Daniel Hajek

Duane "Yellow Feather" Shepard stands at the top of a narrow park that slopes downward toward a lifeguard training center and panoramic views of the Pacific coast.

"We're looking over the horizon at a beautiful, beautiful ocean," Shepard says. "It's blue, serene — it's quiet. It's just a gorgeous, gorgeous view."

For Shepard, this oceanfront park known as Bruce's Beach — located in Manhattan Beach, Calif., just south of Los Angeles — holds a painful history. "This is the land that our family used to own," he says.

On a warm May night, the sound of footsteps and a stranger's voice in the darkness outside his home startled a man in Afghanistan. Alarmed, he went to investigate. He saw that someone had affixed something to his door.

He found a handwritten note: "You have been helping U.S. occupier forces and ... you are an ally and spy of infidels, we will never leave you alive."

Youn Yuh-jung is an institution in Korean cinema. Her career spans five decades and includes starring roles in classic Korean films and famous TV dramas. Now, at 73, she has newfound fame in the U.S. for her role in the Oscar-nominated film Minari.

Youn is nominated for Best Supporting Actress, making her the first South Korean woman ever to be nominated for an Academy Award in an acting category.

Dr. Angela Chen, an emergency medicine doctor at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, says she is pretty good at dealing with the unexpected. It's part of what drew her to emergency medicine, and her work on emergency cases trained her to navigate uncertain times.

Then, there was COVID-19.

Most mornings, Paulino Ramos sat under the small tree at the entrance of a busy Home Depot parking lot near Downtown Los Angeles. Other day laborers hanging around on the corner knew they could find their friend there, waiting in the shade for construction jobs. But in early September, they noticed Ramos, the sturdily built demolition worker, looked weak.

For art and architecture lovers who can't make it to the recently reopened Guggenheim Museum in New York City, there's an audio listening guide that can transport you there.

It's been a brutal year for Americans.

The relentless spread of COVID-19, the ensuing economic crisis and the reckoning around social injustice has made this a year like none other.

NPR wanted to know how these cataclysmic, consequential events have affected American families and how those experiences might shape their political choices in the upcoming presidential election.

In June, Marcel Lopez and his cousins set up a Zoom video call to say goodbye to their grandfather. Retired physician, José Gabriel López-Plascencia — Dr. López for short — was near death at his home in Phoenix. He was unable to speak, but he let his grandchildren know he was listening.

In Montgomery, Ala., just down the road from where Martin Luther King Jr. once preached, a noisy trailer sits in a tiny church parking lot.

The trailer is like a mini-laundromat, equipped with three washers and dryers and two shower stalls. Every week, it serves a homeless congregation at River City Church — even through a pandemic.

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Last month, Raj Patel was talking with his friend, a doctor, who sounded absolutely exhausted.

RAJ PATEL: We were talking over dinner, and I come to find out that he was sleeping in his garage.

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On Nov. 16, 1989, a housekeeper named Lucía Cerna was startled awake by a violent commotion outside her window.

"I heard shooting, shooting at lamps, and walls, and windows," Cerna writes in her memoir, La Verdad: A Witness to the Salvadoran Martyrs. "I heard doors kicked, and things being thrown."

Armed soldiers broke into the José Simeón Cañas Central American University on the outskirts of El Salvador's capital, and raided the residence where six Jesuit priests were sleeping.

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I want to take you back to November 16, 1989, to an eerily quiet morning in a sunny courtyard at a university in El Salvador. American freelance journalist Mary Jo McConahay heard that something horrible happened overnight.

The actor and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen has a childhood memory: In his family's living room in London, there sat a book called Our Man in Damascus.

It's a non-fiction account of an Israeli spy who infiltrated Israel's enemy, Syria, in the 1960s. Eli Cohen was publicly executed, but not before he obtained vital military secrets.

Sacha Baron Cohen now plays Eli Cohen in The Spy, a Netflix series that dramatizes that true story.

A new TV show, set in Boston in the 1990s, centers on some action-packed armored-car robberies. A crime drama in Boston: You've heard this before.

But City on a Hill, which premieres Sunday on Showtime, is aiming for distinction. It stars actor Aldis Hodge as a straight-and-narrow assistant district attorney working within a crooked justice system. He's new in town, and determined to take on these robbery cases.

Raquel Idiáquez was cooking dinner with her uncle when she noticed something was wrong. He'd been visiting her in Seattle from Managua, Nicaragua, and that evening of April 15, 2018, he kept leaving the kitchen to take an urgent call.

"I saw him getting a little nervous and going to his phone more frequently than usual," says Idiáquez, 28. "Then he just came to me. He was like, 'I gotta leave tomorrow.' "

There's this one scene in The Hangover. A man jumps out of the trunk of a car — completely naked — and attacks Bradley Cooper with a crowbar.

When he's not busy on a movie set, Jeff Goldblum owns Wednesday nights in Los Angeles.

The actor, known for roles in Hollywood blockbusters and a singular, chin-stroking comic persona, plays piano in a jazz band with a standing weekly gig, which he calls The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra. The performances are casual and unstructured, with the man of the hour playing keys one moment, holding court and posing for photos with attendees the next, just generally being ... well, Jeff Goldblum.

In March 1980, Patricia Morales Tijerino and her sister had just left a wedding in a little chapel in El Salvador's capital and were on their way to the reception.

"And then I spotted him," Morales Tijerino recalls. "He was in his white cassock."

Óscar Arnulfo Romero, the Roman Catholic archbishop of San Salvador, was standing alone in a garden outside the church.

Former President George H.W. Bush was deep in nuclear negotiations with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The 1990 talks, focused on an arms control treaty, were suddenly interrupted when a seasoned Soviet interpreter made a critical mistake.

The interpreter, Igor Korchilov, said the word "verifying" in English, instead of "verified." Everyone in the White House Cabinet Room froze and turned toward him — including his boss.

Gorbachev quickly said: "No, no — I never said that."

Twenty-eight years ago, U.S. journalist Urban Lehner was riding in the back seat of a speeding Volvo 144 sedan. He was on assignment for The Wall Street Journal in North Korea. The road out of Pyongyang was empty.

"The 1973 Volvo screeches around tight curves, slaloming across all five lanes of the road," he wrote in an article dated Aug. 29, 1989. "In another country it would be a suicide ride, but in North Korea so few cars ply the highways that each can often have the road to itself."

When Yeonmi Park was a young girl in North Korea's Ryanggang Province, near the Chinese border, she went to her uncle's house to watch TV. But this wasn't the usual state-run broadcast praising the "Dear Leader." The movie she watched at her uncle's house was illegal.

She covered the windows with blankets, turned the volume down low and huddled in close around the TV. She watched a pirated copy of Titanic.

A lone, single-engine Cessna airplane enters restricted airspace. The pilot ignores air traffic control, so the plane stays on course. That's when the F-16 fighter jet shows up outside the window with a warning call that blares over the radio: "You've been intercepted."

If Hacksaw Ridge breaks Kevin O'Connell's Oscars losing streak, he'll have a pile of acceptance speeches to choose from. Over the years, he's earned 21 Academy Award nominations for sound mixing, but doesn't have a single statue to show for it.

Most of his unused acceptance speeches are sitting in a drawer. "I don't pay much attention to that stuff anymore," O'Connell says. "I almost feel like this is like a rebirth for me at this point, you know?"

O'Connell's a re-recording mixer — he brings sound into movies.

NBA sideline reporter Craig Sager, a broadcaster nearly as famous for his wardrobe as for his basketball knowledge, has died at the age of 65. Sager had been very public about his diagnosis of leukemia.

"There will never be another Craig Sager," David Levy, president of Turner Broadcasting, said in a tweeted statement. "His incredible talent, tireless work ethic and commitment to his craft took him all over the world covering sports."

Pez Owen was flying over the desert in her single-engine Cessna airplane when she spotted a huge "X" etched in the desert below. She says it was the strangest thing.

"It's not on the [flight] chart," Owen says. "There just wasn't any indication of this huge cross."

Then she spotted another one.

"There had to be some reason," she says. "So, of course, I immediately thought I had to get Chuck in on this."

We're not going to bury the lede here: Bob Ross' hair was actually straight. Just ask his longtime business partner, Annette Kowalski, who knew Ross better than anyone — he had just gotten out of the Air Force, and was unsuccessfully trying to make a living as a painter, she says.

Pit lane on race day is an adrenaline rush. Especially on Sunday at the 100th run of the Indianapolis 500, where the seats are sold out and the stakes are high.

IndyCar pit crews have just seconds to change four tires and refuel their driver's car, all while other cars fly past. In this line of work, members of pit crews expect to get pretty banged up.

The jet sitting at Air Hollywood's studio near the Burbank airport in Southern California was once the charter plane of the Los Angeles Lakers. These days, it serves a much different role — mostly as the set for movies and TV commercials.

But the group walking on board the day I recently visited wasn't there to film a scene. They were part of a two-day class for fearful fliers.

For participant Ronnie Michel, it was the first time in six years that he'd seen the inside of a plane.

An hour south from the bright lights of the Las Vegas strip, a tiny town in Nevada is up for sale.

Cal-Nev-Ari, Nev. (pronounced Cal-Nev-Air) is off a lonely stretch of Highway 95, surrounded by distant mountains and endless desert. The town isn't far from the California and Arizona borders, which is how it got its name.

If you can afford the $8 million asking price, you'll get the airstrip, the diner and the town's only casino. That includes a dozen old slot machines and a smokey bar. This place has character.

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