The Boston Citgo sign, all 3,600 square LED feet of which has served as the backdrop to Red Sox games since 1965, is now officially a "pending landmark."

Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dalí spent much of the 1940s in the U.S., avoiding World War II and its aftermath. He was a well-known fixture on the art scene in Monterey, Calif. — and that's where the largest collection of Dalí's work on the West Coast is now open to the public.

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The middle of summer is when the surprises in publishing turn up. I'm talking about those quietly commanding books that publishers tend to put out now, because fall and winter are focused on big books by established authors. Which brings us to The Dream Life of Astronauts, by Patrick Ryan, a very funny and touching collection of nine short stories that take place in the 1960s and '70s around Cape Canaveral, Fla.

When the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union last month, the seaside town of Port Talbot in Wales eagerly went along with the move. Brexit was approved by some 57 percent of the town's residents.

Now some of them are wondering if they made the wrong decision.

The June 23 Brexit vote has raised questions about the fate of the troubled Port Talbot Works, Britain's largest surviving steel plant — a huge, steam-belching facility that has long been the town's biggest employer.

Solar Impulse 2 has landed in Cairo, completing the penultimate leg of its attempt to circumnavigate the globe using only the power of the sun.

The trip over the Mediterranean included a breathtaking flyover of the Pyramids. Check it out:

President Obama is challenging Americans to have an honest and open-hearted conversation about race and law enforcement. But even as he sits down at the White House with police and civil rights activists, Obama is mindful of the limits of that approach.

"I've seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change," the president said Tuesday at a memorial service for five law officers killed last week in Dallas. "I've seen how inadequate my own words have been."

Mice watching Orson Welles movies may help scientists explain human consciousness.

At least that's one premise of the Allen Brain Observatory, which launched Wednesday and lets anyone with an Internet connection study a mouse brain as it responds to visual information.

The FBI says it is giving up on the D.B. Cooper investigation, 45 years after the mysterious hijacker parachuted into the night with $200,000 in a briefcase, becoming an instant folk figure.

"Following one of the longest and most exhaustive investigations in our history," the FBI's Ayn Dietrich-Williams said in a statement, "the FBI redirected resources allocated to the D.B. Cooper case in order to focus on other investigative priorities."

This is the first in a series of essays concerning our collective future. The goal is to bring forth some of the main issues humanity faces today, as we move forward to uncertain times. In an effort to be as thorough as possible, we will consider two kinds of threats: those due to natural disasters and those that are man-made. The idea is to expose some of the dangers and possible mechanisms that have been proposed to deal with these issues. My intention is not to offer a detailed analysis for each threat — but to invite reflection and, hopefully, action.


'Art Of Betrayal': A History Of MI6 That Reads Like A Spy Novel

Jan 19, 2013
Originally published on January 19, 2013 7:13 am

For an organization that's supposed to be "secret," the British Secret Service, MI6, is awfully famous. MI6 agents turned novelists include Ian Fleming, Graham Greene and John LeCarre, and their books — together with the film franchise starring Fleming's James Bond — have made the intelligence organization a global brand.

In a new book, Gordon Corera, security correspondent for the BBC, writes of a young MI6 operative on a mission in a remote village in Africa. The chief of a tribe greets him with a wide smile and says, "Hello, Mr. Bond." As a former head of MI6 tells Corera, "I doubt if he would have received such a warm welcome if he'd been from the Belgian Secret Service."

MI6's reputation may be based on novels, movies and myths, but Corera's book, The Art of Betrayal: The Secret History of MI6, reveals the truth behind the legends. Corera tells the story of MI6 from its defining period in the Cold War through to these times of terrorism and cyber rivalry.

Corera joins NPR's Scott Simon to discuss the changing role of intelligence operations and why spies make great novelists.

Interview Highlights

On MI6's dual nature

"I think it's one of the most interesting ways of looking at the history of MI6 in the last 50, 60 years. ... On the one hand, one end of the spectrum, you've got James Bond, this slightly fantastical character, gung-ho above all, all the talk about the license to kill, who exists in a very simple world where you know the good guys from the bad guys. ... And then on the other hand, you have George Smiley, John LeCarre's creation, who's much more a character of grays, ambiguity and subtlety.

"James Bond is all about doing things. John Smiley is all about understanding things. Now, in a successful secret service, those two things work together in a kind of creative tension. But one of the things I think you can look at, the British Secret Service in its history at MI6, and you can see how at times one or the other has predominated, has had more influence, and sometimes with disastrous results."

On MI6's successes

"I wanted to try and ... not just talk about the failures and the betrayals but also reflect some of the successes. ... There were two Russian intelligence officers who were turned and who basically became agents for MI6 and, in one case, MI6 and the CIA. So one of them was Oleg Penkovsky, who was a Russian military intelligence officer in the early Cold War. ... It's very interesting, because it's one of those cases where you can point to the way in which intelligence made a difference to policy. His intelligence made it right up to the Oval Office, to President Kennedy, helped shape some of his decision-makings and helped him stand firm against Khrushchev at various points because of what he was getting from Penkovsky."

On the newly public nature of intelligence

"I've been covering this beat now for about a decade and it's been a very interesting period because it's been the post-9/11 period, in which I think intelligence agencies have been thrust into the public domain; sometimes for reasons they don't like, when their intelligence is used to justify the war in Iraq, for instance, and then turns out to be wrong. And suddenly with terrorism, intelligence is much more in the public eye than it used to be. It's not like the Cold War, where this stuff could all take place in the shadows and all be clouded in national security and secrecy; so, I think there's been a shift in which they've been forced to engage much more."

On why spies make great novelists

"I think it's interesting how many novelists, you know, you can go back to Somerset Maugham, who worked in MI6, Graham Greene, Fleming, LeCarre, all of them had intelligence backgrounds. Now of course it's partly because they had access to great material, but it's also, I think, one of the things about human intelligence is it's about what Graham Greene called the human factor. Spying is about people; it's about getting inside people's minds and motivations, understanding why they might betray their country or the people around them, and that is intrinsically interesting, I think, and applicable to novels, because novels are often, you know, the modern novel is very much about getting inside peoples minds and understanding their motivations. So I think there is kind of an overlap, you know, not just in the excitement of the subject matter but something about the human factor and the human motivations of spying which does lend itself to people being able to try and portray that in novels and make it interesting."

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