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Imagine a Martian trying to make sense of this world and the only available data are the Summer Olympic medal tables from the past century.

How much would that explain? Quite a lot, it turns out. In fact, it would be challenging to find anything so concise that say so much about the past century as the tables below.

The four bar charts show the countries that usually win the largest share of medals — the United States, China, Russia and Germany — and how they have performed since 1912.

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Friday marks the official launch of the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where an array of Brazilian music is expected in the opening ceremonies. While all eyes are on Brazil for the next two weeks, we here at Alt.Latino get to share our own love affair with the country's vast musical heritage. My short conversation with David Greene on NPR's Morning Edition, at the audio link above, is just the tip of the iceberg — of both the music and our coverage.

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"ISIL has not had a major successful offensive operation in either Syria or Iraq in a full year," President Obama said Thursday in comments assessing U.S. efforts against the extremist group.

Two years ago, "to many observers, ISIL looked invincible," he said. But now: "ISIL turns out not to be invincible. They're, in fact, inevitably going to be defeated."

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Who's leading Boko Haram?

Cracks are forming at the highest levels of the Nigeria-based extremist group, as NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports. The Islamic State has officially named Abu Musab al-Barnawi as the militant group's new leader and says he will pursue a different strategy — but the old leader, Abubakar Shekau, says he's still in charge.

Ofeibea explains the tension to our Newscast unit:

Olympic fans, prepare to watch hookers in a scrum who hope not to end up in the sin bin.

The lexicon of rugby, and the men's game itself, return to Olympic competition after a 92-year absence. The return in Rio also involves a couple of debuts: It's the first Olympic appearance for women in the sport, and a first for Rugby Sevens. It's a seven-on-seven game. Traditional rugby has 13 or 15 a side.

American women were not exactly a powerhouse at the 1972 Summer Olympics: They won just 23 medals, compared with 71 for the U.S. men. The women were absent from the medal podium in gymnastics. They didn't win a single gold in track and field, managing just one silver and two bronze.

But something else happened that year. The U.S. Congress passed Title IX, which bars sex discrimination in education programs receiving federal money. Sports wasn't the focus of Title IX. In fact, quite the opposite.

When Haley Anderson competes at the Rio Olympics on Aug. 15, she'll be racing for about two hours in open water off Copacabana Beach. The marathon swim is not for the faint of heart. It's 10 kilometers, or 6.2 miles.

What does it take? "A certain kind of crazy," Anderson said with a grin. "You have to be a little weird to wanna put yourself through two hours or more of pain."

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A group of about 50 people is gathered in late June in the sunny courtyard of the Portuguese consulate in Bordeaux, France. It was from here in 1939 and 1940 that Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes do Amaral e Abranches issued approximately 30,000 visas to Jews and other stateless refugees.

Lissy Jarvik, who lives today in California, was one of them.

"I was a recipient of a Sousa Mendes visa," she tells the group. "Otherwise I wouldn't be here. I would've no longer been alive 72 years ago."

Two new flags will be flying high at the Olympic Games in Rio.

For the first time, South Sudan and Kosovo have been recognized by the International Olympic Committee.

South Sudan has three runners to its first Olympic Games. Kosovo, which was a province of the former Yugoslavia, will have eight athletes competing.

In a muddy field in northern England's Lake District, more than 20,000 people are camping out at a four-day outdoor music festival called Kendal Calling. They jam along with their favorite bands. Some people wear outlandish costumes: There are superheroes, Indian chiefs and a naked guy wearing only transparent plastic wrap. There's dancing, drinking and occasionally, some illicit drug use.

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