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Ken Jennings: Who Is First ‘Jeopardy!’ Guest Host?

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Ken Jennings: Who Is First ‘Jeopardy!’ Guest Host?

This image released by JEOPARDY! shows Ken Jennings, a 74-time champion the the set of the popular quiz show. Jennings will be the first interim guest for the late Alex Trebek, and the show will try other guest hosts before naming a permanent replacement.



Former Jeopardy! champion, author and know-it-all kind of guy, Ken Jennings, will be the first guest host of the long-running trivia game show, officials said Monday.

The announcement, two weeks after much-loved host Alex Trebek died of pancreatic cancer on Nov. 8, explained that “a series of interim guest hosts from the Jeopardy! family” will take over the show, which Trebek hosted from 1984 until earlier this year.

“We will resume production on 11/30,” the show’s official Twitter account said, noting that additional guest hosts will be announced at a later time.

We will resume production on 11/30 with a series of interim guest hosts from the Jeopardy! family – starting with Ken Jennings. Additional guest hosts to be announced.

— Jeopardy! (@Jeopardy) November 23, 2020

Jennings responded to the Tweet with one of his own.

“There will only ever be one Alex Trebek, but I’m honored to be helping Jeopardy! out with this in January,” he wrote.

Jennings made show history after winning 74 straight games in 2004 and into 2005. The record-breaking streak earned him $3,370,700. (“Brad Rutter is the highest money winner of all time across any television game show, with total ‘Jeopardy!’ winnings of $4,688,436,” according to ABC News.)

Years later, Jennings took on Watson, an IBM super computer the size of 10 refrigerators. In the televised version of man versus machine, machine won.

“Alex believed in the importance of Jeopardy! and always said that he wanted the show to go on after him. We will honor his legacy by continuing to produce the show he loved,” Executive Producer Mike Richards said.

Trebek’s more than three decades at the helm of the program earned him a spot in the “Guinness Book of World Records” for most game show episodes hosted by the same presenter.

A permanent replacement host for Trebek has yet to be named.

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In A New Book, Pope Francis Speaks Out On The Coronavirus And Anti-Mask Protests

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In A New Book, Pope Francis Speaks Out On The Coronavirus And Anti-Mask Protests

Pope Francis waves as he arrives for the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, Sunday.

Alessandra Tarantino/AP

Alessandra Tarantino/AP

Pope Francis, never one to shy from controversy, wades boldly into the coronavirus debate with a new book in which he criticizes those who blame the virus on foreigners and people who protest church closings and mask mandates.

In his book, Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future, based on conversations he had with papal biographer Austen Ivereigh, Francis also speaks out on the protests against racial injustice, poverty, and the arms trade, saying those Catholics who refuse to join such movements give “a bad example, losing the sense of solidarity and fraternity with the rest of their brothers and sisters.”

Unlike some other papal writings, the book avoids complex discussions of church doctrine and theology. Francis instead shares stories from his own life and offers his views on the various crises facing the world, from the coronavirus to the environment, poverty and hunger, political polarization, and the condition of the Catholic church. The Pope clearly intended for the book to be read by a wide, popular audience.

“You feel like you’re sitting across from him,” Ivereigh said, speaking in a press briefing to mark the book’s release.

The coronavirus as a metaphor

Ivereigh, who has written two biographies of Francis and enjoys a close relationship with him, suggested the book project during exchanges with the Pope in the summer of 2020, as the coronavirus had the whole world, including the Vatican, in lockdown mode.

The pandemic appeared to have left Francis isolated from people and looking “helpless,” Ivereigh writes in a postscript to the book.

“Yet those close to him told me the opposite: that he was energized by what he saw as a threshold moment,” Ivereigh says.

The book developed first from a series of exchanges between Ivereigh and the Pope, with Ivereigh emailing Francis with questions and the Pope responding with taped comments. Ivereigh then helped the Pope put the book together.

In the book, Francis treats the coronavirus as a metaphor, saying people all experience their own “Covids,” in the sense of a forced stoppage in their lives that reveals “what needs to change: our lack of internal freedom, the idols we have been serving, the ideologies we have tried to live by, the relationships we have neglected.”

The cover of Let us Dream, the book, due out Dec. 1, that was ghost-written by Pope Francis’ English-language biographer, Austen Ivereigh. Francis is supporting demands for racial justice in the wake of the U.S. police killing of George Floyd and is blasting COVID-19 skeptics and the media that spread their conspiracies in a new book penned during the Vatican’s coronavirus lockdown.



‘Politicians who peddle these narratives for their own gain’

While dispensing homespun counsel, Francis does not hold back from provocative statements, especially concerning the way people and governments have reacted to the pandemic.

“What matters more: to take care of people or keep the financial system going?” he asks. He has harsh words for governments that prioritized the protection of the economy, saying they “mortgaged their people.”

While never mentioning President Trump by name, the Pope makes unmistakable allusions to Trump’s comments about the “China Virus,” his downplaying of the seriousness of the pandemic, and his opposition to restrictions on public gatherings, all of which were regularly repeated by pro-Trump outlets.

“Some media have used this crisis to persuade people that foreigners are to blame, that coronavirus is little more than a little bout of flu, that everything will soon return to what it was before, and that restrictions necessary for people’s protections amount to an unjust demand of an interfering state,” he writes. “There are politicians who peddle these narratives for their own gain.”

‘An angry spirit of victimhood’

Nor does Francis hold back in criticizing those who have resisted mask mandates.

“Some of the protests during the coronavirus have brought to the fore an angry spirit of victimhood,” he writes, “but this time among people who are victims only in their own imagination: those who claim, for example, that being forced to wear a mask is an unwarranted imposition by the state, yet who forget or do not care about those who cannot rely, for example, on social security or who have lost their jobs.”

In those protests, Francis sees examples of narcissism, “people who live off grievance, thinking only of themselves.”

Francis lauds those who protested what he calls “the horrendous police killing of George Floyd,” but he also criticizes those who call for the removal of statues that honor men of the past who held racist views.

“What worried me,” he writes of those efforts, “was the desire to purify the past. Some wanted to project onto the past the history they would like to have now, which requires them to cancel what came before. But it should be the other way around. For there to be true history, there must be memory, which demands that we acknowledge the paths already trod, even if they are shameful.”

The proper role of women

In a remarkable section, Francis writes at length about what he sees as the proper role of women, whom he describes as “among those most affected and the most resilient in this crisis,” both on the front lines of dealing with the pandemic and in positions of leadership.

“The countries with women as presidents or prime ministers have on the whole reacted better and more quickly than others,” he writes, “making decisions swiftly and communicating them with empathy.” He stops well short, however, of suggesting that women might qualify for ordination as priests.

The book hardly represents the first time Francis has laid out controversial positions, and since he became Pope in 2013, he has encountered significant opposition and made enemies within the Church. He confronts them directly in the book, challenging those who demand change in the leadership of the Church, “as if it were a corporation whose shareholders can demand a change of management.”

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Busta Rhymes On ‘Extinction Level Event 2’ And Hip-Hop As A Daily Practice

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Busta Rhymes On ‘Extinction Level Event 2’ And Hip-Hop As A Daily Practice

Busta Rhymes’ latest album is Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God.

Flo Ngala/Courtesy of the artist

Flo Ngala/Courtesy of the artist

When it comes to the most enthralling rappers, there’s no one like Busta Rhymes. At 19 years old, he famously made a scene-stealing guest appearance on A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario.” A few years later, in 1996, he started releasing the string of solo albums and singles that made him world famous — not just for delivery and flow, but as a showman. The music video for “Gimme Some More,” from 1998’s E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front, is a case in point: Busta swaps costumes and characters over and over for the camera, rapping as a boxer, a cowboy and a zoot-suited gangster over a beat that samples Bernard Hermann’s Psycho score.

More than 20 years later, the rapper has delivered a sequel to that hit album, titled Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God. True to form, it’s an ambitious release — Busta says he whittled the final track list down from over 850 songs. The artist spoke with NPR’s Audie Cornish about music-making as a daily habit and the growing pains between each generation of hip-hop. Hear the radio version at the audio link, and read on for an edited transcript.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Audie Cornish: I heard you go into the studio every day — that it’s part of your daily routine. What does that process look like?

Busta Rhymes: I go to the studio, I put beats on, I listen to it and I just wait until it comes to me. There really is no formula. Sometimes you go into the studio and don’t come up with nothing. The one thing I don’t do is force it. If it don’t feel like it’s coming to me, then I don’t record it.

I know the songs on this album come from different points over the last few years, so forgive me if you can’t remember, but is there a song here that was one of those moments where it did come to you — where you come to the studio, you have a good day and it flows?

The song with me and Anderson .Paak [“YUUUU“] was one of those moments. The song “Deep Thought,” that was another one of those moments.

Can we talk about “Deep Thought?” That one stands out because there’s no one else on it — it’s just you.

It was just a good session. I went in there and heard the beat, I produced the track, and it just spoke to me in the way that I spoke to it. I just needed to communicate some personal things that I wanted to share.


It’s clear you’re in this to make a full album experience: There are musical interludes, skits. This is not about just streaming one or two singles that people might like.

That’s what I come from. That’s what I miss. And I think that’s something that this generation needs to experience in the right way now: the experience and the importance of understanding what it is to treat yourself to a incredible, cohesive body of work.

You’ve lived through so many evolutions of the genre. How do you feel about what you’re hearing in this new generation?

I embrace everything with grace, because when I was trying to get on in the beginning, you know, we took from the influences and the elder statesmen before us. We took from it and tried to make it our own. But of course, in the process of trying to make it your own, you do certain things different, in a way that some of the elder statesmen might not be willing to accept.

Did you experience that?

Yeah! Everybody didn’t like me. It’s fine. In fact, I’m driven by that, because I like to show people that may not know what you talkin’ about right now, ’cause you just don’t get it. You ain’t gotta like me right now. I know how to make you change the way you think though.

Yeah, I feel like you got the last laugh here.

Yeah, man. I’m very grateful of being able to be in a space where you get the gift and opportunity to show people better than you can tell ’em.

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At Least 4 Pennsylvania Counties To Miss Election Certification Deadline

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At Least 4 Pennsylvania Counties To Miss Election Certification Deadline

A poll watcher monitors the counting of ballots at the Allegheny County elections warehouse on November 6, 2020 in Pittsburgh.

Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

A version of this story was first posted by member station WITF in Harrisburg

At least four counties home to more than 600,000 voters will not have election results certified when they’re due Monday to the Pennsylvania Department of State, though three of them expect to wrap up within the next couple days. President Trump won all four counties.

Ultimately, minor delays in a handful of counties fully certifying their results shouldn’t affect the overall certification process statewide — in part because the Pennsylvania’s election code doesn’t set a hard deadline for statewide certification by the Secretary of State, which is normally a formality, voting law experts say.

Of 43 counties to respond to WITF’s inquiry, ten with a combined 546,000 voters had already fully certified their results and sent them to the state by Friday.

Another 31 counties with more than 7 million of the state’s 9 million registered voters confirmed they will hit Monday’s deadline.


Schuylkill County officials say they will wrap up Tuesday, while Westmoreland County doesn’t expect to finish until next week due to pandemic-driven staffing shortages and a tight state Senate race. Berks and Carbon election boards are scheduled to certify Wednesday.

“Sometimes counties lag behind – that’s not unusual,” said Marian Schneider of the Pennsylvania branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. Schneider is a former deputy secretary for elections and administration at Pennsylvania’s Department of State.

Schneider said that’s especially true when counties are dealing with recounts, close races or litigation over election board decisions, such as the cases out of Philadelphia and Allegheny and Bucks counties.

That’s on top of the other factors complicating vote counts statewide: other lawsuits, the pandemic, thousands of provisional ballot challenges and the explosion of vote-by-mail atop the rollout of new voting laws and machines expected, since a year ago, to pose challenges in 2020.

“What is unusual, is the national narrative – which is disturbing,” Schneider said, referring to President Donald Trump’s and some Republicans’ thus far futile attempts to pressure lawmakers from swing states, invalidate votes and baselessly discredit the country’s election system. “I don’t think our local officials are going to buy into that.”

If a county were to hold off on certification for too long, elected officials likely would end up in court, said Jessie Allen, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

“At the point it prevents the process from going forward and electors moving forward from a popular election, then I think you’d see court action,” said Allen, previously a voting rights lawyer. “The Biden campaign or a representative of the voters of Pennsylvania or, for that matter, the Secretary of [State] would go to court and get an order … to [force] the county officials to do their job and certify.”

Schneider said while such a scenario would prompt enforcement of some kind, there’s no precedent in Pennsylvania — and she doesn’t expect one to be set this year.

It’s highly unlikely the process will drag on past the end of the month, Allen and Schneider said, let alone until the “safe harbor” deadline of Dec. 8 (states generally get electors in place by this point — six days ahead of the electors’ vote — to avoid challenges from Congress).

“I don’t think it’s cause for concern. What I think is cause for concern is the national narrative, and the president and his cronies trying to disenfranchise black and brown voters,” Schneider said. “We should be celebrating the record turnout and recognize that in our democracy, voters get to choose. They’ve chosen.”

President-elect Joe Biden led by about 81,000 votes of more than 6.9 million counted in Pennsylvania as of Sunday.

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Israeli Prime Minister Secretly Flew To Saudi Arabia, Israeli Media Reports

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Israeli Prime Minister Secretly Flew To Saudi Arabia, Israeli Media Reports

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, shown here earlier this month, has reportedly visited Saudi Arabia.

Maya Alleruzzo/AP

Maya Alleruzzo/AP

Updated at 8:30 a.m. ET

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secretly flew to Saudi Arabia on Sunday with his Mossad spy chief Yossi Cohen to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, multiple Israeli media outlets reported. Saudi Arabia’s government has denied the reports.

It is the first such meeting between Israeli and Saudi leaders to be reported widely in Israeli media, and could be a signal that Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Trump administration are coordinating their stance on Iran before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister has denied that the reported meeting with Netanyahu took place, saying “the only officials present were American and Saudi.”

Biden has said he’d consider reviving the Iran nuclear deal, which President Trump left at Israel’s urging. Israel and Saudi Arabia, which share covert ties, both see Iran as an adversary.

Netanyahu’s office declined comment on the reported trip, but the prime minister may have dropped hints about it in a speech he delivered Sunday.

“We must not return to the old nuclear agreement. We must continue the uncompromising policy to ensure Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon,” Netanyahu said. “Thanks to our firm stance against a nuclear Iran — and thanks to our opposition to a nuclear deal with Iran — many Arab countries fundamentally changed their approach to Israel.”

Hours after Netanyahu delivered the speech, an online flight tracker recorded a private plane, one reportedly used by Netanyahu before, flying Sunday evening from Tel Aviv to Neom in Saudi Arabia and returning about five hours later.

Israeli media cited anonymous Israeli officials confirming the visit. Israeli journalists noted that Israel’s military censor, which often bans publication of news sensitive to Israel’s national security, approved the reports for publication.

It is unclear if Israeli and Saudi officials also discussed opening formal diplomatic relations in the reported meeting, following in the footsteps of Saudi Arabia’s neighbors, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Pompeo, who has been touring Israel and Gulf Arab states touting the Trump administration’s pressure campaign on Iran, announced his meeting Sunday with bin Salman in Saudi Arabia’s new high-tech city Neom, but did not mention if Netanyahu was present. The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem declined comment.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, a political rival of Netanyahu, criticized that the alleged visit was leaked to Israeli media, though it was unclear if he was confirming the reports.

“The leak of the covert flight of the prime minister is an irresponsible step. I don’t act that way. I never acted that way and I will never act that way, and I think in that context the citizens of Israel need to be concerned,” Gantz said in a meeting with his political party, according to a statement from his party’s office.

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KEM: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert

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KEM: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert

Credit: Courtesy of the Artist

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music’s Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It’s the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

Recorded in his hometown of Detroit, KEM‘s Tiny Desk performance is light, welcoming and beautifully decorated. So is his music. After almost 20 years of recording R&B hits like “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and “Love Calls,” he still comforts my soul with his sultry voice and simple, yet satisfying melodies.

Fans have been waiting since 2014 for a new album and it finally dropped earlier this year. Love Always Wins is filled with his signature romantic style. With accompaniments by veteran musicians, Michael “Nomad” Ripoll on guitar and David McMurray on saxophone, we get to hear three songs from the album in this lovely set.

The first, “Friend Today,” poignantly articulates a love for our fellow humans: “There’s a roll like thunder / They killing our babies, Lord / They headed straight for the border / And we can no longer ignore it.” KEM wrote “Not Before You,” a classic romantic love song, as a dedication to his wife, Erica. “Lonely” ends the set with an upbeat, hopeful vibe: “There’s a life waiting for you / In your brokenness.” It’s an affirmation that personal struggles can end in true happiness.


  • “Friend Today”
  • “Not Before You”
  • “Lonely”


  • KEM: vocals, keys
  • Michael “Nomad” Ripoll: guitar
  • David McMurray: saxophone


  • Video: Herman Jenkins
  • Audio: Kristofer Truzzi


  • Producer: Suraya Mohamed
  • Video Producer: Morgan Noelle Smith
  • Audio Mastering: Josh Rogosin
  • Associate Producer: Bobby Carter
  • Tiny Production Team: Bob Boilen, Kara Frame, Maia Stern
  • Executive Producer: Lauren Onkey
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann

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Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich Says GOP Is ‘Afraid’ Of Trump

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Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich Says GOP Is ‘Afraid’ Of Trump

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, pictured in October 2018 in Washington, D.C., tells NPR that Trump’s refusal to concede is “absurd.”

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Few high-profile Republican members of Congress have publicly acknowledged Joe Biden’s presidential win.

And many Republican politicians have refused to denounce Trump’s legal challenges and false allegations of widespread voter fraud.

John Kasich, the former governor of Ohio who was a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, says it’s because Republicans are “either in complete lockstep with [Trump] or they’re afraid of him.”

“They’re afraid that they’ll be primaried or they’re afraid they’ll be severely criticized,” he told Leila Fadel on All Things Considered. “And it’s a pretty remarkable situation.”

He called Trump’s refusal to concede “absurd.”

Kasich endorsed Biden in the election and even spoke at the Democratic National Convention in August.

“[Biden] has clearly won this election and it is just sort of amazing to me that Republicans just keep sitting on their hands. It makes no sense,” Kasich told NPR.

He said one of his foremost concerns about Trump’s refusal to concede is how it affects the transition and the work Biden’s team can do to fight the pandemic. The Biden team has been shut out from information on the government’s coronavirus response, leaving them less prepared come Jan. 20.

“There should be total and complete cooperation between the Trump administration and the incoming Biden administration in any variety of ways in which to deal with the distribution of the vaccine, a whole series of issues going forward.”

Kasich added that the Republican Party’s part in enabling Trump is “extremely disappointing for someone who has been a Republican all of my life.”

Interview Highlights

On if he has spoken to Republican leaders about his concerns

I appear a lot on television and my voice has been very clear and in terms of talking to Republican leaders, I haven’t done that, but I’ve talked to them through the television because it’s impossible for them to not hear what I’ve had to say. I have talked to Republicans who are not currently holding public office, a significant number, and some who are leaders, they basically hold the same view that I have.

But again, they seem, in the Congress of the United States, to be frozen in place. Not all of them, but most of them. Certainly the leadership is toeing the line. And it’s a sad day. I think it was the Scorpions that wrote a song when the [Berlin] Wall came down, the “[Wind] of Change” was the name of the song. And we will see winds of change. They’ll be blowing through shortly.

On his concerns about the transition

No. 1 is clearly around the issue of the pandemic and the ability to figure out a very secure, solid and speedy plan for the distribution of the vaccine. It appears as though the vaccines are right on the horizon. And it’s an incredible logistical challenge to be able to distribute that to so many Americans that are going to be in a position to willingly accept the fact that they’d like the vaccine. You should have total cooperation.

Also, better cooperation allows us to be in a position to get this economy moving, to understand exactly what the Trump people are going to do over the next couple of weeks so that the Biden administration can plan and prepare for a significant, hopefully, economic recovery.

And then finally, the idea that the administration, as they’re getting ready to go out the door, can try to implement some foreign policy actions that I think, frankly, border on irresponsible. I’ve always been one who’s favored being able to negotiate a settlement and ultimately leave Afghanistan. But to just start willy nilly withdrawing troops at this significant amount, I frankly think is irresponsible. So there’s a foreign policy component to this as well. There needs to be coordination, that Joe Biden ought to have access to all the intelligence like has happened in all of my lifetime when we’ve had a presidential transition.

Natalie Winston and Eliza Dennis produced and edited the audio interview. Christianna Silva produced for the Web.

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What Are Trump’s Foreign Policy Goals For His Final Months In Office?

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What Are Trump’s Foreign Policy Goals For His Final Months In Office?

NPR’s Leila Fadel speaks with Robert Malley of the International Crisis Group about the foreign policy decisions the president might make as his time in office comes to an end.


As President Trump continues his fight to overturn the U.S. election, he and his administration are also working to cement his foreign policy decisions. This is especially true in the Middle East, where President Trump implemented some of his most controversial decisions, like moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

To understand what we can expect on the foreign policy front in the final weeks of Trump’s presidency and what the next president may inherit, we’re joined by Robert Malley. He’s the president of the International Crisis Group, which is an organization committed to preventing deadly conflict around the world. He also served as White House coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf region under President Obama.

Robert Malley, welcome.

ROBERT MALLEY: Thanks for having me.

FADEL: So the president’s critics have made it no secret that they’re worried about the foreign policy decisions President Trump may make in his last two months in office. And you’ve described this – his approach as a scorched-earth policy. What’s the president focusing his attention on in these last few weeks? And what are you watching?

MALLEY: I’m not sure the president is focusing all that much. But I think what we are seeing is that across the board, there are areas where the administration wants to solidify its legacy and others in which it wants to complicate the task before President-elect Biden. It’s not that unusual for president to do some things during the lame duck period. In fact, it’s often a time when presidents do things that are harder to do at an earlier period.

FADEL: Right.

MALLEY: But we’ve never seen, at least in my experience, a president so brazenly taking steps that he knows are contrary to the intent of his successor and doing them with the motivation of complicating his successor’s task.

FADEL: This past week, Mike Pompeo became the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Israeli settlements in the West Bank – settlements that the U.N. and International Court of Justice deem illegal. How significant was that? What was the message there?

MALLEY: Well, the message – there was both a symbolic message. He went on the Golan Heights, which was occupied by Israel. He went to a West Bank settlement – things that had been unprecedented for U.S. secretary of state to have done. Clearly, this message there is, these territories are part of Israel. And at the same time, there were some decisions that were taken that are designed to erase the distinction between Israel proper and the settlements.

Now, at some level, that doesn’t change all that much because Joe Biden will be president in two months’ time, and he can reverse that policy and say, no, we believe settlements are occupied territory, and they need to be part of the negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians.

But at the same time, it does change the landscape because Israeli negotiators who at some point will sit down with Palestinians will know that an administration had at one point recognized de facto their sovereignty over the settlements, and a future administration may do the same thing. So why would they compromise now in terms of the territorial component of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

So it does change the landscape to some extent, even though President-elect Biden is going to be able to reverse a number of these decisions, and I suspect he will.

FADEL: Another complication – the war in Yemen. A Saudi-led coalition there has been fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels for four years now. The administration indicated it may designate Yemen’s Houthi movement as a terrorist organization in its final days. What’s the end goal there?

MALLEY: Again, hard to decipher, I mean, they – why they wait till the last weeks other than to make it harder for a Joe Biden presidency to pick up and try to resume diplomacy and try to resolve this terrible conflict, which is the worst humanitarian situation, according to the U.N. today.

And, you know, the reason it would be so harmful is twofold. No. 1, from a humanitarian standpoint, once you designate the Houthis as a terrorist organization, it means nobody can have any financial interaction with them.

And the Houthis control maybe 30% of the territory. They are governing a majority of the Yemeni people. They control the capital. They control the main ports. They control the only airport in the northwest of the country. So if you can’t do business with the Houthis, you’re saying, in fact, that you can’t do business with Yemenis to a large extent. So for humanitarian organizations, for commerce, it’s going to – could have a devastating impact.

But also politically, you know, it’s going to become much harder to get involved in mediation, which is necessary. At some point, you’re going to have to find a solution. The U.S. and others are going to have to be at the table to try to resolve the conflict between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia, but also between the Houthis and the internationally recognized government of Yemen.

FADEL: Right.

MALLEY: And the more you try to marginalize the Houthis, the more you send them the signal that they’re not going to be welcomed to the table, the harder you make it to resolve the conflict, and, in fact, the more you push the Houthis into Iranian arms. So it’s not just a counterproductive policy in terms of what it’s leaving to Joe Biden. It’s counterproductive in terms of U.S. interests in terms of reaching a settlement, diminishing Iranian influence and avoiding famine.

FADEL: Right. Before we let you go, the world’s been watching as President Trump and his campaign are really trying to overturn the election results, the president also continuing to spread false information about the election being rigged. Given your work in diplomacy, how is this undermining the way this election might look to leaders abroad? And will it affect the U.S. and its relations with other countries?

MALLEY: Well, I think one thing that it is going to do is going to make it hard when U.S. diplomats try to argue about respecting the will of the people, respecting the results of the elections, allowing the process to run its course. They will all be able to point to or at least think about what happened here. Again, that’s something that’s going to be – that will be indelible. This is a legacy that’s going to be very hard to erase.

Now, the fact that Joe Biden will have succeeded President Trump despite President Trump’s attempts to the contrary – that will be another message, a contrary message, in which U.S. diplomats will be able to say, yes, we are a very imperfect democracy. We’re not here to give you lessons because we have done everything right. We’re talking to you from experience because we, too, have lived through these difficult times about – in terms of our own elections.

So it’s a mixed – you know, it’s kind of a double-edged sword. The image that the U.S. has liked to project, perhaps sometimes in an exaggerated way, about a functioning democracy has been tarnished. And autocrats around the world are going to be able to say, who are you to give us any lessons? Look what you just did. Look what you went through.

But on the other hand, the fact that we will have recovered, that President Trump will no longer be in the White House, that the election ultimately worked without military interference, without anyone being able truly to challenge the will that was expressed at the polls – that will be a positive lesson. And that will be the lesson that I suspect U.S. diplomats are going to have to emphasize, even as they acknowledge the very, very deep imperfections of our system.

FADEL: That’s Robert Malley. He’s the president of the International Crisis Group. He was also the White House coordinator on the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf region under President Obama.

Robert Malley, thank you so much for your time.

MALLEY: Thank you.


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FDA Grants Emergency Authorization For A Second COVID-19 Antibody Treatment

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FDA Grants Emergency Authorization For A Second COVID-19 Antibody Treatment

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, speaks during a briefing with the coronavirus task force at the White House on Thursday. The FDA has granted emergency use authorization for a second antibody treatment.

Susan Walsh/AP

Susan Walsh/AP

One of the experimental drugs that President Trump received while he was battling the coronavirus has been approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration. The drug, made by the biotech company Regeneron, is the second antibody treatment to win emergency use approval by the FDA.

The treatment combines two antibodies — casirivimab and imdevimab — and administers them together by IV. In a clinical trial of about 800 people, the cocktail was shown to significantly reduce virus levels within days of treatment.

In its authorization on Saturday, the FDA made clear that the drug is only for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in people 12 years and older who are at high risk of developing more severe symptoms. It’s not for patients who are hospitalized due to COVID-19, or who require oxygen therapy because of the virus.

“The emergency authorization of these monoclonal antibodies administered together offers health care providers another tool in combating the pandemic,” said Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni, acting director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “We will continue to facilitate the development, evaluation and availability of COVID-19 therapies.”

Both Regeneron’s drug and another approved treatment, made by Eli Lilly, are synthetic versions of human antibodies that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful pathogens. They bind to the coronavirus and prevent it from invading cells.

The White House celebrated the “promising results,” and noted that the administration has spent close to half a billion dollars to support large-scale manufacturing of Regeneron’s antibody treatment for delivery to U.S. hospitals.

“Due to advancements in quality care, information for medical personnel to better treat patients, and life-saving vaccines rapidly advancing toward approval faster than ever before, the United States has never been more prepared to confront the coronavirus and save millions of lives as we are now,” White House spokesman Michael Bars said in a statement.

Regeneron’s drug, called REGEN-COV2, “is designed to mimic what a well-functioning immune system does by using very potent antibodies to neutralize the virus,” Regeneron Chief Scientific Officer George Yancopoulous said in a statement. “We are encouraged that no variants resistant to the cocktail were identified in the clinical trial analyses to date.”

Both Eli Lilly and Regeneron applied for FDA authorization in October. Eli Lilly’s product got the green light first, and their first batch has been distributed to hospitals around the country. Regeneron’s product will now be available to boost the supply, and the company estimates that 300,000 doses will be given to patients at no cost, though together there still won’t be nearly enough to serve all the people who could qualify for them.

Neither drug has yet gotten full FDA approval, which entails much more rigorous reviews that take longer to complete. Emergency use authorizations are granted during public health emergencies when a treatment could be effective.

On Thursday the FDA granted an additional emergency use authorization for baricitinib, which when used with remdesivir has shown to be effective battling more severe cases of COVID-19 requiring hospitalization or a ventilator.

NPR’s Richard Harris contributed to this report.

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‘The Last Shall Be First’: A Lost Chapter Of Gospel, Saved From Extinction

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‘The Last Shall Be First’: A Lost Chapter Of Gospel, Saved From Extinction

Pastor Juan D. Shipp is the radio personality responsible for The Last Shall Be First: The JCR Records Story, Vol. 1, a new collection of old gospel songs.

Courtesy of the artist

Courtesy of the artist

This fall brings a new collection of some old spirituals and gospel music, first recorded back in the 1970s. The Last Shall Be First: The JCR Records Story, Vol. 1 aims to give a second life to some memorable performances that almost disappeared forever. It’s a story that really begins with a close cousin of gospel music: the blues.

In the late 1940s and into the ’50s, radio station KWEM in West Memphis, Ark., featured live broadcasts of future legends like B.B. King, Johnny Cash and Howlin’ Wolf. Eventually the station changed its call letters to KWAM, moved across the river to Memphis, Tenn. and started tilting in a more heavenly direction.

In 1970, the station hired Pastor Juan D. Shipp, a clergyman from a local church that was known for its music. “Always wanted to be a DJ,” Shipp now recalls. ” I do have a music background: I was in the band in my high school and I sang in the choir. Music was just a part of my life.”

Shipp had a daily show on KWAM — 2 p.m. until sunset — and depending on the vagaries of the atmosphere, The Gospel Train could sometimes be heard as far away as Detroit and New York. “Gospel quartets” is the name of the style Shipp like to play — though the groups weren’t limited to just four people. The style features close harmonies, similar to doo wop.

At some point, Shipp, known on air as Juan D, noticed a disparity in the recordings he was playing: He realized that local bands were being shortchanged. The audio quality of those records — groups like The Spiritual Harmonizers, The Silver Wings and The Calvary Nightingales — didn’t match that of the national acts.

So he went hunting for a good studio, where he could record area artists. One day, while picking someone up at the Greyhound bus station in Memphis, Shipp saw a hand-painted sign for Tempo Studios, owned by rockabilly drummer Clyde Leoppard.

“Up on the second floor, there was the most fantastic studio that I had ever seen,” Shipp says. “The way he had it laid out, each individual had [their] own cubicle. And the padding of it was so tight you had to just about holler in order for a person to hear you inside of it. It was just that good.”

Shipp already knew how to run a mixing board and produce, so he got busy. He says he pushed his artists: “They considered me a pretty hard taskmaster when I was in the studio. I was very nice outside the studio; they said I was the perfect person. But inside the studio I became a monster.”

But Shipp was a monster who created a unique sound. “My signature thing was to put something in there that others didn’t have, so we went into the ‘wah wah’ sound,” he says. That distinctive effect, a bit controversial for church music at the time, became a signature of Wendell “Music Man” Moore, a guitar player Shipp met when the artist was around 16.

“It was just a different sound, and the people was loving it — me being a young kid, doing my thing,” says Moore, now in his early 60s. “You know, you would have the older people — “What are you bringing up all that noise in here like that?” — but once they caught on, they loved it.”

Shipp eventually developed a first and second team of artists to split between two record labels: The best groups ended up on the D-Vine Spirituals label, while the the second string appeared on the JCR label. The collection released this September, The Last Shall Be First, features just second stringers.

Music historian Michael Hurt, who wrote the liner notes for The Last Shall Be First, says the album almost didn’t happen, and these old recordings came within weeks of disappearing forever. “I feel like the whole thing was D-Vine intervention, as Pastor Shipp likes to say,” he says.

Hurt tracked Shipp down after stumbling upon some old D-Vine 45’s and loving what he heard. In 2011, the two of them set out to find the original master tapes. Eventually they did, in an old shack behind a house in Olive Branch, Miss. “The roof was caving in and it was just a real mess — you know, when nature starts to take back over,” Hurt says. “But somehow or another, those tapes were in incredible shape.”

The shack had been a studio for Leoppard, Shipp’s old collaborator — and along with Leoppard’s former house, it was about to be foreclosed upon. Had Hurt and Shipp arrived just two weeks later, the tapes would have been lost for good, chucked out in the trash. Instead, there are now plans for many more releases of JCR and D-Vine artists.

As for Shipp, at 81 years old, he is back on the radio for the first time in more than 30 years, on WYXR in Memphis. “After all these years going back into radio, it’s fantastic, he says, “I’m really excited about it.”

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