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Consumer advocates call them "debt" traps. The banks that offer them call them direct-deposit advances and describe them as available funds for short-term emergencies.

The U.S. military and law enforcement agencies have seen increased public scrutiny on the domestic use of the robotically piloted planes known as drones. Working on the sidelines of this debate, the U.S. Geological Survey has been trying to find a second life for retired military drones in the areas of environmental and wildlife management. Instead of watching the battlefield, these drones are watching birds.

Jonny Fritz: A Country Jester Gets Personal

Apr 25, 2013

Dad Country is the ersatz debut of Jonny Fritz, but it's actually his third album: He recorded the first two under the name Jonny Corndawg. I enjoyed his 2011 album Down on the Bikini Line, but it's so much slighter, so much sillier and more risqué, that at first I didn't connect the two. From the new album's first seconds, Jonny Fritz sounds more intense and pained.

West, Texas, said goodbye to 14 people, including 10 firefighters and first responders, who were killed in the April 17 explosion of a fertilizer plant that leveled part of the town.

President Obama attended a memorial service on Thursday to console the grieving families. He said the "tragedy has simply revealed who you've always been."

He told the audience of about 10,000 gathered at Baylor University's Ferrell Center in Waco that the country would help the community rebuild.

Editors' note: The study this story covers have retracted their work, saying that they made errors in conducting the experiment that invalidate the results. The study prompted controversy when it was published in 2013, and study author Douglas Melton collaborated with some of those critics to figure out where it went wrong.

Longtime Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana announced this week that he would not seek re-election next year, ending four decades in Congress and leaving as chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee.

NPR's Robert Siegel spoke with Baucus Thursday about his recent vote against expanded gun background checks, his role in negotiations over President Obama's health care legislation, efforts to remake tax policy, and the legions of his former staffers now populating lobbying shops.

Background Checks

Life on the Mississippi River is a roller coaster of highs and lows: record high floodwaters one year, a drought and near-record low water levels the next. And those are just two of the many problems faced by river stakeholders like barge operators, farmers and conservation groups.

Those stakeholders met recently in Chicago to discuss the Mississippi's most pressing needs, any common ground, and how to speak with a unified voice in advocating for the nation's largest river system.

So far, that hasn't been easy.

Critical, Crumbling Lifeline

New York City is notoriously crowded, and it's only getting more so. The city estimates it will have 1 million more people by the year 2030, many of them single. Where to place all these newcomers is a major challenge.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg has announced plans to put up an experimental building of micro-apartments that could be replicated throughout the city. And the Museum of the City of New York is looking at ways to make better use of the city's housing stock.

A small church in Santa Fe, N.M., has grown up around a unique sacrament. Twice a month, the congregation meets in a ritualized setting to drink Brazilian huasca tea, which has psychoactive properties said to produce a trance-like state.

The Supreme Court confirmed the UDV church's right to exist in 2006. The church doesn't seek new members and prefers to keep a low profile. It did, however, agree for the first time to open up to a journalist.

Monkeys Also Want To Eat Like The Locals

Apr 25, 2013

When you travel, do you want to drink Bellinis in Venice and yak butter tea in Tibet? Well, so do monkeys.

Monkeys will eat new, different food if they travel to a new place and want to fit in with the locals, according to a new study. But back home, they'll eat what Mama eats, shunning perfectly good food if it doesn't get her approval.

Clovers? Hearts? That's small fries, guys. It's time you met The Cat:

Most U.S. workers fit snugly into the middle class, but they worry a lot about falling out of it, according to a poll released Thursday.

After years of watching home prices slide and job creation stall, 6 in 10 Americans say they fear tumbling from the middle class in the next few years, the Allstate-National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll suggests.

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David Beck and Paul Cauthen were both playing music around San Marcos, Texas, when they recognized that it might be a good move to combine their talents and became Sons of Fathers. Actually, they originally went by the name Beck and Cauthen until another, more famous Beck took notice.

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Rocky Balboa's sprint up the stairs of the Philadelphia Art Museum in Rocky is a scene that would have once been impossible to film. Camera innovator Garrett Brown made it possible when he invented the Steadicam, a body-mounted camera that stabilizes handheld shots.

Brown has received three Academy Awards for his technical inventions and holds 50 patents for cinematography devices. The college dropout-turned-inventor will be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in May.

Why Finding A TB Test Got Hard

Apr 25, 2013

Hospitals and public health departments around the country are having a tough time coming up with a staple of preventive health care: the skin test for tuberculosis.

The shortage, caused by problems at a factory in Canada, is prompting suspension of routine TB testing around the country.

A body pulled out of the water earlier this week in Providence, R.I., has now been identified as that of 22-year-old Sunil Tripathi, a Brown University student who had been missing since March 15.

If you've got a chicken, two cast iron skillets and are feeling strong, Jay Bentley has a recipe for you: Cast Iron Roasted Half Chicken. The Montana restaurateur and co-author of Open Range: Steaks, Chops and More From Big Sky Country shared it for All Things Considered's Found Recipe series.

Matthew Weiner On 'Mad Men' And Meaning

Apr 25, 2013

The sixth season of AMC's Mad Men, which premiered April 7, jumps forward in time a few months from where the fifth season concluded. The first episode of the season comes to a close on New Year's Day 1968. That date was designed to set the tone for the entire season.

That year, says Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, is, "as far as I can tell, in the top two or three worst years in U.S. history."

Why The Bush Library Won't Make History

Apr 25, 2013

Will history judge George W. Bush more kindly than his contemporaries have?

The man himself seems fairly indifferent.

"I don't think he really cares much at all, to be honest with you," says Kevin Sullivan, who served as White House communications director during Bush's second term. "I think he cares very little about where his approval rating stands today, compared to 2005 or 2008."

Update at 5:45 p.m. ET. 'All Options' On The Table

A White House official reiterated much of what was in the letter sent to Capitol Hill, but added that "all options were on the table in terms of our response."

The official said that reports of the use of chemical weapons in Aleppo in March was one of the incidents being examined.

Four presidents praised another member of their exclusive club Thursday at the dedication of the George W. Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Tough economic times and growing poverty in much of Europe are reviving a humble tradition that began some one-hundred years ago in the Italian city of Naples. It's called caffè sospeso — "suspended coffee": A customer pays in advance for a person who cannot afford a cup of coffee.

Rape Of Five-Year-Old Incites Rage In India

Apr 25, 2013

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Not Your Ordinary Science Fair

Apr 25, 2013

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to switch gears now and tell you about a competition that is really about to take off - pun intended. We're talking about the nation's largest rocketry tournament, the Team America Rocketry Challenge.

I have a recurring nightmare where I am performing CPR on a patient who turns out to be my husband.

Last Monday, my nightmare nearly came true.

It was 2:50 p.m., and the Massachusetts General Hospital ER was filled to capacity.

In the section where I was working, my patients were critically ill, with strokes, heart attacks and overwhelming infections. Even the hallways were packed with patients receiving emergency treatments.

A call over the loudspeakers announced that there had been two explosions. Many people were injured. That's all we knew.

Google has agreed to modify the way it displays search results in Europe as part of a deal to end a probe by the EU's antitrust body. But rivals Microsoft, Nokia and Oracle will first have to sign off on the changes, reports say.

As ZDNet writes:

A huge fire triggered by explosions aboard two fuel barges moored in Mobile, Ala., has been put out, but three people have been left with critical burns, The Associated Press reports. The blaze forced the evacuation of a nearby cruise ship.

Mobile Fire-Rescue spokesman Steve Huffman said in a statement that the cause of the fires, which broke out Wednesday night on the east side of the Mobile River, had not been determined.

Thanks, mom.

On the day her son George's presidential library is being dedicated in Dallas, former first lady Barbara Bush has told NBC's Today show that "we've had enough Bushes" when it comes to seeing the presidency.

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