News You Can Use

The North Mississippi Allstars have been the modern-day torchbearers for the distinct, funky, Hill Country blues associated with their native state for 22 years. Led by the brother team of guitarist Luther Dickinson and drummer/multi-instrumentalist Cody Dickinson, the band makes its third appearance on Mountain Stage since 2001, with songs from their latest record Prayer For Peace.

A class-action lawsuit against the City of New York has spurred the first suit of its kind that promises cash compensation to those who say they were illegally put in solitary confinement while at Rikers Island jail complex between 2012 and 2015. As the Associated Press reports, the city will pay more than $4 million to 470 plaintiffs in the case.

Wildfires in December are the new norm for California.

In the West, they are burning hotter and more intensely than ever due to climate change, and the situation is made worse by the explosion of development in fire prone areas and past firefighting decisions. Here are three reasons the fires are massive and likely won't abate anytime soon.

1. It's nearly impossible to put out a modern mega-fire

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/.

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/.

Friday is the last day to enroll in a health insurance plan through the federal government's insurance exchange, HealthCare.gov.

And in a little office park in Northern Virginia, Brima Bob Deen is dealing with the rush.

The Philippine Congress has extended martial law on the southern island of Mindanao for another year at the request of President Rodrigo Duterte, who says it is needed to continue the fight against armed groups in the region.

The move was overwhelmingly approved by both the Senate and House of Representatives, where Duterte and his allies hold big majorities. Duterte first imposed martial law in the Muslim-dominated south in May, and Wednesday's vote extends it through 2018.

Today's Planet Money indicator is 4.55 percent. The Federal Reserve said just this afternoon that the American economy is at full employment when the unemployment rate is 4.55 percent.

The Fed updates this estimate every few months. And for years, it's been getting the number wrong.

Today on the show, what is full employment, why is it so hard to pin down, and most importantly, are we there yet?

Schools across the country are nervously watching to see if the Federal Communications Commission chooses to repeal Obama-era regulations that protect an open internet, often referred to as "net neutrality."

The 2015 rules are meant to prevent internet providers, such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, from controlling what people can watch and see on the internet. Companies can't block access to any websites or apps, and can't meddle with loading speeds.

When it comes to maligning the news media, Morrissey has few peers. As he sings in "Spent The Day In Bed," a song from his most recent album Low In High School: "I recommend that you stop / watching the news / because the news contrives to frighten you / to make you feel small and alone / to make you feel that your mind isn't your own."

In Washington and around the country, Democrats and Republicans are trying to make sense of Doug Jones' stunning upset in the Alabama Senate race.

Jones' victory in a state that hadn't sent a Democrat to Washington in almost 30 years was even more shocking than when Republican Scott Brown won the late Ted Kennedy's seat in a Massachusetts special election in 2010.

Here are 5 takeaways from Tuesday's political earthquake:

1. The blue wave looks real

It has been called antiquated and even insulting.

But back in 1900, "Negro" was considered modern — a term that could replace a flawed set of categories used to classify people of African descent for the U.S. census.

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

Updated at 3:45 p.m. ET

For the third time this year and the fifth time since the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve has increased interest rates another quarter of a point.

This has been tough year for America's west coast vineyards. Wildfires in October in Northern California and this month in Southern California have left acres of wine country scorched and black. While California's 2017 grapes have been safely harvested already, winemakers around the world are wary about a threat that is growing along with the frequency of wildfires: smoke taint.

When Rory Graham was 19 or 20 years old, he sang in public for the first time. And he didn't really think there was anything special about his voice. Turns out, the world disagrees.

Updated at 4:39 p.m. ET

In making his "closing argument" for tax legislation expected to get a vote in Congress next week, President Trump announced that the changes would take effect early next year.

"If Congress sends me a bill before Christmas, the IRS — this is just out, this is breaking news — has just confirmed that Americans will see lower taxes and bigger paychecks beginning in February, just two short months from now," Trump said in a speech at the White House Wednesday

Updated at 6:17 p.m. ET

Omarosa Manigault Newman, the former Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice contestant turned White House aide, is stepping down from her post. In a terse statement Wednesday, the White House said she "resigned yesterday to pursue other opportunities. Her departure will not be effective until January 20, 2018. We wish her the best in future endeavors and are grateful for her service."

The nomination of Brett Talley, the Justice Department official in line for a lifetime judicial appointment, "will not be moving forward," a Trump administration official told NPR on Wednesday.

Talley had been rated "unanimously unqualified" for the post by the American Bar Association this year after an evaluation that questioned his experience. Talley had never argued a case, or even a motion, in federal court, he testified.

Updated at 11:50 a.m. ET

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith has been appointed to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by Al Franken's upcoming resignation.

Smith, a Democrat, will serve until January 2019. She also plans to run in a special election next year to serve out the entirety of Franken's term, which ends in 2020, according to a source who spoke to Minnesota Public Radio.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says his people no longer want the U.S. involved in brokering any Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, after President Trump decided to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital last week.

Abbas called Trump's actions a crime and said he'll appeal to the United Nations.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Gifts

9 hours ago

Whether you're looking for gift ideas or simply looking for an hour of fine music, we have the perfect blend, featuring Cherish the Ladies, Nicola Benedetti and Pete Clark.

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

I always get excited about putting together Goats and Soda's list of most-read stories of the year. To me, it reveals a lot about how our audience feels about the world — what did you find surprising? Share-worthy? Illuminating?

You loved the stories that got you woke: how to ethically take selfies while volunteering abroad; how the Western media visually portrays women and girls in the developing world.

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