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NPR Staff

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."

Barbara Taylor Bradford is one of the best-selling authors in the world — and, proudly, a working stiff. She's written 29 novels, beginning with A Woman of Substance in 1979, which became one of the best-selling novels of all time. Her books have been published in more than 90 countries and 40 languages.

Thirty-nine year old widower A.J. Fikry is an unlikely romantic hero: He's cranky, he drinks too much, his bookstore is failing and don't get him started on the state of publishing. He's also at the center of Gabrielle Zevin's new novel, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.

Under apartheid, trying to make an artistic political statement was difficult — artists were subject to scrutiny and even arrest. On the other hand, making a political statement was easy: All one had to do was put black and white actors on a stage together.

That's exactly what South African playwright Athol Fugard did back in 1961 with his breakout play Blood Knot. His newest play, The Shadow of the Hummingbird, is now onstage at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Conn.

Have you ever had a sentence stop you in your tracks? Editors at The American Scholar magazine have put out their list of the "Ten Best Sentences" in fiction and nonfiction. Associate editor Margaret Foster says the inspiration came from water cooler talk around the office.

"We're sometimes struck by a beautiful sentence or maybe a lousy sentence, and we'll just say, 'Hey, listen to this,' " she says.

Many colleges and universities use race as a factor in admissions, but the approach has been a hot-button issue for decades — even making its way to the Supreme Court several times since the late 1970s.

When it comes to his hometown of Akron, Ohio, writer and journalist David Giffels says, "I have spent my whole life watching people leave." Once known as the rubber capital of the world, Akron was a hub of tire manufacturing giants. Goodyear, Firestone and Goodrich provided thousands of high-paying jobs until the 1970s, when those jobs began migrating to places with cheaper labor.

"Like it or not, America has softened you" — such are the words of welcome to the unnamed narrator of Teju Cole's Every Day Is for the Thief. The young man is on a trip to his home country of Nigeria, and as he visits his family and friends in Lagos, what he finds isn't quite what he expected: He's pressed for bribes at every turn. He tries to reconcile Nigeria's history with the museums that appear to avoid it. He sees the "Yahoo boys" at an Internet cafe, tapping out scam email messages.

It's been said you can judge the quality of a civilization by the way it treats its prisoners. If that's true, California in 2011 was in poor condition, at least according to the Supreme Court.

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.

Since its founding in the 1930s, Alcoholics Anonymous has become part of the fabric of American society. AA and the many 12-step groups it inspired have become the country's go-to solution for addiction in all of its forms. These recovery programs are mandated by drug courts, prescribed by doctors and widely praised by reformed addicts.

Raising kids is hard. It just is. And there's a whole industry out there trying to help parents figure out how to do it. There are all kinds of books on the very basics — sleeping, eating and talking — to those that deal with more complicated stuff, like how to teach self esteem and resiliency.

Adding to that aspirational reading list is Parentology: Everything You Wanted to Know about the Science of Raising Children but Were Too Exhausted to Ask, a new book by sociologist Dalton Conley.

Hari Kondabolu is an Indian-American comedian whose "Konda Bulletins" you might have seen on the FXX show Totally Biased.

Kondabolu's new comedy album is Waiting For 2042 — the year when white people will be the statistical minority in the United States. On the cover, Kondabolu stands proudly perched on a rickshaw, pulled by a white guy in a suit.

Editor's note: To hear our full interview with Jimmy Carter, tune into Weekend Edition on Sunday, March 23.

President Jimmy Carter has written more than two dozen books over the course of his career, about everything from the art of aging to how to achieve peace in the Middle East. All his writing is anchored by a deep-seated belief in the equality of all people.

The film Noah, with Russell Crowe in the title role, opens in the U.S. March 28. It's already been banned in several Muslim countries for portraying a man considered a prophet, and here in this country it's stirred controversy among some Christians for not being a sufficiently literal telling of the Bible story. NPR's Scott Simon spoke with Rajinder Dudrah, senior lecturer in screen studies at the University of Manchester, on why religious figures in film can cause both fascination and offense.

Dune, by Alejandro Jodorowsky, was an ambitious and expensive film that was going to change cinema — and, the filmmaker imagined, the world.

Jodorowsky had already made a name for himself with El Topo in 1970 and The Holy Mountain in 1973, two movies that more or less invented the "midnight movie" phenomenon back when that was a euphemism for tripping.

In the past year, Russia has been a decisive player in several events on the international stage — often to the chagrin of the Obama administration. It gave asylum to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, blocked United Nations efforts to impose sanctions against the Syrian government and sent troops into Ukraine.

Confused about the Common Core State Standards? Join the club. That's not to say the new benchmarks in reading and math are good or bad, working smoothly or kicking up sparks as the wheels come off. It is simply an acknowledgement that, when the vast majority of U.S. states adopt a single set of educational standards all at roughly the same time, a little confusion is inevitable.

Below is a handy FAQ about Common Core. We'll continue answering your questions in the coming months. You can post them in the comments section, or on Twitter and Facebook using #commonq.

When you see actor Jason Bateman on screen, he's usually playing the nice guy — or at least the nicest guy in the room. On the TV cult favorite Arrested Development, Bateman is easily the heart of the show.

But given the chance to direct a movie, he cast himself as a vulgar sociopath with a gift for coming up with the perfect put-down. The film is Bad Words, and it tells the story of a 40-year-old elbowing his way onto the middle-school spelling-bee circuit, to the frustration of kids, parents and teachers alike.

Monday, 105 lawmakers from both parties sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, urging him to change a relatively obscure uniform requirement for the U.S. armed forces that some argue infringes on religious beliefs.

People who observe religions that require specific hair or dress traditions have to seek an accommodation from a superior to break the Defense Department's uniform requirements.

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