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The al-Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has played a key role in the war against Syria's government but now faces a major onslaught from other rebel forces. ISIS militants are also under fire in neighboring Iraq. NPR's Scott Simon and correspondent Deb Amos discuss how ISIS arose and what it wants to achieve.

Israel's former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who suffered a devastating stroke in 2006 at the height of his political power, died Saturday after spending eight years in a coma. NPR's Scott Simon remembers Sharon with former ambassador Dennis Ross, who has played a leading role in shaping U.S. policy on Israel.

Nearly 20 percent of Americans still smoke, in spite of what we now know about the dangers. Part of the reason is the allure of a cigarette, so elemental to classic scenes in movies, television shows and books. NPR's Scott Simon speaks with Richard Klein, author of Cigarettes are Sublime, about smoking and American culture.

From nursery tunes to wedding marches to funeral dirges — what does your soundtrack sound like?

The former prime minister, who had been in a coma after suffering a massive stroke in 2006, died on Saturday. Sharon's career spanned the birth of the nation and most of its essential turning points. Israelis had a love-hate relationship with him that was beginning to soften only shortly before his death.

Scientists say that the freezing weather can help reduce the population of a beetle that harms trees, as well as other invasive species. In Minnesota, up to 80 percent of the beetle's larvae may die off, buying some time for those who feared its negative effects on the ash tree population.

Trappist monks are known for producing some of the world's finest beers. But until recently, all of them were brewed in Europe. Next week, Spencer Trappist Ale, made by the monks of St. Joseph's Abbey in Massachusetts, hits retail shelves.

A potent, syrupy extract of marijuana has become a popular way to ingest pot among young people, particularly in places where pot use has been liberalized. That has public safety officials worried, in part because making the substance can have explosive side effects.

An obscure provision in the finance overhaul is causing problems for small banks. It turns out, it's hard to figure out which risks banks should be allowed to take.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's execution of his uncle was about more than an internal power struggle. Jang Song Thaek oversaw economic ties with China and was accused of selling North Korean resources to its main ally on the cheap.

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