Severe drought has parched huge swaths of the United States this year, the first time since the mid 1950s that drought has affected so much of the nation.
With so much scorched land, the center of the country could be described as a tinderbox; in recent months, severe wildfires have raged across several states. And in at least 10 Western states, including Wyoming, many fires are fought by teams of prison inmates.
Craig Allen, left, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, and Jorge Castro, a visiting professor of ecology from Spain, survey a plateau ravaged during last year's Las Conchas fire in New Mexico. The megafire burned over 150,000 acres of forest.
Jorge Castro looks onto the Cerro Picacho and the St. Peter's Dome trail, adjacent to the Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico. Last year's Las Conchas fire was the third in a string of blazes that devastated the area.
Last year, consumers spent $17 billion on video games. That sounds like a lot, but it was nearly $1.5 billion lower than the previous year. One reason: there haven't been any new game consoles out to excite buyers.
Only Nintendo's Wii U might be on shelves for the holiday season.
The console makers are having a hard time figuring out how to improve on what they've got.
Try asking a gamer like Ryan Block what would entice him to drop a few hundred bucks on a new console.
The narrator of Maria Semple's newest book, Where'd You Go, Bernadette, is 15-year-old Bee Fox. She's a nice kid, a good musician and a great student. In fact, she's such a great student that her parents have promised her anything she wants — and she chooses a family trip to Antarctica.
Bain is the private equity firm founded by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Now what the documents tell us, is up for debate. And it's worth noting that NPR has not independently verified their authenticity.
This week, first lady Michelle Obama was doing something she loves to do, talking about nutrition with kids. She hosted the first state dinner for children, welcoming 54 of them and their parents to the White House.
"This is the hottest ticket at the White House, right here, because of all of you," Obama said to the children, who ranged in age from 8 to 12.
Mitt Romney outlined an energy plan Thursday that would guide his Republican presidency. It focuses heavily on expanding the supply of fossil fuels. The presumptive nominee said the U.S., Mexico and Canada together could reach energy independence by 2020.
But the plan makes no mention of climate change and would end subsidies for cleaner sources of energy, such as wind and solar.
Spc. Ben Purvis (center) helps train Afghan troops on how to use mortars in the eastern province of Kunar in June. The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, points to several factors in the rise of "insider attacks" on American forces. He says relations between U.S. and Afghan troops are good overall.
Gunmen wearing Afghan police and army uniforms have killed 40 U.S. and NATO troops so far this year, and the top American commander in Afghanistan says there is no single reason — and no simple solution.
Taliban infiltrators, disputes between NATO and Afghan security forces, and even the timing of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, are all factors, according to Gen. John Allen.
"We think the reasons for these attacks are complex," says Allen, who spoke by video link from Kabul on Thursday. Ten of the American deaths have come in just the past two weeks.