Melissa Block

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

This week, the Olympic champion runner Caster Semenya of South Africa filed an appeal in a case that hinges on her right to compete as a woman. It's the latest chapter in a fight that's gone on for years, and that raises thorny questions about fairness and ethics in sport.

Arivaca, Ariz., is a tiny village, population about 700, with an outsize problem.

It sits just 11 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border and has become a magnet for self-styled militia groups from out of state that say they want to patrol the border and stop migrants. Their presence has strained a town that has long prided itself on its live-and-let-live, cooperative spirit.

When the women of Arivaca gather for Monday afternoon gentle yoga, there are certain topics they know to avoid.

For every sexual assault survivor who speaks out, Laurie Halse Anderson knows there many others remaining silent. "If there was a way for every victim of sexual violence to come forward on one day, I think the world would stop spinning for a day," she says.

It's been 20 years since Anderson's groundbreaking novel Speak was publishedit tells the story of Melinda, a freshman in high school who stops speaking after a sexual assault.

The title character in the new movie Diane is a woman trying to save her adult son from the drug addiction he denies.

Diane is played by Mary Kay Place, whose long career includes roles in TV series from Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman to Big Love, and in movies including The Big Chill, Being John Malkovich and many more.

In the film Diane, Mary Kay Place is in every scene. It's a character study of an older woman confronting loss and bearing deep-seated guilt.

Pianist Jeremy Denk's latest album is a musical odyssey. Starting with the austere tones of medieval composer Guillaume de Machaut, Denk travels in time across the keyboard all the way to the 20th Century landing on the atonality of Karlheinz Stockhausen and the minimalism of Philip Glass.

Carmen Schentrup was one week away from celebrating her 17th birthday when she was killed in last year's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

A talented musician and driven student, Carmen had dreams of becoming a medical researcher and finding a cure for the neurodegenerative disease ALS.

Now, her parents, Philip and April, wear teal bracelets printed with her name and the dates that mark her short life: 2/21/2001-2/14/2018.

In a quiet college town — the fictional town of Santa Lora, in southern California — one by one, students fall victim to a bizarre contagious disease. They fall into a deep sleep, and don't wake up. In fact, some will never wake up. And the disease spreads throughout the town, quickly and indiscriminately.

Gun control advocates view 2018 as a turning point in their campaign to strengthen the country's gun laws.

They cite widespread success in passing laws through state legislatures. They're also buoyed by Democratic victories in the midterm elections, which flipped control of the House of Representatives. Another benchmark: In this election cycle, gun control groups outspent gun rights groups for the first time ever.

Doctors across the U.S. have become increasingly vocal in addressing gun violence as a public health crisis, a posture that recently has drawn the wrath of the National Rifle Association.

Yet, in Colorado, a diverse group that includes doctors, public health researchers and gun shop owners has come together to bridge this divide. The Colorado Firearm Safety Coalition has found common ground on at least one issue: preventing firearm suicide.

Families of people with dementia will often take away the car keys to keep their family member safe. They might remove knobs from stove burners or lock up medicine.

But what's less talked about is the risk of guns in the home for those with dementia.

When Katharine Briggs — a mother and homemaker — began what she called a "cosmic laboratory of baby training" in her Michigan living room in the early 1900s, she didn't know she was laying the groundwork for what would one day become a multi-million dollar industry. Briggs was just 14 years old when she went to college, and ended up graduating first in her class, explains author Merve Emre. She married the man who graduated just behind her at No. 2 — and while he became a scientist, she was expected to take care of the home.

She was the one who would not be queen.

Princess Margaret was glamorous where her older sister, Elizabeth, was, well, sensible; acid-tongued, where Elizabeth was unfailingly, royally polite; scandalous, where Elizabeth could never dream of it.

For many years, Princess Margaret seemed to be everywhere. There was her doomed, forbidden romance with the divorced Peter Townsend, then her unhappy marriage to Antony Armstrong-Jones.

Immigration is near the top of the list of issues Americans find "the most worrying," according to a new poll conducted for NPR by the research firm Ipsos.

But Americans' views on immigration diverge sharply depending on party affiliation, where in the country we live, and whether we know people who were born outside the United States.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Our series "Take A Number" looks at problems around the world — and the people trying to solve them — through the lens of a single number.

At the tiny public library in Winterport, Maine, 43-year-old Robert Hartmann bends over The Little Engine That Could and slowly sounds out the first line.

"Ch-chug, right?" he asks his volunteer tutor, Sandy DeLuck. "Yup," she encourages him. He presses on: "Puh-puff ... puff ... puff. Ding ... ding-dong?"

In the Winter Olympics, where races can be won or lost by thousandths of a second, tiny imperfections can make all the difference.

Nowhere is this more true than in the ice venues, where skilled technicians called "ice meisters" have honed their expertise over years of crafting the perfect surface.

Make that surfaces: It turns out that all ice is not created equal.

Depending on the sport, the ice might need to be softer or harder, colder or warmer, textured or smooth.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

There are Olympic athletes, and then there are Olympic families. NPR's Melissa Block caught up with a famous former Olympian as she watched her daughter compete in South Korea.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Singing) We will, we will rock you.

Since she was a little girl, Ashley Caldwell has been in constant motion: jumping out of her crib, tumbling off the couch, leaping down stairs, flipping on a trampoline.

So it seems fitting that now, at 24, Caldwell is the reigning women's world champion in aerials skiing — a sport in which she somersaults and spins through the air, some 60 feet off the ground.

Remember this name: Maame Biney.

The short track speedskater just turned 18; she's not even out of high school. But she is already one of the biggest U.S. names at the Winter Olympics.

Here are a few of the big questions hovering over the Pyeongchang Olympics, about to get underway in South Korea:

  • Which Russian athletes will be allowed to compete?

  • How will the North Korean team fare?

  • Can the United States top its highest number of Winter Olympics medals — the 37 it won eight years ago in Vancouver?

But way up on my own list of burning questions is this: What do these athletes dream about?

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Winter Olympics start this week in South Korea. NPR's Melissa Block brings us the story of one athlete who is astonished just to be there. Here's her story.

MELISSA BLOCK, BYLINE: She's an accidental Olympian.

At the Winter Olympics, which get underway next month in Pyeongchang, South Korea, some of the most blistering speeds will come in the three high-adrenaline sliding sports, where top athletes zip on the ice at about 90 miles an hour.

There's bobsled, kind of like a downhill race car on steel runners.

In the luge, athletes lie back on a sled, going down the track feet first and face up.

And then there's skeleton, where racers go head-first, face-down, in a blink-and-you-miss-it blur of speed.

Time and again, writer Daniel Alarcón has found himself on those lists that make other, less fortunate writers gnash their teeth. He's been named one of 37 under the age of 36, 39 under 39, and 20 under 40. Alarcón is 40 now — he was born in Peru, grew up in the suburbs of Birmingham, Ala., and he's got a new collection of short stories called The King is Always Above the People.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

A moment now to remember one of rock music's most-beloved musicians.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AMERICAN GIRL")

TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS: (Singing) She was an American girl.

On a recent, perfect morning at Johnson Farms in northern Michigan, workers climb wooden ladders high up into the trees, picking bags strapped across their bodies. The branches are heavy with fruit that glows in the morning sun. Their fingers are a blur, nimbly plucking fruit and filling bushel bags: about 50 pounds per load. It's hard, sweaty work.

Apple season was just getting underway on Old Mission Peninsula, a finger of land poking into Lake Michigan, dotted with lush farms.

Right after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, electrician Rocky Breaux, 53, loaded up his airboat in Houma, La., and drove to help rescue people from the swiftly rising floodwaters.

And now that the waters have receded, the ad hoc "Cajun Navy" has gone airborne: Breaux is now helping out with what's being called the "Cajun Airlift." Breaux has his own small plane — a Piper Arrow. When he heard that evacuees at one of Houston's big shelters needed more supplies, he loaded his plane, tanked up, and flew west, with Andy Cook as his co-pilot. "We're locked and loaded," Breaux says.

For writer Jesmyn Ward, Mississippi is a place she loves and hates all at once.

She grew up and still lives in the tiny town of DeLisle, Miss., close by the Gulf Coast, where, she writes, African-American families like hers are "pinioned beneath poverty and history and racism."

Sixteen-year-old Murad Rahimov peered down into a gigantic space he had only dreamed about before: the world's largest clean room, kept scrupulously free of any dust or contamination, where NASA assembles and tests spacecraft before launch.

Murad's eyes gleamed and a smile played on his face as he took it all in — the scientists encased in sterile white suits; the replica of the massive new space telescope, the most powerful ever built, that will study the first galaxies born after the Big Bang.

Berlin, 1940. A young Nazi officer is given a new mission: The Reich is sending him to Holland, to guard the exiled former German emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II. That's the premise of a new feature film, The Exception — it's a spy story, with steamy sex, intrigue and history rolled in.

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