Scott Simon

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This week, in the midst of the explosion of Fire and Fury, and stories about President Trump grousing to billionaires while gobbling cheeseburgers in front of three TV screens, and boasting about the size of his nuclear button, the president also found a minute to shut down his own Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.

Benya Golden is a Jewish Cossack. Which is not the setup for a Mel Brooks movie, but the new novel Red Sky at Noon by Simon Sebag Montefiore. Golden is a prisoner in a Soviet gulag during World War II, and he ends up pressed into a kind of Dirty Dozen battalion of horse-riding Cossacks and convicts who detest Stalin — but revile the Nazis even more.

There's a big, green, tinsel warning label across the cover of Martha Brockenbrough's new book, Love, Santa, illustrated by Lee White. It reads: "The beautiful truth about Santa."

Brockenbrough's book is written as a series of letters between her and her daughter, Lucy, who begins to write Santa Claus when she's 7 years old.

"Dear Santa, how do you get down all the chimneys?" Lucy writes in the book. "What happens when people live in homes without fireplaces? Why does your handwriting look like my mom's?"

The U.S. foster care system is overwhelmed, in part because America's opioid crisis is overwhelming. Thousands of children have had to be taken out of the care of parents or a parent who is addicted.

Indiana is among the states that have seen the largest one-year increase in the number of children who need foster care. Judge Marilyn Moores, who heads the juvenile court in Marion County, which includes Indianapolis, says the health crisis is straining resources in Indiana.

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Not everybody gets a break on holidays. In some professions, including this one, working on Christmas or New Year's Eve is just part of the territory. We asked our listeners who are working this holiday season to tell us about it.

Social media platforms can connect people across the globe — and terrorize people next door.

In a new novel, Ricky Graves is a young man coming to terms with his sexual orientation in a small New Hampshire town. He's tormented by a jerk named Wesley, until Ricky kills him — and then himself.

The news media descend. And after they've gone on to the next sad crime, Ricky's pregnant sister, Alyssa, returns to the town she fled so that she and her shattered mother can get a hold on the terrible event that has taken two lives, and understand the son and brother they loved.

Here's an idea for a musical: The end is near, and there's just one day for the inhabitants of Bikini Bottom to figure out how to save themselves from a powerful volcano that's about to explode. Who can we count on to come through?

Well, who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Absorbent and yellow and porous is he!

Maude Julien's childhood was so horrible, it's difficult to read about. Her father wanted to turn her into some kind of superhuman, able to withstand any torment without flinching. So he treated her in a subhuman way: He forced her to stay in a dark cellar at night, to meditate on death. He made her hold on to an electric fence, to strengthen her will. She had to wait on him hand and foot. And he kept her from most contact with the outside world for years.

The campaign season has begun for Hollywood awards. Wind River is a widely-praised film that hinges on a murder mystery, but it's also a pointed and poignant story about the violence endured by many Native American women. The Weinstein Company had the rights to distribute Wind River, but following efforts by the filmmakers and the film's stars, the Weinstein name has been removed.

"[His name is] beyond, I think, toxic," says actress Elizabeth Olsen, who stars in the movie. "It's completely against all the reasons we made this film."