Scott Simon

If you're a fan of The Americans, you probably have strong feelings about Alison Wright's character, Martha. Poor, loving, trusting Martha had to be smuggled out of the U.S. because she married a man who was no good for her — a man who turned out to be a Russian spy.

The Women in the Castle, the new novel by Jessica Shattuck, tells the story of three women, and their children, who take refuge in the ruins of a Bavarian castle at the end of World War II. The women are war widows — war resistance widows, really — whose husbands paid with their lives for the July 1944 plot against Adolf Hitler.

Twitter and other social media platforms often seem anti-social: mean, ugly avenues where people bash, blame and fulminate. But this week, just a couple of hours after the terrorist in front of the British Parliament killed four people and wounded scores of others from all over the world, the official U.K. Parliament Twitter account posted a short note of simple nobility:

It was a quiet message of defiance; an understated, eloquent way to say: We're still here. Business as usual. The show of democracy goes on.

It's hardly unusual for athletes, both amateur and professional, to have pregame rituals. But the NBA's peculiar commitment to one grade-school snack goes deep: ESPN Magazine calls the PB&J sandwich the league's "secret addiction."

"In every NBA locker room, you'll see a variety of different foods on the table, but PB&J — if there's a locker room that doesn't have it, I haven't seen it," ESPN reporter Baxter Holmes tells Scott Simon.

There is a photograph that's been seen around the world this week. It seems to hold both civilization and destruction in the same frame.

The photo shows a white-haired man sitting on a bed in the midst of rubble. He sits in front of broad windows, which have been shattered; and gauzy white curtains, which flap like wounded white birds.

Michael Rodriguez is both a military man and a muse. Years after President George W. Bush sent him into war, the two men now call each other friends.

Rodriguez was a U.S. Army Special Forces Green Beret who served from 1992 to 2013. He's featured in President Bush's book of portraits of more than 60 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who served in wars under his watch. It's called Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief's Tribute to America's Warriors.

The Academy Awards are Sunday night. But that's just what we call a peg for what I really want to talk about.

This spring marks the 45th anniversary of The Godfather.

"Leave the gun. Take the cannoli."

Francis Coppola's film is smartly scripted, beautifully acted and gorgeously directed. It's one of those special films you can see every few years and notice something new each time. It's an opera, really, where the arias are story lines about love, blood and America.

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We keep on learning from great lives.

On Oct. 16, 1939, just weeks after Germany invaded Poland and Britain was at war, Winston Churchill, who had warned of Germany's wicked and avaricious ambitions, was called out of political isolation to become First Lord of the Admiralty and drafted an essay in which he asked, perhaps himself as much as anyone who would read it, "Are We Alone in the Universe?"

Amnesty International released a report this week that may make you wonder how much of what we conscientiously report as important news truly is by comparison.

The human rights group, which received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977, says as many as 13,000 opponents of Bashar Assad have been hanged in the Saydnaya prison on the outskirts of Damascus.

It is worth repeating that number: as many as 13,000 people, hanged to death.

The researchers interviewed 84 people, including former guards, a military judge, and 31 people who were held in two buildings of the prison.

It's been a hard week in Peoria.

William Ryan Owens, the Navy Seal who was killed in a raid in Yemen, was from Peoria, Ill. Defense Secretary James Mattis said, "He gave his full measure for our nation."

And the Caterpillar company announced that after more than 90 years, it is moving its world headquarters from Peoria to Chicago. It is hard to overestimate the blow this is to Peoria.

I am surrounded by Mary Tyler Moores: smart, strong, independent women who have enriched the news business, and, for that matter, our world.

When Mary Tyler Moore died this week, at the age of 80, a lot of women in the news business — and women who are lawyers, teachers, accountants, and software engineers — cited Mary Richards, the role she played on The Mary Tyler Moore Show from 1970 to 1977, as an inspiration.

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The great British actor John Hurt has died. He got his start early, said he appeared in front of an audience for the first time when he was just 9 years old.

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