NPR Staff

Writer Huan Hsu's great-great-grandfather Liu Feng Shu was a scholar in China's Qing dynasty during the late 1800s and early 1900s. As a patron of the arts, he built up an immense porcelain collection.

During the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Japanese landed near his village on the Yangtze River. As the army approached, Liu and one of his workmen dug a giant hole in their garden, to keep the collection safe.

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.

David Zayas used to dream of being an actor. And he made it: he played Enrique Morales, the infamous inmate on HBO's Oz, as well as his most notable role, Sergeant Angel Batista on the Showtime drama Dexter.

Afghanistan's leaders were in Washington last week asking for more assistance from the U.S. They got what they wanted: President Obama announced he would postpone the withdrawal of thousands of U.S. troops this year. Those forces are needed to help Afghanistan troops battle the Taliban as the spring
fighting season heats up.

President Ashraf Ghani was accompanied on this trip by Abdullah Abdullah, the chief executive of the Afghan government. They were bitter rivals in Afghanistan's presidential election last year and are now sharing power in a unity government.

About 25 years ago, John Bovery started a modest football pool out of his home in New Jersey. It had 57 participants, all friends and co-workers.

But thanks to word of mouth — and the multiplying factor of email — Bovery's pool grew to staggering proportions. At one point, it got too large for Bovery to handle himself, so he contacted a software company to custom-build something suited to his needs.

By 2009, it included more than 8,000 entries from people around the globe, with a total payout of more than $800,000.

Some of the seafood that winds up in American grocery stores, in restaurants, even in cat food may have been caught by Burmese slaves. That's the conclusion of a yearlong investigation by The Associated Press.

The AP discovered and interviewed dozens of men being held against their will on Benjina, a remote Indonesian island, which serves as the base for a trawler fleet that fishes in the area.

Ugaaso Abukar Boocow has become an Instagram sensation by sending out stunning visual messages from an unlikely place: poor, suffering Somalia.

She was just a toddler when her grandmother fled with her to Canada to escape Somalia's civil war, leaving her mother behind.

Then last year, she decided to go back, moving to the capital, Mogadishu, and reuniting with her mother, whom she hadn't seen in over two decades.

Founded by two men in Akron, Ohio, in 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous has since spread around the world as a leading community-based method of overcoming alcohol dependence and abuse. Many people swear by the 12-step method, which has become the basis of programs to treat the abuse of drugs, gambling, eating disorders and other compulsive behaviors.

Heinz and Kraft.

When we hear those names we think ketchup and Velveeta, right?

But before they were products and companies that will merge to become a giant with $28 billion in revenue, Heinz and Kraft were men.

It might not sound newsworthy that Charleston, S.C., is getting a new mayor next year. But the last time the city elected a new mayor was 40 years ago, in December 1975.

March Madness is college basketball's annual shining moment, and few schools have shone as bright or as long as the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels have been in 18 Final Fours and won the national championship five times, most recently in 2009.

Skid Row, in downtown Los Angeles, has long been known for its high concentration of homeless, drug- or alcohol-addicted and mentally ill residents. They live on the streets, in boxes and tents or in subsidized one-room apartments.

Last year, a 20-year-old woman left the Indian capital city of New Delhi and returned to the rural village where she grew up so she could take care of her sick mother.

The woman's name isn't public, but Sonia Faleiro — a journalist who's been investigating her case — calls her "Baby." She says Baby was known as a high-profile figure in her modest village.

"She became a somebody," Faleiro tells NPR's Kelly McEvers. "A landowner. An employed young woman. She had money to spend. And she refused to accept that she needed to be like everyone else."

Lamya Kaddor, a German-Syrian religious studies teacher and expert on Islam, was horrified to learn in 2013 that five of her former students had departed Germany to join jihadist groups in Syria.

Nina MacLaughlin always knew she wanted to be a writer. She studied English and classics in college, and after graduation, she landed a great job with Boston's weekly alternative newspaper, the Boston Phoenix.

But after a few years of editing the newspaper's website, the drudgery began to hit her. It involved so much clicking, she says, and so many empty hours scrolling through the Internet. It didn't feel like how she wanted to spend her life.

And then came the low point: web producing a "listicle" of the world's "100 Unsexiest Men."

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's new album, Freedom Tower: No Wave Dance Party 2015, is all about New York City. As leader Jon Spencer explains, it was time to pay homage to the city the band has called home for almost 25 years, even though his love for the place is complicated.

Spring is here, and a number of families are plotting road trips for school break.

Randy Olson, a Ph.D. candidate at Michigan State University and a self-proclaimed "data tinkerer," believes he's devised a route that could allow a family to hit a landmark in each of the Lower 48 states, from Grand Canyon in Arizona to the Gateway Arch in St. Louis to the Statue of Liberty in New York, in just nine days of driving.

"About 9.33 days, if you drove non-stop," Olson clarifies.

That means no time sleeping or using the restroom — and no bad traffic.

It started in December 2013. A 2-year-old boy in Guinea was running a fever. He was vomiting. There was blood in his stool.

He was most likely "patient zero" — the first case in the Ebola outbreak that swept across West Africa.

"The essence of the Bob Wills sound, and the reason he picked and did what he did, is that it was dance music — period."

Fifty years ago, civil rights protesters began their successful march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., two weeks after a crackdown by police at the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday. NPR talked with three people from different parts of the country, of different races and religions, who answered the call from Martin Luther King Jr. to join the marchers.

Todd Endo:

People don't always like what they see when they Google themselves. Sometimes they have posted things they later regret — like unflattering or compromising photos or comments. And it can be maddening when third parties have published personal or inaccurate material about you online.

In Europe, residents can ask corporations like Google to delete those unflattering posts, photos and other online material from online search results. And under the right circumstances, those entities must comply.

This weekend, visitors to the Detroit Institute of Arts buzzed with excitement over a new exhibit — it was a big moment for the once-troubled museum. The DIA spent much of the last two years under threat as its owner, the city of Detroit, looked for ways to emerge from bankruptcy.

Finally, in November, a "grand bargain" was struck. Foundations, private donors and the state of Michigan together raised more than $800 million to help rescue public employee pensions. In return, ownership of the DIA was transferred to a trust — thereby securing its future.

Earlier this week, Wikimedia, the parent company of Wikipedia, filed a lawsuit against the National Security Agency, saying that the NSA's use of "upstream" mass surveillance violates the First and Fourth Amendments.

Back in December, following the fatal shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., President Obama called for $75 million in funding for 50,000 body cameras to be used by police around the United States. The cameras record police activity, and their use is intended to boost accountability.

Editor's Note: A version of this story originally ran in March 2010.

In the mid-19th century, Britain was an almost unchallenged empire. It controlled about a fifth of the world's surface, and yet its weakness had everything to do with tiny leaves soaked in hot water: tea. By 1800, it was easily the most popular drink among Britons.

The problem? All the tea in the world came from China, and Britain couldn't control the quality or the price. So around 1850, a group of British businessmen set out to create a tea industry in a place they did control: India.

For almost a century, explorers have searched the jungles of Honduras for a legendary lost city known as the White City, or the City of the Monkey God.

A team of explorers — including archaeologists and a documentary filmmaker — have just returned from an expedition in person, after using a new technology to search for evidence of ruins by plane.

"I think there's only one interesting story ... and that's struggle," says writer Thomas McGuane. Loners, outcasts and malcontents fill the pages of McGuane's latest book — a collection of short stories titled Crow Fair. There's a divorced dad who takes his young son out for an ill-fated day of ice fishing; A restless cattle breeder who takes a gamble on a more lucrative and dangerous line of works; A guy who abandons his blind grandmother by the side of a river to go get drunk, and chase after a corpse he's spotted floating by.

Antonio Ruiz-Camacho's new book Barefoot Dogs is billed as a collection of short stories, but it could easily be called a novel. Each piece provides a perspective on one horrific event: the abduction of the patriarch of a wealthy Mexican family by a drug gang.

Throughout the book, readers see how this affects children, grandchildren, mistresses and others, as the tragedy follows the family through exile in the United States and Europe

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