Kat Lonsdorf

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.

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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.

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.

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."

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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.

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.

Joseph Wilson, the former U.S. diplomat who publicly challenged the reasoning behind President George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq, died Friday. He was 69.

Wilson died of organ failure, his ex-wife, Valerie Plame, confirmed to several news outlets. Plame's identity as a CIA operative was revealed a week after Wilson contested the Bush administration in a 2003 New York Times op-ed. Plame and Wilson divorced in 2017.

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Now for a story about soda and state borders. It begins with a Mountain Dew marketing campaign...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Welcome to the land of those who do.

Updated on July 26

The class of 2009 graduated into an economy in decline and one of the worst job markets in generations.

Now, with 10 years of hindsight, how do you think that affected your career path? Do you feel that being unable to land your dream job or internship right after graduation gave you breathing room to explore other options?

NPR's All Things Considered is working on a piece about what 2009 graduates are doing today.

Please fill out the form below to share your thoughts. NPR may contact you for an upcoming story.

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