NPR Staff

The U.S. is less Christian than it used to be, and fewer Americans choose to be a part of any religion, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.

Of the more than 35,000 people surveyed, 70 percent say they are Christian — but the number of people who call themselves atheist and agnostic has nearly doubled in the last seven years.

Before Ferguson, Baltimore, Tamir Rice or Eric Garner, there was 13-year-old Nicholas Heyward Jr.

In 1994, he was playing in the stairwell of the Gowanus Housing Project, where he lived in Brooklyn, when a police officer shot and killed him.

"He was an amazing kid and I don't just say that because he was my son," Nicholas Heyward Sr. says during a recent visit to StoryCorps.

Think local Nebraska food, and Omaha's famous steaks may come to mind. The Great Plains are indeed an agricultural powerhouse when it comes to commodities like feed corn, soybeans, beef and pork.

But as food journalist Summer Miller tells Meghna Chakrabarti of NPR's Here & Now, there's much more on offer these days in Nebraska, as well as in its Great Plains neighbors Iowa and South Dakota.

Since October of last year, four teenagers in California's Palo Alto school district have taken their own lives. Tragically, it's not the first cluster of teen suicides this area has seen: In 2009 and 2010, five local teenagers killed themselves by stepping in front of trains, and more suicides followed the next year.

If you met the author Mark Danielewski on an elevator, here's how your conversation might go:

"What are you doing these days?"

"I'm writing a novel," he replies. "It's 27 volumes long."

"Wow," you might say. "What's it about?"

"It's about this little girl who finds a little kitten."

"Twenty-seven volumes, huh?"

"Ah, it's a very intense subject."

Imagine you're on the highway. You glance into the cab of the 18-wheeler next to you — and there's no driver. That day might be getting closer.

Automaker Daimler unveiled a truck last week that drives itself, called the Freightliner Inspiration. But the truck is not yet entirely autonomous.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are well underway. Fans of the Winnipeg Jets are heartbroken; Chicago Blackhawk lovers are feeling great.

But you don't need to be an NHL superfan to find something fascinating about hockey. A.J. Jacobs, an editor-at-large for Esquire and a professional know-it-all, joined NPR's Scott Simon to talk about quirky facts from the sport's past and present.

How much hockey trivia do you know? Take a guess at which of the facts below are true, then hit "play" to see if you were right.

Famed British broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough has been lending his calming voice to nature documentaries ever since TV was in black and white.

NPR continues a series of conversations from The Race Card Project, in which thousands of people have submitted their thoughts on race and cultural identity in six words.

People make a lot of assumptions based on a name alone.

Jamaal Allan, a high school teacher in Des Moines, Iowa, should know. To the surprise of many who have only seen his name, Allan is white. And that's taken him on a lifelong odyssey of racial encounters.

Photographer Matt Black grew up in California's Central Valley. He has dedicated his life to documenting the area's small towns and farmers.

Last year, he says he realized what had been a mild drought was now severe. It had simply stopped raining.

"It was kind of a daily surreal thing to walk outside," Black says.

Most of the tech buzz these days has centered on the new Apple Watch — including on the potential for health-related apps. Less attention has been given to Apple's ResearchKit, an open-source mobile software platform released in March.

But the medical world is paying attention.

An estimated 14,000 were injured in April's earthquake in Nepal. The caseload is overwhelming hospitals in Kathmandu, says Dr. Bianca Grecu-Jacobs, a resident in emergency medicine from California who was working in Nepal when the quake struck.

"[In] the lobby areas, patients just are on the floor waiting," Grecu-Jacobs says via Skype from Katmandu. "They strung up IVs for patients who need them in whatever manner they can."

Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, Maus, has some very memorable cover art. It pictures a pair of mice — representing Jews — huddling beneath a cat-like caricature of Adolf Hitler. Behind the feline Hitler is a large swastika.

The Pentagon says women could be eligible for all combat roles in the military by next year, but some women already have been fighting — and dying — for their country. They're serving right alongside elite special operations units, such as the Navy SEALs or Army Rangers.

It's part of an effort to connect with half of the Afghan population that was off-limits to male soldiers: the women. Some military leaders considered reaching them one of the keys to winning the war.

Most days, you can find Ran Duan pouring drinks for guests at The Baldwin Bar, inside a branch of his parents' Sichuan Garden restaurant in Woburn, Mass.

But recently he's been setting aside time each day to practice making a special drink.

This week, the bodies of 24 unidentified migrants were laid to rest in Malta, the European island nation in the Mediterranean Sea. They were among more than 800 people who lost their lives last weekend off the coast of Libya when their ship capsized as they were trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach a better life.

Lieutenant Keith Caruana of the Armed Forces of Malta spoke with NPR's Arun Rath about the situation in the Mediterranean — and the toll it has taken on rescuers after more than a decade of trying to save the lives of desperate people seeking safety.

Some murder cases are harder to solve than others. The investigation into the killing of Mellory Manning — a 27-year-old woman who was assaulted and murdered in 2008 while working as a prostitute in Christchurch, New Zealand — confounded police.

They conducted an investigation and interviewed hundreds of people, but months later, they still had no solid leads.

Victorine Meurent was just 17 years old when she met the great Impressionist painter Edouard Manet on a Paris street in 1862. The young, poverty-stricken redhead became his favorite model, and Manet painted her reclining nude in Olympia — a work that scandalized the Paris art world in 1865 and now hangs in the Musée d'Orsay.

The tragic story of Cambodia in the '60s and '70s is well-known: It became engulfed in the Vietnam War, then more than a million Cambodians died under the Khmer Rouge regime. Doctors, lawyers, teachers — educated people — were targeted in the communist takeover. So were artists and singers.

The death penalty is legal in more than 30 states, but the long-controversial practice has come under renewed scrutiny after a series of botched executions in several states last year.

Opponents of capital punishment argue that the death penalty undermines the fair administration of justice, as wealth, geography, race and quality of legal representation all come into play, with uneven results.

Martin O'Malley, former governor of Maryland, says he'll decide by late May whether he's running for president. Running would put him — even he seems to acknowledge — in an uphill battle against Hillary Clinton, currently the only Democrat who has declared.

O'Malley is positioning himself to Clinton's left, and even President Obama's left.

Aydian Dowling of Eugene, Ore., is ripped. He has sharply defined muscles, piercing eyes and European-playboy-on-the-Riviera tousled hair.

It's not just striking good looks that distinguish Dowling, who is leading the voting in the annual "Ultimate Guy" contest held by Men's Health magazine. If he wins the contest (which is ultimately determined by judges), Dowling will be the first transgender man to appear on the cover of Men's Health.

Here's a quotation about prison overcrowding: "All research and successful drug policies show that treatment should be increased and law enforcement decreased, while abolishing mandatory minimum sentences." That's not from some stodgy think tank. That's metal.

A town that experiences a sudden suicide epidemic, a mysterious traveling salesman who sells a magical mirror polish, a mermaid who washes up on shore: What happens to a small town when something strange and supernatural takes over?

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Steven Millhauser explores that intersection of familiar life and disturbing, often bizarre events in his new short story collection, Voices in the Night.

Step aside, home chefs! The kitchen of the future draws near.

No, there's no hydrator from Marty McFly's kitchen in Back to the Future II. Right now, the chef of the future looks like a pair of robotic arms that descend from the ceiling of a very organized kitchen. And it makes a mean crab bisque.

Netflix's original series now have a superhero among them. Comic fans know Daredevil as a crusader. He's a Marvel character who, in addition to his superhuman abilities, has a very human disability: blindness.

Needless to say, Daredevil has quite a few fans with visual impairments — and they were looking forward to the show.

But until this week, Netflix had no plans to provide the audio assistance that could have helped those fans follow the show.

The culinary world lost a visionary this week. Homaro Cantu, a specialist in the avant-garde approach to cooking known as molecular gastronomy, died Tuesday in Chicago at the age of 38. The Cook County Medical Examiner ruled Cantu's death a suicide.

Every visit to Cantu's flagship restaurant, Michelin-starred Moto, was a trip down the rabbit hole.

Advertisements don't need any words to say a lot about a culture.

That's one of the messages that shines through in the work of artist Hank Willis Thomas. In 2008, Thomas removed the text and branding from ads featuring African-Americans, creating a series he called Unbranded, which illustrated how America has seen and continues to see black people.

The World Bank's goal is to end extreme poverty and to grow income for the poorest people on the planet.

The bank does this by lending money and giving grants to governments and private corporations in some of the least developed places on the planet. For example, money goes to preserving land, building dams and creating health care systems.

When the U.S. withdrew its troops from Iraq in 2011, many American news organizations followed suit, scaling back or shutting down their bureaus. Ned Parker was among a handful of American journalists who continued to report from the country.

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