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As their first major act of the new Congress, Republicans rushed approval of a budget resolution this week that sets up a framework for repealing Obamacare, but what exactly to replace it with is still a puzzle Republicans are piecing together.

And it could take a while.

Gen. Michael Flynn, President-elect Trump's pick to be national security adviser, did speak to Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak by telephone on Dec. 29, the same day the Obama administration announced measures retaliating against Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential campaign, two Trump transition officials confirm to NPR.

Novelist and filmmaker William Peter Blatty, a former Jesuit school valedictorian who conjured a tale of demonic possession and gave millions the fright of their lives with the best-selling novel and Oscar-winning movie "The Exorcist," has died. He was 89.

Blatty died Thursday at a hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, where he lived, his widow, Julie Alicia Blatty, told The Associated Press. The cause of death was multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer, she said.

Along the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route, the viewing standings are going up. Hotels are booked. Washington, D.C., is preparing to welcome Donald Trump to the White House.

And so are the demonstrators.

"The way I'm telling people is, 'look, Donald Trump is throwing a party, he's throwing a coronation, and I want to be here to crash it,' " says Eugene Puryear, an organizer with an anti-war group, the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition. Earlier this month the National Park Service approved the group's permits to protest alongside the parade route.

The top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence say they intend to investigate the allegations of Russian meddling in the U.S. elections.

In a joint statement, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chairman of the committee and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the vice-chairman, said "we believe that it is critical to have a full understanding of the scope of Russian intelligence activities impacting the United States."

At noon on Inauguration Day, precisely the moment Donald Trump is scheduled to be sworn as president, there will be another changing of the guard in Washington.

The D.C. National Guard announced Friday that its commanding general, Army Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz, will be stepping down as of 12 p.m. on Jan. 20.

A 1989 photograph of Donald Trump tossing a red apple was installed today at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. The museum is known for having one of two complete collections of presidential portraits, the other belonging to the White House. This portrait of President-elect Donald Trump, however, isn't one of those official presidential portraits.

The website at the Office of Government Ethics went down Friday afternoon, apparently overwhelmed with traffic, as the agency and its director found themselves at the heart of a growing political fight.

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This story is part of Kitchen Table Conversations, a series from NPR's National Desk that examines how Americans from all walks of life are moving forward from the presidential election.

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And now it's time for a last call on the Commercials for Nicer Living project, version 2017.

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Next week, white nationalists like Jared Taylor will celebrate a moment they've been waiting decades to see, when Donald Trump is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States. Members of the white nationalist movement were among the first to embrace Trump's candidacy, and they celebrated after his election.

"Jan. 20 reflects a significant defeat for egalitarian orthodoxy," Taylor says.

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Editor's Note: The photos in this story may be distressing to some viewers.

More than one year later, the photo that woke up the world to the Syrian refugee crisis remains indelible: three-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying face down on a sandy beach in Turkey. The Syrian boy's lifeless body had washed ashore after the rubber boat carrying him and his family — to what they had hoped would be new lives in Greece — capsized.

Fleeing, unarmed people shot in the back. Mentally ill men and women, not suspected of any crime, stunned by a Taser while they lay on the ground. People already detained or incapacitated who were beaten, with police accounts falsely describing the force as necessary.

A 161-page report from the Justice Department details harrowing accounts of excessive force by the Chicago Police Department and highlights systemic failures that allow the violence to continue even as members of the public attempt to protest or report the brutality.

The Japanese air bag manufacturer Takata has reached a $1 billion settlement with the U.S. Justice Department over a deadly defect in its air bags that led to a massive recall.

At least 16 deaths, 11 of them in the U.S., have been linked to the defect.

Nuclear power plants are typically hulking structures made using billions of dollars of concrete and steel. But one company thinks that by going smaller, they could actually make nuclear power more affordable.

Little white chips fly off in every direction with each blow of master ivory carver Li Chunke's chisel.

Gradually, the folds of a robe, tassels and hands of an ancient Chinese woman begin to emerge from a rough piece of ivory in front of him in his Beijing workshop.

Li says nothing looks as smooth, nothing can be carved as intricately or expressively as ivory. Wood and jade are too brittle.

"Whether I'm carving animal or human figures, I try to express their feelings," he says. "That's what Chinese consider most important."

I don't want to oversell this new version of A Series of Unfortunate Events, but I don't know how not to. Everything that the movie version got wrong, this TV adaptation gets right. And not just right, but brilliantly.

The difference is as stark, and as significant, as the difference between the movie and TV versions of Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- where the writer of that story, Joss Whedon, took the reins and made a television version much truer to his original vision.

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(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS")

Writer Gregor Hens doesn't smoke anymore, but he used to — a lot. And as he explains in his memoir, Nicotine, he still thinks about it every day.

He writes, "Every form of cigarette ad gives me a pang of longing, every scrunched-up, carelessly thrown away cigarette packet at a bus stop, every trod-on cigarette butt, every beautiful woman holding a cigarette between her fingers or just looking like she could be holding one."

How much criticism can a single half-hour episode of television sustain before it gets the ax?

On Friday, we may have gotten our answer: An episode of the British comedy series Urban Myths — which drew widespread complaints for featuring the white actor Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson — has been canceled by Sky TV before it could air.

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