Steve Inskeep | WAMC

Steve Inskeep

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Dallas-Fort Worth area has seen the coldest temperatures in a generation this week, with a record-setting 2 degrees below zero on Tuesday morning. Michael Evans is the newly elected mayor of Mansfield, Texas, a Dallas-Fort Worth suburb with a population of more than 70,000, which, like much of the rest of the state, has seen its share of power outages this week.

Evans says the severe cold isn't fully to blame for those outages.

After traveling to Wuhan, China, a team of researchers from the World Health Organization is readying a preliminary report on the origins of the coronavirus.

Wuhan is where the virus was first reported in December 2019.

The WHO team's main public conclusion so far is that it's "extremely unlikely" that the virus originated in a lab in Wuhan. The scientists think the virus most likely started in bats, then jumped to other animals, then to humans.

This week's Senate impeachment trial for former President Donald Trump centers on his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, when thousands of rioters disrupted Congress, killing and injuring Capitol police officers and others in the process. The crowd had come directly from an event where Trump had spoken to them.

A big part of President Biden's coronavirus relief package is focused on children. The president says he wants to expand the federal child tax credit, which gives families money for each child they have — or at least reduces their taxes.

This change could help lift nearly 10 million children above the poverty line or get them closer to it, according to the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

President Biden is reviewing the U.S. government's response to domestic extremism, including threats that gained traction under President Donald Trump.

California lifted stay-at-home orders for all regions on Monday as the government said hospital intensive care unit capacity is expected to increase.

The stay-at-home orders applied to regions of the state where availability in ICUs had dropped below 15%. Southern California, the Bay Area and the San Joaquin Valley were still under the order when it was lifted.

As slow as the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has been in the United States, some estimates say billions of people around the world won't be vaccinated for COVID-19 until 2022 or 2023.

Bloomberg has been publishing a map that shows the level of vaccine distribution in different countries and virtually the entire continent of Africa — more than 50 nations — is blank.

The night before their inauguration, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris stood near the Lincoln Memorial and marked more than 400,000 people killed by the coronavirus. On Wednesday, the Biden administration takes responsibility for fighting the pandemic.

Parler calls itself a "conservative microblogging alternative" to Twitter and "the world's premier free speech platform."

But it's been offline for five days, and possibly forever, after Amazon kicked Parler off of its Web hosting service.

Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska was in the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday when rioters attacked. As Congress was preparing to reconvene, Sasse issued remarks saying that "lies have consequences" and that the attack on the Capitol was "the inevitable and ugly outcome of the President's addiction to constantly stoking division." And then Sasse voted to affirm the election results.

Jack Ma is one of the world's most successful business people. And, until recently, he was also quite talkative.

The founder of China's giant company Alibaba often turned up in interviews or at conferences. In 2017, he spoke at the World Economic Forum.

"Every day is uncertain. The only certain day was yesterday," he said.

The man who said every day is uncertain now faces an uncertain fate. And the man who so often spoke in public has not appeared in months. He recently missed scheduled TV appearances.

When a pro-Trump mob attacked the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, surprisingly few police stood in the way. Protests had been expected for days, but police appeared unprepared for an actual insurrection and not even prepared to keep all the doors locked. Video showed police calmly talking with attackers after they moved into the building.

The Cherokee Nation is using its first doses of coronavirus vaccine to preserve culture in addition to saving lives.

Cherokees, based in eastern Oklahoma, have directed some of their early doses of vaccine to frontline medical workers and the elderly — and have reserved some doses for Cherokee language speakers. The Cherokee Nation has had more than 11,000 positive cases of COVID-19 and 63 deaths, including at least 20 Cherokee speakers.

President-elect Joe Biden's choice for White House press secretary says she will restore a tradition. Unlike her immediate predecessors in the Trump administration, Jen Psaki plans to take questions from reporters each day.

Psaki has played similar roles before. She was the spokesperson for the State Department when John Kerry was secretary of state, then President Barack Obama's communications director, and she now speaks for Biden.

Christopher Krebs, the former top cybersecurity official in the U.S., says Russia is to blame for a massive breach that's affected the State Department, the Pentagon, the Treasury Department, the Department of Homeland Security and other departments and agencies.

"I understand it is, in fact, the Russians," Krebs told Steve Inskeep on Morning Edition.

As chief of critical care at Houston's United Memorial Medical Center, Dr. Joseph Varon is at the center of managing care for patients with the coronavirus. He's worked every day for the last 272 days.

"No days off," he told NPR's Morning Edition.

It's been a grueling pace at Varon's hospital for months.

When President-elect Joe Biden addressed the nation Monday evening, he said the word "democracy" nine times. He accused President Trump of "an unprecedented assault on our democracy," declared that "democracy prevailed" and in his final words said: "May God protect our troops and all those who stand watch over our democracy."

John Kerry is looking to resume climate diplomacy that was disrupted under President Trump.

The former secretary of state is one of several Obama administration officials appointed by President-elect Biden. Their goals include restoring what had been seen as the normal functions of the U.S. government when they were last in it.

Despite Joe Biden's victory, congressional Democrats are upset.

Bolstered by President Trump's unpopularity and the pandemic, polls had showed Democrats possibly taking control of the Senate, expanding their majority in the House of Representatives and Biden winning convincingly in several swing states.

But Democrats didn't gain a majority in the Senate. They lost a handful of seats in the House. And though Biden won the popular vote, it was a close contest in several battleground states.

Coronavirus cases appear headed for a new surge in the U.S., which could eclipse the explosion of cases in July.

Much of the new surge is driven by cases in the Midwest and Great Plains states.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, says "it was all sadly somewhat predictable."

Tanisha Long expects to be busy in the run up to the 2020 election.

For the next six weeks, Long, who founded an unofficial Black Lives Matter chapter for Pittsburgh and Southwestern Pennsylvania, plans to make get-out-the vote videos, host mail-in voting webinars and work to enfranchise eligible incarcerated people in order to turn out voters she says "no one's talking to anymore."

Updated at 4:37 p.m. ET

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the pace of jobs growth is rising faster than many people expected, but it may take years before the economy has fully recovered.

Update at 4:30 p.m. ET: White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah responded to NPR's request for comment on Elizabeth Neumann's charges that the White House has not addressed the threat of domestic extremism, particularly what Neumann referred to as "right-wing extremism."

In an email, Farah dismissed Neumann's concerns as those of a "disgruntled employee."

Looking for a snapshot of coronavirus outbreaks in U.S. schools? The National Education Association has just launched a tracker of cases in public K-12 schools.

The tracker is broken down by state and shows schools and counties with known cases and suspected cases and deaths, as well as whether those infected were students or staff. It also includes links to the local news reports so users know where the virus data comes from.

With less than 100 days until the 2020 presidential election, Ohio's 18 electoral votes are in play.

The state went for President Trump in 2016, and Ashtabula County is one reason why.

A 19-foot-tall statue of Thomas Jefferson stands beneath a dome in Washington, D.C., with his words carved on the walls around him. But the man known for writing much of the Declaration of Independence also infamously kept some-600 people enslaved in his mansion, Monticello. One of his many descendants has a few ideas for how his memorial might be altered to reflect his complex history.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Once again this weekend, protesters filled the streets in cities nationwide, rallying against police violence and chanting the name of George Floyd.

Jesse Jackson and Josie Johnson have a surprising perspective on those protests. He has been a prominent civil rights leader since 1960, she even longer. Both know the unrest of earlier times; Jackson was an aide to Martin Luther King, whose assassination in 1968 set off riots nationwide. And both know the despair many felt after Floyd's death, which followed the deaths of so many others at the hands of police.

In rare public comments, the former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Ret. Gen. Martin Dempsey condemned Trump's threat to use military force to suppress nationwide protests as "dangerous" and "very troubling," in an interview with NPR on Thursday.

"The idea that the president would take charge of the situation using the military was troubling to me," Gen. Dempsey said.

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