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How many hot dogs can you eat?
This Fourth of July weekend was a return to normalcy after last year's muted celebrations. Barbecues were hosted. Fireworks were set off. And Joey Chestnut, the competitive eater, beat his own world record of 75 hot dogs (it's now 76!)
"This Fourth of July, America is back," declared Joe Biden, who hosted his first big social event as president on Sunday with more than 1,000 first responders, essential workers, military service members and their families. (July 4 at the White House is an annual tradition. Here’s how it started.)
But for many, especially those with weakened immune systems, risk remains — even as 67% of adults, and more than half of all Americans, have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
And if it's not coronavirus, it's climate: Fireworks bans are on the rise amid fears of "devastating" wildfires after a record heatwave in the Pacific Northwest. Or maybe you were just ambivalent about celebrating July 4. You're not alone.
It's Alex. Consider me your personal guide to USA TODAY's top content, available only to subscribers like you. But before you clear out your inbox after the long, holiday weekend, here are the Independence Day stories you can't miss:
History lesson: Why do we celebrate Independence Day on July 4? And when did fireworks become a tradition?
Time machine: See where American independence was won at these early battlegrounds and historic places.
Race and patriotism: My Japanese American uncle died on July 4, 1944, fighting for his home, writes Linda Taira for Opinion.
Our best stories from last week
Conservatives want to ban transgender athletes from girls sports. Their evidence is shaky.
He risked his life helping U.S. troops in Afghanistan before seeking asylum in Iowa. Why is he facing deportation?
At the start of the pandemic, kids made up 2% of new COVID infections. Now, they make up 24%.
Two missing sisters. One bizarre note. For 20 years, a family has asked: Where are our girls?
In Opinion: Trump meets his match in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. Tax fraud charges show accountability is coming.
Is Sha'Carri Richardson's marijuana ban Olympic hypocrisy?
U.S. sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson was suspended on Friday after testing positive for marijuana, invalidating her performance at the U.S. Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon, where she won the women's 100-meter dash.
The decision prompted immediate backlash from a chorus of athletes, celebrities and public figures. USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour weighed in.
EXCERPT | "Prohibiting athletes from using one but not the other reflects an antiquated attitude that people who smoke pot are all glassy-eyed losers toking up in their basements when, in reality, they are doctors, lawyers, business professionals and, yes, elite athletes. Just like the people who consume alcohol. But the Olympic movement remains a stodgy bunch, even as it has added sports like snowboarding, freestyle skiing, BMX and, in Tokyo, skateboarding and surfing. It wants to co-opt the edginess and cool factor of these sports that appeal to younger people while continuing to look down its nose at the culture that surrounds them and contributes to their popularity. Eventually, however, even Olympic officials are going to have to acknowledge reality. Just as the NFL and NBA did."
In Opinion: I'm an addiction doctor. Let Sha'Carri Richardson compete – and stop testing athletes for cannabis.
President Joe Biden "proud" of the way Sha'Carri Richardson handled her positive marijuana test, but "rules are rules."
Stories we can't get enough of
SURFSIDE | There were many warnings before the 12-story oceanfront condo near Miami, Florida, collapsed. The building was in desperate need of repair. Satellite data showed it was sinking into the earth. And precious time was wasted. USA TODAY pieced together a timeline of those events, starting with the inspection report in 2018 until the moment of the structure’s partial collapse. Although residents at 8777 Collins Ave. knew about some of the issues plaguing the condo, no one understood they were dealing with a ticking time bomb. Not until it was too late. By John Pacenti, Kyle Bagenstose and Stephen J. Beard.
PRIDE | The White House acted to protect transgender people from discrimination, but trans activists want the Biden administration to go further to address issues of violence, economic insecurity and anti-trans sentiment in culture — even when the spotlight of Pride fades. “It sounds good to have a White House convening on transgender equality, but what does that equality and equity actually look like?" asked Sage Dolan-Sandrino, a 20-year-old trans youth activist. By Jeanine Santucci.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Welcome back to Your Week with USA TODAY