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#NPRreads is a weekly feature on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers from our newsroom share the pieces that have kept them reading, using the #NPRreads hashtag. Each weekend, we highlight some of the best stories.

Belinda McKeon's new novel takes the prize for having one of the most exquisite endings I've read in some time — but first, you have to get there. McKeon has followed her debut, Solace (which won an Irish Book Award in 2011) with a microscopically examined tale of lopsided, obsessive love between two college-aged, fledgling adults who meet in Dublin just as they're starting to define themselves apart from their provincial parents.

If you work in a restaurant, marriage proposals are good for business. Happy couples lift the mood in the entire dining room and often turn into lifelong customers. That once-in-a-lifetime experience for them is pretty routine for restaurateurs.

It's been a year since I began serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in northern Ghana — but some of the local lingo still eludes me. I speak a good amount of Dagbani nowadays, but I still can't figure out why everyone's been telling me recently: "You used to be the tall visitor and now you're the small villager." Is that good or bad? I mean, I haven't shrunk as far as I can tell.

The crisis of contaminated water in Flint, Mich., is making a public health message like this one harder to get across: In most communities, the tap water is perfectly safe. And it is much healthier than sugary drinks.

That's a message that Dr. Patty Braun, a pediatrician and oral health specialist at Denver Health, spends a lot of time talking to her patients about.

Chipotle Mexican Grill certainly is not the first company to face lawsuits and subpoenas because its food made people sick. Other companies, in fact, have faced far worse: Companies like Blue Bell, Dole and Earthbound Farms have been linked to disease outbreaks that actually killed people.

But it's difficult to think of another case in which a company's food-safety troubles provoked such schadenfreude in the food industry. The company, it seems, made a lot of enemies while marketing its "food with integrity."

Jim Gilmore's quixotic presidential campaign came to a surreptitious end Friday.

His resume reads like someone who should have been a top-tier candidate — former governor of swing-state Virginia, a former Republican National Committee chairman, and the only military veteran in a primary campaign where national security is a top concern among voters.

New York Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia received a permanent ban from Major League Baseball on Friday after he tested positive for the anabolic steroid Boldenone. The right-handed pitcher is the first player to be banned from the MLB for life for failing three performance-enhancing drug tests.

The league's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program states that a third violation for performance-enhancing drugs results in a permanent suspension. But it also says:

Jon Batiste On Piano Jazz

12 hours ago

Pianist and bandleader Jon Batiste hails from Louisiana, the cradle of jazz.

The Justice Department slapped the city of Ferguson, Mo., with a civil rights lawsuit this week after the City Council voted to change a proposed settlement agreement to reform the police and courts.

When Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the suit on Wednesday, she said Ferguson police disproportionately targeted black people for traffic stops, use of force and jail sentences.

The U.S. and Cuba will sign a civil aviation agreement in Havana on Tuesday, re-establishing air service between the two countries for the first time in more than 50 years, the U.S. Department of Transportation said.

The signing formalizes the arrangement that was reached Dec. 16, stating that a certain number of flights would be allowed to fly from the U.S. to Cuba every day. As the Two-Way previously reported:

Abraham Lincoln trended on Twitter this week. Wait, what? Honest Abe proved what's become a hipster creed: Everything old becomes new again.

Friday would have been the 16th president's 207th birthday — as good a time as any to bring him back with a party hat on him (like the House Republicans did):

There were also memes of Lincoln holding pizzas, stereos and cellphones. But the memes also quickly became about the presidential candidates, with the hashtag #ThingsLincolnDidntSay. Talk about putting words in someone's mouth.

President Obama has designated three desert areas in California as national monuments.

The move permanently protects "nearly 1.8 million acres of America's public lands," the White House says in a news release.

All three areas lie east of Los Angeles. Two of the new monuments — Castle Mountains and Mojave Trails — are near California's border with Nevada.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

I'm not sure there's ever been a record release as confounding as the one for Kanye West's The Life Of Pablo. He's changed its title and track listing several times in as many weeks, and even up until the very moment I'm writing this, it's not 100 percent certain what will be on that final album, whenever and wherever it comes out.

Remembering Ballet Great Violette Verdy

14 hours ago

French ballerina Violette Verdy died on Monday at the age of 82. She was an acclaimed star of the New York City Ballet, dancing more than 140 ballets with the company during the 1960s and 1970s.

Verdy originated roles in works by legendary choreographers George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. After she retired, she went into teaching and eventually became a professor at Indiana University Bloomington.

Earlier this month, a Saudi court overturned the death sentence of a Palestinian poet named Ashraf Fayadh. Fayadh was accused of renouncing his Muslim faith through his poetry.

After international outrage broke out over his sentencing, the Saudi government modified his punishment to eight years in prison and 800 lashes. He will also have to publicly renounce his poetry on Saudi state media.

Here & Now‘s Peter O’Dowd speaks with Mona Kareem, a poet and friend of Ashraf Fayadh who is translating his controversial book of poetry.

A far-right group that calls itself the Soldiers of Odin is patrolling the streets of Finland dressed in leather jackets, saying people need protection from the influx of migrants.

But not all Finns feel the same. Clowns calling themselves the Loldiers of Odin (think LOL – laugh out loud – plus soldiers) is responding.

Here & Now‘s Robin Young speaks with Helsinki-based reporter Ilpo Salonen about the colorful activists.

[Youtube]

Find your binoculars and fill up the bird feeders, because the Great Backyard Bird Count starts today.

The annual event invites bird-watchers of all levels to count the birds in their backyards, wherever that may be, and submit the data to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, which launched the project in 1998.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now that the primary battle has arrived in South Carolina, we wondered about the state's reputation for dirty politics. Here's NPR's Susan Davis, Ron Elving, Sarah McCammon and Sam Sanders taking that on in NPR's Politics Podcast.

Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill came face to face Friday in Havana — the first time leaders of the two churches have met since a schism 1,000 years ago divided Christianity.

The religious leaders "embraced and kissed one another three times on the cheek as they met in a wood-paneled VIP room at the Havana airport," The Associated Press reports. The news service adds that Francis said, "Finally!" when he embraced Kirill, and "We are brothers." Through an interpreter, Kirill told the pope, "Now things are easier."

On Thursday, researchers announced the discovery of gravitational waves --wrinkles in the very fabric of space-time.

But behind the headlines and news conferences were decades of hard work, hundreds of scientists and more than a billion dollars in taxpayer funds.

Tell her how you really feel: Dr. Julie Holland is asking women to embrace their inner "moody bitches."

Let me back up.

The Manhattan-based psychiatrist has noticed a shift in her female patients. Twenty years ago, when Holland started her practice, she says, patients came to her because they were having trouble sleeping, were crying frequently or generally not feeling well — "but not really understanding what was going on with them and not really knowing what to do about it."

In India, Facebook has a program to give people free Internet access — just to use Facebook and a handful of other services. Earlier this week, regulators in that country ruled that the program is discriminatory to other websites and is illegal. A Facebook board member took to Twitter to criticize the ruling. And in so doing, he sparked a global controversy.

It got ugly.

"I am outraged and tremendously disappointed in the behavior displayed by a group of students," says Texas A&M University President Michael Young, after a group of students from an inner-city high school were called racial slurs and told, "Go back where you came from."

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

Transcript

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced late Thursday that they had agreed to push for a "nationwide cessation of hostilities" in Syria within one week.

The communiqué backed by major world powers also vowed to work toward getting humanitarian aid into hard-to-reach areas such as the city of Aleppo.

Exactly 15 months after it completed a seemingly impossible journey to land on the surface of a comet, the Philae lander now faces "eternal hibernation," as officials at the European Space Agency say the craft doesn't get enough sunlight to power its batteries.

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