KRWG

Jason Breslow

When Amanda Gorman was asked to write a poem for President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday, she didn't know where to begin. The nation has just been through a bitter election. Americans are as divided as ever. And the pandemic continues to rage.

"It was really daunting to begin the poem because you don't even really know the entry point in which to step into the murk," she said in an interview Monday with NPR's Steve Inskeep.

Updated at 1:05 p.m. ET

An Indonesian passenger plane carrying 62 people lost contact with air traffic controllers shortly after takeoff from the nation's capital of Jakarta on Saturday, according to state transportation officials.

Updated at 6:20 a.m.

Nearly 85% of California residents are now under sweeping new restrictions as the state's struggles to bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control. The new restrictions come as coronavirus cases continue to surge and while the state's intensive care capacity has neared dangerously low levels.

Updated at 8:07 a.m. ET Sunday

Twenty-three people died following a carbon monoxide leak inside a coal mine in southwest China, the nation's Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday.

Those killed in the leak were among 24 people who got trapped in the mine around 5 p.m. local time on Friday when "excessive levels of carbon monoxide" began to seep into the air, according to the state news agency. One survivor was pulled from the mine.

For all the hope being placed in a coronavirus vaccine, Pennsylvania's secretary of health delivered a sobering note of caution Thursday on how long it will take to bring the pandemic under control. A vaccine is "the light at the end of the tunnel," she said, "but there's no quick fix to COVID-19."

Former President Barack Obama delivered a stinging rebuke of President Trump's refusal to concede the 2020 election, warning of the real-world harm that can stem from any delay in the peaceful transfer of power, but saying Trump will fail in "denying reality."

With President Trump's announcement early Friday that he and the first lady have tested positive for the coronavirus, much of the focus inside the White House will likely turn to contact tracing.

While conceding missteps in the federal response to the coronavirus, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday it is not too late to avoid the dire picture he outlined in congressional testimony of 100,000 coronavirus cases a day.

In a decision with potentially far-reaching implications for November's election, a federal judge in Florida has determined a state law that would have required felons to pay any outstanding court fees and fines before they can register to vote is unconstitutional.

The ruling on Sunday by U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle moves hundreds of thousands of felons who have completed "all terms of their sentence including probation and parole" one step closer to winning back their right to vote.

Dr. Anthony Fauci expressed "cautious optimism" Friday about the initial results from a coronavirus vaccine trial — which were widely celebrated this week — and said it remains "conceivable" that a vaccine for the deadly pathogen could be available by the end of the year.

The mayor of Madison, Wis., is slamming this week's decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court to overturn the governor's stay-at-home order, saying businesses are not in a position to reopen and warning that the coronavirus will only spread as a result.

Seizing on President Trump's criticism of the World Health Organization for its response to the COVID-19 crisis, America's ambassador to the United Nations called on Wednesday for "complete transparency and accountability" from the U.N. health body, saying failure to act would be "unforgivable."

The Kansas Supreme Court has voted to uphold an executive order by the state's governor limiting the size of church gatherings on Easter Sunday, ending a dramatic legal clash in which the court was asked amid a global pandemic to decide between public health and religious liberty.

Across many parts of the U.S., black Americans are dying of COVID-19 at disproportionately high rates. In Milwaukee County, for example, nearly three quarters of those who have died of the virus were black. But only about a quarter of the county's population is black.

Data from Louisiana, Michigan, Chicago and New York also shows racial imbalances. So what is going on?

Mayor Bill de Blasio is warning that New York City could require an additional 45,000 medical workers by the end of April to help reinforce a hospital system that has been stretched dangerously thin by the COVID-19 crisis.

With cases of COVID-19 surging and medical supplies rapidly dwindling, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is calling on federal officials to scale up aid efforts for the state, saying, "It feels like we entered this war, and it is a war, with less ammunition than we needed."

New York City, already the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis inside the United States, is still days, if not weeks, from the peak of the outbreak there. The head of the city's hospital system says it has enough ventilators and protective equipment to survive through the end of the month. After that, New York will need massive help, and fast.

Despite urgent pleas from governors and mayors across the country, Defense Secretary Mark Esper cautioned on Wednesday that the U.S. military is not positioned to deploy nearly enough medical resources to address the scale of the coronavirus outbreak. And warning that the pandemic will "inevitably" alter the global strategic balance, he said the virus cannot be allowed to overtake national security as the Pentagon's top priority.

With the Trump administration hoping to inject as much as $1 trillion into the economy to deal with the mounting coronavirus crisis, Vice President Pence warned on Tuesday that disruptions from the outbreak could continue until at least midsummer.

In a new recording made public on Saturday, President Trump can be heard speaking with two men he has claimed to not know and ordering the firing of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

The hour-long recording from April 2018 captures a meeting between Trump and a group of donors that includes two associates of his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who in recent weeks have emerged as central figures in the impeachment inquiry: Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas.

Updated on Saturday at 3:01 p.m.

With the State Department facing continued questions over the treatment of Marie Yovanovitch before she was recalled as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would not say on Friday whether he owed the career diplomat an apology.

"I've defended every single person on this team," Pompeo said in an interview with NPR. "I've done what's right for every single person on this team."

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, known more commonly as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, are no longer working members of the British royal family and will stop receiving public funds for royal duties, Buckingham Palace announced Saturday.

The palace also said the couple will stop using their HRH titles — shorthand for His/Her Royal Highness — and they will be "required to step back from Royal duties, including official military appointments," according to the palace.

With Democrats in the House of Representatives formally moving to draft articles of impeachment against President Trump, the top Republican on the committee that will author those articles is saying the White House should participate in the impeachment inquiry. But participation should happen only, he says, "when there is an actual opportunity in which it is a situation in which they can present, do the presentation that they need to."

Updated Sunday at 12:43 p.m. ET

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was released from the hospital Sunday, two days after she was admitted for chills and fever.

"She is home and doing well," the court said in a statement.

Ginsburg checked in to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore on Friday.

Three days after Attorney General William Barr sent Congress a four-page summary of Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, the special counsel wrote to Barr to voice concerns about that memo.

John Boehner has been known to enjoy the occasional adult beverage. He famously nicknamed his negotiations over raising the nation's debt ceiling in 2011 the "Nicorettes and Merlot sessions." Nicorette because that's what President Obama would chew during the talks. Merlot because that was the drink of choice for the former speaker of the House.

Updated April 12, 2019, at 9:12 p.m. ET

Since his death on Friday at the age of 94, George H.W. Bush has been remembered for his decades in the public eye as a congressman, diplomat, CIA director, vice president, and of course, president.

One minute, Seamus Hughes was reading the book Dragons Love Tacos to his son. A few minutes later, after putting him to bed, Hughes was back on his computer, stumbling on what could be one of the most closely guarded secrets within the U.S. government: The Justice Department may be preparing criminal charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The former attorney general under President George W. Bush is voicing doubt about whether President Trump has the authority to appoint Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general, saying there are "legitimate questions" about whether the selection can stand without Senate confirmation.

In an interview with NPR, Alberto Gonzales, who served as attorney general from 2005 to 2007, also said that critical comments made by Whitaker about Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election "calls into question his impartiality."

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