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"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

It's Independence Day. Let's take a break from parades, patriotic songs and pyrotechnics to think about the Declaration of Independence, which was adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.

Independence Day is typically filled with revelry — many people drink American beer, shoot explosives into the sky and rock red, white and blue apparel that may not be appropriate for everyday wear. It's also a day full of interesting, quirky history that people usually don't talk about between filling their mouths with hot dogs and singing The Star Spangled Banner off-key.

But if you're destined to spend your holiday at, say, a company cookout, here are five things you may not have known about Independence Day that you can use as conversation starters:

I finally reached the outskirts of my community after a 5-mile, uphill bike ride from the town where I go to buy groceries.

Hot, exhausted and loaded down with rice, bananas and mangoes, I didn't have the energy to go the final few hundred yards to reach the compound where I live.

Luckily, I didn't have to.

From the distance I heard cries of "n be Wumpini lo lo ni." That means "Welcome home my sister Wumpini." (That's my local name; it means God's gift.)

Why did we start using fireworks to celebrate the Fourth of July?

Jul 3, 2015

Fireworks have been a part of the Fourth of July since the very first anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

The cities of Boston and Philadelphia both included fireworks displays as part of the celebrations of Independence Day in 1777.

One of the Founding Fathers, John Adams, predicted that Independence Day would become America’s greatest holiday. This is what he wrote to his wife Abigail on July 3rd 1776:

US Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Thomas Trower

This year's Fourth of July won't be the same for the people of Feltwell, England.

There won't be any fireworks or any of the celebrations that normally are put on by the US Air Force base there. Royal Air Force Feltwell in Norfolk, Britain is used by the US Air Force.

Officials have announced that "due to local threat assessments," all celebrations are canceled.

REUTERS/John Vizcaino

Until recently, Colombia — a country once rife with violence — seemed relatively calm. But this summer has changed that, with a string of bombings targeting oil pipelines and now two offices in the capital of Bogota.

The most recent bombings took place Thursday, and targeted a private pension firm called Porvenir. At least seven people were hurt, though none of the injuries were severe.

For more than a century, the copper spires of St. Laurentius have stood tall over Philadelphia's Fishtown. But the city's oldest Polish church — founded in 1882 — could soon face the wrecking ball.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Donald Trump is doubling down on his negative comments about Mexicans and illegal immigration. To recap, here's what he said last month when he announced his presidential run.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

As they rapidly run out of cash, Greece's banks could hardly be in a more precarious position.

For months, as this crisis has intensified people have been slowly withdrawing their money. The banks have been able to do business only because of emergency loans from the European Central Bank.

But when Greece missed a payment to the International Monetary Fund this week, the ECB decided not to lend any more money.

In Florida, the official state animal triggers mixed feelings. The Florida panther has been on the endangered species list for nearly 50 years. From a low point in the 1970s when there were only about 20 panthers in the wild, the species has rebounded.

Now, nearly 200 range throughout southwest Florida. And some officials, ranchers and hunters in the state say that may be about enough.

Florida panthers are a subspecies of the cougar or mountain lion. They're slightly smaller than their cousins, but like them, the panthers need lots of room to roam.

Camila Kerwin

She was kidnapped by leftist guerrillas at age 11 and held for nearly a year.

Now, 13 years later, she's helping former guerrillas get reintegrated into society.

Adapted from Solar Impulse

Now that a solar-powered plane has set an amazing record, we're ready with the next question: Will there soon be a fleet of solar-powered planes?

Not quite, but airlines are moving in that direction.

What does Independence Day mean for a new citizen?

Jul 3, 2015
Flickr/eekim

July 4 is the day when America became independent, and July 4 is the day when I became an American citizen. It’s a big day for America. It’s a huge day for me.

I’m going to celebrate this day with a bunch of people who are from all around the globe: Colombia, Brazil, Slovakia, Mexico, Taiwan, China, Sweden and of course, the United States.

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

This week, we bring you five reads.

From Ina Jaffe, NPR's Los Angeles-based correspondent:

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