NPR Staff

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Ten years ago, actor Wendell Pierce went home for a vacation between recording seasons of the hit HBO show The Wire.

As he stepped off the plane in New Orleans, the airport was chaotic. A massive hurricane called Katrina was closing in on the city.

"I was telling my parents 'Nah, let's just ride it out. Let's just stay,' " Pierce tells NPR's Arun Rath. "I went out that Saturday night and I kind of bluffed my parents and said 'Well, if they make it a mandatory evacuation, we'll leave.'

"That Sunday morning they did, and that's when I knew it was serious."

If you've ever seen Jesse Eisenberg's byline in The New Yorker or on McSweeney's Internet Tendency and thought, "Wait, that Jesse Eisenberg?" — the answer is yes.

Eisenberg, best-known as an Oscar-nominated actor, is also a writer — the author of numerous plays and, now, a collection of comedy writing called Bream Gives Me Hiccups.

Solitary confinement is a widely used — and controversial — practice in U.S. prisons. But this week, a landmark legal settlement between inmates and the state of California could mark a big step toward changing that situation.

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.

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.

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.

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.