NPR Staff

More than 80 Americans have been taken hostage abroad since Sept. 11, 2001. Currently, 30 Americans are being held around the world.

Until this week, the families of those hostages would have faced the threat of prosecution from the U.S. government for trying to pay a ransom to kidnappers.

The Confederate stars and bars have been taken down from flagpoles and store shelves all over the country this week. Calls for their removal follow the June 17 shooting of nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.

California's Task Force 2 is ready for anything. As an elite disaster response team based in Los Angeles County, it has to be. But it's not just prepped for disasters at home — it's ready to respond to emergencies halfway around the world as well.

Just days after the devastating April 25 earthquake in Nepal, Task Force 2's firefighters, doctors and engineers were on the ground, helping rescue people.

Reports of the Russian military helping pro-Russian separatist fighters in Ukraine are common — but can be hard to confirm. Russia denies that its soldiers are fighting in Ukraine.

We have heard about how ISIS is recruiting foreign fighters to join its ranks. But it's happening on the other side as well.

Just last week, a Massachusetts man who died fighting against ISIS in Syria was laid to rest.

Last year, a British man who calls himself Macer Gifford left his job as a financial trader in London and went to join the Kurds and fight the self-declared Islamic State in Syria.

Gifford spoke on the condition that NPR not reveal his real name, because he fears for the safety of his family in the UK.

In his 33 years on earth, rock critic Lester Bangs left behind tens of thousands of pages of writing. He died of a drug overdose in 1982 — but this month, at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, Calif., Bangs and his ideas are coming to life on stage in the new one-man play How to Be a Rock Critic.

The nine people who were killed in a mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., on Wednesday have been identified by the authorities.

In 2013, after George Zimmerman was acquitted for killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, a young woman in California named Alicia Garza wrote an emotional Facebook post that ended with the words "Our Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter." Her friend, Patrisse Cullors, turned that into a hashtag.

The roar of a car bomb has been the prelude to Karim Wasfi's performances of late.

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