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It’s hard to read the word "mafia" and not be reminded of scenes from The Godfather or Casino.

But mafias infiltrate more than just movie plots and crime novels. Their presence is felt in states and societies across the globe.

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Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday. Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, a member of the committee, challenged Tillerson over his relationship with Russia.

Where the first day of Jeff Sessions' attorney general confirmation hearing focused on what the Alabama senator's relationship would be with the president if confirmed, the second day focused on his own past.

Sessions, a former Alabama attorney general, has a reputation for being tough on crime, but civil rights advocates testified that his reputation was made on the backs of vulnerable groups. Lawmakers who have worked with him, on the other hand, said they knew a just and fair man.

"We must bend" the arc of the moral universe

Pete Souza / White House

With 10 days left in the White House, President Barack Obama returned to his hometown of Chicago, Illinois to give his farewell address to the United States. It came exactly one month shy of the 10 year anniversary of Obama's entrance into the 2008 presidential race.

The online classified website Backpage.com said it has suspended its adult ad pages, citing government pressure about the content being shared there.

A 2016 Senate report called the website the "largest commercial sex services advertising platform in the United States" and said that "Backpage officials have publicly acknowledged that criminals use the website for sex trafficking, including trafficking of minors."

Harriet Jones / WNPR

Connecticut definitely has demographic and fiscal challenges, but the state may actually begin to benefit from its comparatively high unemployment rate, according to economists. 

Donald Trump has named his son-in-law to a top White House job. Jared Kushner will serve as a senior adviser to the president, and the transition team says he will work with incoming Chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Stephen Bannon "to execute President-elect Trump's agenda."

The announcement also says Kushner will not receive a salary while serving in the Trump administration, which could help alleviate legal problems stemming from federal anti-nepotism law.

Outgoing Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro's office overlooks a stretch of the Washington, D.C., waterfront where several high-rent apartment buildings are being built, in a city where affordable housing is in short supply and homelessness is a big problem.

These are some of the same issues his successor will have to deal with as head of an agency that provides housing aid to 10 million low-income families.

Connecticut Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy welcomed state lawmakers to the beginning of a new legislative session on Wednesday. He called on them to work with him in a bipartisan way to fix the state’s projected budget problems.

The White House / flickr

While basketball didn't take up residence in the White House in January 2009, the game nonetheless played an outsized role in forming the man who did, according to Sports Illustrated's Alexander Wolff, author of The Audacity of Hoop: Basketball and the Age of Obama.

The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, is warning against in-kind retaliation by the U.S. government for Russian hacking during the presidential election.

In an interview with NPR's Mary Louise Kelly, Brennan said, "They do some things that are beyond the pale," referencing those who would undermine democratic processes, adding:

Chion Wolf / WNPR

The Commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families said she doesn’t believe her office would benefit from the oversight of an outside ombudsman. 

Dr. Ben Carson, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development, spoke at Yale on Thursday evening. Carson was invited by a student group that promotes diverse ideas on campus.

Chion Wolf

Linda McMahon, World Wrestling Entertainment co-founder and sometime Senate candidate in Connecticut, has been nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to lead the Small Business Administration. 

Ron Cogswell / Creative Commons

Ben Carson has a new role as head of Housing and Urban Development. Trump took a controversial call with Taiwan. On Twitter, the President-elect threatened companies who plan to move jobs overseas, and criticized the cost of the new Air Force One: "Cancel order!"

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