National & World News from NPR

Japanese officials are swatting away rumors and reports that the government has concluded that, with the Tokyo Olympics 151 days away and much of the country in a COVID-19 state of emergency, the games cannot be held.

"Bob Ross was wrong," grumbles musician/actor John Lurie, in a voice grown so gravelly it's like listening to a rock tumbler. It's late at night, he's bent over the watercolor he's painting in his home on what he only refers to as "a tiny island in the Caribbean." Between each sentence he delivers to the camera, the rhythmic peeping of tree-frogs outside his window reasserts itself.

"Everyone can't paint," he continues. "It's not true."

After years of delay, a decision by the Pentagon could mean three men accused of being behind terrorist attacks in Indonesia nearly 20 years ago could soon get a military trial.

Ngoc Nguyen was born in Saigon during the final years of the Vietnam War. She left school when she was in 10th grade to help support her family.

In her early 20s, she immigrated to the U.S. and continued to work.

It wasn't until age 45 that Nguyen pursued a dream she had long put on hold: She enrolled in a GED program and passed the test to earn her certification.

In 2018, she sat down to record a StoryCorps conversation from Oklahoma City with her teacher, Chris Myers, to talk about what his class meant to her.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Drugs to treat COVID-19 are being fast-tracked for development, but the pace can't match the astonishing speed that gave birth to the vaccines.

But one year into the pandemic, there has been strong progress toward effective drug treatments, and the groundwork has been laid for drugs to kill the virus and arrest disease.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

President Biden promises an aggressive federal effort to get control of the coronavirus.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

What does it take to get much of this country vaccinated in 100 days?

NOEL KING, HOST:

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The new chairman of the Democratic National Committee is on the line. Jaime Harrison of South Carolina was President Biden's choice for the job. He is a former U.S. Senate candidate who lost to Senator Lindsey Graham, but not before raising a lot of money and also telling Graham in a debate to, quote, "be a man and own up to his flip-flops." Mr. Chairman, welcome to the program and congratulations to you.

JAIME HARRISON: Thank you. And good morning to you.

INSKEEP: What is the opportunity for the Democratic Party at this moment?

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

The impacts of climate change could prompt millions of Americans to relocate in coming decades, moving inland away from rising seas, or north to escape rising temperatures.

Judith and Doug Saum have moved already, recently leaving their home outside Reno, Nev.

"I just remember being very scared."

That's how Lydia, a 39-year-old mother of three in Canada, describes feeling when she was pregnant in 2008 with her daughter and had questions about vaccinating. She worried it might cause more harm than good.

"I remember feeling some trepidation and saying to my husband, 'We can't undo this once we do it,' " she says. NPR is not using Lydia's full name because she's worried about backlash from a community she once believed in — people opposed to vaccines.

When Ezra Levin and his wife, Leah Greenberg, founded the progressive group Indivisible in 2016, they widely circulated a handbook on "resisting the Trump agenda." It took tactical lessons in grassroots politics from the Tea Party, which had prominently resisted President Barack Obama's agenda.

There's another lesson Levin now thinks progressives can take from the conservative Tea Party: It's easier to oppose a policy than to advance one.

President Biden is calling for unity to address each of the nation's concurrent crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy, race relations and climate change.

It won't be easy because as he settles into office, Biden also inherits a country that is deeply divided. Democrats and Republicans live in very different worlds and get their news and information from very different places, cordoned off by ideology and worldview.

President Biden plans to sign an order on Friday that will toss a plan that would have made it easier to fire top career civil servants and hire political appointees into high-ranking positions — a practice known as "burrowing."

President Biden plans to sign an executive order on Friday that would increase food stamp benefits to help people going hungry amid the financial downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, his top economic adviser, Brian Deese, told reporters.

Biden has already proposed a $1.9 trillion relief package to Congress that includes direct payments and other types of aid for people who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic. In the meantime, he is directing his administration to take steps to tweak programs to try to provide some assistance.

A group of Senate Democrats filed an ethics complaint Thursday against Republican Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz over their objections to the Jan. 6 certification of the presidential election results that coincided with the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol.

By objecting to the certification, Cruz, and Hawley, "lent legitimacy" to the violent mob of pro-Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol, the letter sent to incoming Senate Ethics Committee Chairman Chris Coons, D-Del., and Vice Chairman James Lankford, R-Okla., said.

Senate confirmation hearings can get a little heated. But Pete Buttigieg, President Biden's high-profile nominee for secretary of transportation, got a reception that was downright warm.

"You know what the hell you're talking about, and that's pretty damn refreshing," said Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., when he got a chance at the mic at Buttigieg's hearing on Thursday.

Gone were the conservative evangelical leaders who had been invited in the past. No Catholic bishops or priests took part.

This year's National Prayer Service, a longstanding inauguration tradition to welcome an incoming presidential administration, instead featured two transgender faith leaders, the president of the Navajo Nation, and a host of speakers with urgent calls for national transformation.

Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading immunologist who became a household name for his work on the White House coronavirus response team, described working under the Biden administration as "liberating" from past fears of retribution from his previous boss: former President Donald Trump.

The House of Representatives and Senate approved a waiver Thursday for retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as President Biden's defense secretary. Both votes were overwhelming and bipartisan.

Normally the House has no role in confirming Cabinet secretaries. But Austin retired from the military four years ago, short of the seven years required by law to take the civilian job without a waiver from both houses of Congress.

A Senate vote on Austin's confirmation is expected as soon as Friday.

The Biden administration continued its swift sweep of the leadership at the Voice of America and its parent agency on Thursday. It pushed out VOA's director, a Trump ally named Robert R. Reilly who had been appointed just last month.

According to two people with knowledge, Reilly and his deputy, former State Department official Elizabeth Robbins, were escorted from the building. Robbins has told colleagues she is on "administrative leave."

Updated at 5:50 p.m. ET

A federal judge has refused to restore the social media site Parler after Amazon kicked the company off of its Web-hosting services over content seen as inciting violence.

The decision is a blow to Parler, an upstart that has won over Trump loyalists for its relatively hands-off approach to moderating content. The company sued Amazon over its ban, demanding reinstatement.

Two weeks ago, Facebook indefinitely suspended former President Donald Trump from its social network and Instagram, after a mob of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the risks of allowing Trump to keep using the social network were "too great."

Now, Facebook wants its newly formed independent oversight board to weigh in and decide whether it should reinstate Trump.

Ever since former Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler denounced the WNBA's support for Black Lives Matter last summer, players have been pressuring the league to force her to sell her stake in the Atlanta Dream basketball team.

Now, according to the WNBA, a deal for the sale of the team "is close to being finalized." The league did not release any further details.

In 1968, Dusty Springfield — then an established pop star in the U.K. — flew across the pond to conquer the U.S. by signing what was meant to be a long-term deal with Atlantic Records. The label sent Springfield down to American Sound Studio in Memphis, Tenn., hoping to impart some of the Southern soul magic that had worked so well for Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin. Those sessions are now collected in the new anthology Dusty Springfield: The Complete Atlantic Singles 1968-1971.

Pages