NPR Staff

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.

With a silver pompadour and a belt-busting baritone that delivers songs about heartbreak and honky-tonking, Texas musician Dale Watson is straight country — but he doesn't necessarily want you to say so.

On his last album, Miguel sang songs that swooned with the emotion of a first kiss. Wildheart, the new album by the Grammy-winning R&B artist, takes things a little further. While that sleek mix of bass, synths and soul that powered his 2012 breakout remains, the songwriting on Wildheart takes a much more personal, introspective approach.

Singer Tori Kelly is an unapologetic optimist about love, her image and her music. At the ripe old age of 22, she's been at the edges of the music business for a long time. She started singing when she was just 3 years old, and at age 11, she took her powerful, mature voice on the TV show America's Most Talented Kid -- and won.

Even those who didn't live through Nina Simone's heyday can recognize her songs, or at least her voice. Born Eunice Waymon, the passionate performer and activist died in 2003, and today her recordings still loom larger than the rest of her story.

Cyborgs and androids are nowhere to be seen in the new USA show Mr. Robot. Instead, the drama is centered on a very human interior — the mind of Elliot, the unlikely hacker hero. From his first words — "Hello, friend" — his voice-over keeps audiences squarely inside his world.

"Elliot is sort of an internal, isolated guy who can't really interact with people socially, in real life, but online he can hack them and knows all the intimate, private details of them," Sam Esmail, the show's creator and executive producer, tells NPR's Arun Rath.

Mia Alvar was born in the Philippines, but as a small child her family moved to Bahrain. A few years later, they moved again, this time to New York.

The cities of her childhood are the settings in her debut collection of short stories, In The Country. The nine stories feature very different characters, in and outside of the Philippines, who are grappling with some form of exile or emigration.

"Part of the project," she tells NPR's Arun Rath, "was getting behind the official, sometimes sentimental, narrative about overseas Filipino workers."

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.

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