NPR Staff

Businessman Mokhtar Alkhanshali was used to the complications of traveling to Yemen. He'd been traveling there and back for years; sometimes the American Embassy would close for a few days amid turmoil, but it always opened back up.

But on March 27, the situation changed dramatically. "Overnight, the country went to war," he says.

The Yemeni-American coffee importer had been in Sana'a, Yemen's capital, on business when the city was rocked by explosions. He stepped outside at 2 a.m. to find anti-aircraft guns lighting up the night sky.

There's not a whole lot to do in prison, so inmates spend a fair amount of time playing cards.

For several years, law enforcement officials around the country have been putting that prisoners' pastime to good use. They've been putting facts and photos from unsolved crimes in front of prisoners' eyes by printing them on decks of cards, hoping to generate leads.

President Obama has launched a sustained, long-term military campaign against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. But did he have constitutional power to do so?

Article I of the Constitution gives some war powers to the Congress — namely, the power to declare war — while Article II gives the president the power of commander-in-chief. But the U.S. Congress has not declared war since World War II, even as the nation has engaged in numerous military actions across the globe in the intervening decades.

Smartphones have new, seamless ways to purchase stuff lightning fast, with just a tap. With these new digital technologies available for mobile payment, many young people are ditching cash and plastic altogether.

But is traditional payment dead? According to Doug Conover, an analyst with the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, not exactly.

"The perception that young people rarely use cash is just not correct," he says.

Last month, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill bringing back the firing squad as a method of execution. The state abandoned firing squads in 2004 but now, it has returned as the backup option — partly because of a shortage of lethal injection drugs, the state's default execution method.

Utah is now the only state in the U.S. that authorizes execution by firing squad.

Last week, Governor Jerry Brown made water conservation mandatory in the drought-stricken state of California. "As Californians, we have to pull together and save water in every way we can," he said.

But if the four-year drought continues, conservation alone — at least what's required by the governor's plan — won't fix the problem.

Across California, communities are examining all options to avoid running out of water. Some, like the coastal city of Santa Barbara, are looking to the past for inspiration.

In the early 1970s thousands of bombings were taking place throughout the country — sometimes up to five a day. They were targeted protests, carried out by a multitude of radical activist groups: The Weather Underground, the Symbionese Liberation Army, the FALN, the Black Liberation Army.

According to author Bryan Burrough, there were at least a dozen underground organizations carrying out these attacks at the time. He writes that the bombings functioned as "exploding press releases."

By law, many U.S. insurance providers that offer mental health care are required to cover it just as they would cancer or diabetes care. But advocates say achieving this mental health parity can be a challenge.

Only one American in history has ever been convicted of torture committed abroad: Chuckie Taylor, the son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor.

His father led militants to take control of Liberia in the late '90s, went in exile after Liberia's Second Civil War and was found guilty of abetting war crimes in Sierra Leone. But young Chuckie Taylor seemed far removed from that warlord life — he lived in America with his mother and stepfather, just another teenager listening to hip-hop and watching TV in his room.

The Hula Hoop. The pogo stick. The Tamagotchi.

Fads, crazes and must-have toys all sweep the country from time to time. But in the annals of faddish toys, one achievement stands tall — or rather, sits small: the Pet Rock.

It was exactly what it sounds like: a rock (a Mexican beach stone, to be precise) marketed in the mid-'70s as a pet. Each came in its own box with air holes and a detailed owner's manual.

If you're trying to feed some of the lumberjack hipsters of Brooklyn, you might try serving up some Huevos Machismos. And if you're seeking the next cleanse trend, look no further than the Ultimate Gushy Protein Sewage Blast. Like any balanced smoothie, it incorporates one ounce of "pure, uncut cocaine (for the boost)."

These are the recipes and advice you'd receive from the Mizretti brothers, two fictional restaurateurs who just published an "encyclofoodia" and cookbook called FUDS.

Nothing says Passover like a good bowl of matzo ball soup. That's according to Joan Nathan, chef and grande-dame of Jewish cooking, who spoke to Steve Inskeep of NPR's Morning Edition about the importance of the tradition.

The Jewish holiday of Passover celebrates the Biblical story of the Exodus, or the freeing of Hebrew slaves from Egypt.

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.

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