Steve Inskeep

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.

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Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump this week visited Florida, a vitally important battleground state, to fight the campaign's final rounds.

To get an up-close look, NPR went to Tampa for a Trump rally on Monday and the next day, went to one for Clinton in Broward County in South Florida. For each rally, we met with voters who'd lined up hours early — then we passed through the Secret Service checkpoint and settled in for the show. Each rally sent many messages, both intended and unintended, and helped paint a stark portrait of two very different candidates.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn has been an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump, offering some credibility to the foreign policy newcomer.

But on a key priority of the GOP presidential nominee — banning travel to the United States from areas affected by terrorism — Flynn acknowledged some of Trump's ideas are "not workable."

In a Morning Edition interview, NPR's Steve Inskeep asked Flynn, "In the end do we have here a laudable effort to protect the United States from all harm that is just not workable at all?"

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan will play a prominent role at this week's Republican convention. But he will not be shaping the convention's messages — and a talk with Ryan suggests how different the convention might be if he did.

Surely one of the hardest jobs at the Republican convention belongs to House Speaker Paul Ryan, who will preside over it.

How has America changed after eight tumultuous years under President Obama?

President Obama says he agrees with Donald Trump on one thing: There are "parallels" between the U.S. election and the United Kingdom's dramatic vote to leave the European Union.

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"Who still supports Andrew Jackson?"

An NPR colleague posed that question Thursday morning after news broke that Jackson, or at least his image, will share the $20 bill with Harriet Tubman. Tubman, in fact, would be the one on the front of the bill; Jackson would ride in back. News items described this Treasury Department decision in a way that made Jackson seem impossible to support: A slave-owning president was being shoved aside in favor of a heroic escaped slave.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam says he is deciding whether to sign legislation that would allow therapists to refuse service based on religious objections.

In an interview with NPR's Morning Edition, he said he is "talking to a lot of folks to get some input" on the bill and that he had boiled his thinking down to this central question: whether therapists could truly leave their values out of their work.

Just how far could Republicans go to deny Donald Trump the party's nomination?

A delegate to this summer's convention in Cleveland asserts that the GOP gathering could do anything it wants.

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Last summer, authorities in Turkey deported a man. His name was Ibrahim el Bakraoui. He was sent away to the Netherlands. Turkish authorities say they warned he was a suspected extremist fighter.

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Donald Trump has a big problem: Even though he has garnered heavy support in the GOP primary, those millions of voters make up a fraction of the electorate likely to vote this fall. And nearly two-thirds of that larger electorate dislikes him.

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Why would Iranians visit their country's most spectacular ancient sites and come away disappointed?

We talked with 10 Iranian visitors to Persepolis, the ruins of an ancient Persian capital, and found a collective sense of unease — less with the ruins themselves than with what they imply about the world around them.

Iran has eagerly opened its doors to foreign investment now that a nuclear deal has cleared the way. So why is Iran still holding prisoner an Iranian-American businessman?

This is one of the contradictions of the moment in Iran, where economic sanctions were lifted weeks ago.

Last year, an Iranian economist named Mohammad Mehdi Behkish was extremely optimistic about prospects for a nuclear deal that would end many economic sanctions on his country.

"Personally, I would say it can't be that there would not be a deal," he told me when I met him in Tehran.

The alternative, he said, was disaster.

Behkish leads Iran's International Chamber of Commerce. When I met him again this month in his Tehran office, he sounded even more optimistic.

Saeed Laylaz has had an eventful seven years.

When I first met him at his home in early 2009, he was a businessman, writer and former government official. He recognized some of the flaws in Iran's Islamic republic, but spoke optimistically about his country's direction.

Soon afterward, he went to prison for his political views.

What does the lifting of economic sanctions against Iran, as part of a nuclear deal, mean for one Iranian?

We met a carpet weaver in the ancient city of Shiraz. She spends her days on the floor of a little room. Working swiftly by hand, she ties knots with little bits of wool — orange, green, white and two shades of red. Wool threads stretch across a steel frame like strings on a harp.

Just ahead of Valentine's Day, we visited the tomb of a poet who wrote often of love.

The 14th century Persian poet Hafez is buried in Shiraz, the city where he lived almost 700 years ago. He remains venerated in Iran, even though he wrote of romance and other topics that are not obviously embraced in the modern-day Islamic Republic.

One of his lines: "Oh Cup-bearer, set my glass afire with the light of wine!"

We've been talking with a Sunni Muslim who lives in Shiite-dominated Iran. He's a member of one of the two great sects of Islam, which are increasingly seen in conflict. His story suggests just how perilous that conflict could be.

Last month, a crowd in Tehran attacked the embassy of Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia. They were protesting Saudi Arabia's execution of a Saudi Shiite cleric who had criticized the Saudi government.

Ebrahim Pourfaraj wants to build the biggest hotel in all of Iran.

He's already started his project in the far north Tehran, a wealthy zone where the city climbs up the slopes of the snow-capped Alborz Mountains.

You get out of the car, carefully stepping over the little mountain stream that flows in a channel beside the curb. After stepping through a construction trailer, you emerge on a steel-mesh platform looking over the edge of an enormous hole.

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush provoked much reaction on social media this morning with a theory of Donald Trump's rise.

Bush says President Obama paved the way for it.

The former Florida governor made the remark in a year-ending interview with NPR News. Bush is trying to recover after Trump knocked him out of front-runner status in the drive for the party's nomination.

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