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Sometimes, a good idea and fate collide to create an interesting opportunity. That's what happened with "All American Boys," a young adult novel whose co-authors chose a contentious subject, racial profiling.

In the face of growing protests, police departments across the country are pledging to try to reduce the use of deadly force.

This week, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said his police department will double its supply of Tasers and will train officers to use them.

The Fayetteville, N.C., police department will spend the next year and a half trying to implement 76 recommendations issued in December by the Department of Justice. Those recommendations range from better record keeping and better information-sharing to trying to reduce the racial disparity in traffic stops.

Now that we've all had a wonderful time over the holidays, we can begin thinking about the election. Let me begin by saying that there are few things more exciting to me than an election year. Back in the day, I'd be headed for Iowa or maybe New Hampshire about now. Because coming right up are the first real judgments by real people. Over several months, we get to hear what ought to happen from our fellow Americans in states in all parts of the country — in places very different from Iowa and New Hampshire.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

It's been an exciting year for developments in space. NPR Science Correspondent Geoff Brumfiel shares three highlights with host Linda Wertheimer.

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A bountiful year in music is coming to a close, so we have invited NPR's musical mastermind Stephen Thompson into the studio to point us toward some favorites. Welcome, Stephen.

STEPHEN THOMPSON: Hi, it's nice to be here, Linda.

Sometimes an aging movie star must sit and watch as a charismatic newcomer steals the spotlight — even inanimate ones. R2-D2, the adorable little robot — or droid — first appeared in Star Wars in 1977. And over the years he's faced cute competition from Yoda, and the Ewoks. But the latest Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, brings us what might be an even cuter new droid: BB-8.

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And now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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Why does Vladimir Putin walk with that signature strut? The study in the current British Medical Journal says Russia's leader walks with what they diagnose as gunslinger's gait, like the marshal in "High Noon."

Frank Sinatra was born a hundred years ago today. Even if you think his music just isn't your music, it's hard to get through life without uttering what I'll call a "Frank Phrase" from one of his songs at telling times in our lives.

"So set 'em up, Joe ... Fly me to the moon ... I've got you under my skin ... My kind of town ... I did it my way ... I want to wake up in a city that doesn't sleep ..." And that wry elegy for lost loves and lonely nights: "So make it one for my baby, and one more for the road."

The Manchester, N.H., regional airport put out a special holiday message this year. And no, it wasn't about trying to bring liquids on board or keeping watch for Santa Claus on radar.

It's meant for people who will get drones this holiday season. "Aircraft operating within a five-mile radius of the airport must contact the airport communications center," they wrote.

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"The Color Purple" is back on Broadway. The musical made from Alice Walker's 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and the basis of a 1985 film by Steven Spielberg then a 2005 musical.

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New research raises alarms about quakes near Cushing, Okla., home to the country's largest oil hub. No damage has been reported, but operators at the hub are on alert. (This piece initially aired on Nov. 30, 2015, on Morning Edition.)

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In Courtney Banks' apartment in Chicago's Kenwood neighborhood, Michelle Saenz opens a laptop.

Banks' youngest child, 18-month-old son, Rasean Wright, squirms and flops on his mother's lap.

He's why Saenz is here: to help Banks talk to her son, to build the little boy's brain.

She is part of a project called the Thirty Million Words Initiative, developed at the University of Chicago after researchers found that children in poor households often hear fewer words spoken to them than youngsters in more comfortable families.

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Scientists at the University of Edinburgh have found a field of dinosaur footprints on the Isle of Skye. The footprints were made by giant dinosaurs 50 feet long that weighed nearly 20 tons. (This piece initially aired on Dec. 3, 2015, on All Things Considered.)

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Brady Carlson

It is perhaps the most famous moment in New Hampshire primary history: a packed auditorium, Ronald Reagan, and the moment he said: "I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green!” [sic]

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This week, an increasing number of consumers are going online to take advantage of Black Friday deals.

Sales for what's known as one of the biggest shopping days of the year were up 20 percent this year, and most of those online shoppers were using smartphone apps.

If you want to get a glimpse of just how difficult it is out here for retailers, just ask 11-year-old Ava Bassarat, who's on a mission to buy an iPod Touch.

It may be the most sensational court case in Britain since the Great Train Robbers went on trial in 1964.

Jurors in London have been hearing evidence against four men who are accused of stealing cash and jewelry worth 14 million pounds — about $21 million — from the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Ltd. last April.

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For decades, some the first ballots in the first in the nation primary have been cast in the same place: the Ballot Room at the Balsams grand resort hotel in Dixville Notch.

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 When it comes to presidential primaries, New Hampshire is always first. But that used to only be part of the slogan printed on bumper stickers and buttons. 

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

Each year Yankee Magazine chooses some of the finest foods of the region - as the magazine puts it, "just in time for holiday entertaining and gift giving."

Jonathan Pollard is out of prison, if not totally free, after 30 years. He's on parole for another five years, during which he'll have to wear a GPS ankle bracelet, won't be able to give interviews, or leave for Israel, where he is considered a hero, and says he wants to live.

He also won't be able to use the internet without U.S. government scrutiny. Someone will point out: can any of us?

In a run-down stretch of Chicago's South Michigan Avenue, miles from the museums and skyscrapers, an army of foot-high paving stones stand on shelves along the street. It's a handmade memorial to honor the young people who have died at the hands of the city's street violence. A name is written on each of the 574 stones.

But they are not just names to Diane Latiker.

It's common wisdom that families should avoid talking about politics around the Thanksgiving table.

But if you're reading this, you might be in an NPR family. And coming up on election year — with polls and gaffes every day — won't it be hard to talk about Car Talk the whole night?

So we turned to Miss Manners, aka writer Judith Martin, to ensure our etiquette's up-to-date this holiday season.

For Martin, the age-old rule, "don't talk politics," still stands.

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