The Capitol's dome and Christmas tree are illuminated on Dec. 11 as Congress worked to pass a $1.1 trillion U.S. government-wide spending bill and avoid a government shutdown. J. Scott Applewhite/AP hide caption

itoggle caption J. Scott Applewhite/AP

NPR's series looks at the human toll of mandatory minimum prison sentences. The White House and the Justice Department have taken the unprecedented step of asking for candidates who might win early release from prison through presidential pardons or commutations in the final years of the Obama presidency. Dan Henson/iStockphoto hide caption

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The Iraqi town of Halabja is dominated by Kurds, the group that has been fighting the Islamic State in northern Iraq. However, some Kurdish residents have been slipping away to join the Islamic State. Yahya Ahmad/Reuters/Landov hide caption

itoggle caption Yahya Ahmad/Reuters/Landov

Valerie Davidson was appointed health commissioner by Alaska's Gov. Bill Walker to help him expand Medicaid in the state. She'll look for middle ground with Republicans to get it done, she says. Lori Townsend/Alaska Public Media hide caption

itoggle caption Lori Townsend/Alaska Public Media

More than a year after he was nominated, Dr. Vivek Murthy was confirmed as the next surgeon general Monday. Back in February, Murthy testified about his nomination before a Senate panel. Charles Dharapak/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Charles Dharapak/AP

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. (right), a member of the Senate banking committee, and Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., ranking member of the House financial services committee, express their outrage to reporters that a $1.1 trillion spending bill that was passed in Congress contains changes to the 2010 Dodd-Frank law that regulates complex financial instruments known as derivatives. J. Scott Applewhite/AP hide caption

itoggle caption J. Scott Applewhite/AP