NPR Stories

Updated July 24, 2021 at 1:31 PM ET

While flying between the Alaskan cities of Kotzebue and Nome, a Coast Guard helicopter crew spotted an SOS sign on top of a shack. Circling back over the remote mining camp, they found a man waving his hands in the air.

Bob Sinner, a specialty soybean producer in North Dakota, has a major problem on his hands: He has plenty of beans, but he's struggling to ship them to his customers overseas, and his deliveries are running at least a month and a half behind schedule.

"We've had customers in Asia that have had to stop their operations waiting for supply," Sinner says. "Our farmers need to get their storage facilities emptied because we have a new crop that's coming in September, October. We have to get this product moving."

The battle is now joined at the U.S. Supreme Court. This week the state of Mississippi formally asked the high court to reverse its landmark 1973 abortion decision, Roe v. Wade, prompting abortion-rights defenders to say, in effect, "I told you so."

Jamin Crow waited silently for the bull moose to turn and face him. In the cold, the teen stood in an open meadow, his gun resting on a branch. He waited and waited and waited.

Then the moose turned, and his brother started to yell, "Shoot!" If Crow didn't shoot, his brother would. So Crow took a deep breath and pulled the trigger.

"Your ears are ringing after the gunshot. And I look at my brother and he's giving me the happiest look I've ever seen," he says. "Everything is perfect at that moment ...You know you succeeded in what your goal is."

Updated July 23, 2021 at 6:53 PM ET

Cleveland's Major League Baseball team has changed its name to the Guardians, ridding itself of a previous name that many found highly offensive.

The team announced the name change Friday morning on Twitter, posting a two-minute video narrated by actor Tom Hanks.

Fireworks soared above Tokyo's new Olympic Stadium Friday as the delayed Summer Games finally held its opening ceremony — an event that culminates in lighting the Olympic cauldron.

Athletes marched in front of thousands of empty seats as only a sparse crowd was admitted due to COVID-19 restrictions. Those attending included first lady Jill Biden, who chatted with French President Emmanuel Macron.

When it comes to COVID-19 in Africa, there were mixed signals from Africa on Thursday.

The World Health Organization reports that after eight consecutive weeks of surging cases across the continent, there's finally been a reversal. The total number of confirmed new cases in Africa fell by 1.7% to nearly 282,000 in the past week. And it's worth noting that this represents only 8% of new cases worldwide.

It's 2021, but the policing of female athletes' bodies is a practice that continues to thrive.

Updated July 23, 2021 at 4:01 PM ET

TOKYO — In some ways, the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics looks very normal. Delegations of athletes decked out in clothes representing their countries march triumphantly into the stadium, waving flags. A beautifully choreographed spectacle from the host country, Japan, celebrates its art and traditions.

FirstEnergy Corp. has agreed to pay a $230 million fine for its central role in a bribery scheme — the goal of which was to get legislation passed that included a $1 billion bailout for two of its power plants in Ohio.

Federal prosecutors charged FirstEnergy, based in Akron, Ohio, with conspiring to commit honest services wire fraud.

There's an inescapable tension in the upcoming Democratic primary for Ohio's 11th Congressional District.

On the one hand, there are voters making personal, locally informed decisions about whom to support.

DeWayne Williams, for example, says he will support Nina Turner, a former state senator and co-chair of Bernie Sanders' 2020 presidential campaign.

TOKYO — What do speed skating and baseball have in common?

U.S. Olympian and flag bearer Eddy Alvarez. He won a silver medal in speed skating at the Winter Games in Sochi in 2014, and is competing on the U.S. baseball team at the Tokyo Summer Olympics.

Otherwise, not much, as Alvarez joked in a recent interview: "I would say the only link is the fact that we go left. There's really nothing similar about them."

TOKYO — The COVID-delayed Tokyo Summer Olympics officially begins with a parade of athletes (more than 200 of them from Team USA), waving flags and marching inside a mostly-empty stadium. It's not clear yet what else will happen during the opening ceremony which is usually a chance to showcase the host country and inspire pride from countries throughout the world.

It's Opening Ceremony day in Tokyo, heralding the official start to another Olympics. Although we've already had two days of sports competition, there's the knowledge that once the smoke settles after tonight's ceremony-ending fireworks, the gates are flung open to 16 straight days of unprecedented drama.

As a reporter, it'll be fine to have a daily plan — but as always, I'll be ready to wad it up and throw it away as unforeseen stories capture the imagination.

So at this point, there is a sameness about these Tokyo Games.

The current COVID-19 surge in the U.S. — fueled by the highly contagious delta variant — will steadily accelerate through the summer and fall, peaking in mid-October, with daily deaths more than triple what they are now.

In a major escalation of pressure on NFL teams to vaccinate as many players as possible before the start of this fall's season, the NFL says that teams will forfeit and be slapped with a loss if a game is cancelled because of a COVID-19 outbreak among their unvaccinated players — and neither team's players will be paid.

A revolver that killed one of the most famous wanted men in the Wild West 140 years ago is slated to be offered for millions of dollars next month.

Prior to his killing, a judge is said to have sentenced famed outlaw Billy the Kid to hang until "you are dead, dead, dead." Billy was rumored to respond, "And you can go to hell, hell, hell."

Thursday, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that an additional 275,000 low-income individuals in the state are again eligible for publicly-funded health care.

Missouri voters successfully pushed through a state constitutional amendment on the ballot last August to adopt Medicaid expansion, but the Republican-dominated legislature refused to implement it, prompting Gov. Mike Parson, also a Republican, to pull the plug on plans to bolster the health care program.

Czech Olympic officials are looking into a cluster of coronavirus cases that are linked to a charter flight that brought a contingent of athletes and staff to Japan. The country's team has six coronavirus cases in total.

A doctor who was on the flight was reportedly among the first to test positive. As of late Thursday, four athletes had also tested positive for the coronavirus.

CIA Director William Burns says he has redoubled the agency's efforts to uncover the cause of Havana syndrome — the mysterious set of ailments that has afflicted more than 200 U.S. officials and family members around the world.

While the delta variant of the coronavirus has quickly become the dominant strain in the United States, it's not the only variant circulating in the population.

Copyright 2021 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Updated July 22, 2021 at 3:59 PM ET

Democratic senators introduced a bill on Thursday that would hold Facebook, YouTube and other social media companies responsible for the proliferation of falsehoods about vaccines, fake cures and other harmful health-related claims on their sites.

Updated July 22, 2021 at 2:22 PM ET

A widespread internet outage caused several major websites to shut down Thursday afternoon, including Amazon, Delta, Capital One and Costco.

Akamai, a content distribution network that helps with the spread of data around the internet, posted on Twitter that a software configuration update caused a bug in its DNS system.

Anyone who's seen the 1983 film The Right Stuff might remember the scene where astronaut Virgil "Gus" Grissom (played by actor Fred Ward) nearly drowns after splashdown when the hatch on his Mercury capsule unexpectedly blows, flooding the spacecraft with seawater.

The video game studio behind the hit franchises Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Candy Crush is facing a civil lawsuit in California over allegations of gender discrimination, sexual harassment and potential violations of the state's equal pay law.

Australian Olympics chief John Coates is being criticized after lecturing Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and ordering her to attend the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics. Palaszczuk had previously said she wouldn't be attending Friday's ceremony.

"I was reading some questions about you going to the opening ceremony," Coates told Palaszczuk. "You are going to the opening ceremony," he then said, crossing his arms as he spoke.

The Senate Armed Services Committee approved a sweeping legislative package to reform the way the military prosecutes serious crimes, handing the lawmaker leading the years-long effort a major victory.

Behind closed doors, the panel incorporated Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's measure as part of the annual defense bill, also known as the National Defense Authorization Act or NDAA.

BEIJING — China cannot accept the World Health Organization's plan for the second phase of a study into the origins of COVID-19, a senior Chinese health official said Thursday.

Zeng Yixin, the vice minister of the National Health Commission, said he was "rather taken aback" that the plan includes further investigation of the theory that the virus might have leaked from a Chinese lab.

He dismissed the lab leak idea as a rumor that runs counter to common sense and science.

María Lara and her 10-year-old daughter, Ashley, live in Langley Park, Md., a densely populated, low-income suburb of Washington, D.C. She says the worst part about living in the Bedford and Victoria Station complex, a multifamily residential property, is that she and her daughter don't feel safe.

"These apartments are rotten," Lara says, because the place is "roach- and mice-infested, water leaks everywhere, [the] walls have holes and pipes are exposed." Her kitchen floors are buckling, and Lara can see down to her neighbor's first-floor apartment.

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