America’s Energy Future: How Gas Companies Are Fighting To Block Climate Rules

Natural gas utilities face a bleak future in a world increasingly concerned about climate change. An NPR investigation shows how they work to block local climate action and protect their business.

More from NPR’s Jeff Brady and Dan Charles: As Cities Grapple With Climate Change, Gas Utilities Fight To Stay In Business. Additional reporting in this episode from NPR’s Nathan Rott.

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Optimism About Case Rates, Vaccines, And Future Of The Pandemic

After more than 500,000 deaths and nearly a full year, experts say there are a growing number of reasons to be optimistic about the direction of the pandemic. Cases, hospitalizations and deaths have all fallen dramatically in recent weeks.

Among those falling numbers, a vaccine from Johnson & Johnson that may be authorized by the Food and Drug Administration this week. Dr. Ashish Jha of Brown University explains why the shot is just as desirable as already-authorized vaccines from Pzifer and Moderna.

Here’s NPR’s tool for how to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccination in your state.

The Biden administration has promised to ramp up vaccination efforts even more as soon as Congress authorizes more money to do so. NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell has an update on the $1.9 trillion rescue package speeding through the House.

Additional reporting on the drop in COVID-19 case rates in this episode came from NPR’s Allison Aubrey and Will Stone.

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Update On A Movement: How ‘Defunding Police’ Is Playing Out In Austin, Texas

Last summer, the city of Austin, Texas, slashed the budget for its police department. More recently, the city council voted on a new way to spend some of that money. KUT reporter Audrey McGlinchy explains what other changes have taken place in Austin.

A powerful new player is joining calls for reparations for Black Americans: the American Civil Liberties Union. Civil rights attorney Deborah Archer — the ACLU’s newly elected board president and the first Black person to assume that role — explains the organization’s new stance.

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BONUS: Why 500,000 COVID-19 Deaths May Not Feel Any Different

Why is it so hard to feel the difference between 400,000 and 500,000 COVID-19 deaths — and how might that impact our decision making during the pandemic?

In this bonus episode from NPR’s daily science podcast Short Wave, psychologist Paul Slovic explains the concept of psychic numbing and how humans can often use emotion, rather than statistics to make decisions about risk.

To hear more about new discoveries, everyday mysteries, and the science behind the headlines, listen to Short Wave via Apple or Spotify.

Memorializing The Deaths Of More Than 500,000 Americans Lost To COVID-19

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 is on track to pass a number next week that once seemed unthinkable: Half a million people in this country dead from the coronavirus.

And while the pandemic isn’t over yet, and the death toll keeps climbing, artists in every medium have already been thinking about how our country will pay tribute to those we lost.

Poets, muralists, and architects all have visions of what a COVID-19 memorial could be. Many of these ideas are about more than just honoring those we’ve lost to the pandemic. Artists are also thinking about the conditions in society that brought us here.

Tracy K. Smith, a former U.S. poet laureate, has already written one poem honoring transit workers in New York who died of the disease. Smith says she wants to see a COVID-19 memorial that has a broader mission, that it needs to invite people in to bridge a divide.

Paul Farber runs Monument Lab, an organization that works with cities and states that want to build new monuments. He says he wants to see a COVID-19 monument that is collective experience and evolves over time. He also wants it to serve as a bridge to understanding.

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Texas Is Defined By Energy. How Did The State’s Power Grid Fail So Massively?

Millions of people in Texas have gone three or more days without power, water or both. Texas has had winter weather before, so what went so wrong this time?

Reporter Mose Buchele of NPR member station KUT in Austin explains why the state’s power grid buckled under demand in the storm. And Marshall Shepherd, director of the Atmospheric Sciences Program at the University of Georgia, explains the link between more extreme winter weather and climate change.

Additional reporting in this episode from NPR’s Camila Domonoske, who reported on the Texas power grid, Ashley Lopez of KUT, Laura Isensee of Houston Public Media, and Dominic Anthony Walsh of Texas Public Radio.

In participating regions, you’ll also hear a local news segment that will help you make sense of what’s going on in your community.

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Impeachment Fallout At Home And Abroad: GOP Fractured, America ‘Tarnished’

After the Senate vote failed to convict former President Donald Trump, a clearer picture of the political consequences is emerging — both for the Republican party and for the United States on the world stage.

NPR’s Don Gonyea reports on Republican infighting the national, state and local level.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken tells NPR that the events of Jan. 6 have came up in conversations he’s had with diplomatic counterparts around the world. Read more of Blinken’s wide-ranging interview with NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly here.

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The Intensifying Race Between Coronavirus Variants And Vaccines

There’s evidence of at least seven U.S. variants of the coronavirus, while another that emerged from the U.K. is poised to become the dominant strain here by the end of March. One adviser from the Food and Drug Administration tells NPR there’s a tipping point to watch for: when a fully vaccinated person winds up hospitalized with a coronavirus variant.

NPR science correspondent Richard Harris reports on concerns that COVID-19 vaccines themselves could cause the virus to mutate.

NPR science reporter Michaeleen Doucleff explains why the story of one COVID-19 patient may hold clues to how variants develop in the first place. For a deeper dive on variants, listen to Michaeleen’s recent episode of NPR’s Short Wave on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

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Asylum-Seekers Are Being Unlawfully Shut Out During The Pandemic

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, says more than 60 countries around the world are using COVID-19 as an excuse to skirt international law by closing borders and ports to asylum-seekers. That has contributed to an increase in delayed rescues and unlawful expulsions of refugees to dangerous places.

NPR’s Joanna Kakissis tells the story of one teenage survivor.

And NPR’s Ruth Sherlock reports on a doomed journey of Lebanese refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean sea — where over 1,000 migrants died in 2020.

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Q & A: Expert Advice On Love, Dating, And Pandemic Relationships

We asked for your questions on navigating love and dating during the pandemic. Therapist and sexologist Lexx Brown-James has answers. She’s joined by Sam Sanders, host of NPR’s news and pop culture show, It’s Been A Minute. Listen via Apple or Spotify.

And University of Georgia social scientist Dr. Richard Slatcher shares some findings from his global research project, Love In The Time Of COVID.

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