Melissa Block

As special correspondent and guest host of NPR's news programs, Melissa Block brings her signature combination of warmth and incisive reporting. Her work over the decades has earned her journalism's highest honors, and has made her one of NPR's most familiar and beloved voices.

As co-host of All Things Considered from 2003 to 2015, Block's reporting took her everywhere from the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to the heart of Rio de Janeiro; from rural Mozambique to the farthest reaches of Alaska.

Her riveting reporting from Sichuan, China, during and after the massive earthquake in 2008 brought the tragedy home to millions of listeners around the world. At the moment the earthquake hit, Block had the presence of mind to record a gripping, real-time narration of the seismic upheaval she was witnessing. Her long-form story about a desperate couple searching in the rubble for their toddler son was singled out by judges who awarded NPR's earthquake coverage the top honors in broadcast journalism: the George Foster Peabody Award, duPont-Columbia Award, Edward R. Murrow Award, National Headliner Award, and the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi Award.

Now, as special correspondent, Block continues to engage both the heart and the mind with her reporting on issues from gun violence to adult illiteracy to opioid addiction.

In 2017, she traveled the country for the series "Our Land," visiting a wide range of communities to explore how our identity is shaped by where we live. For that series, she paddled along the Mississippi River, went in search of salmon off the Alaska coast, and accompanied an immigrant family as they became U.S. citizens. Her story about the legacy of the Chinese community in the Mississippi Delta earned her a James Beard Award in 2018.

Block is the recipient of the 2019 Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism, awarded by the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University, as well as the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Fulbright Association.

Block began her career at NPR in 1985 as an editorial assistant for All Things Considered, and rose through the ranks to become the program's senior producer.

She was a reporter and correspondent in New York from 1994 to 2002, a period punctuated by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Her reporting after those attacks helped earn NPR a George Foster Peabody Award. Block's reporting on rape as a weapon of war in Kosovo was cited by the Overseas Press Club of America in awarding NPR the Lowell Thomas Award in 1999.

Block is a 1983 graduate of Harvard University and spent the following year on a Fulbright fellowship in Geneva, Switzerland. She lives in Washington, DC, with her husband — writer Stefan Fatsis — and their daughter.

In Richmond, Va., the former capital of the Confederacy, a bronze statue of Confederate general Stonewall Jackson sitting triumphantly astride his horse, Little Sorrel, no longer towers above that city's Monument Avenue.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

It had been a long, hot day of protests in Washington, D.C. As dusk descended on the nation's capital on June 3, a man in the crowd held up a microphone. The man, Maryland-based singer Kenny Sway, asked the protestors to kneel — and to turn on their cell phone flashlights.

"I asked them if we can light the city up tonight," Sway says.

Virtual vigils, streamed live on Facebook.

Websites that collate the names and photos of the dead.

Video projections of those we have lost, shining onto building facades.

In the absence of collective public gatherings, people are coming up with new ways to memorialize those who have died from COVID-19.

As the novel coronavirus continues its global rampage, scientists around the world are racing to stop its spread.

Dozens of projects have been launched under great pressure to deliver a vaccine as quickly as possible.

For the latest COVID-19 statistics, updated in near real time, millions of people around the world have been turning to an interactive, Web-based dashboard created by a small team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

As hospitals across the country fill with COVID-19 patients, medical personnel are sounding the alarm about shortages of drugs essential to those patients' care.

"We have seen an increase in demand on pharmaceuticals that's unprecedented," says Daniel Kistner, who manages the pharmacy program for Vizient, a group purchasing organization that negotiates lower prices with drug manufacturers. "Never seen anything like this before across the whole country."

Professor Alice Kaplan has been scrambling to revise her lectures for the French literature class she teaches at Yale University.

On the syllabus, coincidentally, for her online class is The Plague, Albert Camus' 1947 novel about a plague epidemic that ravages a quarantined city in Algeria.

"I never imagined I would be teaching this novel in the midst of an epidemic," Kaplan says. "I never imagined I'd need to give a trigger warning for teaching Camus' The Plague."

In the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras on Feb. 25, the streets of New Orleans are filled with a series of extravagant parades organized by local krewes.

Saturday night's parade was a glittering, glowing procession of Wookiees, Trekkies, and other self-proclaimed sci-fi geeks and super-nerds: the tenth annual parade of the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus.

The Ohio River Valley has seen some of the largest jumps in mortality rates among people in midlife — those between ages 25 and 64 — in recent years.

Among the key figures embroiled in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump is Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who announced last week that he will be resigning later this year.

Gun control has emerged as a key issue in next month's off-year elections in Virginia, a state that is seen as a bellwether of what could come in national elections in 2020.

Republicans currently hold a razor-thin majority in both houses of the state legislature, and with all 140 seats on the ballot this year, Democrats hope to turn those chambers blue.

One race where the discussion of guns is especially fraught is in Virginia Beach, the 8th State Senate district.

This summer's mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, accelerated calls for more red flag or extreme-risk laws in those states, as well as helped jump-start bills in Congress. The laws allow courts to order the seizure of firearms from those believed to pose an imminent danger to themselves or others. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have passed such laws.

But, while the political focus may be on mass shootings, states are using the laws far more often to prevent cases of individual gun violence, including suicide.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

This week, the Olympic champion runner Caster Semenya of South Africa filed an appeal in a case that hinges on her right to compete as a woman. It's the latest chapter in a fight that's gone on for years, and that raises thorny questions about fairness and ethics in sport.

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.

Editor's note: This story includes discussions of depression, addiction and suicide.

Arivaca, Ariz., is a tiny village, population about 700, with an outsize problem.

It sits just 11 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border and has become a magnet for self-styled militia groups from out of state that say they want to patrol the border and stop migrants. Their presence has strained a town that has long prided itself on its live-and-let-live, cooperative spirit.

When the women of Arivaca gather for Monday afternoon gentle yoga, there are certain topics they know to avoid.

Snow whipped past Peter Kaiser and his eight-dog team as they passed under the famous Burled Arch at the end of the grueling, 1,000-mile Iditarod sled dog race, cinching a first place win.

After racing for miles in inky darkness across the Alaska wildnerness, Kaiser was greeted in Nome, Alaska by bright lights, cameras, and cheering fans chanting "Way to go Pete!"

It was the 31-year-old's tenth time competing in the Iditarod, but his first time winning the championship — making him the first musher of Yup'ik descent to ever win the race.

Three women were honored with a prestigious award this week, and it's likely they have no idea.

They are activists for women's rights in Saudi Arabia. And they've been imprisoned for nearly a year, along with other women activists — some of whom have reportedly been severely tortured in detention.

The award is the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award. It's given to writers who've been imprisoned for their work.

The title character in the new movie Diane is a woman trying to save her adult son from the drug addiction he denies.

Diane is played by Mary Kay Place, whose long career includes roles in TV series from Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman to Big Love, and in movies including The Big Chill, Being John Malkovich and many more.

In the film Diane, Mary Kay Place is in every scene. It's a character study of an older woman confronting loss and bearing deep-seated guilt.

Pianist Jeremy Denk's latest album is a musical odyssey. Starting with the austere tones of medieval composer Guillaume de Machaut, Denk travels in time across the keyboard all the way to the 20th Century landing on the atonality of Karlheinz Stockhausen and the minimalism of Philip Glass.

For every sexual assault survivor who speaks out, Laurie Halse Anderson knows there many others remaining silent. "If there was a way for every victim of sexual violence to come forward on one day, I think the world would stop spinning for a day," she says.

It's been 20 years since Anderson's groundbreaking novel Speak was publishedit tells the story of Melinda, a freshman in high school who stops speaking after a sexual assault.

When blues legend Buddy Guy calls you the real deal, that's no small compliment. Recently, Guy bestowed that honor on Mary Lane. After years of flying under the national radar, Lane has released a new album and is getting a well-deserved burst of recognition.

Carmen Schentrup was one week away from celebrating her 17th birthday when she was killed in last year's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

A talented musician and driven student, Carmen had dreams of becoming a medical researcher and finding a cure for the neurodegenerative disease ALS.

Now, her parents, Philip and April, wear teal bracelets printed with her name and the dates that mark her short life: 2/21/2001-2/14/2018.

Gun control advocates view 2018 as a turning point in their campaign to strengthen the country's gun laws.

They cite widespread success in passing laws through state legislatures. They're also buoyed by Democratic victories in the midterm elections, which flipped control of the House of Representatives. Another benchmark: In this election cycle, gun control groups outspent gun rights groups for the first time ever.

Doctors across the U.S. have become increasingly vocal in addressing gun violence as a public health crisis, a posture that recently has drawn the wrath of the National Rifle Association.

Yet, in Colorado, a diverse group that includes doctors, public health researchers and gun shop owners has come together to bridge this divide. The Colorado Firearm Safety Coalition has found common ground on at least one issue: preventing firearm suicide.

Families of people with dementia will often take away the car keys to keep their family member safe. They might remove knobs from stove burners or lock up medicine.

But what's less talked about is the risk of guns in the home for those with dementia.

Updated at 1:50 p.m. ET Friday

In the 20 months since he left the White House, Barack Obama has been pretty quiet, but that is starting to change.

In the new documentary film Minding the Gap, we see a message hand-painted on a smashed skateboard: "THIS DEVICE CURES HEARTACHE."

There's a lot of heartache in this movie. And if skateboarding doesn't cure it, it offers an essential escape for the troubled young men we meet in the film.

Zack Mulligan and Keire Johnson are skateboarding friends growing up in Rockford, Ill. The filmmaker, Bing Liu, is a fellow skateboarder from Rockford.

He is the lesser-known Founding Father from Philadelphia named Benjamin — the one whose face does not grace the $100 bill.

Benjamin Rush was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was also a doctor — arguably the most famous doctor in America — who became known as the American Hippocrates. During the Revolutionary War, Rush was alongside Gen. George Washington when he crossed the Delaware; he treated battlefield casualties behind enemy lines; and later, became a pioneer in the field of mental health.

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