National & World News

Coverage of national and world news from New England Public Radio, NPR, and other NPR stations.

Updated 3:40 p.m. ET

Note: This story was updated to include Massachusetts, which began to share contact tracing data on its website on Wednesday.

When everyone who tests positive for coronavirus in your community gets a call from a public health worker asking them about their contacts and those contacts are then asked to quarantine, the process creates a powerful way to keep the virus from spreading.

Democrat Joe Biden's lead has expanded to double-digits against President Trump in the presidential election, an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds. Biden now leads Trump 53% to 42%, up from an 8-point advantage at the end of June.

The change comes as 71% of Americans now see the coronavirus as a real threat, up significantly over the last several months, as more than 167,000 Americans have died and more than 5 million have become infected with the virus, as of Friday.

Lawmakers in California are rushing to create a new financial protection watchdog agency by the end of the month. They say it's needed because, under the Trump administration, the main federal regulator has been paralyzed.

And they say that during the pandemic that is leaving millions of Americans who are in dire financial straits more vulnerable to predatory lenders, get-out-of-debt-scams and other wrongdoing.

The catastrophic explosion in Beirut last week has renewed calls in the U.S. to strengthen oversight of ammonium nitrate or AN, a chemical compound used in some farm fertilizers.

Officials in Beirut believe the giant blast, which killed more than 200 people and damaged half of the city, was likely an accident caused by fire and negligent storage of some 2,750 tons of the chemical.

President Trump has been arguing that he has been the best president for Black Americans outside of Abraham Lincoln, but with less than 100 days before the election, it's not clear that his campaign to reach African Americans is changing many minds.

Trump won just 8% of the Black vote in 2016. Current polls show the vast majority of Black voters backing Trump's Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. But, in swing states like Wisconsin and North Carolina, where the presidential race could be tight, squeezing out a few more Black votes could make a difference for Trump.

It's a nondescript, utilitarian room in the bowels of a sports arena. The presidential nomination is on the line. Aides to three candidates still in the contest are haggling with convention staff over who speaks when, will their biographical videos be shown, whose office space is nearest the floor. It's a political junkie's dream. It could be real. But it's not. This is how it played out in a 2012 episode of NBC's prime-time drama The West Wing.

There's a lot riding on a kickoff set for 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12.

The Sterling College Warriors are scheduled to take on the McPherson College Bulldogs at home. If that familiar thud of shoe against football and cheer from the stands doesn't happen, the college that keeps the central Kansas town's economy humming, that gives it cultural vitality, and that separates Sterling from the hollowing out that defines so many other small Midwestern towns, might not survive.

In a video statement released on Twitter, NCAA president Mark Emmert says, "We cannot, at this point, have fall NCAA championships." He says there are not enough schools participating because of coronavirus cancellations and season postponements.

This means there will no championships in any Division 1 collegiate sports with the possible exception of football. "If you don't have half the schools participating, you can't have a legitimate championship," he says.

The U.S. now has more than 5 million cases and 166,700 deaths from the coronavirus. And with flu season approaching, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned this week that things could get a lot more grim.

Robert Redfield said in an interview Wednesday with WebMD that if Americans don't follow public health guidance, the country could be facing "the worst fall, from a public health perspective, we've ever had."

A year ago this past Saturday, Sue Gordon — the second highest official in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — abruptly quit an ever-ascending career spanning nearly four decades in U.S. spy agencies.

YouTube

Epic Games, the video game developer behind the mega popular online game Fortnite, just posted a video criticizing Apple for removing the game from its App Store.

Updated at 8:02 p.m. ET

Tribune Publishing, the parent company of local news outlets across the country from the Chicago Tribune to The Baltimore Sun, is closing the physical offices of five newspapers permanently.

Gov. Brain Kemp is taking a new approach in his battle over face masks with Atlanta's mayor. Rather than have a judge rule on the conflict, he's going to issue a new order on the subject.

On Thursday Kemp announced the attorney general's office has withdrawn a lawsuit he filed against Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the Atlanta city council, when she moved to reinstate more restrictive COVID-19-related safeguards.

The Department of Justice accused Yale University of violating federal civil rights law by illegally discriminating against Asian American and white applicants in its undergraduate admissions process.

Those are the findings of a two-year investigation conducted in response to a complaint by a coalition of Asian American groups. The Justice Department notified university officials in a letter on Thursday.

Updated at 6:08 p.m. ET

Joe Biden is calling for everyone in the United States to wear a mask, well into the fall.

"Every single American should be wearing a mask when they're outside for the next three months, at a minimum," Biden said Thursday afternoon in remarks in Wilmington, Del. "Every governor should mandate mandatory mask-wearing. The estimates by the experts are it will save over 40,000 lives."

Warning: This article contains descriptions of alleged sexual assault and misconduct.


Three women have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against musician Mark Kozelek, who frequently performs as Sun Kil Moon. The accusations were published by Pitchfork on Thursday in a report by Amy Zimmerman.

Black Americans are becoming infected with the coronavirus at a rate three times that of whites and they are twice as likely to die from COVID-19, according to a new report from the National Urban League, based partly on data from Johns Hopkins University.

A key focus of Thursday's report is the impact of the pandemic and how the disease has followed the contours of the larger society in falling especially hard on Blacks, Latinos and Indigenous people.

The Justice Department has seized millions of dollars' worth of cryptocurrency from terrorist organizations, according to court documents unsealed Thursday, in what the government called its "largest-ever seizure of cryptocurrency in the terrorism context."

The Trump administration also said it seized several websites tied to an ISIS scheme to sell fraudulent face masks to the public during the pandemic.

An agreement that makes it easier for Rhode Island residents to vote by mail during the pandemic will remain in place after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an effort by Republicans to block it.

The agreement allows Rhode Islanders to vote in two upcoming elections without requiring voters to fill out mail-in ballots before two witnesses or a notary. That requirement was already suspended for the presidential primary that took place June 2.

Let's face it, if you've been staying home a lot, you're probably pretty tired of looking at the same faces. Love them as we do, it feels like well past time to start seeing other people, to visit or host relatives and dear friends. So how can you do this without unknowingly spreading the virus or getting exposed?

Everyone Needs A Buddy. Even Sharks

Aug 13, 2020

Sharks are often maligned as Hollywood monsters, the lone wolves lurking in the deep, hunting for prey. (Cue Jaws theme song).

But that caricature of sharks is increasingly out of step with what scientists are learning about the animals. Instead, they say, some species of sharks are social creatures who return day after day to a group of the same fellow sharks.

Updated at 3:20 p.m. ET

Israel and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to forge a path toward normal diplomatic relations, and Israel said as part of the agreement it will suspend its controversial plans to annex more territory in the West Bank.

The historic deal was brokered during a call between leaders of the two nations and President Trump.

On Thursday, thousands of women, many dressed in white and carrying flowers, turned out in the streets across Belarus for a second day of protests. They're reacting to a violent crackdown on anti-government demonstrations triggered by a weekend election widely viewed as fraudulent.

Security forces have repeatedly clashed with protesters in recent nights, using batons, stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets. Belarusian authorities said they have arrested some 7,000 people.

Breonna Taylor's mother says she hopes investigators will "come out with the right answer" about her daughter's death as Taylor's family renews their call for criminal charges against the Louisville police officers who shot and killed Taylor five months ago.

"One hundred and fifty days," Tamika Palmer, Taylor's mother, said Thursday at a news conference in front of Louisville City Hall.

It is remembered as one of the great atrocities of El Salvador's 12-year civil war. In 1989, a Salvadoran military battalion raided a private Jesuit university before dawn and executed six priests, their cook and her teenage daughter.

One of those killed, university rector Ignacio Ellacuría, had promoted dialogue between the U.S.-backed right-wing government and leftist guerrillas in the country's civil war. He and four of the other slain priests were Spanish citizens.

It's one of the cheapest ways to help kids in extremely poor countries: Twice a year, give them a 50-cent pill to kill off nasty intestinal parasites. Now, a landmark study finds the benefits carry over long into adulthood — and the impact is massive. But dig deeper and the issue quickly becomes more complicated — and controversial.

To understand why, it helps to start at the beginning, when newly minted economist — and future Nobel prize winner — Michael Kremer says he stumbled into this study by lucky happenstance.

Fresh Air's longtime language commentator Geoff Nunberg died Tuesday after a long illness. He was 75.

Geoff was a regular contributor to Fresh Air since 1987, when we made the transition from a local radio program to a daily NPR show. I met him even before that, when he was the usage editor at The American Heritage Dictionary, and I interviewed him about the new edition.

Updated 7:09 p.m. ET

President Trump on Thursday attempted to soften remarks he had made hours earlier in which he appeared to confirm that he opposes Democrats' proposed boost in funding for the U.S. Postal Service because he wants to make it harder to expand voting by mail, claiming his only goal in denying the agency funds is to ensure the integrity of the Nov. 3 election.

Update: 2:04 p.m. ET

A late-night tweet from Kanye West this week strengthened the impression that establishment Republicans are helping the musician and fashion designer in his quest to get on the ballot in some states as a third-party candidate for president.

"I'm willing to do a live interview with the New York Time[s] about my meeting with Jared where we discussed Dr. Claude Anderson's book Powernomics," the post reads.

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