NPR Staff

Author Lawrence Wright was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, which meant he was required to do two years of what was called "alternative service." He ended up in Egypt, teaching at the American University in Cairo. And it was there that the man from Texas started his obsession with the Middle East.

Since then, Wright has written a lot about the region and about terrorism as a staff writer for The New Yorker. Now, he has compiled his many New Yorker essays into a new book called The Terror Years: From al-Qaeda to the Islamic State.

It's been a rough summer for supporters of Donald Trump.

A convention that aimed for harmony had some disharmony. The candidate picked arguments with a Gold Star family and with Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Polls have shown Trump falling behind.

At a recent rally in Altoona, Pa., Trump told the crowd that the only way he could lose Pennsylvania — a state where he is polling well behind Democratic rival Hillary Clinton — would be in the event of a fix.

It's a big summer for conventions, the Olympics — and Barbra Streisand. She's on tour in nine cities across North America, and has a new album of duets called called Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway. Her collaborators include Anne Hathaway, Daisey Ridley, Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Jamie Foxx, Melissa McCarthy, Antonio Banderas, and a host of other film stars.

Security experts say that Russian hackers have broken into the computers of not only the Democratic National Committee but other targets as well.

After making two solo albums, singer and guitarist Charlene Kaye hit a creative wall. She was stuck, mired in writer's block and self-doubt — until she went on the road as the frontwoman for the baroque-pop band San Fermin. Now, she's rediscovered her own voice on a new EP, Honey, released under the moniker KAYE.

For voters dissatisfied with both major party candidates, there are a few other options. There's Green Party candidate Jill Stein, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, and a lesser known late arrival to the scene — Evan McMullin.

McMullin is running as an independent with support from the #NeverTrump movement. He has been a vocal critic of Donald Trump — and he's seen as a conservative alternative to candidate. He has blasted Trump as personally unstable on his website and "a real threat to our Republic."

When Melva Washington Toomer joined her father on a visit with StoryCorps recently, their conversation was quite unlike anything that has been featured in the series' 10-year history. That's because she spoke with her dad, John Carter Washington, relying not on her voice but on a TeleBraille machine.

Washington is blind and deaf. So was his late wife, in fact — and together, they raised three children, including Melva, the oldest.

There are plenty of Civil War museums in Gettysburg, Pa., but none of them recreate the drama of the battlefield quite like the Civil War Tails at the Homestead Diorama Museum.

It boasts a collection of dioramas — miniature models of important Civil War battles — painstakingly sculpted by Rebecca Brown and her twin sister, Ruth. The stars of the exhibits are the tiny clay soldiers — nearly 2,000 of them. They're less than an inch tall and meticulously detailed right down to the patches on their blue and gray uniforms.

Most weddings go off without a hitch. Happy couples pledge to love one another for better or worse in front of their nearest and dearest. But for a small group, they never make it to those vows.

Calling the whole thing off has become a reliable plot twist in movies, but this week on For the Record, we hear three different, real-life stories about calling it quits before walking down the aisle.

Stella Grizont

"He was a totally nice guy. There was nothing i could say was wrong. And I so just figured, why not?"

On Sunday, the city of Flint, Mich., will no longer be under a federal state of emergency. A new report suggests that lead levels in the city's water are dropping, though researchers still recommend caution because of the health dangers posed by even small amounts of lead.

Sam Esmail, creator of the TV show Mr. Robot, learned the hard way that hacking isn't easy. Years ago, he made the "really ill-advised decision" to hack his girlfriend's college campus email, from his job at an NYU computer lab.

"I easily got busted ..." he tells NPR's Ari Shapiro. "They traced it back to that IP address and I got fired and put on academic probation and that was the end of my hacker days."

Nearly 25 years after Anita Hill accused her former boss Clarence Thomas — then a Supreme Court nominee — of making lewd advances, the fight against sexual harassment is again in the spotlight.

Women are pushing to change policies at colleges across the country. Bill Cosby — once a beloved figure of American culture — is now widely reviled because of accusations of rape and assault.

More recently, more than 20 women say media mogul Roger Ailes harassed them at work.

During the Olympics we will hear a lot about the winners. But the reality is most athletes at the games come home without a medal. Today we explore what losing does to athletes, fans and anyone who casts a vote for president.

Listen to this week's episode to hear the story of judo star Jimmy Pedro, and how he dealt with a crushing defeat in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

Daniel Pink also joins Shankar for a Stopwatch Science competition on all the unintended consequences of losing.

Stopwatch Science

Here's one museum you can enjoy without even getting out of your car: a drive-thru museum in Seale, Ala.

Created by artist Butch Anthony, it's a collection of odd items — many of which people have given him — that he has decorated and set up inside shipping containers cut out with large display windows.

There's a gallstone from 1971 billed as the largest with a poem it inspired, a two-headed duck in a domed jar and an assortment of fossils.

In Greek mythology, the Chimera is a monster that is part lion, part goat and part snake. Far from reality, sure, but the idea of mixing and matching creatures is real — and has ethicists concerned.

Cockroach Milk: Yes. You Read That Right

Aug 6, 2016

Pour out that almond milk — the new hip thing cockroach milk.

Well, kind of.

The female Pacific beetle cockroach is one of a kind. Unlike other insect species, this Hawaiian native gives birth to live young. And she feeds them a pale, yellow liquid "milk" from her brood sack.

But the craziest thing: Cut open an embryonic beetle roach, and they're guts will spill out nutrient-rich milk crystals that shimmer like glitter.

There was a time when people went to bars to talk to other people, maybe even meet someone new. But that was in the BC era — before cellphones.

"I've been in the pub industry for a long time, and progressively it's become less and less social and more and more antisocial," Steve Tyler, the owner of the Gin Tub in Sussex, England, tells NPR's Scott Simon.

When 8-year-old Savannah Phelan came across a video recently, she found herself brimming with questions she didn't know the answer to. That's because the online video depicted her mom, Kellie, talking about being pregnant while serving time in New York City's Rikers Island jail complex.

The Vacuum Cleaner Museum in St. James, Mo., might be the only place where having a collection that sucks is considered a compliment.

Tom Gasko, the museum's curator and a former door-to-door vacuum salesman, offers guided tours through nearly a century and a half of vacuum cleaner history. The oldest ones date back to just after the Civil War.

The NPR Politics team is back with a quick take to discuss the ongoing controversy over GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump's response to the parents of a Muslim-American solider who was killed in Iraq in 2004.

They also talk about the GOP establishment's reactions to Trump's comments and what it could all mean for Trump's campaign.

On the podcast:

  • Campaign Reporter Scott Detrow
  • Campaign Reporter Asma Khalid
  • Political Editor Domenico Montanaro

A few years ago, Silicon Valley engineer Bindu Reddy was raising money for a new startup. An investor offered to contribute — not because of what she was trying to do, but because she was a woman.

That rubbed Reddy the wrong way, and she wrote about it — then the backlash began.

Perhaps you've heard the famous F. Scott Fitzgerald quote that goes, "There are no second acts in American lives." Some may beg to disagree. After all, for many people, there are indeed second acts. One such example is singer and actress Heather Headley, who epitomizes this in ways few others do. Headley is a native of the twin-island republic Trinidad and Tobago in the South Caribbean, where she started singing and playing the piano in church at a very young age. She moved with her family to the United States in the early '90s.

Adam Summers used to trade Snickers bars to get free CT scans of dead fish.

He likes fish. A lot.

Summers is a professor at the University of Washington in the biology department and School of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences.

"I've always been a fish guy," he says. "It's just been in my blood since I was as small as I can remember." Summers was a scientific consultant on Finding Nemo and did similar work with Finding Dory.

Bad Moms is a movie about good moms who try to go bad. Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis and Kathryn Hahn play suburban Chicago mothers who find themselves ground down by the daily cycle of school drop-offs and pick-ups, soccer games, supermarket runs, errands, chores and endless worries. One night they wind up at the same bar after a PTA meeting and together they decide to let loose.

When he was in college, the thing that enraged Brett Cohen the most was celebrity culture. One day he had the idea to mock it by pretending to be a celebrity, gathering a fake entourage and walking through Midtown Manhattan. It was a big success, and then a film he made of the day went viral.

But there was one small problem: Once Cohen tasted fame, even fake fame, he discovered that he didn't want to give it up.

Ten years ago, Arnaldo Silva noticed a lump on his chest and decided to get it checked out.

"I'm sitting in an office with about 80 women, everybody's staring at me. And this lady leaned over she says, 'Are you waiting for somebody?' and I said 'No, I'm here for me,' " the 66-year-old tells his daughter, Vanessa Silva-Welch, during a recent visit to StoryCorps. "And I remember the doctor, he looked at me, he says 'You have male breast cancer. And we gotta move right away.' And then I was told that you had to get tested."

California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, has been in politics since the 1960s, and launched multiple runs for president himself.

In 1992, he ran as the outsider candidate — chastising the incumbent parties that had "failed their duty."

"They've placed their own interest about the national interest," he said during the speech that kicked off his campaign. They've allowed themselves to be trapped and in some cases corrupted by the powerful forces of greed. It's time for them go!"

Earlier this week, on the first day of this Democratic National Convention, Ruby Gilliam of Ohio — along with Clarissa Rodriguez of Texas — took the stage, and led the delegates in the Pledge of Allegiance.

The two women are the oldest and youngest delegates at the DNC.

"It's almost like a dream come true," Gilliam tells NPR's Audie Cornish.

"When they called me though and told me though that I was doing the Pledge of Allegiance and there was nobody at home I thought, I'm gonna burst, I'm gonna burst," she recalls.

First lady Michelle Obama on Monday referenced a bit of history in her speech at the Democratic National Convention that has both surprised and moved many.

"That is the story of this country, the story that has brought me to this stage tonight, the story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, but who kept on striving and hoping and doing what needed to be done so that today I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves," she said.

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