NPR News

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the eighth episode in the widely popular intergalactic series, ascended to first place among American and Canadian movie-goers in its debut weekend.

From Friday through Sunday, it brought in an estimated $220 million domestically, making it the No. 1 debut of the year, according to Disney. Its weekend haul also earns it the title of the second biggest domestic debut of all time, behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens, its predecessor released in 2015.

Opponents of special counsel Robert Mueller ramped up their attacks over the weekend with a new claim that he improperly collected thousands of emails from President Trump's transition team and is using them as an illegitimate basis for much of his investigation.

Mueller's office said his team has obtained all the evidence it's using in its investigation properly. And Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed him, told Congress last week that he monitors Mueller's operation closely and has seen nothing improper.

Police have launched an investigation after a woman working at the British Embassy was found strangled on a roadside outside the capitol city of Beirut on Saturday, Lebanese officials said.

NPR's Ruth Sherlock has confirmed with the embassy that the victim is Rebecca Dykes, a British national.

"We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Rebecca," her family said in a statement, released by the Foreign Office. "We are doing all we can to understand what happened. We request that the media respect our privacy."

As was her habit, 22-year-old Bethany Stephens took her dogs for a walk in the woods near her childhood home in Goochland, Va., about 30 miles outside Richmond. But when she did not return home by Thursday night, her father grew concerned and called police, who made a terrible discovery. Stephens had been attacked and killed by her own pit bulls, police say.

As the year winds down, three new crew members are set to begin a mission aboard the International Space Station. Early Sunday, an American, a Russian and a Japanese astronaut blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in a Soyuz spacecraft.

So far the reaction has been swift and strong to our investigation into Ballou High School in Washington D.C., where we shed light on chronic absenteeism and a pressure teachers say they felt to pass failing students and get them to graduation.

A secret Pentagon program existed for at least three years and spent more than $20 million in research on UFOs, according to multiple media reports published Saturday.

The program reportedly examined cases including incidents of military pilots claiming to have seen flying objects that appeared to "defy the laws of physics."

Rep. Leonard Lance On GOP Tax Bill

8 hours ago

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

Investigating The Many Deaths In Utah's Jails

8 hours ago

Copyright 2017 KUER 90.1. To see more, visit KUER 90.1.

The Pentagon's Search For UFOs

8 hours ago

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

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

A new study found that teenagers are increasingly depressed, feel hopeless and are more likely to consider suicide. Researchers found a sudden increase in teens' symptoms of depression, suicide risk factors and suicide rates in 2012 — around the time when smartphones became popular, says Jean Twenge, one of the authors of the study.

Grizelle González is an ecologist who's worked at El Yunque National Forest for 25 years — first as a student and then as a researcher with the U.S. Forest Service. The 46-year-old has a deep attachment to the tropical rainforest. Even now, she gets emotional when she recalls what El Yunque looked like after Hurricane María hit the island on Sept. 20.

"It was completely defoliated," she says, tears welling in her eyes. "The canopy was completely gone. It was almost like a desert landscape."

From the airwaves of conservative media to the hearing rooms of the House of Representatives, Republican allies of the White House are attacking the Department of Justice investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Ursula K. Le Guin's mastery of fiction has remained so consistent throughout her decades-long career, it's easy to overlook her accomplishments in other forms. Sure, she's the author of iconic, award-winning science fiction novels such as 1969's The Left Hand of Darkness and 1971's The Lathe of Heaven, not to mention the beloved fantasy series The Earthsea Cycle, which began in 1968. But those distinct works share Le Guin's firm grasp of poetic language, science, and history. Accordingly, she's a brilliant poet, albeit a less recognized one.

Office holiday parties have always posed a liability for employers, as coworkers mix with one another with plenty of company-supplied alcohol. Sensitivity is running particularly high this year, though, as new sexual harassment allegations emerge against high-profile figures every day.

Office holiday functions do serve a legitimate business purpose: They can boost morale and reward workers for jobs well done.

The Thomas Fire in Southern California has raged for nearly two weeks, and on Saturday new evacuation orders were issued in Santa Barbara County as a local zoo made preparations to move some of its animals out of the danger zone.

The wildfire, which has burned 259,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,000 structures, is considered the third-largest in state history. Officials said about 18,000 homes and other buildings are threatened by the blaze, which is only 40 percent contained.

Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., who has been haunted for two weeks by allegations of sexual harassment, said Saturday that he will not seek re-election in 2018.

Kihuen's announcement comes a day after the House Ethics Committee said it has opened an investigation looking into the allegations leveled at the 37-year-old freshman congressman by a former campaign aide.

In a statement, Kihuen reiterated that he had done nothing wrong and said he looked forward to being cleared of any allegations of sexual misconduct.

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

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

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

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

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

Playwright Tracy Letts says that by the time the 2016 election happened, he was almost finished writing The Minutes.

"It was a job of work to keep the blinders on and not make the play about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or — actually, to escape into the world of the play during that political moment was great, was solace," he says.

The artistic director of Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Anna Shapiro, says The Minutes was solace for her too. Letts sent her the play just a few weeks after the election.

Pope Francis, in speaking to a group of journalists Saturday, addressed the importance of a free and responsible press while also warning against falling "prey to the sins of communication."

He was speaking to members of the Italian Periodical Press Union and the Italian Federation of Catholic Weeklies and said that in a field "dominated by the anxiety of speed, by the drive for sensationalism," reliable information is at a premium.

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

31 Years Later, Spike Lee Puts A New Spin On 'She's Gotta Have It': In a new 10-part Netflix series, Lee revisits his story of a young black artist who loves sex but isn't interested in a committed relationship.

Updated at 3:34 p.m. ET

Trump Administration officials at the Department of Health and Human Services are pushing back on a report saying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a mandate to no longer use words and phrases including "fetus," "transgender" and "science-based."

Austria finalized a deal late Friday to make 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz Europe's youngest leader and to form a new governing coalition that will include a far-right party with Nazi roots.

Exactly two months after Austrians went to the polls, Kurz struck a deal to join his conservative Austrian People's Party with the right-wing Freedom Party, led by Heinz-Christian Strache.

The deadliest mass shooting in modern American history claimed the lives of 58 people, injured 546, and profoundly affected thousands more.

Melissa Barham was at the Jason Aldean concert on Oct. 1 when the shooter began his fusillade. She was sitting with her son and his girlfriend. Barham's daughter sat not far away, near the stage.

In Sidney, Neb., Cabela's corporate headquarters and flagship superstore sit up on a hill like a castle over the prairie. Pretty much everybody in town has deep ties to it. Melissa Norgard got her first job there working in the store's deli when she was 16.

"When I was growing up here, no, I never would have ever thought, Cabela's leaving, no," Norgard says.

Pages