Kat Lonsdorf

China is planning to launch an uncrewed spacecraft to the moon on Tuesday, which will shovel up lunar rocks and soil and bring them back to Earth. If successful, it would be the first time any country has retrieved samples from the moon in more than 40 years.

Across the country, public officials are urging people to stay home and stay safe during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday amid a dramatic rise in new cases of COVID-19 in nearly every state.

New regulations and social distancing rules are being introduced across multiple European countries in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus as a second wave of the pandemic accelerates across the continent. Europe reported more than 1.3 million new cases this past week, its highest single week count yet, according to the World Health Organization.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is shutting off power for approximately 361,000 customers in Northern California on Sunday to help prevent sparking wildfires amid extreme weather conditions. The utility says the shutoffs are affecting customers across 36 counties as weather forecasts predict wind gusts over 70 mph in some areas combined with dry conditions.

In downtown Namie, a small coastal city in eastern Fukushima prefecture, there was a chorus of construction noise this spring. Truck after truck rolled through, bringing workers to string up power lines and rip down deserted houses, rebuild structures and repave roads.

But at night, all was quiet — except in one small corner of a tiny strip mall. The faint sounds of music, laughter and maybe a hit of tambourine floated on the wind, traveling down empty sidewalks and deserted streets, leading to a karaoke bar in full swing.

Takenori Kobayashi lugs a garbage bag full of soil across a parking lot to an unmarked office. His wife, Tomoko, holds the door to a tiny work space with lab equipment and computers set up. On the edge of Fukushima's former nuclear exclusion zone, this is the place the couple likes to call their "grandma and grandpa lab."

It started as a makeshift operation in the city of Minamisoma the year after the 2011 nuclear disaster, when people — mostly elderly — returned to the area and were worried about high radiation levels in their food and soil.

Shuichi Kanno rips tape off the top of a large cardboard box at his house in the mountains in Fukushima prefecture in Japan. He opens the box and rustles around to pull out pack after pack of long, thin Roman candle fireworks. The words "Animal Exterminating Firework" are written in Japanese on the side of each canister.

Atop a small hill on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu sits a small solar farm with big, broad panels lined up in rows, tilting to catch the sun. Lush vegetation creeps over the edges of the surrounding fence. In the center of the panels, there's a tall marble gravestone, with an inscription in Japanese.

"Remember that this family evacuated Futaba town, Fukushima prefecture," it reads, "and moved here due to the nuclear accident following the Great East Japan Earthquake that occurred on March 11, 2011."

Fukushima was forever changed by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in 2011. Japan has poured billions of dollars into recovery efforts — clearing away radioactive waste, rebuilding roads and reopening towns. But what does recovery really mean? It's an answer filled with resilience, reinvention and regret.

President Trump visited Louisiana and Texas on Saturday afternoon to survey damage caused by Hurricane Laura. The storm killed at least 14 people and caused as much as $12 billion in damage.

After pummeling the Gulf Coast, Hurricane Laura has been downgraded several levels to what's called a remnant low, moving through Arkansas and into the Mid-Atlantic. But even in its weakened state, the storm continues to cause significant damage, with many areas now bracing for heavy rainfall as Laura makes its way toward the Atlantic Ocean.

As weeks of staying at home have turned into months, and salons and barber shops in most states continue to be closed, many of us are getting a little shaggy.

If you want to go the DIY route but need a little guidance, haircuts are the latest services to make their way online: You can now invite a professional into your home through video chat for a virtual haircut.

As winter turned to spring in the town of Miharu, Japan, a small group of workers pounded posts into the ground to lay a grand pathway at the base of a giant cherry tree. It was the same path they've laid every year, wide enough to give thousands of tourists a chance to walk up and marvel at the ancient tree, as its cascading branches fill with delicate pink flowers dipping toward the ground.

But with the coronavirus pandemic taking hold, it was starting to feel as if that pathway might be laid for no one.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Sunday that for the first time in days, the state has seen the daily number of deaths, hospitalizations and intubations as a result of COVID-19 decrease. More patients are also being discharged from hospitals.

"There's something a little bit different in the data today," Cuomo said, as state officials reported 594 new deaths on Sunday, down from 630 on Saturday.

The United States remains the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, with confirmed cases now at more than 300,000 and deaths climbing toward 9,000.

In Europe, another global hot spot, Spain has surpassed Italy for the leading number of cases, with Germany and France not too far behind. Worldwide, there are over 1.2 million cases and nearly 66,000 deaths.

Takayuki Ueno looks out over an empty field along the coast in Fukushima, Japan, and points toward the ocean.

"There used to be houses here, and trees," he says, and then points in another direction. "And over there, too."

The wind whips across the open space. A small, new graveyard sits in an adjacent plot. Those houses were where his neighbors once lived.

It seemed like the perfect day for viewing the stunning flower-filled trees.

With warm temperatures and the sun out, crowds of people strolled under the cherry blossoms and spread out picnic blankets in Tokyo's Yoyogi Park last weekend, all but ignoring the posted signs warning of the dangers of COVID-19 spreading.

Near one of the tall white signs, two pairs of young women stood together and took selfies under the canopy of flowers, oblivious to the warnings.

Iraqi security forces launched a major crackdown on anti-government protesters Saturday from Baghdad to cities across the south after an influential Shiite cleric instrumental in the demonstrations withdrew his support.

Adrian Bartos and Bobbito Garcia are a world-famous radio and club DJ duo. They hosted a podcast from NPR called What's Good with Stretch and Bobbito. Today, their debut album, No Requests, is out — and there's something undeniably cheeky about that title if you're a couple of DJs.

New Zealand's months-long gun amnesty and buyback program ended Friday, with questionable success. The amnesty gave gun owners a chance to surrender certain firearms before facing legal recourse for having them after the country outlawed most semi-automatic and military-style firearms earlier this year.

A large portion of Australia is on fire after weeks of extreme heat, strong winds and drought that have created ideal conditions for hundreds of bushfires to thrive across the country. Several fires have been burning since November, particularly in the eastern state of New South Wales.

Imagine people three drinks deep, trying to catch the bartender's attention for a beer or something stronger. The people behind the bar are shaking, stirring, pouring and finally, it's time.

Last call. The lights come up, the music goes down and people head out the door. It's a time of ritual for bar staff that patrons rarely get to see.

It's that ritual that intrigued author Brad Thomas Parsons and took him on a journey for his latest book. Parsons traveled around the United States to more than 80 bars, asking bartenders for their take on last call.

Violence erupted this weekend around a besieged Hong Kong university, as protesters threw petrol bombs and fired arrows at police in an attempt to keep control of the campus.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a former defense secretary and intelligence officer accused of committing human rights violations, has won Sri Lanka's closely fought presidential elections. His main opponent, Sajith Premadasa of the ruling United National Party (UNP), conceded defeat on Sunday, saying he will "honor the decision of the people."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Can Dolly Parton heal America? That's the question posed by a new podcast from WNYC, Dolly Parton's America, hosted by Radiolab's Jad Abumrad. It's not as far-fetched as you might think.

On a recent Friday afternoon, Sandra Hill leads a painting class at an arts center nestled amid rolling Virginia hills, about an hour and a half drive northwest of Washington, D.C.

Each of the 10 adult students has a canvas balanced on an easel in front of them. They're dabbing paintbrushes loaded with dark green paint along the edge of a lake, the beginnings of a glowing sunset in the background.

"And think tree! Don't just go tap, tap, tap any old place. Remember, trees have depth to them!" she reminds the class.

The World Of Bob Ross

Oct 3, 2019

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

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

And now to a totally different world - a much more soothing world.

(SOUNDBITE OF LARRY MUHOBERAC'S "THE JOY OF PAINTING THEME")

KELLY: The world of Bob Ross.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE JOY OF PAINTING")

It's a story fit for Hollywood.

An unidentified woman, her hair pulled up in pigtails and arms loaded with bags, sings a hauntingly beautiful rendition of a Puccini aria seemingly spontaneously on the platform of a Los Angeles Metro stop.

A video of the woman was posted to Twitter by the Los Angeles Police Department late Thursday evening.

Updated at 3:03 p.m. ET

A federal judge has blocked the Trump administration's effort to expand fast-track deportation regulations for undocumented immigrants without the use of immigration courts.

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