Afghan soldiers take positions following a clash with Taliban fighters on the outskirts of the eastern city of Jalalabad on July 7. The U.S. is trying to organize peace talks, but the latest effort has been put on hold while the fighting continues.
The U.S. has been pushing the Taliban and the Afghan government to find a political solution for the past year and a half. But every time it seems the parties are close to starting peace talks, a new demand or controversy arises and nothing happens.
In the latest attempt, the Taliban finally opened a political office in Qatar, a move that was supposed to set the stage for negotiations. But when the Taliban envoys gave that office the trappings of an embassy, a furious Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, called off the talks, and they have yet to be re-scheduled.
In Canada, 28 bodies have been located one week after a devastating train explosion in Eastern Quebec. Railcars full of oil sped down a long hill into the heart of a small town before derailing and exploding. The death toll is expected to reach 50. North Country's Public Radio's Brian Mann, has been on the scene throughout the week and says the people are taking the first painful steps towards recovery.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. I'm going to be on vacation for a couple of weeks and after today's show. You know what I'm going to miss? Our crew here and the chance to say: Time for sports.
"Shadow Dancer," is the name of the new film from James Marsh. The director won an Oscar for his 2008 documentary, "Man on a Wire," and his film, "Project Nim," was also a documentary winner at Sundance. But his latest is a fictional film based on very real events, the bloody civil war in Northern Ireland known as The Troubles. Pat Dowell has more.
Swedish musician Anna von Hausswolff says she was drawn to the church organ by its physicality: "When you play it, you can really feel it because you're sitting close to the pipes. It's almost as if you're becoming a part of the instrument."
Swedish performer Anna von Hausswolff is one of the few recording artists in the world who plays the pipe organ in popular music. Her latest album, Ceremony, was recorded over five days at a church in her hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden.
Cpl. Jose "Freddy" Velez served in Iraq. His brother, Spc. Andrew Velez, deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Both died in their early 20s. They are survived by their sister, Monica.
"My mom left us when I was 7, so my dad was a single parent," Monica says. "And I did all the household chores. I got the boys dressed for school, I taught them how to ride their bike, I taught them how to read and write."
One of her favorite memories is when both brothers came back from basic training and told her she could no longer be bossy.
I hope we've heard the last of people saying, "This would never be a scandal in Europe." They usually mean "sex scandal," and by now I think Americans are entitled to boast that we've become as blase about politicians with their pants down — or, in the case of Anthony Weiner, pec-flexing with his shirt off — as Europeans like to think they are.
In a major victory for the anti-abortion movement, the Texas state Senate passed a sweeping bill early Saturday that has become a flashpoint in the national abortion debate. Gov. Rick Perry is expected to sign it in short order.
But the fight is not over. Abortion rights supporters say that the new law attempts to overturn Roe vs. Wade in Texas, and that's why they plan to take their fight to the courts.
Filmmaker and artist Miranda July is blasting emails copied from the outboxes of some well-known names on intimate topics to anyone who signs up.
The project is called We Think Alone, and includes messages sent from a range of notable people (who agreed to participate in advance, of course). Those names include the NBA's all-time leading scorer Kareem Abdul Jabar, fashion-designing siblings Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte, and a Canadian-American theoretical physicist.
You could say George Benson's latest album, Inspiration: A Tribute to Nat King Cole, was conceived decades ago. Benson was just a kid when he first mimicked Cole off the radio, singing his own version of "Mona Lisa" while accompanying himself on the ukulele. He even made a recording.
A mannequin in night-vision goggles is part of a display at a border-security expo in Pheonix last year. Defense companies are seeking growth in markets in the developing world, or in homeland and cybersecurity.
Defense manufacturers worldwide are facing tough times ahead, as tight budgets force Western governments to cut spending. But while the West is cutting back, developing countries around the world are spending more on defense — a lot more.
Last fall, defense contractors warned of massive layoffs if the U.S. government enacted the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration. Now, sequestration is in effect, but job losses are limited, in part because many Pentagon contracts were already in place and will keep assembly lines rolling for much of this year.
Many of the flowers at Hillwood are doing well despite the ever-changing local climate.
Credit Emily Files / NPR
Once the Washington, D.C., home of cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, the Hillwood Estate has a number of gardens. Like home gardeners, professionals here are trying to adapt to a changing climate.
Credit Emily Files / NPR
Credit Emily Files / NPR
To keep the flowers healthy, gardeners have to check leaves for fungus and bacteria.
At the Hillwood Estate gardens in Washington, D.C., the new norm is: "Expect the unexpected." So says volunteer coordinator Bill Johnson, who has worked on property belonging to the heiress of the Post cereal fortune for 30 years.
Like home gardeners, the horticulturalists and professional gardeners at Hillwood are confronting an unpredictable climate.
The ouster of Mohammed Morsi puts the U.S. in an awkward position: By law, the administration is supposed to cut off aid to a country after a military coup, but Egypt's military has been a key to regional stability. As the administration considers its next steps, it's come under criticism from all sides in Egypt over how it's handling the situation.
Gun stores around the country have had difficulty keeping up with demand for ammunition in recent months. Fears of government tightening of gun and ammunition controls have meant that retailers, from Wal-Mart to mom-and-pop gun shops, haven't been able to keep bullets on the shelves.
Cliff Poser's gun shop, Cliff's Guns, Safes and Reloading in Boise, Idaho, is one of them. Business has been so crazy lately that he has to keep a special stash of ammunition, just so customers who buy guns from him can also buy bullets.
Long before the Civil Rights marches of 1963 thrust Birmingham, Ala. into the national spotlight, black families along one residential street were steadily chipping away at Jim Crow segregation laws — and paying a price for it. As part of our series looking back at the seminal events that changed the nation 50 years ago, NPR's Debbie Elliott paid a visit to Birmingham's Dynamite Hill.
<em>Exorcistic, </em>a rock parody inspired by a certain<em> </em>1971 novel and the William Friedkin film made from it<em>,</em> showcases Merlin as a rapping priest inspired by Max von Sydow's Father Merrin. Above, the show poster for the musical's Los Angeles fringe production.
Credit David Haverty / Hollywood Fringe
In <em>Re-Animator: The Musical,</em> L.A.-based actor and opera singer Jesse Merlin plays Dr. Hill, a sex-obsessed surgeon who quite literally loses his head. (And, um, comes back from the dead.)
What do a reanimated deviant surgeon, a cannibalistic serial killer and a demon-plagued, vomit-spattered priest have in common? They're all characters in camp stage musicals inspired by horror films — and they're all played by the same classically trained opera singer.
His name is Jesse Merlin, and he looks a little like a young, untanned George Hamilton. But he has a bass-baritone voice that would be perfect for Gilbert and Sullivan.
Since that's not what Hollywood's looking for, Merlin had to scare up roles elsewhere.
Two years ago, in 2011, 90 percent of Lego's consumers were boys. A tough statistic to swallow for those of us who grew up playing with Lego's gender-neutral buckets of bricks. But the statistic came straight from Lego, which was then focused on boys with franchised sets based on properties like Star Wars and The Avengers after weathering a disastrous period in the 1990s that left the company on the brink of collapse.
Smith Dobson was one of the most sought-after pianists of the Bay Area when he died in a car crash in 2001. He was part of a musical family — his wife, Gail, a jazz singer; his son a drummer. His daughter, Sasha Dobson, was a scat singer who followed the family's jazz muse until her dad's tragic death.
President Obama may be in South Africa but his attention is also on Egypt. Mr. Obama said today, he's concerned about political protests and clashes between supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi which have left at least three people dead, including one American.
Joining us now is NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson from Cairo. Thanks for joining us, Soraya.
Richard Russo, the writer who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for his book Empire Falls, published a new novel six months ago. If you're wondering how you missed it, it might be because Russo chose not to publish with a traditional publisher. There are no hardcover or paperback copies of Nate in Venice -- it's only available by subscription on Byliner, a digital publishing service, where you can only read it on an e-reader, phone or tablet.
For the sweetest, smoothest strawberry jam, author Kevin West suggests staying as far away as possible from what he calls "Pamela Anderson fruit": the big strawberries found in regular supermarkets. He prefers picking small, red berries from farm stands, instead.
Credit Kevin West / Knopf
These snappy dill pickles were once Kirby cucumbers. The canning liquid is made with vinegar, fennel and coriander seeds that give them their distinct tart flavor.
Credit Kevin West / Knopf
Kevin West is a "canning evangelist," and he's the author of <em>Saving the Season,</em> a colorful guide to preserving the bounty from a backyard vegetable harvest — or a compulsive farmers market shopping spree.
Shopping at a farmers market on a weekend morning can turn bittersweet if your eye for just-picked summer fruit is bigger than your refrigerator and appetite.
That's a crisis first-time cookbook author Kevin West found himself in a few years back. After one particular farmers market spree, West's buyer's remorse came from a big package of fresh strawberries.
NPR's Kelly McEvers struggled with intense, unexpected emotions during the Arab Spring, when friends were being kidnapped and worse. It made her wonder, why do otherwise intelligent people risk their lives to report on conflicts?
In early 2011, I started seeing things in slow motion. I cried unpredictably. It was the time of the Arab uprisings. Colleagues and friends were getting kidnapped. Some were getting killed.
Susan Choi's previous novels have pulled from events in the headlines: the Korean War for The Foreign Student; the Patty Hearst kidnapping for American Woman; and the Wen Ho Lee accusations for A Person of Interest. But her latest book, My Education, was inspired by something else — youthful passion.
Gay rights activists celebrated two big victories this week before the U.S. Supreme Court, as justices overturned the Defense of Marriage Act and cleared the way for same-sex marriages in California.
Now gay marriage opponents and supporters are turning their attention to individual states, like New Jersey, where polls show most residents support same-sex marriage. So far, one person, Gov. Chris Christie, has stood in the way.
Right now, 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. One of them is 73-year-old Pansy Greene. She's in the early stages of Alzheimer's, and she and her husband, Winston, want people to know that so far, their daily lives have changed little despite the diagnosis.
For many of us, a single cycling event — the Tour de France — defines athleticism on two wheels. The epic race was first organized by a French newspaper editor named Henri Desgrange in 1903. But Desgrange also had a hand in the creation of a very different style of cycling: the randonnée, a long distance-ride that prizes camaraderie and self-sufficiency over flat-out speed.