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Ari Shapiro

Edith Magnusson, the hard-working heroine in The Lager Queen of Minnesota is actually a composite of some of the women closest to author J. Ryan Stradal — his own mother and grandmothers. Stradal wasn't seeing the strong, Midwestern women who raised him reflected well in contemporary fiction. So he decided to write those characters himself.

"Sometimes when they are represented they can be oversimplified or caricatured ... " he says. "I know these people too well to do that. They contain multitudes just like everyone does — only they don't toot their own horn about it."

When Steven Hoelscher first came across an essay with Langston Hughes' name on it, he says it felt "totally random." Hoelscher, a professor at University of Texas at Austin, was doing research in the archives of an investigative journalist named John L. Spivak.

In 2013, a video of a marriage proposal set to Betty Who's "Somebody Loves You" went viral on YouTube. The video shows a colorfully clad group perform a coordinated, joyful dance to the pop song in the middle of a Home Depot in Salt Lake City. According to Betty Who, the Home Depot performance is one of a number of proposals and wedding dances with the same soundtrack.

Javier Forero and Camilo Medina — bassist, guitarist and alternating lead singers of the rock quartet Divino Niño — were childhood friends in their hometown of Bogotá, Colombia. They lost touch near the end of pre-school when Forero's family moved to Miami. But years later, after Medina's family had also moved up to Miami, the old friends re-connected during middle school. The boys' friendship was bolstering by attending the same mega-church. That's where they had their first opportunity to play and perform music together.

It may come as no surprise that a strong majority of Americans support a wealth tax — a higher tax rate for a small number of millionaires and billionaires.

But what might be a surprise is that some of those millionaires and billionaires are calling for a wealth tax themselves.

Abigail Disney is one of those people.

Her grandfather was Roy Disney, co-founder of the multibillion-dollar entertainment conglomerate that bears her family name — though she currently has no formal role with the company.

Marijuana Pepsi's mother told her that her birth name would take her places.

She wasn't wrong.

After a life spent being mocked for having an unusual name, the 46-year-old seized on her experience to earn a Ph.D. in higher education leadership. Her dissertation focused on unusual names, naturally.

As of last week, Marijuana Pepsi is now Dr. Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck.

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

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In 1969, Carlos Santana and his band walked onto the stage at the legendary Woodstock Music Festival, as unknowns. "We had the element of surprise because nobody knew us."

When Hurricane Michael struck the Panhandle of Florida last October, Keith and Susan Koppelman were huddled in the bathroom of their small, two-bedroom rental trailer just north of Panama City.

"When the winds came we both started praying," says Keith, 49. "I thought, 'Oh my God, this is a big storm.' "

After four hours, they finally emerged to survey the damage. The storm's 160-mile-per-hour winds had torn off the porch and peeled away the trailer's tin siding.

More than a decade ago, Anaïs Mitchell was running late for one of her shows. The singer-songwriter, in her 20s at the time, was trying to get from one gig to another and found herself lost. Along the drive, a song lyric popped into her head. "The lines that came were, 'Wait for me I'm coming. In my garters and pearls with what melody did you barter me from the wicked underworld,'" she remembers.

Our Planet is the kind of nature show where every image could be a screen saver: sweeping, dramatic landscapes are full of colorful animals.

Daviz Simango, mayor of Beira, Mozambique, thought that his coastal city was prepared for cyclones.

In 2012, the city built a new drainage system and wave barriers with $120 million from the World Bank. The idea was to help Beira withstand the rising seas and increased storms that experts predict will accompany global climate change.

Then Cyclone Idai hit.

In his State of the Union address this year, President Trump announced an initiative "to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years."

The man who pitched the president on this idea is Alex Azar, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

One young woman is walking to find work so she can send money back to Venezuela for a nephew who has leukemia.

Another is traveling with four of her five kids, in search of food for her family.

As another family hikes along, the husband walks ahead to hide his tears from his children.

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

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And our co-host Ari Shapiro is reporting this week from Bogota, Colombia, where he joins us now. Hey there, Ari.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Hi, Audie. Hey, Audie, would you do me a favor? I want you to pull out your phone.

CORNISH: OK.

Williams Cancino fled his post as a Venezuelan special forces official to neighboring Colombia last month. Now he is restless to get back to his home country to help overthrow the government of Nicolás Maduro.

"I think it's time to act," says Cancino, 27, at a park in the Colombian border town of Villa del Rosario. "It's time to organize ourselves, the soldiers that know how to fight."

Ending HIV transmission in America within the next decade — a stated goal of the Trump Administration — isn't a question of coming up with new medication. The medicines to prevent and treat HIV infections already exist.

You know LeBron, Serena and Messi.

But do you know Pepe, Flame and Jenga?

They're another kind of superathlete on a one-name basis with fans — sled dogs preparing for the Iditarod race.

Blair Braverman, the team's musher, will take the dogs out for their first Iditarod when the race starts Saturday, braving some 938 miles of trail across Alaska, from Anchorage to Nome.

Chiwetel Ejiofor is best known for his starring role in the movie 12 Years a Slave. Now he's making his directorial debut.

A decade ago, the English actor of Nigerian descent picked up a best-selling memoir called The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. It's about William Kamkwamba, a schoolkid in Malawi whose ingenuity helps save his village from famine.

Candi Staton released her 30th studio album, Unstoppable, in August 2018. True to the album's name, the four-time Grammy nominee and Christian Music Hall of Famer has shown that her life will slow down at nothing.

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