At any given moment, about 15,000 men and women are living in solitary confinement in the federal prison system, housed in tiny cells not much larger than a king-sized bed.
"It is hard to describe in words what such a small space begins to look like, feel like and smell like when someone is required to live virtually their entire life in it," says Craig Haney, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
But Tuesday, Haney, who has studied life inside prisons for three decades, had an opportunity to paint that picture.
Advocates for prisoners rights say too many inmates spend years in solitary confinement — in violation of the constitutional bar against cruel and unusual punishment. Today, they persuaded the U.S. Senate to hold the first hearing on the issue, as state and federal prison systems fend off new lawsuits over the practice.
The federal government could soon give the final go-ahead for Royal Dutch Shell to begin drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean. Shell has spent $4 billion since 2007 to prepare for this work, and is hoping to tap into vast new deposits of oil.
But the plan to drill exploratory wells is controversial — opposed by environmental groups and some indigenous people as well.
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney wrapped up a five-day, six-state tour in Michigan on Tuesday.
Each of the states he visited was won by President Obama in the 2008 election. Each is also shaping up as a potential battleground this year.
In Michigan, the state where Romney was born, he avoided big cities and stayed in places friendly to the GOP. As he traveled east to west across central Michigan by bus, there were some pockets of protesters, but mostly at a distance.
The party that won Greece's parliamentary elections on Sunday has accepted the tough conditions international lenders imposed to bail out the ailing nation. But there's been talk that the party wants to seek some concessions on the terms of the rescue package.
At the G-20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated her tough line that bailout terms for Greece are not negotiable. After the summit, Merkel returns to a German electorate that is now fed up with a debt crisis that only seems to grow and worsen.
Tech entrepreneurs gather at the offices of Y Combinator, a company based in Mountain View, Calif., that provides seed money to young startups. Founder Paul Graham predicts half of the startups funded by Y Combinator will ultimately fail.
Credit Melissa Block / NPR
Paul Graham is founder of Y Combinator, an incubator for startups. He says his firm is "failure central," filled with "experts at both avoiding it and living with it."
Credit Robin Andersen / Courtesy of Janice Fraser
Janice Fraser, founder and CEO of LUXr, a product design firm for startups, believes failure is glorified in Silicon Valley. But, she says, "there's more talk about failure than there's tolerance for it. It's disappointing when you realize [failure is] much more painful."
Credit Araya Diaz / Getty Images
Joe Kraus, an investing partner at Google Ventures, a venture capital fund, says when he meets entrepreneurs, he spends more time discussing their plans for a current business than on lessons learned from their past experiences.
Nurturing young talent is a long tradition in the classical music world, and many professional orchestras have their own youth orchestras. But it stands to reason that an organization with the kind of international stature the Cleveland Orchestra enjoys would have a top-notch youth ensemble. It does. And it's called, not surprisingly, the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra — COYO for short. The young musicians have just embarked on a European tour.
Paulette Goddard in the Tramp's (Charlie Chaplin) dream of a middle-class life in Modern Times.
Credit Warner Brothers/The Kobal Collection/McCarty, Floyd
In Giant, James Dean plays Jett Rink, a poor ranch hand who strikes oil and becomes one of the richest men in Texas. Elizabeth Taylor plays Leslie Benedict, part of the wealthy ranching family that Rink feuds with.
Credit The Kobal Collection/RAI Cinemafiction
Salvatore Mancuso (Vincenzo Amato) arrives at Ellis Island with his family in Golden Door.
Tinseltown didn't invent the American dream, but it sure put it out there for the world to see — a dream lit by the perpetual sunshine of Southern California, steeped in the values of the immigrant filmmakers who moved there in the early 1900s and got enormously rich.
It was their own outsider experience these Italian, Irish, German and often Jewish moviemakers were putting on screen, each optimistic, escapist fantasy a virtual American dream checklist:
Hard work carries the day in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
President Obama addresses a joint session of Congress while delivering his State of the Union speech in 2011. During his first two years in office, Obama used big Democratic majorities in Congress to muscle through major legislation, but since the 2010 midterm elections, he's increasingly been stymied by a wall of GOP opposition.
Credit Pete Souza / White House
President Obama meets with members of Congress in the Cabinet Room of the White House in 2010.
Credit Pete Souza / The White House
President Obama meets with congressional leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House to discuss the debt limit and deficit reduction in July 2011.
From now until November, President Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney will emphasize their differences. But the two men's lives actually coincide in a striking number of ways. That includes struggling with their respective legislatures. Earlier, NPR's David Welna explored Romney's time as governor of Massachusetts. In this installment of "Parallel Lives," a look at Obama and Congress.
Former pitcher Roger Clemens, center, and his attorneys Rusty Hardin, right, and Michael Attanasio arrive on the courthouse steps after Clemens was found not guilty on all charges in his perjury trial at U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., on Monday.
A federal jury acquitted pitching ace Roger Clemens of all charges on Monday. The jury found Clemens not guilty of lying to Congress and obstructing a congressional investigation into performance-enhancing drugs.
Say the word Tijuana, and many people automatically think of a city riddled with drug violence. But native son Javier Plascencia is hoping to change all that by cooking up high-quality cuisine that focuses on the region's diverse ingredients.
Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, wears a "Dressage is no. 1" foam finger at a competition on Saturday. Romney's horse, Rafalca, qualified for the 2012 Olympic dressage team.
Credit Joe Raedle / Getty Images
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is introduced by his wife, Ann, during a campaign event at Scamman Farm on June 15, in Stratham, N.H.
As part of a new tech segment, we're starting a social media advice column in which we'll ask experts your questions about how to behave online. This week's experts are Baratunde Thurston, former digital director of The Onion and author of How to Be Black; and Deanna Zandt, author of Share This!
The Italian Jesuit priest Paolo Dall'Oglio, shown here at the Syrian Maronite monastery of Deir Mar Musa in 2007, lived in Syria for 30 years before he was expelled Saturday. Dall'Oglio has spoken out in support of protesters who oppose President Bashar Assad.
Syria has expelled an Italian Jesuit priest for his outspoken criticism of the government's crackdown on a popular uprising. The Rev. Paolo Dall'Oglio has lived in Syria for 30 years, helping to restore a 1,000-year-old monastery that became a center for Muslim and Christian understanding.
Dall'Oglio's departure from Damascus on Saturday was sudden. More than a year ago, the government ordered him out, but a campaign on Facebook — "No to the Exile of Father Paolo" — delayed his expulsion.
For the first time ever, the U.S. synchronized swimming team didn't qualify for the Summer Olympics. But two of its members, who until recently knew each other only as rivals, are going to London to compete in synchronized swimming duets — against duets that have been together for years.
Mary Killman, 21, and Mariya Koroleva, 22, became roommates early last year, training with the national team in Indianapolis. Previously, they had competed against each other in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Ever wanted to just disappear into a secret garden of earthly delights, of twists and turns of evocative ruin, exuberant tropics, the Zen of a Japanese teahouse?
Consider Chanticleer, in Wayne, Pa. It's part of the old Main Line ring of estates around Philadelphia. In fact, right across the street from the garden is the former home of Helen Hope Montgomery Scott, the heiress portrayed by Katherine Hepburn in Philadelphia Story.
Seven years ago, writer and former U.S. Marine Anthony Swofford had the success of a lifetime when his 2003 memoir Jarhead was turned into a high-budget Hollywood movie.
Swofford, then 35, had hit it big. But flush with cash and still grappling with post-war life, he suddenly found himself in the throes of a self-destructive rampage replete with drugs, alcohol and infidelity.
For many full-time employees in the United States, the five-day work week, paid overtime and holidays are expected benefits. This wasn't always so, and many workers' benefits today are the achievements of labor unions.
Just five decades ago, unions were on the frontline of the fight for the rights and wages of the middle class. But today, unions are on the decline.
President Obama announced major changes in the country's immigration policy on Friday. NPR's Mara Liasson talks with weekends on All Things Considered host Jacki Lyden about what the changes are and the political impact they may have this election season.
In Egypt, voters went to the polls today to pick a new president to replace Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in a revolution last year. Voters are casting ballots just a few days after that nation's highest court issued a ruling that dissolves Egypt's first freely elected parliament, which was dominated by Islamists. The latest election is a runoff between an Islamist engineer and Mubarak's last prime minister, the two top vote-getters in the first round of presidential polls held last month.
A writer, illustrator and provocateur in the Roaring '20s, Djuna Barnes stood out.
"She was much more interested in embracing the quirky and embracing that idea that became so famous in feminist circles half a century later," Catherine Morris says, "the idea that the personal is political."
Morris is the curator of a new exhibition of Barnes' writings and illustrations called "Newspaper Fictions" at the Brooklyn Museum's Sackler Center for Feminist Art.
This April, roots-rock singer-guitarist Bonnie Raitt released her first album in seven years, Slipstream. It's classic Raitt, mixing bluesy slide-guitar riffs with her soulful voice and a pop-friendly sensibility.
The delivery system, however, is brand-new. After years of working with the majors, Raitt decided to start her own label, Redwing Records. Raitt runs Redwing with the help of a tiny staff; Slipstream is the first release in its catalog.
Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader of Myanmar, also known as Burma, spoke in Norway Saturday, formally accepting the peace prize she was awarded in 1991 while under house arrest. Her supporters portrayed the moment as a belated victory for democracy and human rights.