NPR News Coverage

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National attention is turning to issues that have been central to Kirsten Gillibrand's years of public service: equality and reproductive rights.

Brittany Smith grew up mostly in Detroit, earning a master's degree in public health from the University of Michigan. But when she and her then-boyfriend, Sam, began their careers, they ran into roadblocks. It was 2013, and Detroit was still struggling from the effects of the Great Recession. Sam Smith couldn't find full-time work. His job as a college career counselor wrapped when the campus where he worked shut down.

They began looking for an out.

The measles outbreak got so bad in Manila, Philippines, that San Lazaro Hospital had to set up tents in the parking lot, the courtyard and even the landing at the top of the stairs outside the pediatric ward to house patients.

"This ward would only accommodate 50 patients," says Dr. Ferdinand de Guzman, the head of family medicine at the hospital. "But at the height of the outbreak, [there were] 300 patients per ward."

Central American migrants who were detained in a Border Patrol holding facility in McAllen, Texas, described atrocious living conditions and widespread sickness.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection shut down its largest migrant processing center in South Texas for 24 hours on Tuesday after 32 detainees got sick with the flu. This is the same location where a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy became sick, and died Monday at another Border Patrol station.

A devastating series of storms late Wednesday spawned multiple tornadoes that caused extensive damage to several buildings and led to at least three deaths in Missouri.

The National Weather Service confirmed that Missouri's capital, Jefferson City, was hit by a "violent tornado." The tornado prompted an unrelenting stream of 911 calls, with some reporting serious injuries.

At least three people were killed earlier in Joplin, in the southwest of the state.

The promotion of religious freedom in America, a cause that not long ago had near unanimous support on Capitol Hill, has fallen victim to the culture wars.

A high point came in 1993, when Congress overwhelmingly passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, meant to overturn a Supreme Court decision that limited Americans' right to exercise their religion freely.

Nearly 300 coal-fired power plants have been "retired" since 2010 according to the Sierra Club, a trend that continues despite President Trump's support for coal. That's left many communities worried those now idled places will simply be mothballed.

The southern and western regions of the United States continued to have the nation's fastest-growing cities between 2017 and 2018, according to new population estimates for cities and towns released Thursday.

New York still leads all American cities with 8.4 million residents.

But as NPR's Hansi Lo Wang reports, cities in Arizona, Texas, Washington and North Carolina top the list of rapidly growing municipalities.

Bearded and bedraggled, John Walker Lindh became a focal point of American anger when the then-20-year-old from Northern California was found among the ranks of Taliban soldiers captured in Afghanistan less than three months after the Sept. 11 attacks.

He's still known as the "American Taliban," and some called him a traitor who deserved the death penalty. But Lindh, now 38, is scheduled to be released from a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., on Thursday after serving 17 years of a 20-year sentence.

Kenneth Feinberg has been called on to tackle the emotionally grueling job of figuring out the monetary value of victims' lives following a slew of tragedies. And now, a federal judge in California has appointed the prominent attorney to do it again.

This time, Feinberg will serve as mediator for court-mandated settlement talks between Bayer and people who say the company's glysophate-based weedkiller, Roundup, gave them cancer, The Associated Press reports.

Saudi siblings Lina and Walid Alhathloul check their phones constantly for any mention of their sister on social media. They have already done four interviews on the day of the PEN awards and sit down for a fifth, because, they say, this is the only way to help their sister, 29-year-old jailed Saudi activist Loujain Alhathloul.

"We want to raise awareness," says Lina Alhathloul, a lawyer living in exile in Belgium.

State corrections officials in Arizona are facing calls to reverse a ban on a book that that explores the impact of the criminal justice system on black men. Prison officials say the book contains "unauthorized content," while civil rights advocates claim that placing the book on a blacklist amounts to censorship.

More than 1,000 victims of the Holocaust were buried Wednesday in Belarus, some 70 years after they were killed in the genocide.

Their bones were unearthed this winter by construction workers as they began to build luxury apartments in the southwestern city of Brest, near Poland.

Soldiers brought in to excavate found undisputed evidence of a mass grave: skulls with bullet holes, shoes and tattered clothing worn on the last day of people's lives.

Remember the planned redesign of the $20 bill that was going to include the first African American woman to appear on U.S. currency?

Well, don't expect to see Harriett Tubman on your $20 any time soon.

Editor's note: Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina died on Tuesday, May 22 after an illness. Perhaps his most acclaimed work was the satiric essay "How To Write About Africa," which we are reprinting.

May 23 is Red Nose Day in the United States.

March 15 was Red Nose Day in the United Kingdom.

Both are charity events involving red foam noses sold as part of fundraising campaigns to fight child poverty around the world.

Surprise medical bills — those unexpected and often pricey bills patients face when they get care from a doctor or hospital that isn't in their insurance network — are the health care problem du jour in Washington, with President Trump and congressional lawmakers from both sides of the aisle calling for action.

Japan's foreign minister is making headlines — by pushing back on the headlines themselves.

At issue: the order in which foreign media write and say Japanese names.

In a news conference Tuesday, Foreign Minister Taro Kono said he plans to ask overseas news outlets to write Japanese names with the family name first and given name second — as is the convention in Japan.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Tonight, ABC plans to mount a very unusual experiment - a TV special called "Live In Front Of A Studio Audience," in which well-known actors will recreate individual episodes of two vintage sitcoms, using the original scripts, broadcast live. The shows will be drawn from two of the most familiar and successful sitcoms from producer Norman Lear - "All In The Family" and "The Jeffersons." These new versions star Jamie Foxx as George Jefferson and Woody Harrelson as Archie Bunker. Our TV critic David Bianculli has these advanced thoughts.

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Binyavanga Wainaina, the deeply influential Kenyan writer credited with founding the literary magazine and collective Kwani? and advancing the fight for LGBTQ rights in Africa, has died at the age of 48. The Caine Prize for African Writing, which Wainaina won in 2002, confirmed his death in a statement Wednesday.

Updated at 1:55 p.m. ET

Negotiations over a potential infrastructure program fizzled on Wednesday as a White House meeting between President Trump and Democrats escalated into blame-trading and political threats — including impeachment.

The president was the first to appear after the session in a Rose Garden availability that he used to renew his call for Democrats to abandon investigations into him if they want to negotiate over improving the nation's roads and bridges or other legislation.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he has "not yet" reviewed a confidential draft Internal Revenue Service memo, which reportedly says the agency must turn over a president's tax returns to Congress unless the president asserts executive privilege.

Appearing before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday, Mnuchin said he looked at the memo for the first time "literally on the way up here."

Confirmation of Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's reelection win has set off violence in Jakarta, where officials say at least six people died after protests morphed into riots in the capital. Widodo's challenger, retired military general Prabowo Subianto, is refusing to concede the race.

Widodo, who has called for unity in the wake of the hotly contested election, said he will not tolerate rioting.

Updated at 8:10 p.m. ET

President Trump came into office criticizing the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and promised he would try to avoid foreign military engagements. Yet this month the White House has been talking as if conflict with Iran is suddenly on the table. Trump tweeted over the weekend, "If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran."

There are some trials that naturally lend themselves to dramatic recounting in books or movies. They're usually the same ones that get called "trials of the century." Cases, for example, involving John T. Scopes, Bruno Richard Hauptmann, Adolf Eichmann and O.J. Simpson all captured the public imagination and inspired writers and filmmakers to take a shot at depicting the courtroom drama that ensued.

Updated 4:45pm E.T.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection temporarily suspended intake at the McAllen Central Processing Center on Tuesday, the largest migrant processing center in South Texas, after the outbreak of what the agency calls "a flu-related illness."

It is the same facility where a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy became ill last week, and died after he was transferred to another Border Patrol station.

Updated at 2:50 p.m. ET

Opponents of abortion rights have a long history of supporting abortion bans with three major exceptions: when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or when a woman's life is at risk.

But fueled by momentum from the passage of a restrictive abortion law in Alabama, a coalition of anti-abortion-rights groups released a letter Wednesday asking Republican officials to "reconsider decades-old talking points" on exceptions to such laws.

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