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During the Cold War, the movies we saw from the Eastern bloc were steeped in politics. They critiqued, more or less obliquely, life under communism. More than 30 years later, the Berlin Wall is long gone, but the films from Eastern Europe haven't lost their political edge. These days, they're critical of post-communist societies that remain harsh and oppressive.

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President-elect Joe Biden, who will become the nation's second Roman Catholic president, is attending Mass this morning, along with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and congressional leaders at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C.

It's a church Biden attended both as vice president and as a senator, and it was the site of a service for the first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy, after his 1963 assassination.

In lieu of the crowds of spectators that fill the National Mall for a typical inauguration, this year the iconic stretch of land will be filled with nearly 200,000 flags, representing the thousands of people who cannot attend because of the coronavirus pandemic and tight security in the nation's capital.

Updated at 10:10 a.m. ET

Unwilling to admit defeat but with his time in office at its end, President Trump left the White House early Wednesday, skipping the Inauguration Day ceremony that generations of outgoing presidents have attended — a symbolic peaceful transfer of power that had been made all but impossible by his actions after losing the election to Joe Biden.

Hall of Fame pitcher and long-time baseball announcer Don Sutton died Monday night in his sleep at the age of 75.

His son Daron Sutton wrote on Twitter of his father, "He worked as hard as anyone I've ever known and he treated those he encountered with great respect."

Sutton's 23-year Major League Baseball career started with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1966. He remained with the franchise until 1980 and would later return in 1988 for his last season.

Anita Baron first noticed something was wrong in August 2018, when she began to drool. Her dentist chalked it up to a problem with her jaw. Then her speech became slurred. She managed to keep her company going — it offers financing to small businesses — but working became increasingly difficult for her as her speech worsened. Finally, nine months, four neurologists and countless tests later, Baron, now 66, got a diagnosis: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Updated 5:01 p.m. ET

If you haven't heard, Joe Biden would like to unite America.

It was a focus of the Democrat's campaign. It's even the theme of Biden's inauguration — "America United."

He made lots of appeals to unity in his inaugural address.

President-elect Joe Biden addressed a grieving nation on Tuesday after the United States had earlier in the day passed 400,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

Speaking at a service to remember Americans killed by the virus, Biden praised medical professionals for their roles in caring for the ill and their families during the pandemic.

In one of his final acts in office, in the wee hours of the night, President Trump revoked Executive Order 13770, an order on ethics he signed when he first took office, freeing the way for people who have served in his administration to cash in with lobbying gigs.

Updated at 2:30 a.m. ET

President Trump pardoned Steve Bannon, his former chief strategist who was indicted over allegedly defrauding hundreds of thousands of people in an online campaign to raise funds for a southern border wall — one of dozens of acts of clemency in the final hours of his administration.

The lengthy list of 73 pardons and 70 commutations landed after midnight. Trump left the White House for the last time Wednesday morning, skipping the inaugural ceremonies of his successor, President-elect Joe Biden.

President Trump on Tuesday released an unrepentant virtual farewell address to the nation, describing himself as the "only true outsider ever to win the presidency," ahead of his reluctant departure from office Wednesday.

Even before rioters stormed the Capitol two weeks ago, the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as president and vice president was going to look different from ceremonies past.

The risk of large crowds with the ongoing pandemic meant there would be no parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, and many of the usual performances and speakers had been replaced with plans for virtual events.

Updated at 10:00 p.m. ET

Joe Biden became the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday, having defeated Donald Trump in an acrimonious, divisive election last November.

Biden was sworn in alongside Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in an unusual inauguration ceremony, conducted amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis and heightened physical security risks.

Updated at 12:22 p.m. ET

Joe Biden addressed the nation for the first time as its 46th president on Wednesday. Biden spoke at a scaled-down event before a divided nation still reeling from the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and from the coronavirus pandemic that has now killed more than 400,000 Americans.

But his remarks were ones of hope.

Updated at 8:35 p.m. ET

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that President Biden has signed 15 executive actions, part of a flurry of steps he plans to take in the coming days to address his top policy priorities — and to roll back some of former President Donald Trump's initiatives.

White House officials had originally told reporters there would be 17 actions signed, focused on addressing the COVID-19 crisis, the economy, racial justice and climate change.

Maine health officials discovered that a majority of Moderna vaccine shipments received across the state on Monday were not kept adequately cold during transport, meaning 4,400 doses may have to be thrown out.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, made the announcement during a "sad and somber" coronavirus briefing on Tuesday and said the problem extends to other states as well.

Updated at 8:02 p.m. ET

Steven Brandenburg, the Wisconsin pharmacist accused of intentionally trying to spoil hundreds of COVID-19 vaccine doses last month, has been charged with attempted criminal damage to property.

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.

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When Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was on the campaign trail in 2019, she loved entering events with the energy of a drum line.

(SOUNDBITE OF DRUM LINE DRUMMING)

While millions wait for a lifesaving shot, the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus continues to soar upward with horrifying speed. On Tuesday, the last full day of Donald Trump's presidency, the official death count reached 400,000 — a once-unthinkable number. More than 100,000 Americans have perished in the pandemic in just the past five weeks.

In the 1840s, Elizabeth Blackwell was admitted to a U.S. medical school — in part because the male students thought her application was part of an elaborate prank. She persisted and got her degree, becoming the first American woman to do so. A few years later, her younger sister Emily followed in her footsteps, earning her own medical degree from the institution that would become Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

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In Los Angeles County, an environmental regulator has temporarily relaxed limits on the number of cremations that can be performed each month, citing a backlog caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Janet Yellen, President-elect Joe Biden's nominee to lead the Treasury Department, made the case for aggressive economic relief, urging lawmakers to "act big" to fight the financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

At her confirmation hearing Tuesday before the Senate Finance Committee, Yellen pressed lawmakers to pass the $1.9 trillion spending package that the incoming administration has proposed to keep families and businesses afloat as well as to accelerate vaccinations against COVID-19.

Farewell To Our Senior Arts Editor Tom Cole

Jan 18, 2021

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That report was produced by NPR senior arts editor Tom Cole, which we would not normally mention, except Tom is retiring this week after 33 years at NPR. Congratulations, Tom. Our critic Bob Mondello has thoughts.

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Every January, in the middle of the night, thousands of volunteers and outreach workers try to count the nation's homeless population. They search highway underpasses, wooded areas, abandoned buildings, sidewalks for those living outside. Due to the pandemic, this year's street count has been canceled or modified in hundreds of communities, even as the numbers appear to be on the rise. NPR's Pam Fessler reports.

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