Laurel Wamsley

It will certainly feel like a State of the Union on Tuesday night: The president will make a major speech to Congress. A bit more than half the room will applaud resoundingly while a bit less than half sit on their hands in that familiar and awkward display of partisanship.

Against a backdrop of turmoil and after big losses in November, the Democratic National Committee votes this week for its next leader. The winner of the DNC chair race will very likely reflect whether the committee's voting members think it prudent to align their party with the Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama camp, the Bernie Sanders camp — or neither.

It's a little icky all around.

First lady Melania Trump is seeking $150 million from the Daily Mail newspaper, charging in a lawsuit filed Monday in New York state commercial court that the outlet published damaging and unfounded allegations that she once worked as an "elite escort" in the "sex business."

Last week, President Trump signed an executive order suspending new-refugee admissions for 120 days and blocking travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries — Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia — for 90 days. Syrian refugees are banned indefinitely.

The first week of the Trump administration has been marked by a flurry of executive actions — and lots of bombast and argument with the press.

Eight of the ten most dangerous places in the U.S. to be a pedestrian are in Florida, according to a study released today.

Some of the most dangerous metro areas for walkers are Fort Myers, Orlando, and Jacksonville, Fla., as well as Jackson, Miss., and Memphis, Tenn.

Russia was ordered to vacate two compounds it owns in Maryland and New York, as part of the sanctions imposed Thursday by the White House to punish Russia for its meddling in last month's U.S. presidential election.

A circuit court judge in Baltimore has denied bail to Adnan Syed, the man whose conviction for a 1999 murder was the subject of the podcast Serial. Syed will remain in jail while he awaits a new trial. Syed was convicted in 2000 in the killing of his high school girlfriend Hae Min Lee, and sentenced to life in prison. A judge vacated that conviction last June.

Russian authorities say that there was no explosion onboard the plane that crashed earlier this week, killing 92, though some prominent officials have yet to rule out terrorism.

In a press conference Thursday, members of a Russian government commission investigating the crash told reporters it could have been one of several factors, but that data from the crash ruled out an explosion.

"After deciphering the first flight recorder we have made a conclusion that there was no explosion onboard," said Lt. Gen. Sergei Bainetov, head of the air force's flight safety division.

Though many of us lamented the never-ending saga of this year's U.S. presidential election, the news was too momentous to tune out. Indeed, many of the year's biggest stories on NPR.org were all about politics.

The top 20 most popular stories from the past year ranged from fact checks to mosquito bites, from Aleppo to taxes, and how to raise kids who will thrive, whatever the future brings.

Here they are: the most-read stories from a year we won't soon forget.

With his tenure as secretary of state rapidly pulling to a close, John Kerry made an impassioned defense for a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Wednesday.

Kerry said he is concerned that some Israeli politicians are rejecting it.

"If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic; it cannot be both, and it won't ever really be at peace," said Kerry.

The Washington Post expects to hire more than 60 journalists in the coming months — a sign of remarkable growth for a newspaper in the digital age.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter made a surprise visit to Afghanistan today, as part of a round-the-world farewell tour.

"The interests we are pursuing here are clear and enduring," said Carter at Bagram Air Force Base, as reported by the Associated Press. "To have a stable security partner that is eager and willing to work with the United States is an asset for the future for us."

This is Carter's last planned trip to Afghanistan; President-elect Donald Trump has nominated retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to succeed Carter in heading the Defense Department.

There's a new term that has become popular in city planning circles: tactical urbanism. The idea is that small experiments, done cheaply and quickly, can make cities better, and more nimble.

Some of the tactics are guerrilla methods: citizens might paint a crosswalk where they believe one should exist, or post their own road signs where they find the official ones confusing.

Across the country, DIY urbanists have been leaving their mark on cities — and now city governments are trying to bring them into the fold to harness their ideas.

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