Melissa Block

Melissa Block joined NPR in 1985 and has been hosting All Things Considered since 2003, after nearly a decade as an NPR correspondent.

Frequently reporting from communities in the center of the news, Block was in Chengdu, China, preparing for a weeklong broadcast when a massive earthquake struck the region in May 2008. Immediately following the quake, Block, along with co-host Robert Siegel and their production team, traveled throughout Sichuan province to report extensively on the destruction and relief efforts. Their riveting coverage aired across all of NPR's programs and was carried on major news organizations around the world. In addition, the reporting was recognized with the industry's top honors including a Peabody Award, a duPont-Columbia Award, a National Headliner Award and the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi Award.

Throughout her career, Block has covered major news events for NPR ranging from on-the-scene reporting from the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the days following Hurricane Katrina to a series from Texas gauging the impact of the Iraq War on the surrounding communities. Her reporting after the September 11, 2001 attacks was part of coverage that earned NPR a George Foster Peabody Award. Block's reporting from Kosovo in 1999 was cited among stories for which NPR News won an Overseas Press Club Award.

Wisconsin is a prime battleground state in this year's presidential election.

Republicans hope the pick of native son Paul Ryan as their vice presidential nominee will bolster their chances to turn the state red in November. Wisconsin hasn't voted for a Republican for president since 1984. Barack Obama won the state by a blowout 14 points in 2008. And a run of Wisconsin polls this week shows him widening his lead over Mitt Romney.

So what do Wisconsin voters have to say about their choices — and their mood?

Economic Strain

Republicans hoping to gain control of the U.S. Senate in November's elections are banking on Wisconsin where they want to flip the seat held by Democrat Herb Kohl, who's retiring.

On July 1, 15 California state parks are slated to be closed permanently to the public — the first such closures in the state's history. They're the victim of budget cuts in a state with a $16 billion shortfall.

Over the past year, park enthusiasts have scrambled to save dozens of parks from closure, including Henry W. Coe State Park, California's second-biggest state park, located about 30 miles south of San Jose.

Meet Jake. At 500 pounds, he stands 4 feet 4 four inches tall, with a spine that stretches another foot. He has white urethane skin, a flat head sporting an array of camera lenses, and a laser scanner in his throat.

And he may be coming to a home near you.

Earlier this year, on Jan. 8, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was shot in the head as she met with constituents in Tucson, Ariz. She was one of 13 people injured that day. Six people were killed.

It had been four years since Giffords arrived in Washington as a wide-eyed freshman and told NPR: "Life's good and [I'm] very, very excited — so optimistic about taking our country in a new direction."

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