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There is more than just January's cold currently gripping the city of Westbrook, Maine. An immense icy disk doing a solitary pirouette on the Presumpscot River is dazzling observers, local and distant, alike.

Scientists say the disk is naturally occurring and has been seen before. Most of us have spotted eddies in flowing water, that is when a cross current creates a small whirlpool. But winter's cold adds a whiff of mystery to this phenomenon.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The annual State of the Union message to Congress may be the latest casualty of the partial government shutdown.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., sent a letter to President Trump on Wednesday, suggesting a postponement until after the shutdown is over. The speech, which the president would deliver to a joint session of Congress and a national broadcast audience, was originally scheduled for Jan. 29.

American troops were killed in an explosion in northern Syria, the spokesperson for the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State says. The ISIS extremist group has claimed responsibility.

"U.S. service members were killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria today. We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time," Col. Sean Ryan, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, said in a statement.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Updated at 7:18 a.m. ET

Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown took a step towards a 2020 presidential campaign, announcing a tour of states holding early presidential primaries next year.

Seeking to counter President Trump's appeal to white, working-class voters that helped him flip Ohio and other key midwestern states, Brown is launching a "Dignity of Work" tour through Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Hundreds of Honduran migrants have crossed the Guatemalan border as they travel in the direction of the United States.

The group that reached Guatemala on Tuesday is the first wave of a caravan that could consist of thousands. It's the first national border crossed by the migrants on their journey that started Monday night.

It's a Friday night and roommates Jason Jones and Tamiko Panzella are hanging out in the Oakland, Calif., apartment they share, laughing about an epic gym workout misfire.

"I get there and we have to take our shoes and socks off. And I'm like, oh no, she got me into yoga. She tricked me," Jones says, laughing.

What made the yoga session more jarring — it was Jones' first full day of freedom after more than a decade behind bars.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Empty hallways
Roxanne Turpen for NPR

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Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sriracha sauce. It's everywhere. Even beer and donuts. The fiery chili paste concocted by Vietnamese-American immigrant David Tran has conquered the American market and imagination in the past decade.

But the original Sriracha is actually Thai — and comes from the seaside city of Si Racha, where most residents haven't even heard of the U.S. brand, which is now being exported to Thailand.

As the standoff between President Trump and Congress continues over funding for Trump's proposed border wall, the partial shutdown of the federal government means workers will go weeks without a paycheck. That has some looking for temporary jobs to pay their bills.

In Boise, Idaho, Chris Kirk says he's worked for the federal government for 19 years. He administers contracts for the hundreds of millions of dollars the U.S. Forest Service spends on fighting wildfires. But these days he's on furlough and looking for extra income.

A decade-long fight ended at the Supreme Court this week, when justices refused to hear an appeal by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who say that toxic smoke from burn pits made them sick.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Let's bring in one of the senators now who was in that Judiciary Committee hearing room today questioning attorney general nominee Bill Barr. That senator is Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island. Senator Whitehouse, welcome.

SHELDON WHITEHOUSE: Thank you, good to be with you.

KELLY: Good to have you with us. So let me start with the central question, whether Barr will protect the Mueller investigation. Based on what you heard today, are you persuaded that he will?

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Let's bring in one of the senators now who was in that Judiciary Committee hearing room today questioning attorney general nominee Bill Barr. That senator is Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island. Senator Whitehouse, welcome.

SHELDON WHITEHOUSE: Thank you, good to be with you.

KELLY: Good to have you with us. So let me start with the central question, whether Barr will protect the Mueller investigation. Based on what you heard today, are you persuaded that he will?

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Let's bring in one of the senators now who was in that Judiciary Committee hearing room today questioning attorney general nominee Bill Barr. That senator is Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island. Senator Whitehouse, welcome.

SHELDON WHITEHOUSE: Thank you, good to be with you.

KELLY: Good to have you with us. So let me start with the central question, whether Barr will protect the Mueller investigation. Based on what you heard today, are you persuaded that he will?

Twenty-three-year-old jazz pianist James Francies has his musical fingerprints all over the place. From leading his own group at 2019'sWinter Jazzfest in New York City to playing shows in Tokyo with guitar legend Pat Metheny, the current pace of Francies's life is constantly in motion.

"It just feels like you're on a plane," Francies says. "Four thousand feet, traveling six hundred miles an hour."

Last fall, Blue Note Records released Flight, Francies's debut album.

Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador says his crackdown on gas thieves in the country is working, even though long lines at the pump in several states persist, distribution bottlenecks continue and new acts of fuel theft are reported.

As he has done every day since the gas crisis, now well into its second week, López Obrador insists gas sales and distribution will stabilize soon.

For more than a century, a 52-foot obelisk has stood in the center of Birmingham, Ala., a monument to Confederate soldiers and sailors who fought in the Civil War.

In 2017, amid a national reckoning on racial violence and Confederate symbolism, the city's mayor decided the monument should be covered up. Tall plywood walls were installed around its base, obscuring inscriptions on the pedestal.

Huawei Founder Denies His Firm Spies For China

19 hours ago

The founder and CEO of Huawei denies his company spies for China. In a rare public appearance at the tech company's campus in Shenzhen, Ren Zhengfei told reporters he would refuse to share user data with the government if asked, and he said he misses his daughter, who is in Canada facing possible extradition to the U.S.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Let's bring in one of the senators now who was in that Judiciary Committee hearing room today questioning attorney general nominee Bill Barr. That senator is Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island. Senator Whitehouse, welcome.

SHELDON WHITEHOUSE: Thank you, good to be with you.

KELLY: Good to have you with us. So let me start with the central question, whether Barr will protect the Mueller investigation. Based on what you heard today, are you persuaded that he will?

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