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When admiring such enticing items at the grocery store as an avocado for $1.50, an $8 chocolate bar or fresh wild Alaskan salmon for $20 a pound, you've probably experienced sticker shock.

Indeed, retailers and restaurants offer myriad opportunities to blow your food budget in one fell swoop.

We'll get back to the day's serious news soon — but for now, we wanted to be sure you're aware of the insanely cute quokka, a small furry animal that in recent months has become a favorite photo partner in Australia.

The quokka had a flurry of fame in 2013, when it was called "the happiest animal in the world" due to the natural (and photogenic) curl of its mouth and what seems to be a friendly nature. Now people are taking photos with the marsupial that lives in southwestern Australia.

Newspapers around the world have reported that elephant was to be served at a $1 million birthday party for Robert Mugabe, the prime minister of Zimbabwe, held on Saturday.

Ukraine faces a trio of crises — war, bankruptcy, and now, the threat that its people may have the heat turned off for the rest of winter.

Russia is once again threatening to cut off shipments of natural gas to Ukraine — and hinting that fuel supplies to Europe could be disrupted as well.

Energy ministers from Russia and Ukraine are holding emergency talks in Brussels mediated by the European Union.

It's an issue for the entire continent. About 40 percent of EU gas imports come from Russia, and half of that is delivered by pipelines that cross Ukraine.

Police in Toronto say they have solved the riddle of a mysterious tunnel discovered near a venue for the upcoming Pan American and Parapan American Games.

Maybe.

Police say two men told investigators that they built the tunnel for "personal reasons." Police verified their account, deemed there was no criminal intent or concerns about security, and closed the case.

Here's a story about that blue dress. No – not that blue dress.

Artist Nelson Shanks, who has painted royalty, popes and world leaders, tells the Philadelphia Daily News that his portrait of President Clinton for the National Portrait Gallery has a not-so-obvious reference to the infamous blue dress worn by Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern with whom Clinton had an affair.

With guitarist Bobby Broom, organist Chris Foreman has recorded several albums with the Deep Blue Organ Trio. Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says Foreman is one of a few Chicago jazz heroes who should be better known outside the city limits.

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A new government report confirms: Wages and prices are going their separate ways.

This breakup is helping consumers on the rebound from recession.

Fresh evidence of the split came Monday in the Commerce Department's monthly report on personal spending, income and saving. It showed paychecks are fatter, prices are leaner and Americans are saving more.

Updated at 12:15 p.m. ET.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., who has served in the Senate and in Congress longer than any other woman, says she will not seek a sixth term in 2016.

Mikulski, 78, announced her decision Monday in Baltimore.

" 'Do I spend my time raising money, or do I spend my time raising hell?' " she said she asked herself, according to The Associated Press.

The South Pacific nation of Fiji has launched a competition for a new national flag.

The current flag, adopted in 1970 following independence from Britain, is blue with the Union Jack in the left corner and a shield with the country's coat of arms.

Updated at 4:27 p.m. ET

The Nasdaq composite index returned to territory it hasn't seen since the heyday of the dot-com boom, closing above the 5,000 mark Monday. The index hit the mark nearly 15 years to the day since it surpassed the 5,000 mark on March 9, 2000.

We'll note that the index didn't have far to rise from Friday's close of 4,963.53.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that while the U.S. and Israel agree that Iran should not get nuclear weapons, they disagree about how to stop the Islamic republic. But, he tells the 2015 American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference in Washington, reports of a decline in U.S.-Israeli relations are "not only premature, they're just wrong."

Netanyahu says his planned speech to Congress on Tuesday is not intended to be a slight to President Obama. "I have great respect for both" Obama and the office that he holds," he says.

An altercation Sunday in Los Angeles in which police killed a man in the Skid Row area is putting new scrutiny on law enforcement's use of deadly force. Police say the man tried to grab an officer's weapon. A dramatic video posted online shows the man was on the ground struggling with officers when he was shot.

The LAPD says two officers sustained minor injuries and were treated and released. Police say three officers fired their weapons.

Here's a summary of what happened:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Washington, D.C., where he'll deliver a speech to Congress Tuesday — an event that's causing debate both in the U.S. and Israel. The leader's plans were made without consulting the White House; he will not meet with President Obama during the visit.

Netanyahu will appear Monday morning at the annual conference of AIPAC, a powerful pro-Israeli lobby, where he's expected to urge the U.S. to impose sanctions on Iran instead of making a deal over the country's nuclear ambitions.

It's Financial Aid Week here at the NPR Ed Team (not really, but it sure feels like it). And we're kicking things off with a nostalgia nugget for all you children of the '80s.

The old G.I. Joe animated series famously ended with the phrase, "Now I know! And knowing is half the battle."

It's a catchy line and, it turns out, eerily relevant when it comes to high school seniors debating their college options.

Pilots Jump At The Chance To Land On Ice

23 hours ago
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An Iraqi force has begun a large-scale operation to recapture Tikrit, according to state TV. Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, lies between Baghdad and Mosul, a city in northern Iraq that's in the heart of territory claimed by the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

The push is relying on artillery and airstrikes, as well as militia that reportedly include both Shiite and Sunni fighters.

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Nurse Nina Pham tells the Dallas Morning News that while she is Ebola free, she suffers residual effects from contracting the disease from a patient she cared for last fall at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

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When you ask people what impacts health you'll get a lot of different answers: Access to good health care and preventative services, personal behavior, exposure to germs or pollution and stress. But if you dig a little deeper you'll find a clear dividing line, and it boils down to one word: money.

We often think of health as a trip to the doctor or a prescription to treat or prevent diseases. Or maybe it's an operation to fix something that's gone wrong.

But a new poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health reveals that Americans perceive health as being affected by a broad range of social and cultural factors.

Take a look at a congressional district map, and it can look like a madman's jigsaw puzzle. The reason is, in part, that the district lines are drawn by state legislators seeking to maximize partisan advantage. It's a process that critics say is responsible for much that's wrong with Washington.

That's why some states have tried setting up independent commissions to draw the map. Arizona voters created such a commission in 2000. But when the commission chair displeased the governor and state Senate, they tried, unsuccessfully, to remove her.

There's a lot to celebrate in Liberia: The number of new Ebola cases have been declining, kids are going back to school and life is returning to some semblance of normalcy.

Last year, Ebola struck the country and since then, it has killed more than 4,000 Liberians. But among the three hardest-hit countries in West Africa, Liberia has been the fastest at containing the outbreak. Just last week, the region reported 99 new cases of Ebola. Only one of those came out of Liberia.

At 2.5 percent, Lincoln, Neb., has one of the lowest jobless figures in the country. But that's nothing new — the city has ranked at or near the top of the nation, with one of the lowest unemployment rates for years, even during the Great Recession.

But on a recent visit, it's clear that Lincoln is not resting on its laurels. It's working hard at keeping and drawing talent to this city of nearly 300,000.

Just two months into 2015, cinematographer Bradford Young is already having a big year.

Two acclaimed movies, Selma and A Most Violent Year, bear his name as Director of Photography.

"It's an interesting time," he laughs.

He sat down for a chat with NPR's Arun Rath, who started by asking about the striking depictions of violence in Selma.

"You have to be very delicate," Young says, "because as much as film has the ability to raise humanity, it also has the ability to put us down."

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