Steve Inskeep

Journalist Tom Ricks used to write about the present. His reports on the U.S. military won him two Pulitzer Prizes, and his 2006 book, Fiasco, was basically a takedown of U.S. policies in Iraq.

But Ricks says the wars following Sept. 11 wore him down; so he left daily journalism, moved to an island off the coast of Maine and wrote a history called Churchill and Orwell — as in the British prime minister and the author of 1984.

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Sharks have been swarming around southern California beaches for weeks. NPR wanted to know more about why, so we placed a call to Chris Lowe, a professor in marine biology and head of the Shark Lab at California State University at Long beach — or rather, we tried. Lowe was offshore on a boat trapping sharks to tag, and at the appointed time for our interview, Lowe had his hands full ... of shark.

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Many Iranians spent the weekend in the streets celebrating the re-election of their president. Hasan Rouhani pledged to keep opening Iran to the world and to push for more freedom at home.

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What difference does it make who's president of Iran?

It's fair to ask the question on this weekend of Iran's presidential election. After all, the president's title makes him sound like the top official, but he is not. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, holds far more power.

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Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse shares something in common with President Trump: both are serving in elected office for the very first time.

The similarities pretty much end there.

Sasse earned a doctorate in history. Before his election in 2014, he was a federal health official, and president of Midland University, which is linked with the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

When President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska was one of several Republicans in Washington voicing concern. As details unfolded throughout the week, Sasse, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, continued to call the timing of the firing "troubling," though he maintains there is not yet a need for an independent investigation or special prosecutor to look into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

At the very start of Hala Alyan's novel Salt Houses, a woman buys a coffee set — a dozen cups, a coffee pot, a tray. It's a simple act that unexpectedly becomes painful. The woman is Palestinian — part of a family displaced after the founding of Israel — and the tray reminds her of an old one she lost in one of the family's many moves.

Alyan builds her story on little moments like that — a peek into the lives of several generations, forced to relocate and resettle. Her characters are lost and looking for a home.

This story is part of a series of conversations on Morning Edition with politicians, writers, scientists, theologians, tech innovators and others. From globalization to religious tolerance, identity to climate change, our conversations seek to capture this moment and how we're shaped by it — as individuals, nations and as a global civilization.

Generations ago, the American Indian Osage tribe was compelled to move. Not for the first time, white settlers pushed them off their land in the 1800s. They made their new home in a rocky, infertile area in northeast Oklahoma in hopes that settlers would finally leave them alone.

As it turned out, the land they had chosen was rich in oil, and in the early 20th century, members of the tribe became spectacularly wealthy. They bought cars and built mansions; they made so much oil money that the government began appointing white guardians to "help" them spend it.

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The last time I talked with Paul Watson, I reached him aboard a Canadian Coast Guard Icebreaker in the Arctic, via satellite phone.

"The captain was glaring at me because we talked for a long time," Watson remembers with a laugh.

That was three years ago, and Watson, a columnist for The Toronto Star, was alongside archaeologists who had just located one of two sunken ships lost in the Franklin Expedition, back in the 1840s.

The members of U2 are preparing a new tour to play some old songs — 30 years old, to be exact. Paul Hewson and David Evans, known to the world as Bono and The Edge, will be the first to tell you their band isn't normally fond of looking back.

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You've been hearing all about these raucous town hall meetings happening around the country. Voters have been confronting their lawmakers for weeks now. We're going to hear from three of them who spoke with Steve Inskeep.

When Senate Republicans silenced Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., during debate over the nomination of Jeff Sessions to serve as attorney general, they sparked a furious response — but also used a rule that's meant to encourage civil debate.

If a refugee commits a crime, will a federal judge have blood on his hands?

Johnstown, Pa. is famous for a few things: a big flood in the 1880s that killed many of its residents, having been a robust steel and coal town, and more recently, suffering from a rapidly declining population.

The town is nestled in a river valley of the Allegheny mountains of Western Pennsylvania. Cambria County, home to Johnstown, chose Barack Obama during the 2008 election, but went heavily for Donald Trump in 2016.

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Are we really in a post-truth era? Somebody on the Internet said so. Many people, actually.

Never mind legalizing pot. Kokomo, Ind., has legalized pinball.

The city council ended a ban that stretches back to 1955.

Back then, the council said pinball worked against "peace and good order."

Wives complained about husbands who gambled away their entire paychecks.

In more recent times, the ban seems to have been ignored.

At last the city council has revoked it, taking its chances on keeping the peace.

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We have a global conversation this morning about resistance to globalization. NPR's Frank Langfitt is in North East England in the U.K., which voted this year to leave the European Union. Hi, Frank.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

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When the Electoral College casts 538 votes for president this month, 38 will come from the state of Texas. All 38 were expected to go to Donald Trump. But Art Sisneros, one of the electors, says he just can't do it.

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You can re-enact that scene in the old movie Christmas Vacation.

A family goes into a forest and cuts down a ridiculously tall tree.

The U.S. Forest Service is selling Christmas tree removal permits for $5 in the Green Mountain National Forest of Vermont.

You go into the forest. You cut down the tree yourself. There's only one catch: the tree you choose cannot be more than 20 feet tall.

When you walk into the Smithsonian's "Art of the Qur'an" exhibition, you're met with a book that weighs 150 pounds. The tome, which dates back to the late-1500s, has giant pages that are covered in gold and black Arabic script.

Pages