NPR Staff

Every year at the Kentucky Derby, crazy hat-wearing, mint julep-guzzling horse-gazers break into a passionate rendition of Kentucky's state song, "My Old Kentucky Home." As tradition goes, the University of Louisville Cardinal Marching Band accompanies the crowd as they croon a ballad that seems to be about people who miss their happy home. "The sun shines bright on my old Kentucky home/'Tis summer and the people are gay," begins one version.

But Frank X Walker, Kentucky's former poet laureate, suspects that most people are missing the point.

This story is part of NPR's podcast Embedded, which digs deep into the stories behind the news.

Sitting on a dresser in the back bedroom of a house in Austin, Ind., is the bottom of a soda can. A woman places a sliver of a pill, a powerful prescription opioid called Opana, on the jagged half-can. She begins to heat the pill with a cigarette lighter, melting its hard white coating and turning it the color of whiskey.

Her name is Joy.

Detroit singer Mike Posner's latest hit on the pop charts is — ironically — about the down sides of having a hit on the pop charts. It's called "I Took a Pill in Ibiza."

NBC's reality show The Biggest Loser turns dieting into a grueling training regime fit for gladiators. The victor this past season was Roberto Hernandez. He dropped a whopping 160 pounds to reach a body weight of 188 pounds.

Intel was once known for its success in branding personal computers with microprocessors, a technology that fueled the digital revolution. But the Silicon Valley veteran announced last month it would lay off 11 percent of its workforce — up to 12,000 positions — and that it's shifting away from personal computing.

Charles Bradley cultivated his booming voice for years as a James Brown impersonator. It wasn't until he was 62 years old that he found mainstream success, singing his own music. Now, he's out with his third album, called Changes.

Ricky Gervais always seems to be working on something new. Whether it's producing a TV show, writing a movie, voicing a cartoon character, or hosting the Golden Globes, the comedian keeps busy.

Last week, NPR published a special report on suicide in Native Arctic communities. Reporter Rebecca Hersher spent 10 weeks in Greenland, the Arctic country with the highest known suicide rate in the world: 82.8 suicides per 100,000 people each year — six times higher than the U.S. suicide rate. She interviewed Inuit people in the Greenlandic capital, Nuuk, and in small towns on the country's remote east coast. She spoke with community leaders and mental health professionals who are trying to prevent suicide and come to terms with its underlying causes.

One photo of a pensive Congolese woman in her distinctive makeup could be mistaken for a Renaissance painting. Another, of a coal plant sending smoke plumes over a town in China, looks like a still from a 1950s propaganda film. And another, of a little girl yawning during an Indonesian festival, will just make you smile.

Sharon Long found her calling later in life. Back in the 1980s, she was a single mom trying to support her two kids, holding down several jobs at once — none of which she liked much.

"I worked at the Dairy Queen, and I cleaned a dentist's office, and I was a secretary," Long recalls, on a recent visit with StoryCorps. "I hated every morning I got up."

But, as she tells her colleague Steve Sutter, everything changed for her at age 40. When she she took her daughter to register for college, a financial aid officer persuaded Long to enroll herself.

Pages