NPR Staff

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.

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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Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

On Tuesday, Jan. 12, President Barack Obama will deliver his State of the Union address starting 7 pm. KANW will air live coverage from NPR. NPR will provide live anchored coverage of the President’s speech as well as the Republican response from Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina. This will be the last State of the Union address of President Obama’s presidency.

At around 10 in the morning, five years ago, Emma McMahon pulled up in the parking lot of a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Ariz. The high schooler was there with her mother, Mary Reed, excited to attend an event held by then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

There was a line, probably 15 people ahead of them, but luckily, McMahon already had some work to keep her busy — a clipboard stacked with college applications, Reed recalls on a recent visit with StoryCorps.

The era of the real-life whodunit series is upon us. The podcast Serial first attracted legions of listeners drawn to the question of whether a young man should have been put in prison for the murder of his former high school girlfriend. HBO's documentary The Jinx focused on a trail of murdered and missing intimates of a troubled scion of a wealthy family.

Our food-obsessed media landscape has proven fertile ground for wordplay. There are now new words to describe every food niche or gastronomical preference.

Can't stand little kids running amok in your favorite Korean fusion restaurant? You might have bratophobia. And you could be a gastrosexual if you use your cooking prowess to attract that new special someone.

In his new book, Eatymology, humorist and food writer Josh Friedland has collected many of these neologisms in a 21st century food dictionary.

As part of a series called My Big Break, All Things Considered is collecting stories of triumph, big and small. These are the moments when everything seems to click, and people leap forward into their careers.

We often hear about school districts that struggle with high poverty, low test scores and budget problems. But one district has faced all of these and achieved remarkable results.

In just over three years, Superintendent Tiffany Anderson, who oversees the Jennings School District in Jennings, a small city just outside St. Louis, has led a dramatic turnaround in one of the worst-performing systems in Missouri.

Music lovers were shocked and saddened to hear of the death singer Natalie Cole on New Year's Eve. Cole was 65.

She was the daughter of jazz icon Nat King Cole but went on to create her own legacy, selling millions of albums across a wide range of genres and winning nine Grammy awards.

Two of Natalie Cole's younger sisters, twins Casey and Timolin Cole, run a nonprofit called The Nat King Cole Generation Hope, which is dedicated to supporting music education in public schools.

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.

Christmas with children usually means lots of toys under the tree. And sometimes those toys aren't quite ready for the kids straight out of the packaging.

The dreaded words "assembly required" can make any post-Christmas day more stressed than relaxed. We asked some of our listeners and readers to share their most memorable — and panicked — experiences putting together toys, with any advice for minimizing frustration along the way.

Clay Crawford, Pensacola, Fla.

For centuries, Chesapeake Bay oysters were harvested by skipjacks, those tall, sleek, singled-masted sailboats.

The skipjacks are mostly gone now, replaced by more efficient, less majestic ways of fishing. But one skipjack captain refuses to fade away.

Kermit Travers, 78, is one of the first and last African-American skipjack captains. He's been sailing the Chesapeake for most of his life.

Cooking gadgets seem to be a solid go-to when you're not sure what to give someone. Who wouldn't be charmed with a laser-guided pizza cutter? A one-click butter dispenser? An electric bacon-bowl maker?

This holiday season, one popular Christmas carol has been raising some questions here at NPR headquarters. Namely:

"Oh, bring us some figgy pudding, oh, bring us some figgy pudding, oh — "

Wait. What is figgy pudding?

First of all, it's "absolutely delicious," says Debbie Waugh, who recently served the dish at a tea at the Historic Green Spring House in Alexandria, Va.

Figgy pudding — also known as plum pudding or Christmas pudding — is a staple of the British Christmas table, she says.

How many times have your teachers or editors told you that every word counts? Now, it turns out that every character you send counts, too.

In fact, it turns out that the best way to punctuate a text message may be by not punctuating it at all: Researchers at Binghamton University have found that ending your text with a period — full stop — may make you seem more insincere.

Christmas is coming, and by now you've probably heard all the standards, whether you want to or not — the chestnuts, the jingle bells, the usual deal. But if you're looking for something different this year and your politics lean left, then Grammy-winning soul singer Macy Gray has something for you.

During a sensitive time of global scrutiny surrounding Islam and Muslims, one unexpected image relating to the religion drew a more positive light.

Ali Kadri, a Muslim man living in Brisbane, Australia, posted a picture to his Facebook page last weekend that got the attention of tens of thousands of people. The picture showed Kadri with an imam, taking part in evening prayers at a Mormon church after having been invited to the Christmas program by his Mormon friend Michael Bennallack.

When NBC announced The Wiz -- the African-American version of The Wizard of Oz, presented as a hit Broadway musical and a movie — would be produced as a live television production, some TV watchers may have groaned.

Previous live telecasts of other musicals have gotten attention mainly as a target for hate-watching. But The Wiz Live! seems to have broken that spell: When it aired earlier this month, it earned 11.5 million viewers — and more if you count DVR replays.

Interviewing a sitting president is no small deal. There are the physical logistics of it — getting together the interviewer, editors, producer, engineer, and a five-person video crew, plus all that audio and video equipment. And then, importantly, the preparation that goes into asking timely, tough and interesting questions.

In municipal council races in Saudi Arabia a week ago, 21 female candidates were elected to office. In the country's third-ever elections, the monarchy gave women the right to vote, as well as to seek election to office.

Nearly 1,000 women ran throughout the country, but while there were 1.36 million men registered to vote, according to the Wall Street Journal, only 130,000 women could vote.

One of the hottest gifts of the season is a little too hot — hot enough to catch fire.

Hoverboards have been burning up because of problems with their lithium-ion batteries.

Pain, grief and emotional loss follow mass shootings in America, and there are also other costs that add up to violence's financial toll. It's Ted Miller's job to crunch numbers on social ills like mass shootings. He's a health economist with the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation.

Aja Raden's new book, Stoned, is about jewelry, but on the first page she lays out a bold statement: "The history of the world is the history of desire."

"There's no more powerful statement than 'I want,' " Raden tells NPR's Audie Cornish. " 'I want that. I want them.' ... Even if it's an issue of survival, you still are driven by what you want and what you are compelled to take or have or maintain."

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