National & International News

We follow stories about America and the world, with help from NPR.

In California, weeks after a heatwave intensified devastating wildfires burning throughout the state, crews are bracing for weekend weather conditions expected to hamper containment efforts.

This week, President Trump expanded a ban on exploratory drilling off the coasts of North Carolina and Virginia, his latest extension of an existing offshore drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico.

The memorandum, which Trump signed Friday, "prevents consideration of this area for any leasing for purposes of exploration, development, or production during the 10-year period beginning on July 1, 2022, and ending on June 30, 2032."

In response to President Trump's nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court, Democratic nominee Joe Biden urged Democrats to vote in the presidential election to protect the Affordable Care Act.

"Vote like your health care is on the ballot — because it is," Biden tweeted.

The number of new daily coronavirus infections in the U.S. continued to rise this past week, driven by upward trends in nearly half the states that have pushed total cases in the country past 7 million. At the same time, a recent study suggests the vast majority of Americans haven't been exposed, far below what's required to quell the virus's spread through "herd immunity."

Daily cases were largely on a downward trend through August and early September from highs in July, but are now going up again.

President Trump has yet to formally name his Supreme Court nominee, but clues are piling up that he will pick Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

A source with knowledge of the process told NPR on Friday that Trump will nominate Barrett, with the caveat that the president is known to change his mind. The source was not authorized to confirm the selection before Trump does.

On Election Day, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins will be more than 200 miles above her nearest polling place. But she's still planning to vote — from space.

"It's critical to participate in our democracy," Rubins told The Associated Press. "We consider it an honor to be able to vote from space."

Early voting via absentee ballot began in Michigan on Thursday, making 2020 the state's first presidential election in which residents can vote early with an absentee ballot without needing a reason.

Updated 5:54 p.m. ET

Saturday is a big day for the future of the country.

President Trump formally announced conservative federal Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Barrett, a former law professor at Notre Dame and Supreme Court law clerk for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, said she would be a justice in Scalia's mold.

"His judicial philosophy is mine, too," Barrett said.

Updated at 6:20 p.m. ET

President Trump says he will nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court, spurring what's likely to be a bitter confirmation fight just weeks before the presidential election.

Updated 2:56 p.m. ET Saturday

The Trump administration is accusing the chief executive of ByteDance, the owner of video-sharing app TikTok, of being "a mouthpiece" for the Chinese Communist Party and alleging that the tech company has a close relationship with Beijing authorities that endangers the security of Americans.

Just two days after announcing that they have contracted the coronavirus, Republican Gov. Mike Parson and his wife, Teresa Parson, have reassured Missourians that they still plan to host their annual fall festival next month.

"WE WILL BE PROCEEDING WITH THIS EVENT," the first lady wrote in all caps on Twitter.

A federal judge in Montana has ousted President Trump's top public lands official.

The ruling blocks William Perry Pendley from continuing to serve as the temporary head of the Bureau of Land Management, a post he has held for more than a year.

The judge ruled in response to a lawsuit filed by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock who argued it's illegal for Pendley to lead the agency because he had never been confirmed by the Senate.

President Trump promised this week to send cards worth $200 to seniors to help them pay for their prescription drugs, but it's unclear how he will be able to pull it off — or how legal it is.

If he can, that's $6.6 billion to a key voting bloc weeks before Election Day.

Republicans expect President Trump to name Judge Amy Coney Barrett as the next nominee to the Supreme Court, according to a source with knowledge of the process, but the source cautioned that Trump could change his mind.

The source declined to be named, because the individual was not authorized to confirm the selection before the president announced it.

The White House declined comment.

Novavax, a vaccine maker in Maryland, is becoming the 10th coronavirus vaccine candidate to enter the final phase of testing, called phase 3.

The trial is taking place in the U.K., where researchers plan to enroll up to 10,000 adults of various ages in the next four to six weeks. Half the participants will get a placebo and half will get the company's vaccine.

At least a quarter of participants will be over the age of 65, the company says, and it will also "prioritize groups that are most affected by COVID-19, including racial and ethnic minorities."

Updated at 7:06 p.m. ET

The Trump administration has cleared the way to open the country's largest national forest to more development and logging.

In a revised environmental impact study made public on Friday, the Department of Agriculture recommends granting a "full exemption" for the Tongass National Forest, which covers some 25,000 square miles in southeastern Alaska.

Updated at 4:49 p.m. ET

Democratic nominee Joe Biden called President Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful of transfer of power if he loses the election "a typical Trump distraction."

"I'm confident that [despite] all of the irresponsible, outrageous attacks on voting, we'll have an election in this country as we always have had," Biden said in an interview Friday with MSNBC. "And he'll leave."

When 1st Lt. Kelley McCaa found out she would be part of the American military's first all-female space operations crew, working alongside a team of women she considers close friends, she knew it would make a bold statement for the newly formed U.S. Space Force.

McCaa's squadron, based at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, operates one of the approximately 30 GPS satellites used by more than 5 billion people around the world.

Former leaders at a state-run nursing home for veterans in Holyoke, Mass., are facing criminal neglect charges, after an investigation found their "substantial errors and failures" likely worsened a COVID-19 outbreak that killed at least 76 veterans earlier this year.

Bennett Walsh and David Clinton — who served as the superintendent and medical director, respectively, of the Soldiers' Home in Holyoke when a deadly COVID-19 outbreak struck in the spring – have been indicted on criminal neglect charges, state Attorney General Maura Healey announced on Friday.

This summer, California native Morgan Cooper delivered a healthy baby girl at the home she shares with her Palestinian American husband Saleh Totah in the West Bank city of Ramallah. But according to Israel, which occupies the West Bank, their baby Lourice did not officially exist.

Rio de Janeiro's Carnival, known as one of the best spectacles in the world, has been derailed by the coronavirus.

Event organizers announced Thursday evening that the colorful, rhythmic parades of 2021 are postponed indefinitely. It's the first time Carnival has been postponed in more than a century, according to The Associated Press.

Google says it will not publish political ads after polls close on Election Day, citing the high possibility that final results will be delayed because of the shift to mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic.

Updated at 5:01 p.m. ET

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says he is lifting all restrictions on businesses statewide that were imposed to control the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Most significantly, that means restaurants and bars in the state can now operate at full capacity.

After a suicide bomber struck a Kabul academy that prepares students for university entrance exams, one promising student briefly dropped out.

That was in 2018. Shamsia Alizada, the daughter of a coal miner, returned to school and now has topped Afghanistan's nation-wide university entrance exams, according to local media reports. According to Khaama news, which cites Abdul Qadir Khamoosh, the head of the National Examination Authority, more than 200,000 students sat for the exam this year.

Each week we answer some of your pressing questions about the coronavirus and how to stay safe. Email us your questions at goatsandsoda@npr.org with the subject line: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions."

What is up CDC? First you say airborne transmission is a thing. Then you rolled it back. So ... is this something I should be worried about?

A Seattle police officer seen on video posted to social media earlier this week walking his bike over the head of a protester lying on the ground has been suspended while authorities investigate the incident.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, editor of the website TV Worth Watching, sitting in for Terry Gross.

Our guest today is Gloria Steinem, who is having quite a year being portrayed on film and TV by various actresses. In April, FX on Hulu presented the miniseries "Mrs. America," a dramatization of the battle to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. And next Wednesday, Amazon Prime Video presents a new movie called "The Glorias" directed by Julie Taymor who directed the film "Frida" and the Broadway musical version of "The Lion King."

For the first time, one of Britain's highest animal honors has been awarded to a rat. The animal has detected dozens of land mines in Cambodia and is believed to have saved lives.

Magawa is a Tanzanian-born African giant pouched rat who has been trained by the nonprofit APOPO to sniff out explosives. With careful training, he and his rat colleagues learn to identify land mines and alert their human handlers, so the mines can be safely removed.

Naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, 94, broke the world record on Thursday for the fastest time to reach one million followers on Instagram, according to Guinness World Records.

Attenborough did it in four hours and 44 minutes.

The justice system failed Breonna Taylor, says Tamika Palmer, the mother of the emergency room technician whom police shot and killed in her own apartment in March. She says Kentucky's attorney general was not up to the job of achieving justice for Taylor.

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