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Many of Lee Daniels' projects — the movie Precious, the TV shows Empire and Star — tend to be about people who start with everything against them and rise up to do amazing things. (While occasionally killing people along the way, which happens.)

In Empire, Daniels created one of the great TV characters of our time — the ambitious record company matriarch Cookie Lyon — so we'll be quizzing him on actual cookies.

Click the audio link above to see how he does.

For the past six weeks, voters in Germany have been inundated by campaign posters ahead of Sunday's national election.

Passers-by walking down the street in just about every German city, town or village get a detailed look at who is running in their district and a condensed version of their campaign messages.

Green Party posters warn Germans to "either end coal or end climate." Another message: "Healthy food doesn't come from nature that's sick."

The anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany placards are even blunter.

President Trump's poll slide appears to have stabilized.

Trump, who came into office with the lowest recorded approval and favorability ratings of any president, saw a steady decline in the months that followed his inauguration.

Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke has just installed an arcade game called Big Buck Hunter Pro in his department's cafeteria. Interior staffers can now take a few minutes' break to aim toy rifles at a video screen and plink away at animated elk, antelope, caribou and deer.

The bucks fall over dead, but don't bleed. It's a game.

Hispanic Heritage Month is a nationally recognized, not-quite-a-month. (It's the back half of September and the front half of October).

Welcome to the latest installment of our education news roundup. This week: student loans, HBCUs, federal education policy and more:

The Department of Education scolds an online university

Western Governors University was ineligible for federal student aid and may have to return more than $700 million, according to an audit by the U.S. Education Department's oversight branch.

China is imposing new limits on trade with North Korea after the isolated country's latest nuclear test.

China's Ministry of Commerce said Saturday it would limit refined petroleum exports starting Oct. 1 and ban the import of North Korean textiles immediately. It would ban exports of liquefied natural gas to the North immediately as well.

China accounts of about 90 percent North Korea's trade, according to The Associated Press. The BBC estimates the textile ban will cost the North more than $700 million per year.

President Trump traveled to Alabama Friday night to stump for his chosen candidate, Sen. Luther Strange, ahead of Tuesday's bitter GOP Senate primary.

But even he acknowledged his alliance with the appointed senator was somewhat strange given the fact that so many of his allies — such as former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, former national security aide Sebastian Gorka and former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin — are all backing Strange's opponent, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore.

Well before this year's series of historically powerful hurricanes, Puerto Rico already had a notoriously fickle power supply and crushing debt — the power authority effectively declared bankruptcy in July. Power outages were routine, even in cities.

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When Alexia Boggs was applying to law school, she initially considered all the big specialties, but none of them seemed quite right.

"I was looking for a field of law where none of my family could ever seek my help," she says, sarcastic but also not really joking.

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The words between the U.S. and North Korea this week have been blunt, provocative and personal.

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Let's meet the two Republicans who are running for U.S. Senate in Alabama. Their runoff election is Tuesday. It's a race that's drawn outsized money and attention. And President Trump has endorsed Luther Strange, who was appointed to the seat earlier this year.

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The trouble at West High School started on Monday. That's when students and teachers at the Salt Lake City school noticed something.

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This week the big story in baseball is pretty sobering. It's about the safety of fans at the ballpark.

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Meredith and Martha Holley-Miers live in a brick row house in Washington, D.C. with their two kids and a big rainbow flag in front. The couple has been legally married for seven years — and together for 14 years.

When they decided to have a baby, they "went through a lot of time and a lot of money and a lot of heartache trying to get pregnant," Martha says. They used an anonymous sperm donor, and it took them many months. When Martha gave birth to daughter Janey — now a bubbly 8-year-old — in 2009, they knew that they'd need to put forth yet more time, money, and heartache.

Nasty, brutish and short.

Until about the last decade or so, that is how many of us were accustomed to thinking about Neanderthal life.

But a lot has changed since then, not least of which is the emergence of smoking gun DNA evidence that Neanderthals are, in fact, family.

Now a new study runs counter to earlier thinking by suggesting that Neanderthals reached maturity at about the same rate as modern humans.

Updated at 8:15 p.m. ET

One of the public's unanswered questions about Russia's attempts to break into election systems last year was which states were targeted. On Friday, states found out.

The Department of Homeland Security said earlier this year that it had evidence of Russian activity in 21 states, but it failed to inform individual states whether they were among those targeted. Instead, DHS authorities say they told those who had "ownership" of the systems — which in some cases were private vendors or local election offices.

Installing solar panels on your home could become more expensive, depending on how President Trump responds to a decision Friday by the U.S. International Trade Commission.

The ITC found that low-cost, imported solar panels from China and other countries have hurt two domestic manufacturers. They are Georgia-based Suniva and Oregon-based SolarWorld.

President Trump is facing a decision on whether to extend the ban on travelers from six majority-Muslim nations from entering the U.S. This week, acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke sent the White House her recommendations for "tough and tailored" security vetting, to replace the current ban, which expires Sunday.

Updated 10:10 p.m. ET Fri

Though the brunt of Hurricane Maria has left Puerto Rico, the island's water worries continue. On Friday afternoon, the National Weather Service reported that the Guajataca Dam in the northwest is "failing," causing flash flooding. Buses were trying to evacuate people from the area "as quickly as they can," the service said.

Iran unveiled a new ballistic missile Friday, showing off the weapon during a military parade in Tehran. "When it comes to defending our country, we will ask nobody for their permission," President Hassan Rouhani said.

Compounding Puerto Rico's devastation in the wake of Hurricane Maria is the fact that so much is still unknown. Because most of the island's cellphone sites are out of service and the power grid is down, it has been difficult or impossible to connect with the people who live there — whether from the mainland or from another part of the island.

Atlanta resident Silkia Babilonia, who lives in Atlanta, says that since the storm, she hasn't been able to reach friends and family on the island's west side.

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