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#NPRreads: Defy The Odds This Weekend With These 3 Stories

Medalists Tamiru Demisse of Ethiopia (silver), Abdellatif Baka of Algeria (gold) and Henry Kirwa of Kenya (bronze) celebrate after the men's 1500m race in Rio. Their times were all faster than the gold medalist in the same event in the Olympics.
Alexandre Loureiro
Getty Images
Medalists Tamiru Demisse of Ethiopia (silver), Abdellatif Baka of Algeria (gold) and Henry Kirwa of Kenya (bronze) celebrate after the men's 1500m race in Rio. Their times were all faster than the gold medalist in the same event in the Olympics.

#NPRreads is a weekly feature on Twitter and The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers from our newsroom share the pieces that have kept them reading, using the #NPRreads hashtag. Each weekend, we highlight some of the best stories.

From Bill Chappell, writer for The Two-Way:

The Paralympics have their closing ceremony in Brazil this Sunday, and despite my best intentions and an online video stream, I've only kept up with some of the games. But I was fascinated to learn that visually impaired athletes turned in better times than the Olympic gold medalist in the 1500-meter race.

Last month, Matthew Centrowitz of the U.S. won with a time of 3:50 in a race that was seen as slow due to lots of strategy playing out. But that doesn't make what Algeria's Abdellatif Baka — who won Paralympic gold and set a record in 3:48.29 — and other Paralympic athletes did any less special.

"It wasn't easy to get this gold medal," Baka said afterwards. "I've been working one or two years non-stop and it's been very, very hard for me."

And as someone who's followed his story over the years, I was also amazed (but not surprised) by another story from Rio, when former race car driver Alex Zanardi, 49, won his second consecutive gold medal in the hand-cycling time trial, one day before the 15-year anniversary of the crash that ended his auto-racing career.

Afterwards, Zanardi said, "I feel very lucky, I feel my life is a never ending privilege."

Zanardi won a silver medal on Thursday, in the road race. And on Friday, he won another gold medal as part of Italy's relay team.

From Miles Parks, Associate Producer for Here & Now:

In my mind, all great records have a right place on the calendar. Not when they're released necessarily, but when the world's climate conforms to them.

Julien Baker's Sprained Ankle is a winter record, Real Estate's Days is a spring record, and Who Is Mike Jones is best enjoyed in the dog days of summer. This is inarguable.

Skeleton Tree, the grief-stricken new album from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, is an autumn masterpiece.

Sam Sodomsky captured the album's "stirring core" track, called "I Need You," in a review for Pitchfork this week:

"Cave drifts between half-recalled memories, placing them into a more fragmented mindset than his trademark, character-filled storytelling. He sees a red dress falling, a black car waiting. He's standing in the doorway; he's in line at the supermarket. The images never coalesce into a clear narrative, but they amount to something even greater: a lifetime flashing before your eyes, so sad and real that it could be your own."

Skeleton Tree is a cool evening's walk through a town where you're surrounded by people, and known by no one. It's a record tailor-made for you to watch the leaves fall.

From Alicia Cypress, NPR Investigations Editor:

Among the constant he said, she said coming out of this election cycle, reading Juliet Eilperin's piece in The Washington Post and watching the accompanying video about the experiences of women who work in the White House is a bit of a respite.

It's not about the presidency, or the role of the first spouse, but how female senior White House officials – over the course of both Republican and Democrat administrations – have navigated the often male-dominated office. That's a topic many working women can relate to.

Eilperin describes the White House as a workplace with "the ultimate glass ceiling," because "men have had a lock on the Oval Office for more than 200 years." She discusses the effort it takes to be "in the room" with the president, which is "crucial to exerting influence."

The candid responses from women who have held senior White House positions dating back to the Eisenhower administration taps into the leadership skills and inspiration that first brought them to those positions. It's proof that with a smart strategy and good mentors, you can be "in the room."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Miles Parks is a reporter on NPR's Washington Desk. He covers voting and elections, and also reports on breaking news.
Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.