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When I told folks in Kansas that I was going to be in the southeastern corner of the state, everybody said, you've got to go see Big Brutus. What's Big Brutus? It is the world's largest electric shovel.

So we headed to West Mineral, Kan.

You can see it on the horizon from miles away. At the very top, it's 160 feet, or like a 16-story building.

Our guide is Betty Becker, 75. She's the manager of Big Brutus and the mining museum — and she's been working here since the place opened in 1985.

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Crowds In Boston Protest Immigration Ban

Jan 29, 2017

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Charley Pride is the first African-American country singer to ever perform at the Grand Ole Opry. In total, he's sold some 70 million records and recorded dozens of No. 1 hits — and in two weeks, Pride will be presented with a lifetime achievement award at the Grammys. Pretty extraordinary for a man born and raised in Mississippi, the son of a sharecropper.

On-air challenge: Every answer today is a made up two-word phrase, in which the first word has six letters. Its last three letters spell the second word that will complete the phrase.

For Example: Scurrying insect whose appearance has been affected by radiation --> MUTANT ANT

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On-air challenge: Today I've brought a game of categories based on the word COMBS. You probably know how this works. I'm going to give you a series of categories. For each one, name something in it starting with each of the letters C-O-M-B-S.

For example, if the category were "Three-Syllable Boys' Names," you might say Christopher, Oliver, Mathias, Benjamin and Sebastian. Any answer that works is fine, and you can give the answers in any order.

1. Musical instruments

2. Cities in Florida

3. Wild mammals in America

Author Julia Alekseyeva's great-grandmother Lola lived to be 100 years old, long enough to see the birth, and eventual collapse, of the USSR. In 1992, she and her family — including young Julia — moved from Kiev to Chicago.

Unbeknownst to her family, Lola began to write her memoirs, recording the stories of her life as a Jew in the Soviet Union, filled with vivid details and enlivened by a strong, independent spirit. Upon Lola's death, Julia discovered her great-grandmother's memoirs, and has now transformed them into her debut graphic novel, Soviet Daughter.

Children's book doyenne Margaret Wise Brown is having a big week.

Fashion And The First Lady

Jan 15, 2017

Soon-to-be First Lady Melania Trump is a former model and had her own QVC jewelry and watch collection. Current First Lady Michelle Obama has projected an image that's glamorous and relatable. NPR takes a peek at the new first lady's style.

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Vidya Iyer is a YouTuber. Her claim to fame - cover music videos.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO)

How To Tell A Story Through Emails

Jan 15, 2017

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Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran's fourth president and a towering figure in the country, has died at the age of 82, according to Iranian state media.

For decades, the Shiite Muslim cleric played an outsize role in Iranian politics. An aide to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the country's 1979 revolution, Rafsanjani served on the Revolutionary Council that helped transform the newborn Islamic Republic from a monarchy into a theocracy.

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Turkish authorities are still searching for the gunmen who stormed in Istanbul nightclub early this morning. At least 39 people were killed. Mustafa Akyol is a journalist and author and joins us now from Istanbul. Welcome.

Much has been said about the physical and psychological injuries of war, like traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder. But what we talk about less is how these conditions affect the sexual relationships of service members after they return from combat.

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(SOUNDBITE OF CHUCK BERRY'S "RUN RUDOLPH RUN")

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Owen Delaney is an avid runner. A couple weeks ago, he looked at a map of his local park in London and he saw all the normal things - trails, a fountain but also an opportunity.

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On-air challenge: The theme of today's puzzle is giving. I'm going to give you two words. You give each of them a letter — the same letter for each word — in order to complete a familiar two-word phrase.

We met up with pastry chef Aggie Chin again this past week to bring you her recommendation for a family-style dessert perfect for a holiday dinner: pear upside down spice cake.

She cooked this delectable one in a kitchen with NPR's Ailsa Chang.

Listen to their conversation at the link above, and check out the recipe here.


Pear Upside Down Cake Recipe

2 pears

2 oz sugar

Water

1 oz butter

1/4 tsp Vanilla

2 oz butter, at room temperature

4 oz brown sugar

4 oz sugar

There's a grim chapter in American history that involves forced sterilization. And for much of this past century, California had one of the most active sterilization programs in the country.

A state law from 1909 authorized the surgery for people judged to have "mental disease, which may have been inherited." That law remained on the books until 1979.

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