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Melissa Block

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.

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Along with his political campaigning and fundraising, the former president has other projects that will shape his post-presidency. He's writing a memoir. The Obamas have a production deal with Netflix. And they've created the Obama Foundation in Chicago. NPR's Melissa Block went to Chicago to see one of their civic engagement programs in action.

MELISSA BLOCK, BYLINE: It's morning at a boot camp, and it's going to get loud.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: I said I'm alive.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: I'm alive.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: I'm awake.

Updated at 1:50 p.m. ET Friday

In the 20 months since he left the White House, Barack Obama has been pretty quiet, but that is starting to change.

In the new documentary film Minding the Gap, we see a message hand-painted on a smashed skateboard: "THIS DEVICE CURES HEARTACHE."

There's a lot of heartache in this movie. And if skateboarding doesn't cure it, it offers an essential escape for the troubled young men we meet in the film.

Zack Mulligan and Keire Johnson are skateboarding friends growing up in Rockford, Ill. The filmmaker, Bing Liu, is a fellow skateboarder from Rockford.

He is the lesser-known Founding Father from Philadelphia named Benjamin — the one whose face does not grace the $100 bill.

Benjamin Rush was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was also a doctor — arguably the most famous doctor in America — who became known as the American Hippocrates. During the Revolutionary War, Rush was alongside Gen. George Washington when he crossed the Delaware; he treated battlefield casualties behind enemy lines; and later, became a pioneer in the field of mental health.

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

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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?"

For Philip Schentrup, whose daughter Carmen was among the students killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., each day brings the same, sharp pain. The same search for answers that don't come.

"To be honest, it's the same day I live over and over," he says. "Since February 14, this is every day. Every day of trying to hold yourself together."

"You search for normalcy, a 'new normal,'" he says, then pauses.

"I say those words. I don't really know what they mean yet."

It's been one month since the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas.

Olympic sports have their own special vernacular — colorful slang terms that are head-scratchers to an outsider.

Here in Pyeongchang, I've made it my mission to crack the code. So I cornered as many Olympic athletes as I could and asked them to divulge their terms of the trade.

When I asked U.S. biathlete Tim Burke for his best example, he didn't hesitate.

"If you have a bad crash, a lot of times we call that a 'yard sale,'" he told me.

Yard sale! I was intrigued.

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

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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/.

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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?

Imagine running up 10 flights of stairs as hard as you can, and then immediately trying to thread a needle.

A similar union of two opposite skills defines the sport of biathlon. It combines the all-out exertion of cross-country skiing — pushing the limits of human endurance — with the calm, focused precision of rifle shooting.

Biathlon has the distinction of being the only winter Olympic sport in which the U.S. has never won a medal. The American team is hoping to finally break that drought this month.

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

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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.

Imagine a minute of pure adrenaline: a race down a track of ice at speeds up to 90 miles an hour, enduring crushing gravitational forces around the curves.

Bobsled is one of the thrilling — and punishing — sports in the Winter Olympics. The U.S. hopes to repeat its recent medal-winning performances at the 2018 Olympics next February in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

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.

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