National & International News

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

A key maker of N95 respirator masks, 3M, is arguing against a Trump administration request to keep U.S.-made masks in the domestic market, saying the policy could backfire by triggering retaliation. Trump signed a Defense Production Act order Thursday specifically aimed at requiring 3M to prioritize orders from the U.S. government.

The president and others have criticized 3M, with some officials saying it allows or even encourages profiteering during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Álvaro Callama is struggling to survive an economic double whammy.

A Venezuelan electrician, he fled his homeland two years ago amid a devastating economic crisis that left him too poor to buy food. He moved to neighboring Colombia, where Callama — nothing if not resourceful — worked three jobs: picking fruit, laying bricks and guiding tourists on horseback rides.

In normal times, when you choose your health insurance plan — usually during a fall "open enrollment period" — you try to guess at what the next year and your health will be like. You look at your budget and compare monthly premium costs and deductibles.

Coal mining companies owned by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and his family have agreed to pay the government more than $5 million in delinquent mine safety fines, the Justice Department says.

Starting today, small businesses can apply for the nearly $350 billion in loans available through the economic rescue plan from Congress.

The loan program, known as the Paycheck Protection Program, is intended to support businesses so they can ride out the tough economic times and, most importantly, assist with either keeping current workers or rehire those who were laid off.

Three Southeast Asian nations — Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar — are using fears over the coronavirus to double down on repressive measures aimed at silencing critics or opponents.

In Thailand, general-turned-prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha declared a state of emergency on March 26, granting him broad powers to protect the "safety of the people." It allows him to confine people to their homes, prohibits public assembly and includes additional powers of arrest and search and seizure.

Updated at 11:22 a.m. ET

Dennis Johnson fell victim last week to a new form of harassment known as "Zoombombing," in which intruders hijack video calls and post hate speech and offensive images such as pornography. It's a phenomenon so alarming that the FBI has issued a warning about using Zoom.

Like many people these days, Johnson is doing a lot of things over the Internet that he would normally do in person. Last week, he defended his doctoral dissertation in a Zoom videoconference.

Medical rationing is not something Americans are accustomed to, but COVID-19 may soon change that.

The specter of rationing is most imminent in New York City, where the virus is spreading rapidly and overwhelming hospitals with patients.

According to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state has 2,200 ventilators in its state stockpile. Current COVID-19 case projections suggest the state may not have enough of the machines, which help critically ill people breathe, as soon as next week.

When Amol Jethwani interviewed for a job on Mike Bloomberg's presidential campaign in December, the benefits were unlike anything he had heard of for political campaign field workers.

"They offered an incredible benefits package, which is unheard of for field staff, offering $8,000 a month for a regional role in addition to health care, technology, laptops, cellphones," said Jethwani.

For the past two weeks, Nathan Tetreault of Lillian, Ala., has suffered through likely COVID-19 symptoms: dry cough, fever, waking up in the middle of the night struggling to breathe.

"I don't know if I have it. However, chances are pretty darn likely," Tetreault says.

Doctors wouldn't test him last week because he didn't meet the required criteria early on: He's not someone who's over 65 and showing symptoms, and he hasn't traveled outside the U.S. or come into contact with anyone he knows of who has tested positive.

The traffic jams of Los Angeles are legendary, with cars often inching along for miles, bumper to bumper.

But you can add LA gridlock to the long list of things that the coronavirus pandemic has changed.

Updated at 10:09 a.m. ET

For the first time in nearly a decade, the U.S. suffered a net loss of jobs as the coronavirus began to take hold in the country. But a monthly snapshot from the Labor Department shows only the first pinpricks of what will soon be a gaping wound.

During his Thursday night briefing with the coronavirus task force, President Trump repeated a claim that the United States has done more testing for the contagion on a per capita basis than any other country.

Vice President Mike Pence said the White House may ask hospitals to use some of their federal aid to cover the medical costs of COVID-19 treatment for people who have lost their health insurance in recent weeks, along with their jobs.

Some medical experts have called on the administration to allow newly uninsured people to sign up for health insurance under Obamacare. But at a White House briefing on Thursday, President Trump rejected that idea, saying that "we're doing better than that" with what he called "a cash payment."

On this broadcast of The National Conversation, we answer your questions about the unemployment in the U.S., home schooling, testing for COVID-19 and playing sports during the pandemic.

The Trump administration is set to recommend that people who live in areas with high transmission of the coronavirus wear masks in public to avoid further spread of the virus, a White House official tells NPR's Tamara Keith.

Mayors in New York and Los Angeles have already urged people in their cities to use face coverings in public.

President Trump told reporters at a White House briefing on Thursday that he was waiting for guidance from public health experts on whether people should wear masks in public.

Amazon Prime Video will be hosting some of the movies that never got screen time at this year's canceled SXSW Film Festival. Amazon and SXSW announced today that the online film festival will be free to all audiences for 10 days — but you will need an Amazon account.

A Seattle-area nursing home connected to more than two dozen coronavirus deaths is facing more than $600,000 in fines and the possibility of losing federal funding after officials documented a series of flaws in the facility's handling of the outbreak.

The federal government set a September deadline for the Life Care Centers of Kirkland to comply with federal regulations.

Updated at 5:22 a.m. ET Friday

The doors at the Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma City were locked on Tuesday, when the young woman arrived for her appointment. Over the phone, a clinic worker told her the news – the facility had to shut down because of an order from Gov. Kevin Stitt banning most abortions.

Nearly 3,000 American sailors from the coronavirus-infected aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt are expected to have disembarked by Friday on the western Pacific U.S island territory of Guam, and plans to quarantine many of them in hotels there are drawing protests from local activists and politicians.

The U.S. Navy captain who wrote an anguished and widely publicized letter this week to his superiors about a coronavirus outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, which he commanded, has now been relieved of that command.

"I lost confidence in his ability," acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly said of Capt. Brett Crozier while briefing reporters late Thursday at the Defense Department on the commander's dismissal.

Wisconsin's April 7 primary will proceed amid the coronavirus pandemic, but with significant changes, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

U.S. District Judge William Conley said he could not change the date of the election but chastised Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, and the Republican-controlled legislature for not rescheduling the election.

The response to the growing threat of the coronavirus has varied widely in cities and counties across the country. Some are sheltering in place; others aren't.

Amid mounting pressure from medical professionals and local leaders, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has ordered residents to stay home unless it's essential.

Lee said during a coronavirus press briefing Thursday afternoon that he decided to issue a new executive order after data revealed that movement around the state has been on the rise in recent days, even after he issued a less strict "Safer at Home" order last month.

The British government is under fire for only testing a tiny percentage of National Health Service staff as deaths from COVID-19 in the United Kingdom rapidly rise to nearly 3,000.

"Shambles!" reads the headline in the Daily Mirror.

"550,000 NHS staff, only 2,000 tested," roars the Daily Mail.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has COVID-19, pledged the government was going all out to support front-line health care workers.

Countries around the world have now reported more than 1 million coronavirus cases, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow. The respiratory disease has killed more than 51,000 people and is found in at least 181 countries and regions.

The updated numbers come from a coronavirus dashboard created by Johns Hopkins University's Whiting School of Engineering, which tracks the data in near real time.

Updated at 5:36 p.m. ET

Hank Paulson says the world and America are "facing a health and economic crisis unlike anything in our modern history."

Paulson knows a thing or two about a financial crisis. In 2008, as Treasury secretary, he helped steer the United States out of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Updated at 7:37 p.m. ET

The government has gone to work disbursing the billions of dollars Washington has committed to sustain the economy after the deep shock it has undergone in the pandemic, the White House promised on Thursday.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Jovita Carranza, head of the Small Business Administration, vowed that some of the first systems for loans or payments would be up and running as soon as Friday.

The federal government on Thursday relaxed restrictions on receiving blood donations from gay men and other groups as the country confronts a severe drop in the U.S. blood supply that officials described as urgent and unprecedented.

In the global race for medical supplies and a coronavirus cure, the Israeli government is mobilizing its spies, soldiers and secretive scientists.

Israel does not usually divulge what its covert agencies are up to. Some of the shadowy efforts have come under criticism, particularly over privacy concerns about surveillance. But recent announcements about these agencies' coronavirus war efforts could also serve to reassure a worried public as Israel struggles to contain COVID-19, with more than 6,000 positive cases and more than 30 dead.

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