Scott Simon

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

American democracy can seem messy in a week like this. Impeachment hearings looming; six-headed debates; people snapping, sniping; and all the costly, time-consuming and chaotic accouterments of polls, fundraising and campaign rallies.

It's one way to run a country. But we can get a little perspective from around the world.

Just this week in Russia, Vladimir Putin shifted power in the government so when he leaves that office in 2024, he can continue to rule and enrich himself, as he has for 20 years.

Marcus King has rock and roll in his bones: He comes from a family of famed guitarists in Greenville, S.C. With his raspy falsetto and guitar licks, he's been hailed as a revival of B.B. King or Stevie Ray Vaughan.

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The toll of the Australian bush fires is staggering. 27 people have died, more than 2,000 homes destroyed and 18 million acres have burned. A billion animals may have been killed.

Try to hold that horrifying number in your mind a moment: a billion animals.

Kacey Musgraves, the Grammy award-winning country music star, released a Christmas special last month on Amazon Prime's video streaming service. It features Musgraves and with her band, along with special guests including Lana Del Rey, Leon Bridges, Zooey Deschanel, James Corden, the Radio City Rockettes and so many more.

There are scores of holiday stories on streaming services this season, and a lot of them seem rolled out of the same candy cane factory: snow, smiles and the real meaning of love.

As an aficionado of the form, I've tried to sketch out my own version:

Charlayne had an exciting life as managing editor of a Manhattan fashion magazine. But something was missing.

A woman lived in her car in front of our apartment building for a couple of weeks. Our family brought down some food, clothing and a blanket, but the woman hesitated to open her door when we knocked and smiled.

After all, who were we? Why should she trust us?

We did not call police or a city agency to say, "There's a woman living in a car on our street." I've reported stories where I've spent the night in city homeless shelters. They can feel crowded and unsafe, and have little privacy. I can see why someone would choose to stay on the street or in their car.

It's the holiday gift for when you can't think of what else to give. Good for old, young, women, men, north, south — NPR even sells 'em! Socks. And they are having their moment. "Socks have gone through their ups and downs and have had very very many different moments in the fashion world, and there's certainly a resurgence today, as you have probably noticed," says Steven Frumkin, a dean at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. "People want to make a statement, and one of the nice ways of doing it is to have a pair of socks that says something."


As the impeachment inquiry against President Trump continues its march through Congress, questions are churning around his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.

What makes a banana taped to a wall worth $120,000 to someone?

If it has been put there by the right artist.

This banana was duct-taped to a wall by Maurizio Cattelan, the Italian artist, and it's on display this week at Art Basel in Miami Beach.

The banana is real, by the way, not a sculpture. It will soon go brown, slimy, and may already be ... fragrant.

The Perrotin art gallery of Paris has already sold this piece of produce, and it turns out that $120,000 is practically a bargain. Another banana the artist taped to a wall is going for $150,000.

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And talk about methane release. Time to talk sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

William Ruckelshaus was a conservationist, an Indiana Republican conservative who believed in conserving balanced budgets, limited government powers, constitutional checks and balances, and clean air and water.

"Nature provides a free lunch," he said, "but only if we control our appetites."

He helped write Indiana's first air pollution laws as a state deputy attorney general in the 1960s, and was appointed the first head of the Environment Protection Agency by President Nixon in 1970.

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Meg Schmidt's signature song is a Top 40 track that could have been written for her.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHUT UP AND DANCE")

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The forced imprisonment of more than a million Muslim Uighurs in detention camps in the Xinjiang region of western China may make Americans feel outrage and sadness. But many may just shrug and ask, "What does that have to do with me?"

Look down at your shoes.

About 99% of the shoes sold in America are made overseas, with China being the largest manufacturer by far. Nike, Naturalizer, Dr. Scholl's, Hush Puppies, Keds and many other American companies make shoes in China, where the costs of production are far less.

"I think that Tom Waits is an artist who makes art for the sake of making art," singer Allison Moorer says.

It might be called "Revenge of the Pin-Stripes."

In this week's House Intelligence Committee hearings, career diplomats dressed in somber suits who have often been derided as "elites," "insiders," "the establishment," and even "the Deep State" got the chance to tell Americans how they have been nonpartisan representatives of America from administration to administration.

Those parts of their testimony weren't news "bombshells." But their words are worth noting.

What did a meal taste like nearly 4,000 years ago in ancient Babylonia? Pretty good, according to a team of international scholars who have deciphered and are re-creating what are considered to be the world's oldest-known culinary recipes.

The recipes were inscribed on ancient Babylonian tablets that researchers have known about since early in the 20th century but that were not properly translated until the end of the century.

The Berlin Wall stood for 28 years. Today, Nov. 9, marks the 30th anniversary of when it began to come down.

It may be hard to imagine, a generation later, what a momentous event that was and why the sight of ordinary citizens, chipping away by hand and hammer at that edifice of cruelty, lifted so many hopes around the world.

For Alzheimer's Awareness Month, accomplished flutist Eugenia Zukerman has released a new book called Like Falling Through a Cloud: A Lyrical Memoir. It chronicles her internal and emotional journey since a diagnosis of "cognitive difficulties" three years ago.

Just this past September, Zukerman was playing Claude Debussy's "Syrinx" — a piece she figures she's played more than 20,000 times since the age of 10 — when she drew a sudden blank. So although she can't always find the notes these days, Zukerman is persistent in finding the words.

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NPR has lost a friend and an old colleague. News reached us this week that David Rector died last month at the age of 69. He'd suffered an aortic dissection years ago that left him a quadriplegic.

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The field of 2020 presidential candidates with health care overhaul plans is crowded, and Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., is drawing lines of distinction between his proposal and his competitors' plans.

President Trump will attend the Ultimate Fighting Championship, MMA, mixed martial arts event at Madison Square Garden Saturday night. The event, of course, is a punching, kicking, pay-per-view brawl between Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal that takes place inside a cage.

The winner gets a belt embellished with the initials BMF, which does not stand for Best Mocha Frappe.

Mr. Trump is not expected to be booed at Madison Square Garden, as he was at a World Series game earlier this week. The president is a fan and used to book MMA events at his casino in Atlantic City.

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