Sam Sanders

Sam has worked at Vermont Public Radio since October 1978 in various capacities â

Updated at 7:45 p.m. ET

Investigators continue their examination of a fire at the Glover Grove Baptist Church of Warrenville, S.C.

Fires damaged Glover Grove and some other black churches in the days following nine shooting deaths at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, raising concerns that the incidents were hate-inspired arsons.

Now, in the case of Glover Grove, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division has released the following statement, saying it still doesn't know how the blaze started.

PBS has released details about an internal investigation that found that actor Ben Affleck exerted improper influence by requesting that the show Finding Your Roots hide details of a slave-owning ancestor in his family tree.

Taylor Swift is no stranger to positive, even fawning, press coverage. Just this month, there was the story about teenagers using light-up bracelets from a Swift concert to flag down help when they were trapped inside their car after a crash. The headline from MTV read "Taylor Swift Saved Three Teens' Lives — Literally."

The U.S. Open kicked off today, at the Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place, Washington. One aspect of this year's tournament is standing out already: the grass. It is quite brown in some places, an aesthetic that is almost totally in opposition to say, the lush, verdant greens of the Augusta National Golf Club, where The Masters takes place.

In a decision that could have major implications for the entire sharing economy, the California Labor Commission has ruled that a San Francisco Uber driver is a company employee, not a contractor. In that decision, the commission awarded Uber driver Barbara Ann Berwick $4,152.20 in employee expenses, including mileage reimbursements, toll charges and interest.

The ruling was made public when Uber filed an appeal Tuesday in a state court in San Francisco.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Kirk Kerkorian changed the way Vegas did business. The founder of MGM Resorts International died yesterday at his home in California. NPR's Sam Sanders reports.

Kirk Kerkorian, child of Armenian immigrants, casino magnate, World War II pilot and grade-school dropout, died Monday night in Los Angeles. He was 98.

The Los Angeles Times reports Kerkorian died at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Kerkorian, who founded MGM Resorts International and built the largest hotel in the world three different times, was known for making the Las Vegas Strip a destination not just for adults, but entire families.

Soon, you might be able to log into your bank account with a litany of smiling poo emojis, or a string of little chicken wing images, or multiple little monkeys holding their hands over their eyes.

As California endures its fourth year of drought, water restrictions are taking effect across the state. On April 1, Governor Jerry Brown signed an executive order implementing a mandatory 25 percent water cutback in cities and towns across the state from 2013 usage levels. It took effect June 1.

Brown's executive order, and the hundreds of other water guidelines throughout the state, can be confusing. NPR asked listeners what questions they have about California water restrictions. We took those questions to experts to get to the bottom of what all these rules actually mean.

The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday started what could be a lengthy process: making rules to limit the amount of climate-warming pollution that comes from aircraft engines.

The album artwork of one of the most important punk bands in music history has a new home: credit cards from Virgin Money. A statement announcing the cards said, "It's time for consumers to put a little bit of rebellion in their pocket."

Yeah. Credit cards. So rebellious.

Cpl. Eric Casebolt, the McKinney, Texas, police officer seen on a video forcing a teenage girl to the ground and briefly drawing his gun while attempting to break up a disturbance at a community pool, has resigned. Police Chief Greg Conley made the announcement at a press conference Tuesday evening.

Vincent Musetto, a longtime editor at the New York Post, has died at the age of 74. The Post reports Musetto died Tuesday in hospice care at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx, after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer three weeks ago. His daughter Carly VanTassell told the paper, "He wasn't in any pain. ... He passed peacefully in his sleep."

Two prisoners who escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility in northern New York last weekend are still on the loose. North Country Public Radio reports that at least 300 tips have come in so far, but authorities still have no idea where Richard Matt, 48, and David Sweat, 34, two convicted murderers, actually are.

Last October, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill released findings from an internal investigation that revealed approximately 3,000 students — mostly student athletes — had their grades inflated through sham courses in the school's African and Afro-American studies department over a span of almost 20 years.

Nearly 4 million past and current federal employees may have fallen victim to the latest cybersecurity attack against the Office of Personnel Management.

The federal agency said in a statement that it discovered the breach in April, during a recent push to update the its "cybersecurity posture." OPM says people's names, social security numbers, dates and places of birth, and current and former addresses were hacked.

California's drought isn't just turning green lawns brown or #droughtshaming into a trending topic. It's taking a multi-billion dollar toll on the state's agricultural industry as well.

The University of California, Davis is out with a new report, and some of the numbers are steep. The study found that in 2015 alone, the drought will cost the state's farmers industry $2.7 billion and more than 18,000 jobs, with 564,000 acres fallowed.

Both social apps have the announcements in posts to their respective blogs. Instagram says its new ad strategy will bring "new formats, increased relevance, and broader [ad] availability." Pinterest is more direct; the title of its post is "Coming soon: Buyable Pins!" Here's a breakdown.

Instagram

For some time, researchers suspected that the São José-Paquete de Africa, a Portuguese slave ship, was lost in 1794 off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa. But only now, after years of painstaking work, have they finally confirmed it.

In Washington, D.C., commuters see ads on issues of public concern all the time as they ride subways and buses. But one ad has created such controversy that it has disrupted that pattern.

On Thursday, the board of directors of D.C.'s transit authority temporarily suspended what it calls "issue-oriented advertisements" throughout the D.C.-area Metrorail and bus system through the end of the calendar year. That category, according to a motion by the chair of the Board of Directors, includes but is not limited to "political, religious, and advocacy advertising."

Two episodes of "localized blunt force trauma" to the skull with "an intention to kill." 3-D imaging to re-create the injuries. Bodies dropped down a 43-foot-deep vertical shaft into a mass grave. A murder case — more than 435,000 years old.

It's all detailed in a study in the journal PLOS One called "Lethal Interpersonal Violence in the Middle Pleistocene," and its authors say it's evidence of one of the earliest murders on record.

The news of Jony Ive's promotion was first revealed, oddly enough, in a long, fawning profile of Ive in the Telegraph, written by British comedian and TV host Stephen Fry. "Until now, Ive's job title has been Senior Vice President of Design," Fry wrote. "But I can reveal that he has just been promoted and is now Apple's Chief Design Officer. It is therefore an especially exciting time for him."

California's drought is turning neighbor against neighbor, as everyone seems to be on the lookout for water wasters.

Take Los Angeles resident Jane Demian, for example. She recently got a letter from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's Water Conservation Response Unit, about an unverified report of prohibited water use activity at her home in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of L.A. Demian says she was called out for water runoff onto the sidewalk, driveway and gutter, and the unauthorized "washdown of hardscapes" like the walkway to her house.

#NPRreads is a feature we're testing out on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers throughout our newsroom will share pieces that have kept them reading. They'll share tidbits on Twitter using the #NPRreads hashtag, and on occasion we'll share a longer take here on the blog.

This week, we bring you four reads.

From reporter Sam Sanders:

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Eighty-year-old Arlene Rosenblatt rents out her quaint converted duplex in Santa Monica, Calif., whenever she and her husband leave town to visit their seven grandchildren. She charges anywhere from $115 to $220 a night for her home, listing it on Airbnb and other sites.

But over the past few weeks, Rosenblatt's time has been filled with protests instead of family visits: she is one of dozens of Santa Monica residents fighting new city rules for short-term rentals.

Santa Monica, Calif., is cracking down on Airbnb and the rest of the short-term rental industry. Tuesday night, the Santa Monica City Council adopted its home-sharing ordinance, which bans the rental of an entire unit for less than 30 days and requires those who take part in allowable home-sharing to obtain a business license from the city and pay a 14% hotel tax. The law takes effect June 15.

Nicole P. Eramo, an associate dean of students at the University of Virginia who handles reports of sexual assault for the school, is suing Rolling Stone magazine over the way she was depicted in a now discredited story.

Eramo has filed suit against Rolling Stone LLC, parent company Wenner Media LLC, and Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the author of the article called "A Rape on Campus," which painted a harrowing picture of a rape and its coverup at U.Va. The complaint was filed in the Charlottesville, Va., circuit court. Eramo is seeking a total of $7.85 million.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced the creation of a task force to investigate and tackle abuse in the state's more than 2,000 nail salons.

Upscale grocery store chain Whole Foods (often referred to as "Whole Paycheck" because of its high prices) announced this week that it's launching a new offshoot brand — with lower prices — to appeal to younger, millennial shoppers.

Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods, says it will be a "uniquely branded store concept unlike anything that currently exists in the marketplace" with "value prices ... a modern, streamlined design, innovative technology and a curated selection."

Pages