Mary Louise Kelly

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President Biden imposed a tough new round of sanctions on Russia today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

How did a little state that rests alongside the banks of a mighty river make so many contributions to American letters and literature?

That's the question posed early on in A Place Like Mississippi, Ralph Eubanks' new book about his home state. And he's got a point: The state produced Eudora Welty, Richard Wright, William Faulkner, Jesmyn Ward, and so many others, all spinning stories of the South and class and gender and race.

With the signing on Thursday of President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, Democrats in Washington have now secured their first major achievement since winning control of the White House and both chambers of Congress.

Ready for a good mystery to distract you from the news cycle? Us too!

Enter The Postscript Murders, which opens with a 90-year-old woman — with a heart condition — found dead.

Sad for her friends and loved ones, but hardly newsworthy. Except that it turns out her bookshelves were stuffed with a remarkable number of crime novels, each of which includes a postscript, "PS: For PS." (The dead woman's name was Peggy.)

A year ago, everything changed for Americans as a new, highly infectious disease began spreading across the country.

Two scientists, longtime friends and colleagues became two of the most public faces of the U.S. efforts to fight what ultimately became the coronavirus pandemic: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of former President Trump's White House coronavirus task force, and his boss, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.

A small, white building has been sitting on the campus of the College of William & Mary for nearly a century. But it was only recently identified as an 18th century schoolhouse where free and enslaved Black children were taught Christianity and literacy.

Researchers believe the Williamsburg Bray School, as it was called, to be the oldest standing building in the U.S. dedicated to the education of Black children.

A new initiative aims to interpret and share the school's complex, pro-slavery history.

Hunger has been weaponized in the war in Yemen, says a former U.N. official who is currently in the country.

"We are seeing a relentless countdown to a possible famine that the world hasn't seen since Ethiopia in the 1980s," says Jan Egeland, who is now secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

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So much of the news from Syria consists of sad stories of chaos, of brutality, of war. But a new book — while a story about Syria and about war — brings us a refreshing story of hope, of female courage, and of heroes.

The new book The Daughters of Kobani: A Story of Rebellion, Courage, and Justice is about an all-women militia facing off against ISIS. It's about a group of women deciding go up against a group that raped and enslaved women.

An 8-year-old from Minneapolis recently pointed out a big problem with NPR's oldest news show, All Things Considered. Leo Shidla wrote to his local NPR station:

My name is Leo and I am 8 years old. I listen to All Things Considered in the car with mom. I listen a lot.

The U.S. is currently administering about 1.4 million vaccination shots a day. About 9.5% of people in the U.S. have already gotten one dose.

But demand still outstrips supply in cities across the country, while anecdotes abound about difficulties of trying to get appointments.

Scientists say vaccinations need to be as fast as possible to prevent more contagious coronavirus variants from taking over.

President Biden said last week that the Saudi-led war in Yemen "has to end," as he pledged to end "all American support for offensive operations."

The complex war started in 2014, when Houthi militants supported by Iran overthrew the unpopular Saudi-backed government in Sanaa, Yemen's capital. A coalition of Gulf states — led by Saudi Arabia and with support from the U.S., France and the U.K. — responded with airstrikes starting in 2015.

Langhorne Slim is a singer-songwriter by trade — but for more than a year, he could barely write. Slim recalls only writing about a song and a half, and even then it was nothing presentable to others. He had quit drinking years before, but found himself addicted to prescription pills. "I had been numbing myself ... to the source of my own creativity," Slim says. "Really, to the source of love, you know?" So, Slim went into rehabilitation.

When it comes to domestic extremists such as those who stormed the Capitol, a longtime CIA officer argues that the U.S. should treat them as an insurgency.

That means using counterinsurgency tactics — similar in some ways to those used in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Robert Grenier served as the CIA's station chief for Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2001. He went on to become the CIA's Iraq mission manager and then director of the CIA Counterterrorism Center from 2004 to 2006.

Updated at 5:52 p.m. ET

Four-hundred lights around the Lincoln Memorial's reflecting pool were lit Tuesday evening to honor the 400,000 people in the U.S. who have died from COVID-19.

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris both spoke.

Next week marks one year since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first coronavirus case in the United States.

Dr. Robert Redfield, the outgoing CDC director, has been heading the federal public health agency's response to the pandemic from the start.

In the 2020 election, more than 1 million African Americans cast ballots in Georgia. Since November, organizations such as the New Georgia Project and Black Voters Matter have worked to bring out even more voters for the state's U.S. Senate runoff elections on Tuesday.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

And I'm Mary Louise Kelly in Georgia, where canvassers have been knocking on how many doors?

NSE UFOT: We are a couple of minutes away from knocking on our 2 millionth door.

KELLY: In Georgia.

UFOT: In Georgia.

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With millions of kids still learning remotely, the learning losses are piling up.

Back in 1970, as the book was closing on The Beatles' time together, Paul McCartney came out with a release that established him as an artist in his own right — and a versatile one, who played every instrument on the album simply titled McCartney. In 1980, he followed it up with McCartney II — another kind of do-it-yourself solo album, released as another band of his, Wings, was breaking up.

As the U.S. marks 300,000 dead, it's impossible to capture the grief families around the country are experiencing.

Each person who dies of COVID-19 has a story. But many of those left behind no longer have access to the traditional ways of remembering the dead. Funerals are often happening over Zoom or as stripped-down, socially distant affairs.

Hugs aren't safe anymore.

John le Carré, master of the spy thriller, has died at the age of 89.

James Ramos, the first member of a California Native American tribe to serve in the state legislature, authored a trio of new laws bolstering the rights of Native Americans in the state.

The measures, signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in September, will go into effect on Jan. 1. One such law will make it easier for tribes in the state to reclaim sacred artifacts and the remains of their ancestors that have been held by museums and other institutions for decades.

Like much of the response to the coronavirus across the United States, the approach to housing during the pandemic has been an uneven patchwork.

Forty-three states and Washington, D.C., put in eviction moratoriums starting in March and April, but 27 of them ended in the spring and summer. Then in September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ordered a national stop to evictions.

Journalist John Yang volunteered to take part in a Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial not for "great altruistic reasons," but because he wanted to get a vaccine sooner rather than later.

"It started off with self-interest — I wanted to get the vaccine sooner," Yang, special correspondent for the PBS NewsHour, tells NPR's All Things Considered. "Then when I found out that it was the Moderna trial, a new technology, one that has never been approved for a human vaccine before, I got sort of excited. It sort of piqued the science nerd in me."

Midshipman 1st Class Sydney Barber will become the first Black woman to serve as brigade commander at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

It's the top leadership post for midshipmen — in civilian terms, the equivalent of a student body president — and she is the 16th woman to serve in the position in the 44 years women have been allowed to attend the Naval Academy.

Poised to take over the role as leader of 4,400 midshipmen next semester, Barber told NPR's All Things Considered that there was a time when she had no desire to attend the Naval Academy.

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