Amy Held

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the eighth episode in the widely popular intergalactic series, ascended to first place among American and Canadian movie-goers in its debut weekend.

From Friday through Sunday, it brought in an estimated $220 million domestically, making it the No. 1 debut of the year, according to Disney. Its weekend haul also earns it the title of the second biggest domestic debut of all time, behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens, its predecessor released in 2015.

Police have launched an investigation after a woman working at the British Embassy was found strangled on a roadside outside the capitol city of Beirut on Saturday, Lebanese officials said.

NPR's Ruth Sherlock has confirmed with the embassy that the victim is Rebecca Dykes, a British national.

"We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Rebecca," her family said in a statement, released by the Foreign Office. "We are doing all we can to understand what happened. We request that the media respect our privacy."

As was her habit, 22-year-old Bethany Stephens took her dogs for a walk in the woods near her childhood home in Goochland, Va., about 30 miles outside Richmond. But when she did not return home by Thursday night, her father grew concerned and called police, who made a terrible discovery. Stephens had been attacked and killed by her own pit bulls, police say.

As the year winds down, three new crew members are set to begin a mission aboard the International Space Station. Early Sunday, an American, a Russian and a Japanese astronaut blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in a Soyuz spacecraft.

Tens of thousands of people have been forced from their homes, thousands of acres scorched and hundreds of buildings reduced to ash. It hasn't even been one week since the latest string of wildfires broke out in Southern California, but the toll is staggering.

Even so, by Saturday, some bright spots began to emerge in the fire-ravaged region.

Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State Saturday after its forces drove out the group from its final area of control along the Syrian border, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told a conference in Baghdad.

"Our heroic armed forces have now secured the entire length of the Iraq-Syria border," Abadi later tweeted. "We defeated Daesh through our unity and sacrifice for the nation. Long live Iraq and its people."

A bankruptcy judge has granted struggling retailer Toys R Us permission to pay millions of dollars in bonuses to executives after the company argued it was necessary to motivate its top brass during the critical holiday shopping season.

David Ermold once again stepped inside the Rowan County, Ky., courthouse on Wednesday, except this time he wasn't asking for a marriage license — he was asking for Kim Davis' job. She is the Rowan County clerk who refused Ermold and his partner, among other couples, a marriage license on the basis of her religious beliefs against same-sex marriage.

After a night of drinking, South Carolina man Alex Bowen couldn't sleep and decided to get something to eat early Thursday. The Waffle House in West Columbia, S.C., fit the bill, so he stepped inside and waited 10 minutes at the register, but nobody attended to him, he tells local news station WIS-TV.

That was when he realized there was an employee there, the worker just happened to be fast asleep in a corner booth. And Bowen didn't waffle.

Updated at noon ET Monday

The time-honored tradition is as steeped in lore as Father Christmas himself: child nestles on Santa's knee, rattles off the coveted goodies, then a snap of the camera preserves the memory in all of its seasonal glory.

Or, this:

Interminable lines, artificial pine and a whiskered stranger decked in red. It's more than some kids and, yes, even parents, can take.

The U.S. Navy has named the three sailors lost in Wednesday's C-2A aircraft crash southeast of Okinawa, Japan in the Philippine Sea.

In a statement, the Navy identified Lt. Steven Combs, of Florida; Matthew Chialastri, an aviation boatswain's mate airman from Louisiana and Bryan Grosso, an aviation ordnanceman airman apprentice, also from Florida.

Kenya's opposition leader is asking for "international intervention" as violence is escalating in the country's post-election crisis. Overnight into Sunday at least four people were killed in an "area that's opposition heavy," reports NPR's Eyder Peralta from Nairobi.

"The country's just really tense," Eyder says.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga said those who died overnight were his own supporters and called their deaths "state-sponsored thuggery," reports The Associated Press.

Updated at 5:15 a.m. ET on Monday

A noon Monday deadline for President Robert Mugabe to voluntarily step down has come and gone with no word whether the longtime strongman of Zimbabwe will comply. Parliament has promised to initiate impeachment proceedings to remove him.

Editor's note: This post contains language that some may find offensive.

In her onetime role as a Dallas County assistant district attorney, Jody Warner was accustomed to prosecuting others, but she found herself on the defensive after an Uber driver released audio, recorded Friday, in which she can be heard hurling insults and curse words at him. By Monday, Warner had lost her job.

It began when Shaun Platt was driving Warner, 32, home from a bar and she disagreed with the route he was taking.

Mattel unveiled its first hijab-wearing Barbie doll on Monday, modeled after fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, who has broken ground herself as the first U.S. Olympic athlete to compete in the head scarf.

As Mexican authorities continue to crack down on drug smugglers, criminals continue to aim high in a bid to evade them. Last week, Mexican authorities seized a jury-rigged bazooka and nearly one ton of marijuana in the border town of Agua Prieta in Sonora state, the Mexican Attorney General said in a statement.

From the San Diego Museum of Man to Boston's City Hall, more than 50 buildings and structures across the country lit up in orange Wednesday night to mark one month since the Las Vegas massacre, in honor of the victims of the biggest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Scott Rechler, chairman and CEO of New York-based RXR Realty, worked with the gun-control organization Everytown for Gun Safety to launch the campaign.

A 21-year-old Pakistani woman, unhappy in her new arranged marriage, is charged with murder after poisoning her husband's milk that some two dozen members of his extended family later drank, resulting in 17 deaths, according to police.

The alleged incident took place in a rural village near the city of Multan in the eastern Punjab Province.

Updated at 3:55 p.m. EDT Thursday

Police have apprehended a man they say went on the run Wednesday after fatally shooting two men and a woman at a Walmart outside Denver as hundreds of terrified customers ran for cover.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters decrying the Catalan government's push for independence came together in Barcelona on Sunday, in one of the biggest gatherings of Spanish unity supporters.

Waving flags and singing "Viva España," the marchers gave voice to what some have called the silent majority in a region whose government declared independence from Spain on Friday.

Updated at 4:52 p.m. Eastern

On Sunday the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority cancelled the highly disputed $300 million contract awarded to Whitefish Energy, a tiny American company tasked with restoring power to the still storm-ravaged island. PREPA spokesperson Carlos Monroig confirmed the news to NPR.

The announcement came hours after Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló demanded the contract's cancellation, amid ongoing local and federal audits.

Somali security forces finally put an end to a deadly siege Sunday that had dragged on through the night at a hotel in Somalia's capital, but not before at least 23 people were killed. Al-Shabab claimed the attack as the Islamic extremist group wages a bloody insurgency in the country and elsewhere in Africa.

A close loss was followed by a rough flight for the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team early Saturday, when its chartered flight landed at Chicago's Midway International Airport with the nose of the plane caved in.

The plane touched down safely and on schedule around 1 a.m. local time, albeit not totally intact, following the Thunder's 116-119 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night in Minneapolis.

Several players immediately took to social media with photographs of the damage and to express their incredulity about the size and cause of the crater.

In a move that shakes up more than a century of tradition, the Boy Scouts of America announced Wednesday that starting next year, it will welcome girls into some Scouting programs.

"Everyone should stand" during the national anthem, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a memo to all 32 teams, adding that the NFL will present a plan next week to help "move past this controversy."

In the memo sent Tuesday, Goodell said he is "very proud of our players and owners who have done the hard work over the past year to listen, understand and attempt to address the underlying issues within their communities" and expressed respect for players' "opinions and concerns about critical social issues."

Just in time for fall, a new heavyweight champ of the botanical variety — tipping the scales at more than one ton — has squashed the competition.

A giant green squash broke the world record Saturday at the Southern New England Giant Pumpkin Growers Pumpkin Weigh-off at Frerichs Farm in Warren, R.I.

Joe Jutras of Scituate, R.I., grew the 2,118 pound fruit. After the number appeared on the scale, the other growers lifted Jutras onto their shoulders.

Sports, politics and perceptions of patriotism collided once again when President Trump tweeted early Tuesday about ESPN's SportsCenter host Jemele Hill, suggesting she is the reason for the network's poor ratings. Hill was suspended a day earlier for comments about the ongoing national anthem protests.

Beauty brand Dove deleted a "three-second video clip" from its Facebook page and admitted Saturday that it had "missed the mark in thoughtfully representing women of color" in an ad for body wash. Consumers had reacted angrily to images of a black woman removing a brown shirt and appearing to transform into a white woman removing a similar shirt.

Author Habeeb Akande summarized some of the outrage to the ad when he tweeted that it showed "a black woman turning white after using @Dove."

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