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Convention Countdown

The Republican National Convention is in 4 days in Cleveland.

The Democratic National Convention is in 11 days in Philadelphia.

NASA has released the first picture of Jupiter taken since the Juno spacecraft went into orbit around the planet on July 4.

The picture was taken on July 10. Juno was 2.7 million miles from Jupiter at the time. The color image shows some of the atmospheric features of the planet, including the giant red spot. You can also see three of Jupiter's moons in the picture: Io, Europa and Ganymede.

The Senate is set to approve a bill intended to change the way police and health care workers treat people struggling with opioid addictions.

My husband and I once took great pleasure in preparing meals from scratch. We made pizza dough and sauce. We baked bread. We churned ice cream.

Then we became parents.

Now there are some weeks when pre-chopped veggies and a rotisserie chicken are the only things between us and five nights of Chipotle.

Parents are busy. For some of us, figuring out how to get dinner on the table is a daily struggle. So I reached out to food experts, parents and nutritionists for help. Here is some of their (and my) best advice for making weeknight meals happen.

"O Canada," the national anthem of our neighbors up north, comes in two official versions — English and French. They share a melody, but differ in meaning.

Let the record show: neither version of those lyrics contains the phrase "all lives matter."

But at the 2016 All-Star Game, the song got an unexpected edit.

At Petco Park in San Diego, one member of the Canadian singing group The Tenors — by himself, according to the other members of the group — revised the anthem.

School's out, and a lot of parents are getting through the long summer days with extra helpings of digital devices.

How should we feel about that?

Police in Baton Rouge say they have arrested three people who stole guns with the goal of killing police officers. They are still looking for a fourth suspect in the alleged plot, NPR's Greg Allen reports.

"Police say the thefts were at a Baton Rouge pawn shop early Saturday morning," Greg says. "One person was arrested at the scene. Since then, two others have been arrested and six of the eight stolen handguns have been recovered. Police are still looking for one other man."

A 13-year-old boy is among those arrested, Greg says.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

After an international tribunal invalidated Beijing's claims to the South China Sea, Chinese authorities have declared in no uncertain terms that they will be ignoring the ruling.

The Philippines brought the case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, objecting to China's claims to maritime rights in the disputed waters. The tribunal agreed that China had no legal authority to claim the waters and was infringing on the sovereign rights of the Philippines.

Donald Trump is firing back at Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after she disparaged him in several media interviews. He tweeted late Tuesday that she "has embarrassed all" with her "very dumb political statements" about the candidate. Trump ended his tweet with "Her mind is shot - resign!":

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You Call That A Beach Book? Really?

Aug 8, 2012
Originally published on August 8, 2012 5:09 pm

A couple of years ago, on a weekend in August, I was lying on the beach, reading. The sun shone, the waves crashed, and no plans lay ahead beyond soccer, grilling, maybe a stroll to the ice cream stand. My friend, on the towel next to mine, rolled over lazily and glanced at my book. His brow wrinkled. "Are you enjoying that?" he said, laughing.

What I was reading: an advance copy of a book about Whorfian linguistics — the mostly discredited idea that what language you speak affects how you think. In my defense, I was preparing to review it — you can take the freelance writer to the beach, but you can't take away her deadline — and it was, in fact, not uninteresting. But however you picture the quintessential summer read, a nonfiction book rehashing an old linguistics debate is pretty much the opposite.

We all know what vacation reading is supposed to be: engaging, narrative, crowd-pleasing, not too gloomy. Publishers put these books out in piles for summer; magazines and morning shows recommend their top fun picks for the season. And the best-seller list evokes a country issuing one big luxurious sigh as it settles into a hammock somewhere.

Summer 2012 may go down in history as The One When We All Read BDSM Romance Novels: 1 out of every 5 physical books sold this spring was from E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. But other choices ideal for the season are also in evidence: the fast-paced Hunger Games series; acclaimed tales of suspense both fictional (Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl) and nonfictional (Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken); a cathartic, Oprah-approved memoir (Cheryl Strayed's Wild). There's even an unexpected literary entry in David Mitchell's 2004 Cloud Atlas, which leaped into the Amazon top 10 after the release last week of a gorgeous new trailer for the movie adaptation, due out in October.

Then there are the people who apparently missed the memo. There's the guy in a straw hat standing waist-deep in a crowded pool in Palm Springs, reading a book about string theory. There's the woman in the lounge chair, engrossed in William Styron's memoir of depression, Darkness Visible. There's the guy on the beach absorbed in JavaScript: The Good Parts. (That's a friend of mine; he claims that if you hold the cover just right, all anyone can see is "The Good Parts," which sort of disguises it as a beach book. Sure, dude, whatever you say.) And there's my brother, who once spent a pleasant seaside week reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

These may be beach books, but they're not "beach books." They're the books, fluffy or not, that we stash away all year to read in the one period where we might have time. In some cases, they're a sign of Americans continuing to work even while sprawled by the lake. (As has been noted recently, we are notoriously bad at leisure compared with, say, the French, who shutter the boulangerie and skip town like it's a basic right of man.)

Perhaps most of all, though, these less obviously summery books show just how individual our reading pleasures are. The best-seller list is where we meet, around the books that almost everyone likes; at the margins, we disperse toward our own idiosyncratic interests and tastes. Thus, when asked to recommend summer reading for a general audience recently, I didn't quite have the nerve to suggest Geoff Dyer's weird, funny Zona, a book that marshals a shot-by-shot recounting of a Tarkovsky film into a succinct meditation on criticism and existence. Only an alien, or a film professor, would consider it a Hot Summer Read. Nevertheless, it's one of the books I most enjoyed in recent months, and some people — not all — would find it an excellent vacation companion.

So, readers, tell us: What technical manuals or tales of genocide or academic monographs have you devoured next to the swimming pool? What are the most hopelessly unbeachy reads you have lined up to read this August? Or are you one of those readers who successfully steers toward pure readerly entertainment? If so, good going: Someone has to defend our leisurely national honor from the French. And when you're done reading Wild, pass it on — you never know when the guy with the programming manual might be ready for a change of pace.

Amanda Katz is a commentator for NPR Books and the deputy editor of the Boston Globe Ideas section. You can follow her on Twitter: @katzish

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.