NPR Staff

The so-called Islamic State continues to wreak a human toll in the Middle East. And in addition to that suffering, the militant organization continues its assault on Syria's cultural heritage.

This week, militants blew up three tombs in the ancient city of Palmyra, and reduced the Greco-Roman Temple of Bel to rubble.

At the same time, ISIS also profits by selling small antiquities on the black market.

Salman Rushdie's new novel, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, seems to transpose the Arabian Nights of long ago to modern-day New York City. A thunderstorm overturns the city and upsets the laws of the universe with myth and magic.

The jinn have come back after an 800-year exile, and they create a world in which a down-to-earth gardener walks on air, a spurned wife shoots lightning from her fingertips and a graphic novelist's character turns to flesh. The world is in the grip of a long-term struggle between fear-instilled superstition and unmagical reason.

In 2008, Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk attempted to summit Meru, a 21,000-foot mountain in the Garhwal Himalayas in northern India. Some of the greatest climbers in the world have tried and failed to reach its peak — a sheer granite wall known as the Shark's Fin.

"The Shark's Fin to a climber is really irresistible," Chin explains to NPR's David Greene. "What really makes it challenging is that you have this kind of big wall on top of basically 4,000 feet of alpine climbing."

Soul singer Lizz Wright is starting over. Her new album, Freedom & Surrender, comes after a tough few years, during which she left behind a failed marriage and her own expectations about starting a family. And yet, she found a creative spark in that loss, along with a new kind of voice.

There may be an octopus arms race underway. And that's not even a joke about tentacles: Octopuses are actually fighting, and potentially using weapons.

The creatures are hardly team players under the best of circumstances.

Teenagers often feel bound by their parents' rules, and many young people feel isolated at some point, separated from the rest of the world.

But what would life be like for a young woman who was literally isolated — and bound by rules designed to save her life?

It's a question that author Nicola Yoon explores in her new novel for young adults, Everything, Everything. For 18 years, her lead character, Madeleine, has been kept inside a sterile house, interacting only with her mother and her nurse.

The California condor is big. In fact, it's the largest flying bird in North America with a wingspan of 9 1/2 feet.

Michael Mace, curator of birds for the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, tells NPR's Arun Rath that the condor "is like the 747 compared to a Cessna if you look at it proportionally with other species like eagles and turkey vultures."

Mace works in a condor power line aversion training program at the zoo. It was developed to address the condors' unfortunate run-ins with power lines.

A lot of books come across our desks here at Weekend Edition. One caught our eye recently, because of the unusual way it came to be published. The title sums up the story — Underground in Berlin: A Young Woman's Extraordinary Tale of Survival in the Heart of Nazi Germany.

That remarkable tale came to light thanks to a request by her son, historian Hermann Simon. "I once put a tape recorder and said to her, 'You always wanted to tell me the story of your life. Well, go ahead.' "

About an hour's drive south of Kabul, there's a vast Buddhist archaeological site dating back at least 1,500 years. It happens to be sitting on top of one of the biggest untapped copper deposits in the world, potentially worth billions of dollars.

It's been a big year for German filmmaker Wim Wenders: He received a lifetime achievement award at this year's Berlin International Film Festival, the Museum of Modern Art had a retrospective of his work and his latest Oscar-nominated documentary, The Salt of the Earth, came out in March.

Are most people more likely to pull the trigger of a gun if the person they're shooting at is black?

A new meta-analysis set out to answer that question. Yara Mekawi of the University of Illinois and her co-author, Konrad Bresin, drew together findings from 42 different studies on trigger bias to examine whether race affects how likely a target is to be shot.

Taking chances can sometimes lead to great art. But award-winning poet Carl Phillips says there's a risk to, well, taking risks.

"I think there has to be a place for risk and for restlessness in any kind of fully lived life, and especially I think for an artist," he tells NPR's Arun Rath. "I think it's the only way that imagination gets stimulated and continues — but I think it can easily go unchecked."

His latest work, Reconnaissance, looks for the balance between restlessness and stability — and between the raw and the refined, the omnicient and the intimate.

There's a song out there right now that's catching a lot of people off guard. "S.O.B" sounds kind of familiar, maybe like a revived oldie, but it's not: It's fresh off the new self-titled album from the Denver ensemble Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats.

Ursula Le Guin has brought mainstream recognition to science fiction in a successful career that has endured for sixty years, with books that include The Left Hand of Darkness, Lavinia, and the Earthsea series for young readers.

Donald Trump's Republican presidential campaign continues to lead in the polls, and this week Trump hired Sam Clovis to be his national campaign co-chairman. A week ago, Clovis worked for Republican rival Rick Perry. Clovis, a former radio talk show host and college professor, is an Iowan who has run for state treasurer and the U.S. Senate there. He Talked to NPR's Scott Simon from Sioux City, Iowa.

To hear the full conversation, click the audio link above.

Interview Highlights

On why he left Perry to work for Trump

Clock yourself the next time you tie your shoes. Chances are, in the time it took you to get those shoes laced up, Ronda Rousey would have knocked out her opponent in a typical mixed martial arts match.

The late Terry Pratchett wrote more than 40 books about the Discworld, a magical flat land borne through space on the backs of four elephants and a giant cosmic turtle. The Discworld is full of memorable characters: Werewolf constables, cunning rulers, snooty vampires, con men, trolls and dwarves and mystery-sausage sellers. But the most memorable of all are the witches — not green-skinned and cackling, but tough, practical women who use "headology" rather than spellcasting, and whose mission is to help people "when life is on the edge."

The big price drops on Wall Street in recent days have had many people worried. We asked people on social media to send us some questions about the stock market volatility and we turned to economist Austan Goolsbee for answers.

Since 1971 Sonia Manzano has been one of the lucky residents of Sesame Street. As Maria, she guided Big Bird, Elmo and the rest of the gang through life lessons large and small. After 44 years, Manzano recently announced her retirement, but her dedication to help kids continues.

Manzano's new memoir Becoming Maria is a poignant and difficult book meant for teens and adults. In it, she tells her own story of growing up in a Puerto Rican family in the South Bronx in the '50s and '60s. There was love, but also violence brought on by her father's drinking.

The U.S. has around 800 military bases outside of the nation's borders. They're home to hundreds of thousands of troops and family members, and, in many cases, they're a cause of controversy.

David Vine, an associate professor of anthropology at American University, argues that we've become too dependent on such overseas bases — and that many of them cause serious opposition abroad. He lays out his thinking in his new book, Base Nation: How the U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World.

When Fear the Walking Dead premiers Sunday night on AMC, don't expect to see Sheriff Grimes. There's no Daryl, either. In fact, the streets aren't even overrun yet with those dirty, hungry hoards of the undead that viewers know so well.

Still, something weird is happening — and it's happening in LA, not Atlanta, this time around. Fear, a prequel to the hit show The Walking Dead, swaps the post-apocalyptic Deep South for the West Coast, where that apocalypse still has yet to happen (or is just getting underway).

This time last year, what became known as #Gamergate rocked the Internet and the world of video games.

The stated purpose of the hashtag movement, according to those who supported it, was that it was about corruption and ethical malfeasance in video game journalism, but the debate — played out largely on Twitter, Reddit and other discussion websites — highlighted rampant sexism and harassment in video game culture.

Marion, Ohio, just north of Columbus, used to be an idyllic place to grow up.

Kelly Clixby and Beth Carey remember what it was like a generation ago, when they were young.

"I lived across the street from one of the big parks here," Clixby says. "We would rip n' run all day and all night and come in when the street lights were on."

"It was just a nice place to live," Carey says.

Today, Marion is different. It's grappling with a full-blown heroin epidemic, one that derailed Kelly Clixby's life and killed Beth Carey's twin sister.

In 1998, Ben Lecomte swam across the Atlantic Ocean. The 47-year-old athlete is preparing for another historic plunge: swimming across the ocean on the other side of the country.

At the end of September, Lecomte plans to take off from a Tokyo beach and spend the next six months making his way some 5,500 miles across the Pacific Ocean to San Francisco.

He'll swim for eight hours a day, then board a support boat to eat and sleep. The next day he'll jump back in the water at the exact same spot.

To hear the full conversation, click the audio link above.

Thousands of people are set to descend on the Black Rock Desert of Nevada for the annual Burning Man Festival, starting August 30. But before their arrival, the campgrounds were visited by another group of guests: bugs.

John Curley is a photographer and blogger for the Burning Man website. He says he first noticed the bugs at a gas station near Black Rock.

The horror of Agent Orange and its effects on Vietnam war veterans and Vietnamese citizens is well-documented.

But many U.S. veterans who never fought in that war say they, too, handled toxic chemicals at military bases around the world, suffering the same health consequences. Retired Lt. Col. Kris Roberts is among them.

It's been less than six months since Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African-American man, died after sustaining severe injuries in police custody. At the time, Gray's death set off days of demonstrations in Baltimore — as well as rioting and criminal charges against six police officers. Those officers have all pleaded not guilty.

We often hear the story of the Second World War through the experiences of American and British soldiers pitted in battle against Germany and Japan.

But the largest volunteer force in the world then was the Indian Army: More than 2 million Indian men fought for Britain, even as Indian citizens struggled to be free of the British Empire.

The rise of Donald Trump as a Republican presidential candidate has surprised many pundits, but not conservative commentator Glenn Beck.

Trump has widened his lead over other Republican presidential candidates in public opinion polls. Other non-professional politicians, including Dr. Ben Carson, a brain surgeon, and Carly Fiorina, the former head of Hewlett-Packard, have also shot ahead of politicians in the polls.

Voters are angry, and they "want somebody just to say it the way they think it — especially if they say it in a non-politically correct way," Beck says.