NPR News

Highlights from NPR News.

First in a three-part report on solitary confinement use in U.S. prisons.

In the yard at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, gray-haired men make their way up to a small stage. A towering stone prison wall rises overhead. One by one they sit at a scratchy microphone and tell their stories — of being locked up 23 hours a day in a place that just about broke them.

"This place here really did something to me psychologically," says former inmate Anthony Goodman.

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.

Angela Chalk lives right in the middle of New Orleans, in the 7th Ward. Her house withstood Hurricane Katrina's pounding winds, but not the flood that followed when the federal levee system failed.

"I had 6 feet of water," she says, pointing to a watermark on her wall.

And she wasn't alone. About 80 percent of the city's homes were inundated with floodwater. It was weeks before the water receded and Chalk was able to return home.

When she did, what she found was a crusty brown mess.

Updated at 11:50 p.m. EDT

Mei Xiang, the female giant panda at the Washington National Zoo, gave birth to two live cubs on Saturday.

The first cub was born in the afternoon, and the second cub emerged 4 1/2 hours later. Both appear to be healthy, the zoo reports.

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.

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

Transcript

TESS VIGELAND, HOST:

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

Transcript

TESS VIGELAND, HOST:

Copyright 2015 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit http://www.opb.org.

Transcript

TESS VIGELAND, HOST:

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.

The Italian coast guard says it is in the process of trying to rescue as many as 3,000 migrants after receiving distress calls from a flotilla of four boats and 14 rubber dinghies off the coast of Libya.

The BBC reports:

"At least 1,200 people have already been rescued from five of the boats, in one of the largest such operations to date.

"The route from Libya to Italy is one of the busiest for migrants trying to enter Europe."

A suicide car bomb targeting a convoy in the Afghan capital has killed a dozen people, including three American contractors, NATO say. Scores of others were wounded.

The attack, which wounded 66 people, took place in Kabul's Macrorayan neighborhood, what The Associated Press describes as "a Soviet-built housing estate lined with shops, hospitals and schools."

Seven people were killed outside a British airshow near Brighton after a military jet crashed into a busy road, police said Saturday. More than a dozen others were hurt.

The single-seat Hawker Hunter jet — taken out of service with the royal air force and navy decades ago — failed to pull out of an acrobatic loop at the Shoreham Airshow and hit several vehicles on the A27 in nearby West Sussex, on England's south coast.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump repeatedly referred to "criminal aliens" and "illegal aliens" in the immigration plan he released on Sunday. "Alien," and especially "illegal alien," have become such staples in the vocabulary of conservative pundits and politicians that many immigrant rights advocates now reject those terms as derogatory and dehumanizing.

But it wasn't always like that.

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

Update at 8:30 p.m.:

Danny has weakened to a tropical storm, the NOAA has announced, and the maximum sustained winds have dropped to 65 mph.

Our previous post continues:

Hurricane Danny has weakened a bit, getting a downgrade from a Category 3 to a Category 2 storm as it moves across the Atlantic toward the islands of the eastern Caribbean.

When a Palestinian man in Israeli custody came close to death this week, doctors challenged an Israeli law.

Palestinian prisoner Mohammad Allan was in critical condition after he had refused food for two months, protesting his detention since last November in Israeli custody. Suspected of ties to a militant group, he was held with no charges, no lawyer and no accusations to face in court.

Updated at 5:05 p.m. ET

North and South Korea are holding high-level talks aimed at defusing tensions and preventing an exchange of artillery at the border from leading to a full-scale conflict between the bitter rivals.

Throughout the week, Russians have been watching scenes of destruction on the evening news.

It's part of Russia's war against so-called contraband foods, as authorities crush, burn and bury Western food products.

Russian authorities are enforcing a ban on many foods from the European Union, the United States and other nations that have sanctioned Moscow for its aggression in Ukraine.

Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET

More details are emerging about the incident in which three Americans, including two U.S. servicemen traveling in civilian clothes, overpowered, tackled and subdued a Kalashnikov-wielding gunman aboard a high-speed train in Belgium.

One of those who helped take down the assailant was slashed multiple times with a box cutter in the scuffle and remains hospitalized with non-life threatening wounds, according to The Associated Press.

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.

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

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Jimmy Carter told a press conference he called on the morning of the day he would have the first radiation treatment on the cancer in his brain, "I'd like for the last guinea worm to die before I do."

Mr. Carter was frank, funny and graceful speaking this week about his health, and his faith. But his remark about the guinea worm may have puzzled a few people.

Ten years ago, Ethel Curry rode out Hurricane Katrina in her upended refrigerator as it floated near the ceiling of her home in East Biloxi, Miss. As it went higher, she used a fan blade to break the ceiling tile.

"The rafters were so small, I had to hold on to each side to keep my head above the water," recalls Curry, who is 70 now. "And I stayed there 5 1/2 hours, until the water went down."

In Syria, the United States is focused on countering the self-declared Islamic State, or ISIS. But what strikes terror among perhaps even more Syrians are the indiscriminate, so-called barrel bomb attacks by government forces.

Barrel bombs are crude metal drums packed with explosives and shrapnel. They are dropped off the hatch of helicopters and have the power to pulverize an entire block. Syrian activists have filmed hundreds of attacks and posted the videos online.

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

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Two U.S. Soldiers Help Subdue Gunman On French Train

Aug 22, 2015
Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Of the many New Hampshire journalists who have covered the state's presidential primary, few can match longtime Associated Press photographer Jim Cole, who has captured every New Hampshire primary since 1980.

Cole has a rule he follows when out on assignment: No matter how crowded the press gaggle gets, he never takes a picture while he's touching another photographer. The point is to force himself to think of a different approach to each shot.

In one photo, 23-year-old photographer Liu Yuyang captured a special moment between Mei Lin and her two granddaughters. The 83-year-old woman is smiling as one granddaughter leans down to give her a kiss and the other poses for the camera.

But Mei Lin's eyes give away how tired she is. Her hair has completely grayed, and her face is deeply lined. At her age, Mei Lin is supposed to live relatively carefree. Instead, she has to support her family of four: her daughter, son and two granddaughters — all of whom are mentally ill.

The year since Michael Brown died in Ferguson, Mo., several confrontations between African-Americans and police have become national stories. Often, black journalists have been leading the coverage on these incidents and the steady trickle of them have taken a psychological toll. Many of them shared their experiences with Gene Demby of NPR's Code Switch team.

Macedonia's forces are reportedly allowing some migrants gathered just outside the southern border with Greece to enter the country, a day after the tiny Balkan nation declared a state of emergency in an effort to keep them out.

Macedonian police clashed Friday with the migrants and fired stun grenades and tear gas as the crowd, which included men, women and children, attempted to push past the police line and enter the country.

Pages