Debbie Elliott

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In December, 33-year old Ryan Rust was found dead in his solitary cell at Alabama's Holman prison, a belt around his neck with one end tied to a bar in the cell window.

"He's my little brother," says Harmony Rust-Bodke. She keeps his ashes in a gilded red urn in honor of his favorite college football team. "That's the crimson color cause he is an Alabama fan," she says.

The U.S. Department of Justice has put the state of Alabama on notice to fix dangerous and deadly prison conditions or face a lawsuit that could result in a federal takeover of the prison system.

Updated at 6:23 p.m. ET Wednesday

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a controversial bill that bans nearly all abortions into law Wednesday evening.

It's considered the most restrictive abortion law in the United States. The law makes it a crime for doctors to perform abortions at any stage of a pregnancy, unless a woman's life is threatened or there is a lethal fetal anomaly.

Under the new law, doctors in the state face felony jail time up to 99 years if convicted. But a woman would not be held criminally liable for having an abortion.

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The Alabama Senate is debating a bill to ban nearly all abortions. The state House has already overwhelmingly approved the legislation. It's part of a broader anti-abortion strategy to prompt the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider the right to abortion.

Nashville may be the country music capital, but the industry for which its famous began in Atlanta. Now, a grassroots drive to preserve a historic downtown building is highlighting Atlanta's somewhat forgotten role in early roots music.

At 152 Nassau Street in Downtown Atlanta, an unmarked two-story rose brick storefront houses a piece of Atlanta's music history. This was the site of a pop-up recording studio in 1923.

In what would likely become the most restrictive abortion ban in the country, the Alabama House Tuesday passed a bill that would make it a crime for doctors to perform abortions at any stage of a pregnancy, unless a woman's life is threatened. The legislation is part of a broader anti-abortion strategy to prompt the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider the right to abortion.

After allegations of a toxic workplace culture that discriminates against women and people of color, the Southern Poverty Law Center is trying to emerge and chart a way forward. Turmoil in the civil rights organization last month resulted in the firing of its famous founder and the resignations of its longtime president and legal director.

Karen Baynes-Dunning, an African-American woman, was then appointed to run the organization as its interim president. She spoke publicly about the path forward this week, for the first time, with NPR.

Two years ago Keitra Bates was trying to buy a run-down storefront in West Atlanta that had been vacant for years.

"Here's my dream come true," she said at the time, as we peered in through a wrought-iron front door at the neglected building she hoped to buy in a blighted neighborhood not far from downtown.

Bates is one of the Americans NPR has been talking with as part of our Kitchen Table Conversations, started when President Trump took office.

In Virginia, two of the top three statewide elected officials have admitted to wearing blackface several decades ago. While Gov. Ralph Northam has denied that he appears in the racist photo on his page of his medical school's yearbook, he did admit to painting his face with shoe polish while dressing up as Michael Jackson for a dance contest in the 1980s. Meanwhile, Attorney General Mark Herring admitted that he too wore blackface while dressing up with college friends as rappers.

Political enemies and allies alike are calling for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, to step down after a racist photo from his 1984 medical school yearbook was uncovered. But Northam has shown no inclination to do so. Now the two Democratic officials in line behind him to assume the governorship are both embroiled in scandals of their own.

The controversies rocking Richmond are a reminder of the complicated racial history that underpins Virginia politics.

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Rosanne Cash has been performing since she was 18. She had her first No. 1 country hit in her mid-20s, and in the decades since, has created a rich Americana catalog that explores love, loss, family, and place.

Her latest album, She Remembers Everything, is a collection of personal songs all written or co-written by Cash. She spoke about it with NPR's Debbie Elliott; hear the radio version at the audio link, and read on for an edited transcript.

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Jury selection begins today in the trial of the man accused of ramming his car through a crowd of people protesting a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. James Alex Fields, Jr. is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Heather Heyer, and faces additional charges of malicious wounding.

In a video posted on Twitter over the weekend, Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi is seen complimenting a supporter by saying, "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row."

Hyde-Smith, who is white, is the appointed incumbent locked in a runoff for her Senate seat with Democratic challenger Mike Espy, a former congressman and U.S. agriculture secretary who is African-American.

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Updated 4:37 p.m. ET

Incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson in Florida is calling for a recount in a razor-thin race with Republican Rick Scott, the state's outgoing governor.

Scott is up by about 34,000 votes out of 8.1 million cast. That's within the half-percent margin that launches an automatic recount in Florida.

Scott claimed victory Tuesday night. But Nelson is not conceding. In a statement, Nelson said, "We are proceeding to a recount."

Nelson's campaign estimates that there are more than 100,000 ballots left to be counted.

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In 1975, Norris Henderson went on trial for second-degree murder as a 19-year-old in New Orleans. He thought he was a free man when there were two holdouts on the jury.

"Watched Perry Mason all my life," he says. "Okay, 10-2, I'm outta here."

But he was mistaken. Louisiana has a split-jury system that only requires 10 of 12 jurors to return a guilty verdict.

Before authorities apprehended suspect Cesar Sayoc in connection to the series of mail bombs, the case prompted all sorts of speculation and conspiracy theories. The bombs were all sent to high profile critics of President Trump

"It is a high probability that the whole thing is set up as a false flag to gain sympathy for the Democrats," said talk radio host Michael Savage, "and to get our minds off the hordes of illegal aliens approaching our southern border."

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More than a week after Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida panhandle, cities and towns are facing the daunting task of trying to rebuild. The recovery is hampered by catastrophic damage not only to homes and businesses, but to vital infrastructure as well.

The small Gulf coast town of Port St. Joe, with a population of about 3,500 residents, is one of countless communities that was hit by the storm.

"Everywhere you turn and go you see some kind of destruction," says the town's mayor, Bo Patterson. "Whether it was wind damage, whether it was water, one of the two."

Most of the roads in Florida's Bay County are now impassable. There's no electricity, no working sewers, no gasoline, very little cell service, and a boil water advisory.

"This whole town's destroyed" after Hurricane Michael, says Ryan Smith, a mechanic in Lynn Haven, on the north side of Panama City, Fla.

He's standing outside a red brick apartment complex where most of the roofs are gone and giant pine trees have fallen through some of the buildings.

"This was our house," he says. "Now all our stuff's destroyed."

The sun is shining again on North Carolina as the remnants of Hurricane Florence have moved into the mid-Atlantic. But a catastrophe is still unfolding, as rivers rise after days of torrential rains. As residents of the Carolinas start to clean up, difficult questions are being raised about how to best recover along the coastline and whether some residents facing repeated flooding should consider moving inland.

In downtown New Bern, N.C. , accountant Mike Rogers, hammer in hand, spent Sunday tearing 2 feet of drenched drywall out of his CPA office.

"At least it's not tax season," he says, trying to keep a good attitude after a foot of water flooded the storefront office. He is using fans to dry things out, as colleagues remove files from the second story.

"It came in quick, left quick," Rogers says. "We're trying to save as much as we can."

The front window is still boarded up with the spray-painted message #NewBernStrong.

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