NPR Staff

Human smugglers prey on the desperation of people who flee war and oppression. They've made millions moving people across borders, without regard to safety. Thousands have died, locked in packed trucks or trapped in sinking ships — like the "ghost ships," crowded with Syrian refugees, which have been set on course to crash into the Italian coast.

Today, Noramay Cadena is a mechanical engineer, fitted with multiple degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But she came by her motivation in a place much different from the MIT classrooms: a factory in Los Angeles where her mother brought her one summer as a teenager.

The filmmaker Nancy Meyers dominates a certain Hollywood niche: Her comedies star grown-ups, and they appeal to a grown-up audience. She wrote and directed Something's Gotta Give, It's Complicated, and her latest, The Intern — starring Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway as the CEO and intern at a startup company. Here's the catch: Anne Hathaway plays the CEO — and at age 70, De Niro's character is the intern. Meyers tells NPR's Ari Shapiro that despite some of the scenes in the movie, they didn't actually have to show De Niro how to use Facebook.

In case you missed it: The full audio of Pope Francis' speech to a joint meeting of Congress (at the link above), paired with his prepared remarks and analysis from Morning Edition.

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Kevin Henkes was just a teenager when he decided he wanted to write picture books. He landed his first book contract when he was still in college.

"People used to assume that I had kids long before I did," he tells NPR's Kelly McEvers. He eventually had children of his own, but that didn't change his writing process the way one might have expected.

Writer Percival Everett is a man of the West: the region, for him, is a place of calm and comfort, danger and extremes. His new collection of short stories, Half an Inch of Water, is set largely in Wyoming, where Everett lived for a time and which he says might be his favorite state. ("It's so sparsely populated," he says as praise.)

But the prolific author wrote his new book far away from that iconic landscape.

"I wrote these while I was in Paris," Everett tells NPR's Arun Rath. "I was living in Paris, and for some reason I started writing ranch stories.

For those who have never seen the show American Ninja Warrior: Imagine an Army obstacle course, redesigned by Dr. Seuss and a team of rock-climbing acrobats. Competitors have to thread their way through the daunting obstacles, completing a number of stages before they can hope to finish the whole thing.

Do you keep up with international news?

This quiz will give you a chance to find out.

The wildly successful prime-time soap opera Empire is back: Season 2 kicks off next week.

The Season 1 finale brought in 17 million viewers — despite the conventional wisdom that the days of broadcast television drawing in audiences like that are over.

Antony Britton literally dug his own grave — and it very nearly killed him.

Britton, an escape artist in the tradition of Harry Houdini, had been attempting a stunt Houdini made famous: Britton was handcuffed, shackled, plopped in a grave and buried under 6 feet of dirt.

There's something to know about that particular "Buried Alive" stunt: Even Houdini himself couldn't pull it off. In fact, part of the reason it's still remembered today is that Houdini failed, and nearly died along the way.

When Chinelo Okparanta started writing her novel Under the Udala Trees, she didn't have to look far for inspiration into her main character's tragic backstory.

"My mother watched her father die in the war, the same way my protagonist does," the Nigerian-American author tells NPR's Arun Rath. She's referring to the 1967 Biafran War in Nigeria — a civil war that was catastrophic for the Igbo people, who had tried to secede from Nigeria and form their own nation of Biafra.

In Europe, fewer and fewer borders remain open to migrants and refugees arriving from the Middle East. Croatia is redirecting refugees to neighboring Hungary, even as Hungary says it's overwhelmed — and extends its own border wall.

All of this has left migrants bereft of clear answers and buffeted by contradicting information.

Mary McGrory became a columnist in a time when women in journalism were still called "doll." She wrote a nationally syndicated column for more than 50 years, first for The Washington Star and then for The Washington Post, and in 1975 she became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for commentary.

You probably never will see most of Jason deCaires Taylor's public art projects firsthand — at least, not without goggles and fins.

Most of his sculptures stand at the bottom of the sea. His life-size statues — ghostly figures of men, women and children — seem to walk the ocean floor as they hold hands, huddle, even watch TV.

There have been a number of movies about the War on Drugs and the latest, Sicario, takes the "war" part of that phrase very seriously.

Emily Blunt stars as an FBI agent recruited into a U.S. anti-drug operation. The operation works with Mexican security forces to take down drug cartel kingpins — and crosses physical and moral borders in the process.

When Glenda Elliott was growing up in rural, small-town Georgia in the 1940s, the modern gay rights movement hadn't exactly arrived yet. In fact, it wasn't even really on the horizon. And so, when she fell in love with a woman when she was in her 20s, she didn't have a road map of how to react.

"There were certainly no role models of what it means to love someone of the same sex," recalls Elliott, 75, on a visit with StoryCorps in Alabama. "I didn't know how to understand that."

What kind of messages get ignored? What kind prompt you to do something?

Those are questions that a small group of behavioral scientists at the White House has been working on since early last year.

The Social and Behavioral Sciences Team is seeking ways to improve government efficiency and access to government programs through easy, low-cost interventions.

Welcome to the third session of the Morning Edition book club! Here's how it works: A well-known writer will pick a book he or she loved. We'll all read it. Then, you'll send us your questions about the book. About a month later, we'll reconvene to talk about the book with the author and the writer who picked it.

When Juan Felipe Herrera came to NPR's Washington studio, the poet laureate carried a sketch pad of drawings and scribbles of poems in the works. Herrera is the child of Mexican migrant farmworkers. He grew up following the seasons as his parents picked crops in the heat and dust of California's fields.

Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter Jill Scott's new album Woman takes a deep dive into what it means to love.

Dolly Wells and Emily Mortimer are British actresses and best friends — who just happen to also play British actresses and best friends on TV.

In HBO's Doll & Em, fictional (but familiar) versions of each take center stage: A successful actress named Emily invites her childhood friend Dolly to come out to Hollywood to be her personal assistant after a bad breakup.

For a kid, moving can be hard — even if it's just from one town to another. But when Michael W. Clune was a young boy, his family made a much more drastic move: from Ireland to the U.S.

It was rough. Clune had a hard time fitting in because of his Irish accent and Irish clothes. At school, there were cliques and bullies.

"Learning to deal with other people was a real challenge," Clune tells NPR's Arun Rath, "one that left me feeling isolated quite a bit."

Home was a refuge, for a while — until his parents started fighting. They divorced when he was 12.

Among the first firefighters on the scene when wildfires broke out in eastern Washington this summer was a crew of juveniles — inmates, actually. The crew, teens aged 15 to 19, were building fire lines and digging trenches. Hard work, in difficult conditions.

Last month, one teenager escaped from the work camp and later shot himself during a standoff with police. He has since recovered.

The program, however, may not. One of the few of its kind in the country, it is now under review.

Actress and writer Mindy Kaling has had an accomplished career, from her role as the vapid Kelly Kapoor on The Office to creating and starring in her own show, The Mindy Project.

But don't call her "seasoned."

"Seasoned means old," she tells NPR's Arun Rath.

Kaling, of course, is young — and busy. That's a big takeaway from her new book, Why Not Me?, which takes readers through parts of Kaling's life with the same energy and fearlessness that mark her comedy.

Gary Clark Jr., the blues-guitar wunderkind from Austin, Texas, who grew up into a solo star, titled his latest LP The Story of Sonny Boy Slim in a nod to his own nickname and whirlwind ascent. But there's a song on the album whose name might better represent its overall tone: "The Healing."

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said he would require background checks on all Syrian migrants and war refugees before allowing them into the United States.

Eight people died at the top the world in May of 1996. They were ascending Mount Everest and their numbers included two renowned mountaineers, Rob Hall and Scott Fischer. Their story was made even more famous a year later by Jon Krakauer in his book Into Thin Air.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Isaac Feliciano dropped his wife off at the subway so she could get to her job at Marsh & McLennan, in the south tower of the World Trade Center. Then, he headed to work himself — at the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, where he's worked for the past 21 years.

When the plane struck the tower, even as far away as he was, Feliciano was still able to see the damage firsthand.