Howard Berkes

NPR Reporter

As states consider allowing employers to completely opt out of workers' compensation plans, NPR and ProPublica take a look at how the concept has worked in Texas. Read the full investigation here.

With 15,000 firefighters deployed and three dozen major wildfires currently burning in five Western states, this would seem to be a wildfire season for the record books. And in one tragic aspect, it is. But by most measures, 2013 is the second-mildest fire season in the past decade ... so far.

Here's the season to date, by the numbers (provided by the National Interagency Fire Center) and with some historic statistics for comparison.

The federal agencies saddled with doom-and-gloom forecasts have mixed news (PDF) for the vast regions of the country that have been suffering from drought.

The good news is reserved for Easterners and Midwesterners: Your drought pain has eased notably, the forecasters say, and the summer promises above-average heat but more precipitation.

Every recent opening ceremony of the Olympics went for glitter and glamour, in an escalating war of excess. Ceremony fanatics consider the Beijing opening ceremony the gaudiest of all — and Oscar-winner Danny Boyle (the director of Slumdog Millionaire) had $42 million to try to outdo the Chinese organizers.

Instead, Boyle says, "You can't get bigger than Beijing. So that, in a way, kind of liberated us. We thought, 'Great. Oh good. We'll try and do something different, then.' "

A letter sent by email and snail mail urges the followers of polygamist leader and convicted pedophile Warren Jeffs to "come clean ... or you are going down with the wicked and the damned."