Monika Evstatieva

The Dulles Expo Center outside Washington, D.C., is usually reserved for home and garden or gun shows. Now the cavernous center hosts thousands of Afghan refugees. It's wall to wall with cots and now includes a medical center and cafeteria — serving halal food — for the steady stream of people.

There are stacks of pillows and blankets, and soldiers and government workers walk through the crowd of men and women in traditional garb.

The quick collapse of the Afghan National Army stunned many, including the Pentagon's top military officer, Gen. Mark Milley. He told reporters this week that the U.S. intelligence community estimated that if U.S. forces withdrew, it would be weeks, months, even years before the Afghan military fell to the Taliban.

Instead, it was just 11 days.

So what happened? How could U.S. officials be so wrong?

A year after several American businesses sprang up to manufacture much-needed masks and N95 respirators within U.S. borders, many of those businesses are now on the brink of financial collapse, shutting down production and laying off workers.

The nationwide vaccination campaign, combined with an influx of cheaper, Chinese-made masks and N95 respirators, has dramatically cut into the companies' sales and undermined their prices.

Updated October 8, 2021 at 1:59 PM ET

Editor's note: This story was first published on Feb. 9, 2021. It is regularly updated, and includes explicit language.

The Strategic National Stockpile, which the U.S. has traditionally depended on for emergencies, still lacks critical supplies nine months into one of the worst public health care crises this country has ever seen, an NPR investigation has learned.

A combination of long-standing budget shortfalls, lack of domestic manufacturing, snags in the global supply chain and overwhelming demand has meant that the stockpile is short of the gloves, masks and other supplies needed to weather this winter's surge in COVID-19 cases.

Conspiracy theories need just the right ingredients to take off within a population, and the COVID-19 pandemic has been a breeding ground for them. A Pew Research Center survey recently asked people if they had heard the theory that the COVID-19 outbreak was intentionally planned by people in power. Seventy-one percent of U.S. adults said they had. And a third of those respondents said it was "definitely" or "probably" true.

In the wake of George Floyd's death, a flashpoint in the debates over police reform has been the push to ban chokeholds nationwide. Advocates believe that enshrining a ban into law will deter police violence.

And it's gaining traction. Congressional Democrats have proposed a legislative package that calls for a ban on all neck restraints. President Trump, though he stopped short of full support of a ban, said late last week that police should avoid using chokeholds. And the state of New York passed a law banning the tactic.

In 1984, renowned Mexican singer and songwriter Juan Gabriel wrote a ballad that would become the most-played song at memorials and funerals in his home country. It's called "Amor Eterno" or "Love Eternal." But in the wake of a mass shooting in El Paso, Tex. this past weekend that resulted in the death of 22 people, Gabriel's ballad has taken on new poignancy.

The rock band Luxury started out like many other punk and indie bands in the 1990s, as college kids just looking for other people to make music with. Less common was their cultural context: They hailed from the small Georgia town of Toccoa, in a solidly evangelical milieu, and while the members were Christians they often found the venues and retailers of that community didn't quite know what to do with their brash lyrics and stage presence.

More than six decades into a trail-blazing career in music, and recently named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts, Abdullah Ibrahim shows no signs of slowing down. The legendary jazz pianist, composer and anti-Apartheid activist — Nelson Mandela called him the "Mozart of South Africa" — has released his latest album called The Balance and says he's already busy working on the next one.

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