NPR Staff

Transformers: Age of Extinction has smashed its way to the No. 1 spot at the box office. Director Michael Bay's film franchise has consistently topped charts since the first film arrived in theaters in 2007.

The live-action films have embraced the latest in visual affects — but the movies have also called back to the series' past, through the voice of Peter Cullen.

In Iraq this weekend, government forces launched an offensive against the Sunni militant group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. On Sunday, the government said it was using Russian-made jets to attack Sunni militants in the northern cities of Tikrit, the hometown of the late dictator Saddam Hussein, and Mosul. Both cities remain under insurgent control.

It's May, 1977, in small-town Ohio, and the Lee family is sitting down at breakfast. James is Chinese-American and Marilyn is white, and they have three children — two girls and a boy. But on this day, their middle child Lydia, who is also their favorite, is nowhere to be found.

That's how Celeste Ng's new novel, Everything I Never Told You, begins.

The video game BioShock Infinite received widespread praise for having a rich narrative packed with philosophy when it debuted last year. The game sold millions of copies.

This summer, All Things Considered is exploring what it means to be a man in America today. In some ways, the picture for men has changed dramatically over the past 50 years. More women than men are going to college, and the economy is moving away from jobs that traditionally favored men, like manufacturing and mining. Attitudes have also changed on the social front, with young men having more egalitarian attitudes toward women and expectations of being involved fathers.

The summer months are upon us again. It's the season to sit outside, decompress and finally put those accumulated sick days to good use: It's vacation season.

Vacation traditionally means taking a break from all of the stresses, worries and routines of our daily lives. We put the work down in order to pick up a cool drink and a new novel.

So let's make sure we have everything:

Flip-flops? Check.

Suntan lotion? Check.

Cellphone? Laptop? iPad? Hmm.

Athletes aren't the only ones battling for supremacy on the World Cup pitch: Shoe brands are fighting for glory, too.

For the most part, it's the fluorescent Nike Vapors versus the Adidas Adizero Battle Pack cleats. But while those brands dominate the soccer market, Kyle Stock of Bloomberg Businessweek says Puma has a counterattack: the mismatched pink and blue soccer cleats called Tricks.

"You see a lot of yellows out there and oranges and reds, but in the blur of the feet, you notice [the Tricks]," Stock tells NPR's Arun Rath.

People with vitiligo gradually lose pigment in their skin, often in patches that appear randomly and grow over time.

But that wasn't the case for Cheri Lindsay. The white pigment on her skin spread rapidly across her body and around her eyes, "like a mask," over the past four years, she says.

She imagines that she's dealt with it better than most, in part because of the example set by her father.

It’s being called the house call of the future: ambulance crews who rush when you call 9-1-1, but instead of taking you to the emergency room, they treat you at home.

Community paramedicine, as it’s called, is a growing trend across the country. It’s aim is to bring down hospital costs, but there are concerns about who’s going to end up paying for the service.

The vast majority of debris in the ocean — about 75 percent of it — is made of plastic. It can consist of anything from plastic bottles to packaging materials, but whatever form it takes, it doesn't go away easily.

While plastic may break down into smaller and smaller pieces, some as small as grains of sand, these pieces are never truly biodegradable. The plastic bits, some small enough that they're called microplastics, threaten marine life like fish and birds, explains Richard Thompson, a professor of marine biology at Plymouth University in the U.K.

The British singer Sam Smith broke through with a dance song: His is the voice snaking through "Latch," by the electronic-music duo Disclosure. It became an international club anthem.

In the U.K, he's mentioned in the same breath as superstars Adele or Florence and the Machine. He already has a sold-out U.S. tour, and he has performed on Saturday Night Live. Smith, 22, is now releasing his debut album, In the Lonely Hour. His songs of love and loss are powered by his moody, soulful voice.

The mortgage crisis that devastated the economy has received endless attention, but it's not just homeowners who have suffered badly in this economy.

As of 2012, renters made up 35 percent of American households. Their numbers are growing, reversing a decades-long uptick in homeownership.

And in the past 50 years, the percentage of income they're spending on the rent has increased dramatically. A quarter of renters are spending more than half their income on rent.

On a Wednesday night, just a few days before Fathers Day, a group of young men gather in a classroom on the fourth floor of Children's Hospital in Los Angeles. There's food — pizza, soda and cookies — and the men stack their paper plates high before settling into their seats around the table in the center of the room. The meeting is about to begin.

In a region torn apart by violence, a leader who promises security above all else can be appealing. Three years after the chaos of the Arab Spring, these strongmen types are rising again in the Middle East.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is one of them, though he has yet to overcome the disaster now unfolding in Iraq. Iraqi lawyer Zaid al-Ali tells NPR's Arun Rath that Maliki is partly to blame for the crisis.

Each line of work has its own cryptic code: words and phrases that would baffle any outsider. These terms may sound like nonsense to someone with untrained ears, but to those who operate in a certain world, their meanings are as clear as day.

To get a better handle on some of the stranger things people say at work, All Things Considered is kicking off a new series called "Trade Lingo." It's a quest to mine the jewels of meaning beneath the jargon.

On June 18, 1964, black and white protesters jumped into the whites-only pool at the Monson Motor Lodge in St. Augustine, Fla. In an attempt to force them out, the owner of the hotel poured acid into the pool.

Martin Luther King Jr. had planned the sit-in during the St. Augustine Movement, a part of the larger civil rights movement. The protest — and the owner's acidic response — is largely forgotten today, but it played a role in the passing of the Civil Rights Act, now celebrating its 50th anniversary.

"It was time to leave the building."

So begins a new book by John Browne, former CEO of the energy giant BP. But that sentence could easily have read: "It was time to leave the closet."

During his 12 years as CEO, he never discussed his sexuality in the workplace. That changed in 2007, when his relationship with a male escort was exposed and Browne resigned amid an ensuing scandal. At the time, he said in a statement, "I have always regarded my sexuality as a personal matter, to be kept private."

The Library of Congress announced Thursday that the nation's next poet laureate will be Charles Wright, a retired professor at the University of Virginia.

"I'm very honored and flattered to be picked, but also somewhat confused," the poet told The New York Times. "I really don't know what I'm supposed to do. But as soon as I find out, I'll do it."

Anyone who has eaten many plates of blackened, mangy-looking jerk chicken might get the impression that Caribbean cooking is fairly limited. The cuisine of most of the English-speaking islands is often lumped under the umbrella of stews, dumplings and pineapple-strewn desserts.

But Suzanne and Michelle Rousseau say there's much more to island cooking. They're sisters and cooks based in Jamaica, and their cookbook Caribbean Potluck introduces a new way of thinking about food from their homeland.

Below are excerpts from Hillary Clinton's interview Monday with NPR's Renee Montagne. Clinton's new book, Hard Choices, will be published Tuesday.

Portions of this interview will air on Morning Edition.

On running for president in 2016

HILLARY CLINTON: I have made some hard choices, and I face some hard choices. And, as I say in the book, I have not made a decision yet. ...

RENEE MONTAGNE: This is, may I say, a classic campaign book. ...

On Friday, Los Angeles Angels pitcher Sean Burnett became the latest player this season to undergo "Tommy John" surgery. In this weekend's MLB draft, at least four players selected had already had the infamous elbow surgery as amateurs.

The operation is named after the first player to undergo the procedure to fix an injured elbow ligament, in 1974. Pitchers are particularly vulnerable to this injury.

The procedure involves taking a tendon from somewhere else in the body — or from a cadaver — and grafting it into place. Pitchers get it most often.

When she was a child, 22-year-old Ifetayo Harvey's father was sentenced to prison for cocaine trafficking.

"My dad went to prison when I was 4 years old, and he was released when I was 12," Harvey says.

Harvey is one of millions of young people who grew up with a parent in prison. A recent study from the National Academy of Sciences examined the growth of incarceration in the United States, and among the topics was the effect on kids and families when a parent goes to prison.

When Brando Skyhorse was 5 years old, his mother said she would take him to meet his father. They took a train from California to Illinois, where, at a prison, he met Paul Skyhorse Johnson, a Native American political activist who'd been incarcerated for armed robbery.

"He looked literally like the part of a stereotypical American Indian brave," Brando tells NPR's Arun Rath. "And I thought, 'Oh good God, this is my dad? This looks great!' "

On a sunny Wednesday in Provo, Utah, a long line of cars spits out about 300 new arrivals to the Missionary Training Center. The facility, known as MTC, is the largest language training school for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Every year, about 36,000 students come to the center before they leave on missions around the world to spread the Mormon faith.

Butlers in American pop culture tend to provide comic relief — think The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or The Birdcage. Or, like Batman's Alfred, the butler is more of a friend than an employee.

But one show has brought back the classic butler, with a vengeance. Since the British period drama Downton Abbey made its debut on PBS in 2010, the demand for butlers in some parts of the world has surged.

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