NPR Stories

When U.S. shot putter Raven Saunders is competing, she calls herself the "Hulk." It's the alter ego that bursts onto the field to fight for championships.

Saunders — with the help of her "Hulk" persona — took silver in the women's shot put final at the Tokyo Summer Olympics. She hurled the heavy ball 19.79 meters, or nearly 65 feet. It's the third medal ever for the U.S. in the women's event and it's Saunders' first.

Pockets of the American West continued to burn over the weekend, as another nine large fires were reported on Saturday in California, Idaho, Montana and Oregon.

The 87 fires still active in 13 states have consumed more than 1.7 million acres. Just shy of 3 million acres have been scorched since the start of 2021, with months left in what experts predict will be a devastating fire season.

TOKYO — U.S. star sprinter Caeleb Dressel is on a hot streak. He added two gold medals to his haul from the Tokyo Olympics, departing the Games with five golds.

Dressel and his teammates Ryan Murphy, Michael Andrew and Zach Apple set a world record in the 4x100 meter medley relay.

Earlier today, Dressel touched the wall first in the 50 meter freestyle, setting an Olympic record in the shortest and fastest swimming distance with a time of 21.07.

Across the country, many DoorDash drivers have stopped dashing to your door.

They've logged off the app for the day as part of a strike organized on social media against the food delivery service, demanding tip transparency and higher pay.

Here's why.

Nigerian athlete Chioma Onyekwere, who had trained for years to hone her discus skills, considered competing at the Tokyo Games to be the pinnacle of her career.

"This is supposed to be one of the happiest moments of my life," she said.

Instead, because Nigerian athletic officials hadn't conducted enough drug tests over the past several months, Onyekwere and nine other Nigerians unexpectedly found themselves disqualified this week.

After removing herself from the women's team finals and the individual all-around competition, Simone Biles — America's most accomplished gymnast — announced late Friday she would not compete in the uneven bars or vault at the Tokyo games.

It feels good at the top, but Australian swimmer Kaylee McKeown knows it feels better when victory is shared.

The 20-year-old won her second Olympic gold medal, in the women's 200-meter backstroke final in Tokyo on Saturday.

McKeown's teammate, 29-year-old Emily Seebohm, came out with the bronze during the race. But during the medal ceremony, she didn't stay on the third step on the podium for long.

Records have been set nearly every day lately in Tokyo, but not all of them have been by athletes competing in the Olympics.

Japan's capital has exceeded 4,000 coronavirus infections for the first time — 4,058 cases, to be exact. That's a record high and nearly four times as many cases were reported just a week ago.

Since his arrival at the Olympic Village, tennis star Novak Djokovic has regaled fellow athletes with his techniques for mental strength, dealing with pressure, and "how to bounce back if you lost your focus."

MOSCOW — Darya Apakhonchich never considered herself a foreign agent.

She taught Russian to refugees in her hometown, St. Petersburg, and took part in street performances against militarism and violence against women. The activism of Apakhonchich's art group was quirky and local, and their performances typically got a couple of hundred views on YouTube.

Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica is officially the fastest woman in the world — again — after winning the 100 meters at the Tokyo Games in Olympic record time. She was the defending gold medalist in this event.

"I knew I had it in me, but obviously, I've had my ups and downs with injuries," she said Saturday, referring to a persistent ailment in 2018 and 2019. "I've been keeping faith all this time. It is amazing."

How do you honor historical figures?

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced this week the state will rename nine Garden State Parkway service areas after noted New Jerseyites: Judy Blume, Celia Cruz, Connie Chung, Larry Doby, James Gandolfini, Whitney Houston, Jon Bon Jovi, Toni Morrison, and, ladies and gentlemen, the Chairman of the Board, Frank Sinatra.

They join a few other Jerseyites already enshrined along the New Jersey Turnpike, including Alexander Hamilton, who was a rest stop in Secaucus before he was a Broadway musical.

George Harrison was one of the biggest rock stars on the planet in 1971 but there was no bravado in his voice as he lent his celebrity to discuss a global crisis. Sitting at a press conference that opens the performance film, The Concert for Bangladesh, he was asked why, out of all of the crises in the world, he assembled a benefit for refugees from what was then East Pakistan.

In a tone reflecting why he was dubbed "the quiet Beatle," Harrison responded simply, "Because I was asked by a friend if I'd help, that's all."

TOKYO — Today, Reshmi Oogink finally gets to go home.

But it won't be the homecoming in the Netherlands she expected after the Tokyo Olympics.

She was aiming to showcase her skills in Taekwondo. This would have been her second Olympics representing her county.

Most days by about 8 a.m., the gates at Arches National Park in Utah close because all the parking lots are full and the trails are at capacity.

Many tourists then spill out onto the surrounding federal public lands — those red rock canyons and river cut gorges that first put one of the West's adventure tourism capitals, Moab, on the map.

On a recent hot afternoon, swimming holes along a federal Bureau of Land Management trail east of town, usually a quiet hideaway from the bustle of Arches and nearby Canyonlands national parks, were humming.

TOKYO — American BMX racer Connor Fields remains in a Tokyo hospital after a crash on Friday at the Olympics. Today officials from USA Cycling revealed Fields sustained a brain hemorrhage and broke a rib during his semifinals heat.

During the race, Fields slammed headfirst into the ground following a jump that was leading into his first turn. He remained motionless after the crash. Medics rushed him off the course on a stretcher and into an ambulance.

An ocean expedition exploring more than a mile under the surface of the Atlantic captured a startlingly silly sight this week: a sponge that looked very much like SpongeBob SquarePants.

And right next to it, a pink sea star — a doppelganger for Patrick, SpongeBob's dim-witted best friend.

It's been difficult to make sense of all of the varying guidance and mandates on masking and vaccines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, states and local governments. But in Kansas, where cases are rising, it is also difficult to know who has the power to call the shots since Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's executive authority remains in legal limbo.

The American fencing team is not happy to have Alen Hadzic representing the U.S. at the Tokyo Olympics.

Almost immediately after making it on to the roster, the 29-year-old was accused of sexual misconduct between 2013 and 2015 by three women.

Hadzic denies the allegations and successfully appealed a suspension that would have kept him off the U.S. team.

TOKYO — American swimmer Katie Ledecky is once again the Olympic champion at the 800-meter freestyle.

She touched the wall first at 8:12.57, besting her Australian rival Ariarne Titmus who cruised to silver at 8:13.83. Italy's Simona Quadarella took the bronze. American Katie Grimes was fourth.

It was Ledecky's second individual gold at the Tokyo Olympics, after her win in the 1,500-meter freestyle.

U.S. star swimmer Caeleb Dressel has beaten his own world record in the 100- meter butterfly at the Tokyo Olympics.

The 24-year-old led for the entire two-lap sprint and clocked it in 49.45 seconds. After winning, he celebrated with his closest competitor, Kristof Milak from Hungary.

"It was faster than I thought it was going to be," Dressel said. "I'm sure it was really fun to watch for everybody, it was certainly fun to take part in."

Dressel also took gold in the 100 meter freestyle earlier this week.

Updated July 30, 2021 at 10:35 PM ET

U.S. superstar gymnast Simone Biles will not compete in the uneven bars or vault individual finals on Sunday, after pulling out of the team and all-around finals to focus on her mental health.

"After further consultation with medical staff, Simone Biles has decided to withdraw from the event finals for vault and the uneven bars," USA Gymnastics said. "She will continue to be evaluated daily to determine whether to compete in the finals for floor exercise and balance beam."

Updated July 30, 2021 at 9:59 PM ET

This year's Olympic Games has been an event unlike any other before it. The ongoing pandemic has changed so much, most noticeable being the ban on spectators with even families barred from attending. Still, despite these difficulties, athletes are blazing trails and making history.

Who's a good boy at the Olympics?

The Field Support Robot is a good boy!

The black-and-white high-tech contraption made its debut earlier this week as one of a handful of robots designed to streamline the Tokyo Olympic Games. And it can be seen again — essentially playing fetch — during the track and field throwing events over the weekend.

Michael Andrew is making waves for not wearing a mask while speaking to journalists after swimming the 200-meter individual medley at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday.

USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan shared a photo on Twitter of Andrew maskless in an area where interviewers speak with Olympic athletes.

Raven Saunders brought her A game to her shot-put qualifying round Friday — and she paired it with a striking new look. Known by her nickname the Hulk, Saunders wore a large face mask to emulate the Joker instead, complete with purple and green hair.

"That's so Raven," USA Track & Field tweeted as it shared an image of the U.S. star.

When revising its mask guidance this week to urge even vaccinated people to wear masks indoors in much of the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was criticized for not citing data in making that move.

Now it has — and the data is sobering.

The Justice Department has paved the way for a House panel to get former President Donald Trump's tax returns in what could be the beginning of the end of years of delay and court battles.

In a new legal opinion released Friday, the department concluded that the House Ways and Means Committee has invoked "sufficient" legislative reasons for access to the sensitive materials, including what the panel said were "serious concerns" about how the Internal Revenue Service is operating an audit program for presidents.

For a while there, it seemed like things were finally heading back to normal. Now, not so much.

In the span of just a week, plans for a September return to the office have been pushed back. Mask mandates have made a comeback. And a growing number of employers, including the federal government, are laying down the line on vaccines.

Updated July 30, 2021 at 3:32 PM ET

In a telephone call in late December, then-President Donald Trump pressured senior Justice Department officials to declare the 2020 election "corrupt" in an effort to help him and his Republican allies in Congress try to overturn the outcome, according to documents provided to a House committee.

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