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NPR Staff

A new movie makes an unlikely hero out of a violent and reclusive man. Set in small-town Texas, Joe is about a hard-working, hard-living ex-con — played by Nicolas Cage — who's trying to stay out of trouble. He finds that the best way to do that is to not get involved with people — until he meets a teenage boy, played by Tye Sheridan, in need of help.

Online degree programs are proliferating – and many cost a fraction of the price of a traditional, on-campus degree. Massive Open Online Courses, known as MOOCS, are also catching on in the U.S. and around the world.

Perhaps in your attic or basement there is a box of papers — letters, photographs, cards, maybe even journals — inherited from a grandparent or other relative who's passed on. Authors, archivists and researchers have long considered these treasures. The right box might contain a wealth of information about a key historical period or place or person.

But what if that box isn't a box at all? What if it's an ancient laptop? And if we are starting to leave behind an increasingly digital inheritance, will it die as soon as the hard drive does?

From Back to the Future to The Twilight Zone and Doctor Who, the theme of time travel is timeless on the screen and on the page. What is it about time travel that's so darn appealing?

"We all have this idea in our heads that, if only I had said this, if only I had done that — we all want to go back and do something," says Ann VanderMeer. She and her husband Jeff are the editors of the new Time Traveler's Almanac, a giant compilation of time travel stories ranging from classic to very, very modern.

Whooping cough made a comeback in California last year, which researchers have linked to vaccine refusals. And with new measles outbreaks in Southern California, New York and British Columbia, the debate over vaccination is also spreading.

For more than a decade, Dafroza Gauthier and her husband, Alain, have hunted perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. More than 800,000 people were killed in the genocide, most of them members of the Tutsi ethnic group.

Earlier this month, the couple gave testimony against former Rwandan intelligence chief Pascal Simbikangwa in Paris. On March 14, Simbikangwa was sentenced to 25 years in prison for complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity. His was the first Rwandan genocide trial to take place in France.

Investigative journalist and author Matt Taibbi has long reported on American politics and business. With an old-school muckraker's nose for corruption, he examined the events leading up to the 2008 financial crisis in Griftopia. With Gonzo zeal, he described a two-party political system splintered into extreme factions in The Great Derangement.

And in his newest book, Taibbi sets out to explain what he thinks is a strange state of affairs:

The Rwandan genocide left a deep and profound wound. It not only decimated the Rwandan people, it destroyed the nation's political and social structures.

In 1994, after the killing stopped, women made up 70 percent of the population.

They were needed to lead Rwanda's recovery. Rwandan women moved away from traditional roles and joined politics in unprecedented numbers.

Twenty years later, the Rwandan Parliament has more women than anywhere else in the world.

It surely says something about our culture that a single tweet can turn into a major racial incident.

You've likely heard the flap over comedian Stephen Colbert's send-up of Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder's new foundation to help Native Americans.

The controversy erupted when a Twitter account associated with Colbert's show, The Colbert Report, took the joke too far — away from its original context.

The writer Lydia Davis has released a new collection of short stories — and, in her trademark style, some of them are really short stories. Here's "Contingency (vs. Necessity)" in its entirety:

He could be our dog. But he is not our dog. So he barks at us.

And the title story of the collection, Can't And Won't:

Jamika lives in a two-story apartment complex surrounded by a 10-foot-high security gate in San Bernardino, Calif. The yellow paint on the buildings' outside walls is peeling.

She doesn't want to use her full name. She doesn't want too many people to know about her situation.

Jamika and her siblings had to leave the house her family was renting in South Central L.A. when the property went into foreclosure. With money so tight, Jamika moved to San Bernardino, along with three of her siblings.

How To Kill A Character

Apr 5, 2014

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Kelly McEvers.

OK. If you're still catching up on your favorite TV shows, let me say it now. You are being warned. There are major spoilers up ahead.

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As part of a series called "My Big Break," All Things Considered is collecting stories of triumph, big and small. These are the moments when everything seems to click, and people leap forward into their careers.

Before Ken Jeong was an actor, he was a doctor.

"Internal medicine was my specialty," he says. "General practice with an emphasis on adult medicine."

After a long day at the office, Jeong says he would take to the stage and perform comedy routines as a way to blow off some steam.

Writing a biography of John Updike is a tricky thing: The acclaimed American writer of elegant essays and elegiac novels and short stories may have been a genius, but he was also disconcertingly normal. He liked to drink, but wasn't a drunk; he had two marriages, but wasn't a womanizer; he could be wistful, but rarely depressed. He was a straight, white, Christian man who liked golf.

Violinist Yevgeny Kutik was born in 1985 in the city of Minsk, in what is now Belarus. When he was 4 years old, his parents decided it was time to leave the country and come to America.

We may think of baseball as America's national pastime, but in the 1870s and 1880s there was another sports craze sweeping the nation: competitive walking. "Watching people walk was America's favorite spectator sport," Matthew Algeo says in his new book, Pedestrianism.

In her bestseller Room, writer Emma Donoghue imagined what life would be like for a little boy born into captivity, to a mother who'd been kidnapped and sexually assaulted.

And in her new novel, Frog Music, she's imagined a possible solution to a very real murder, one that took place in California in 1876.

In Wes Anderson's latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, a writer relates the long and twisting life story of a hotel owner. It's about youthful love and lifelong obsession, and while the story is original, there's a credit at the end that reads: "Inspired by the Writings of Stefan Zweig."

Last-minute health insurance shoppers turned up in record numbers Monday, both online and in person at clinics, county health departments and libraries. They were there to sign up for Obamacare on the last official day of open enrollment.

Public radio reporters checked out the scene in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Houston — three of the 36 states that are using HealthCare.gov — as well as in Minnesota, which has one of the most troubled state-run marketplaces.

Congested In Cleveland

Before Bette Midler was in movies like Beaches and Down and Out in Beverly Hills, the actress and singer wore masks and costumes on stage, playing scantily clad, scandalous characters like a wheelchair-riding mermaid and, of course, the Divine Miss M — Midler's early stage persona.

Midler wrote about her early career in A View From a Broad, a memoir she published in 1980. A new edition of that book was recently released with a brand new introduction in which Midler writes:

Russia's takeover of Crimea sent shivers through Latvia.

The tiny Baltic state was itself taken over by the Soviet Union in 1940 and did not regain its independence until the Soviet breakup in 1991. Latvia has a population of just 2 million, and roughly a quarter of those are ethnic Russians.

Given this history, Latvia was eager to align itself with the West. In 2004, under then-president Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Latvia joined both the European Union and NATO and is counting on those allies for protection.

There's nothing like a warm, home-cooked meal to bring everyone to the table. And in her new cookbook Carla's Comfort Foods, Chef Carla Hall celebrates the meals that unite us — no matter where we're from.

Hall is one of the hosts of ABC's talk show The Chew and was a finalist on the reality TV show Top Chef. She invited NPR's David Greene over to bake spanakopita — a Greek dish, and just one of the many recipes she loves from around the world.

As part of a series called "My Big Break," All Things Considered is collecting stories of triumph, big and small. These are the moments when everything seems to click, and people leap forward into their careers.

Long before Cesar Millan became the "Dog Whisperer," with TV shows and a best-selling series of books, he had to learn how to ask for a job in English.

At the end of a long day, there's a phrase that parents of small children can come to dread hearing: "Read me a story!"

Though bedtime reading can be fun, reading the same book over and over and over again can be excruciating for parents.

Margaret Willison, a librarian who specializes in young readers, tells NPR's Kelly McEvers she recommends three picture books in particular that appeal to children without boring the pants off their parents.

Of course, you don't have to eschew words altogether to make repetitive reading more fun.

In his latest novel, Iraqi author Sinan Antoon gives readers a stark portrait of contemporary Iraq. Originally written in Arabic and translated into English by Antoon himself, The Corpse Washer was nominated for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize this year.

The book's protagonist is a young man named Jawad, an aspiring artist from a family of traditional Shiite corpse washers and shrouders in Baghdad. Jawad breaks from the family business and attends art school, where he devotes himself to the celebration of life rather than the ritual surrounding death.

Thirty years ago, the small town of Denmark, S.C., had one of the state's highest teen pregnancy rates.

"We had very young grandparents, grandparents were maybe [in their] 30s," says Michelle Nimmons, who has worked for the past 30 years on the issue of teen pregnancy. "Great-grandmamas were in their 40s, and parents were in their teens, so a lot of education had to happen."

Filmmaker Errol Morris is famous for trying to get inside other people's minds and understand the motivations behind the choices they've made. In his most famous film, The Fog of War, Morris sat down one-on-one with former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to talk about the decisions McNamara made in Vietnam. During the course of the conversation, McNamara makes the stunning admission that some of his actions amounted to war crimes.

The video uploaded to Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell's YouTube channel on March 11 is no ordinary campaign ad:

The Biblical tale of Noah's Ark isn't the likeliest of big screen blockbusters. But that didn't stop Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, Black Swan) from pitching it to a Hollywood studio.

"When I first went to the studio, I said, 'Hey, what's the only boat more famous than the Titanic?' " he tells NPR's Kelly McEvers.

Army Capt. Drew Pham, 26, returned from a tour in Afghanistan in October 2011. Since Drew's been back, it's been hard for him to make sense of what he saw there and adjust to his life at home. It's been difficult for his wife, Molly Pearl, to respond to some of the things he would tell her, too.

Pham called once to tell her he had shot a man. He says she didn't know what to say, so she replied, "Well, we'll deal with it when you get home."

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