Marisa Peñaloza

Nearly two years after Hurricane Maria, the town of Utuado is finally getting a new bridge over the Viví River to replace the old concrete and steel one that was heavily damaged during the storm and has been closed ever since.

"This is the main road in and out of town," Héctor Cruz says, as a crew uses a crane and other heavy equipment to construct the new bridge. Cruz is the director of emergency management in Utuado, a community in the highlands of central Puerto Rico.

For the picturesque college town of Durham in southeastern New Hampshire, a reckoning came in 2017.

That was the year a complaint about the cultural appropriation of Cinco de Mayo spiraled into weeks of racial unrest, a boiling over of tensions that had simmered for years at the University of New Hampshire. Students who called out racist incidents faced a backlash of online bullying, swastikas and slurs, and the vandalism of sculptures that symbolized their cause.

Receiving a $0 pay stub is not easy on any worker. But some of the thousands of federal employees and contract workers who live paycheck to paycheck say the lingering partial government shutdown feels devastating. They started the shutdown with little or no savings and no safety net to weather this kind of financial emergency.

Now, one month into the shutdown, even those who had a cushion are finding their bank accounts empty or negative and bills and loan payments piling up.

Despite the Trump administration's immigration clampdown, newly released data show the number of Central American families and unaccompanied children crossing the Southwest border illegally has risen sharply.

The government blames loopholes in U.S. immigration laws for acting as a magnet for immigrants. But there's another explanation. The push factors in impoverished regions in Central America are as powerful as ever.

The current drug addiction crisis began in rural America, but it's quickly spreading to urban areas and into the African-American population in cities across the country.

"It's a frightening time," says Dr. Edwin Chapman, who specializes in drug addiction in Washington, D.C., "because the urban African-American community is dying now at a faster rate than the epidemic in the suburbs and rural areas."

José Ortíz and Ethan Leder had never met, but they quickly came up with an unconventional plan to help Puerto Rico.

Ortíz and Leder's personalities are similar: both are high energy, do-er types. "It's all about doing stuff" says Leder. "Not just talk," adds Ortíz.

When Hurricane Maria hit, Ortíz, a 47-year-old flooring business owner, says his "brain was completely obsessed with it." He was born in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico and was 11 when his family moved to the Washington, D.C. area. "I was just trying to get in touch with anyone in Puerto Rico to offer help."

Jacqueline Woodfork drove through the rain and slept on a highway before she finally found shelter from the floodwaters of Hurricane Harvey.

"I saw cars turning around because the rainfall was so heavy and because the exits were all flooded," says Woodfork, 29. Her car battery died on an elevated portion of Interstate 45 after she left her Houston apartment on Saturday.

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Hurricane Harvey left a lot of damage — not only along the Texas coastal towns where it made landfall Friday, but also in communities like Sienna Plantation, in Missouri City, about 20 miles south of Houston.

"It's true when they tell you that it sounds like a freight train coming through," Linda Varnado says, "because that's what it is ... and it's a sound that I don't want to hear ever again."

The Hamptons condo and apartment complex in Tampa is quintessential Florida. Lush and modern, the stucco homes are painted in a soft rainbow of pastels. All around are palm trees, Spanish moss and lily pads.

"It is a very quiet place. You have a lot of children that live here. A lot of professionals live here, retirees," said resident Michael Colon, 66.

But on May 19, that tranquility was shattered in an improbable case that involves four young roommates at the complex.

Two of the men are dead and the other two are in jail.

"Illicit cohabitation."

"Psychological evils."

"Racial integrity."

It's difficult to imagine how much the country's language around race and interracial marriage has changed in the past half century.

But just 50 years ago, interracial marriage was prohibited in Virginia and 15 other states.

The Supreme Court's landmark ruling in Loving v. Virginia declared unconstitutional a Virginia law prohibiting mixed-race marriage. The ruling also legalized interracial marriage in every state.

On a sunny morning in Guadalupe Victoria, near the Guatemalan border in the state of Chiapas, Mexico, Hilda Pastor is washing corn in her backyard sink to make tortillas. It's a daily ritual that starts the night before.

"I mix dried kernels, water and a spoonful of cal" — that's calcium hydroxide or slaked lime, "and it soaks overnight," says Pastor, a 48-year-old mother of three.

Researchers seeking to predict how Americans will vote have for years identified an important clue: The more religious you are, the more likely you are to lean Republican.

Conversations with more than two-dozen self-identified "faith" voters in Boone, N.C., suggest that pattern is holding this year, even while revealing the same high level of voter disenchantment evident across the country.

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Let's hear the story now of a woman who went beyond the call of duty. She is an artist in Philadelphia. Her task was to create something to welcome Pope Francis to her city later this month. Here's NPR's Marisa Peñaloza.

Dinaz Campbell, 10, holds Sherry, her newly adopted dog, at an adoption clinic in Rockville, Md.
Marisa Penaloza / NPR

On March 24, 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez struck a reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, spilling 11 million gallons of crude oil into the pristine water. At the time, it was the single biggest spill in U.S. history. In a series of stories, NPR is examining the lasting social and economic impacts of the disaster, as well as the policy, regulation and scientific research that came out of it.

It's a blustery, snowy March day when Michelle Hahn O'Leary offers a tour of Cordova, Alaska, situated on the eastern shore of Prince William Sound.

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

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Bob Moses is 78, but he has the same probing eyes you see behind thick black glasses in photos from 50 years ago when he worked as a civil rights activist in Mississippi. The son of a janitor, Moses was born and raised in Harlem. He's a Harvard-trained philosopher and a veteran teacher.

He started a math training program — the Algebra Project — with a MacArthur "Genius Grant" 30 years ago. The goal is simple: Take students who score the worst on state math tests, double up on the subject for four years and get them ready to do college-level math by the end of high school.

As Washington debates changing the immigration system, the demand for immigration attorneys has already jumped, even without new laws in place.

Lawyers such as Jose Pertierra, a veteran immigration attorney, are trained to interpret the law, but Pertierra sees his role as much more.

Every Thursday at 6 p.m. for the past 10 years, Pertierrra is here — on the set of the Spanish language TV studios of Univision in Washington, D.C., near Capitol Hill. He does a segment on immigration where he answers viewers' questions.

Vikki Hankins wants nothing more in the world than to have her civil rights restored. Hankins, 43, lost the right to vote — and many others — when she went to a federal prison for selling cocaine in December 1990. She spent almost two decades behind bars for her crime.

Today, Hankins is an author and an undergrad who dreams of going to law school. She got out of prison four years ago and quickly applied to have her rights — like voting, serving on a jury and becoming a lawyer — restored.

Last in a four-part report

Surrogacy is an idea as old as the biblical story of Sarah and Abraham in the book of Genesis. Sarah was infertile, so Abraham fathered children with the couple's maid. Today, there are many more options for people who want to grow their families — and for the would-be surrogates who want to help.

Macy Widofsky, 40, is eager to be a surrogate.

"I have very easy pregnancies. All three times have been flawlessly healthy, and I wanted to repeat the process," she says, "and my husband and I won't be having more children of our own."

Julie Zetlin is the United States' top-ranked rhythmic gymnast; she has already qualified to compete in London. And while she wants a medal from the Summer Olympics, she also wants more Americans to take her sport seriously.

In the United States, rhythmic gymnastics barely registers — and popular media has not been kind. Take Will Ferrell's spoof of the sport in the comedy Old School, in which the comedian prances around on the mat with a red ribbon in his hand:

You can see some progress in Haiti two years since the 7.0-magnitude quake hit. But Port-au-Prince is a tour of unrelenting misery and often disturbing images. Things are happening — slowly. You can tell the pace of progress by looking into people's eyes — emptiness looks back at you. Pain is etched on their faces.

You see it in Elicia Andre. We met her back in December at the homeless encampment run by Catholic Relief Services in Port-au-Prince, where she sought refuge after the quake. The charity had just given her $500 to rent an apartment for a year.