through hundreds of tons of garbage thrown away by the world's largest consumer class.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger’s political power just got a big boost, even if he wasn’t aware of it.

That’s because the Missouri Ethics Commission just declared that candidates can spend money on, say, political ads for or against other politicians as long as there’s no direct coordination with a campaign. Since municipal and county candidates can take donations of an unlimited size, they could be used as a pipeline to help or hurt other candidates.

In what turned out to be his final inauguration speech in 2013, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay described St. Louis County as a place that “we confidently expect to re-enter in this decade.”

The Democrat might have been a bit overconfident, as it’s 2017 and there’s still strong opposition to the idea of a merger throughout St. Louis County. No one really knows what an actual merger would look like, either: Would St. Louis become a county municipality? Or would St. Louis and St. Louis County coalesce into one big city like Indianapolis did in the 1970s?

Still, the lack of headway hasn’t kept the topic from being a prime talking point in the St. Louis mayoral race. Proponents of a merger believe that combining jurisdictions creates some cost savings — and makes it easier to bring in big-ticket development projects.

About 13 years ago, The Alchemist brewery in Waterbury, Vt., released a new IPA called Heady Topper. The brewer, John Kimmich, had decided to neither filter nor pasteurize the beer — both common methods of extending a commercial beer's shelf life. The result was an IPA thicker with the microscopic compounds and particulates that add flavor and aroma. Customers noticed and praised the beer as being especially tasty.

Presidents Day is a time to reflect on the giants. Lincoln. Jefferson. Washington.

And of course, mattress sales.

"You go hunting when the ducks are flying," says Kevin Damewood, the executive vice president of sales and marketing at Kingsdown, a mattress manufacturer.

He says three-day weekends are when people have time to shop for a new mattress. It's also when many people decide to move, and consequently when many people are in the market for a new mattress.

President Trump, who spent the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, held another round of interviews for the position of national security adviser.

Trump interviewed four finalists on Sunday: acting adviser Keith Kellogg, who is a retired three-star Army general; former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton; Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, an Army strategist; and Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr., superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

On the day before President Trump's inauguration, the outgoing Obama administration passed a last-minute directive banning the use of lead ammunition and fishing sinkers on federal land.

Recently, the deteriorating health of a bald eagle showed the effects of lead poisoning. Obama's regulation is intended to protect wildlife from exactly that.

But hunters are hoping Trump will soon overturn it.

Last week, an officer from the Pennsylvania Game Commission brought a bald eagle to the Carbon County Environmental Education Center in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Most of us suffer back pain at some point in our lives. In fact, it's one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor. Many of us also probably reach for medication. Now, new guidelines from the American College of Physicians say try exercise, yoga, or massage first.

That's a pretty big change for both doctors and patients, but a welcome one, some doctors say.

Creating some form of art is commonly believed to help older people stay mentally and physically healthy. Scientific research hasn't quite caught up with that belief.

But that hasn't deterred the dozen or so older adults in Janet Hoult's poetry workshop. She refers to them all as "my poets." They meet weekly at the Culver City Senior Center in Culver City, Calif. Hoult is 80. Her eldest pupil, Ruth Berman, is 91.

During Betsy DeVos' bitter confirmation hearing last month for education secretary, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet pointed to Denver as a potential national model of a big city school district that's found an innovative, balanced approach to school choice.

It’s rare that people find comfort in admitting their fears.  It’s even more unusual to admit those  fears to a group of strangers.

But finding strength in fear, frustration and confusion in a starkly divided nation is one of the aims of This Is Who I Am Now: Artists on Politics,” which takes place today at The Monocle, 4510 Manchester Ave., in St. Louis.

“That’s been one of the biggest things for me, being able to say I’m scared and I have no idea what I’m going to do in the next couple years," organizer Charles Purnell said. "I don’t know what’s going to change, I don’t know what’s going to happen — and knowing that’s OK. It’s OK to be afraid and to admit that.”

Washington University’s medical campus in St. Louis will be getting a lot of new neighbors in the next couple of years, thanks to a new mixed-income development plan nearby.

The $27-million project will include 150 units of housing to buy and rent for both low- and middle-income residents in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood. It aims to continue in the southern part of the area the revitalization seen in The Grove’s shopping and entertainment district to the north.

Increasingly, college life is less about walking across the quad or stopping at the dining hall before sitting in a big lecture hall, and more about flipping open a laptop at home.

Take Royal Witcher, a St. Louis native and Army veteran who lives in Belmont, Mississippi. He completed most of his bachelor’s degree through the University of Phoenix, a fully online institution, but often felt like just a number.

When it was time for his MBA, the 45-year-old did his research — lots of it — and decided on Maryville University, which has a campus in suburban St. Louis. But he didn’t return to Missouri, instead taking advantage of an online degree.

If you are a fan of sketch comedy, then you'd probably know the name Jordan Peele. He, along with Keegan Michael Key wrote and performed in the acclaimed Comedy Central sketch series Key & Peele. The show, which ran for five seasons, earned a Peabody Award and two Primetime Emmys for its hilarious and deeply pointed take on race and culture.

A popular feature among the sketches on Key & Peele was the way it sometimes mixed humor and horror, for example, the zombies who refused to eat black people.

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

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At a rally in New York City's Times Square on Sunday, protesters filled three city blocks to express solidarity with Muslims. The crowd gathered to speak out against President Trump's executive order — now on hold after a unanimous federal appeals court decision — banning immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

It has been three-quarters of a century since President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. The order, issued just over two months after Japan's surprise attack at Pearl Harbor, gave the U.S. military the ability to designate areas "from which any or all persons may be excluded."

Clusters of St. Louis area teens dotted the atrium of the Nestle Purina headquarters on Saturday as the 70-odd students intently debated several mature issues that challenge many adults.

Racial diversity. Transgender identity. Religious tolerance. New Americans and immigrants. Despite taking on different topics, the groups had one thing in common: intense, but civil discussions.

Defense Secretary James Mattis said on Sunday that he disagreed with President Trump's recent declaration that the press is "the enemy."

The chief of Facebook made an ambitious announcement last week, though it would have been easy to miss. It came Thursday afternoon — about the same time that President Trump held his news conference. While the reality-TV icon is a genius at capturing our attention, the technology leader's words may prove to be more relevant to our lives, and more radical.

Author Emily Robbins was a Washington University grad student in August 2013 when she saw St. Louisans protesting in University City against U.S. plans to attack Syria. She was profoundly moved by the local activists and incorporated those feelings into the book she was writing, called “A Word for Love.”

On Wednesday night, Robbins will appear at Left Banks Books to sign copies, and speak about the book and its St. Louis roots.

“There is a very active community here,” Robbins said. “That was something I really drew on and felt proud of in St. Louis.”

In the span of a single sentence, President Trump managed to flummox a nation.

"We've got to keep our country safe," Trump said at a campaign-style rally Saturday in Melbourne, Fla. "You look at what's happening in Germany, you look at what's happening last night in Sweden — Sweden, who would believe this?"

Swedes, in turn, answered Trump's question with a question of their own: "Wait — what?"

The Iraqi offensive to retake the western half of Mosul has begun, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi announced Sunday. The long-awaited assault comes just over a month after Iraqi forces largely cleared Islamic State militants from the districts east of the Tigris River in the major Iraqi city.

To paraphrase an age-old saying: If at first you don't succeed, well, dust off the historic launch pad and try another liftoff.

What a week it was for Donald Trump.

This is a two-part story on immigrants and small town viability. Part one aired on this Weekend Edition Saturday. For the full story, listen to both audio segments.

Like thousands of rural towns across the country, Cawker City, Kan., was built for bygone time.

Resident Linda Clover has spent most of her life in Cawker City, and she loves the place, but it's a shell of the town it used to be.

South Korea's government says it's convinced the North Korean regime orchestrated the bizarre poisoning death of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"We are observing this pointless and merciless incident with grave concern," the South Korean Unification Ministry said in a statement Sunday.

The Children's Relief Ministry orphanage sits at the end of a dirt road in Paynesville, Liberia. There's no running water or electricity. Many of the 40 or so boys and girls who live there lost their parents in the country's civil war or to the more recent Ebola epidemic.

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