Pandemic Inflection Point: Drop In Cases Stalls, States Loosen Public Health Measures

In the U.S., the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines is improving every day, but hundreds of millions of people are still vulnerable. And now, with some states relaxing or eliminating public health measures altogether, many people live in places where the virus will be freer to spread unchecked.

KUT reporter Ashley Lopez reports on how business owners and employees are reacting to the rollback of COVID-19 restrictions in Texas.

And Rochelle Walensky, the new director for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, tells NPR this could be a turning point in the pandemic — as more states face crucial decisions about whether to relax public health measures. Here’s more from Walensky’s interview with NPR’s Ari Shapiro.

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Stacey Abrams On The Continuing Fight For Voter Access

The Supreme Court heard arguments this week about voting laws in Arizona that would make ballot access harder for people living in rural areas like the Navajo Nation. NPR’s Nina Totenberg reports that the conservative court isn’t likely to strike down the laws which could pave the way for more legislation that cuts into future election turnout.

The push for legislation that would restrict voter access comes primarily from Republican lawmakers in state houses across the country. This is despite the fact that many GOP candidates benefited from record turnout last November.

NPR’s Ailsa Chang speaks with voting activist Stacey Abrams about her role in turning Georgia blue during the last election and the challenges that new legislation may pose for the future.

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The Growing Threat Of Disinformation And How To ‘Deprogram’ People Who Believe It

Disinformation isn’t new. But in the last decade, the growth of social media has made it easier than ever to spread. That coincided with the political rise of Donald Trump, who rose to power on a wave of disinformation and exited the White House in similar fashion.

NPR’s Tovia Smith reports on the growing threat of disinformation — and how expert deprogrammers work with people who believe it.

Other reporting on disinformation in this episode comes from NPR correspondents Joel Rose and Sarah McCammon.

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Post-Trump, New U.S. Intel Chief Seeks To Rebuild Trust — And Fight Domestic Terror

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines has taken over after a turbulent time. Former President Donald Trump was frequently at odds with the American intelligence community, including some of his hand-picked intel chiefs.

In her first interview after a month on the job, Haines tells NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly “it has been a challenging time” for the U.S. intel community.

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BONUS: The Man Behind the March on Washington

Bayard Rustin, the man behind the March on Washington, was one of the most consequential architects of the civil rights movement you may never have heard of. Rustin imagined how nonviolent civil resistance could be used to dismantle segregation in the United States. He organized around the idea for years and eventually introduced it to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But his identity as a gay man made him a target, obscured his rightful status and made him feel forced to choose, again and again, which aspect of his identity was most important.

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America’s Next Generation Of Legal Marijuana: New State Laws Focus On Racial Equity

It’s been almost a decade since Washington and Colorado became the first states in America to legalize recreational marijuana. Now a new generation of states are wrestling with how to do it with a focus on racial equity that was missing from early legalization efforts.

WBEZ reporter Mariah Woelfel reports from Chicago on why legalization plans in Illinois are still leaving Black businesses behind.

VPM reporters Ben Paviour and Whittney Evans explain how lawmakers in Virginia are designing new marijuana legislation with equity in mind.

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The Challenge To Stop The Next Outbreak Of Homegrown, Extremist Violence In The U.S.

Just because the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump is done, it doesn’t mean the story of what happened on Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol is over.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to set up a commission, similar to the one created after the Sept. 11 attacks, to investigate what happened that day and what measures might prevent a future attack. That’s not so easy in this moment, when Congress is often gridlocked over the most basic things. And when lawmakers themselves are also witnesses to the attack — and make partisan arguments about what motivated the Trump extremists who were involved.

NPR national security correspondent Hannah Allam was at the Capitol the day it was attacked. She shares how her beat and coverage of domestic extremism has changed over the years, from when she was a teenager living in Oklahoma City during the 1995 bombing to present day. You can follow more of her work here.

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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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