David Greene

First, a pandemic, then economic collapse and now there are mass demonstrations over police brutality and racism.

In times of upheaval like this, music can be an escape. Maybe a way to reflect or try to make sense of things. This is what led to a new series we're launching today. For the Morning Edition Song Project, we've been asking musicians to write and perform an original song for us.

In Montgomery, Ala., just down the road from where Martin Luther King Jr. once preached, a noisy trailer sits in a tiny church parking lot.

The trailer is like a mini-laundromat, equipped with three washers and dryers and two shower stalls. Every week, it serves a homeless congregation at River City Church — even through a pandemic.

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More than 100,000 Americans have now died from COVID-19.

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People around the world are reporting that birds are much louder these days.

But Sue Anne Zollinger, an ornithologist from Manchester Metropolitan University, cautions: Don't believe everything you hear.

With the decrease in traffic, there's less noise pollution. That means birds have less noise to compete with, she says. (Scroll down to the end of this story to listen for yourself.)

Many Americans are spending a lot more time with their partners these days.

And some of those relationships are being tested by the inevitable "pressure-cooker" moments that come with weeks of being confined to the home in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

"What we're seeing is that there's a clash between the terrible anxiety about catching the virus and having to stay sequestered 24/7," says relationship therapist Julie Gottman.

So if a relationship is already on the rocks that anxiety, Gottman says, "has nowhere to go but towards the partner."

Glenn Hurst didn't grow up dreaming of becoming a doctor. But eventually, he made his way into health care, taking a job placing doctors in small towns. Traveling farm country, he says, the work moved him in ways he didn't expect.

"To see the physicians in those communities helping those people stay in their fields, helping those people's families be safe ... I decided that I wanted to be part of something rural and I wanted to be part of health care," he says.

Dec. 30 is the deadline to submit a comment to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services over a proposed fee hike to access some records, some of which date back more than 100 years and are useful to genealogists.

The USCIS wants to increase the fee for obtaining immigration files by 500%, which means some people would have to pay more than $600 for the documents. The move would affect families of the millions of people who immigrated to the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

If there were ever a person stuck in a place he never wanted to be, it's Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Zelenskiy had been in his post for only two months when he had that infamous July 25 phone call with President Trump — during which Trump asked the Ukrainian president to help investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. For Zelenskiy, the call made what was already a delicate diplomatic situation even more complicated.

Neil Young has easily one of the most recognizable names in American music, and his familiar voice isn't getting quieter with time. He has played with a lot of people over the years: There was Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. But Crazy Horse has outlasted all of them.

The U.S. women's soccer team is still savoring its victory after capturing the World Cup championship this summer. But off the field, the players continue to battle a gender discrimination case against their employer, the U.S. Soccer Federation.

The women are demanding pay equal to that of their counterparts on the men's national soccer team. U.S. Soccer says it pays women more than men in salaries and game bonuses.

To some, Republican Sen. John McCain embodied principles of a bygone Washington: He sought common ground; he reached across the political divide; he had close friendships with Democrats.

His wife, Cindy McCain, would like to try to get back to those days. So to mark a year since her husband died of brain cancer, she is encouraging Americans to be more civil.

"We're missing John's voice of reason right now in so many ways," McCain tells NPR's David Greene.

Andre and Jordan Anchondo were expecting houseguests for a barbecue last Saturday. It was supposed to be a triple celebration. Andre had just finished building their new home, the couple was celebrating their first wedding anniversary and their daughter was turning 6.

Before the barbecue, they dropped by Walmart to grab school supplies and food for the party. But all of their plans and celebrations shattered in an instant of violence.

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Mark Hamill remembers the first time he learned about voice acting — he was watching a Walt Disney special about animation and he saw Clarence Nash "this guy in a suit and a microphone" doing the voice of Donald Duck. "I must have been five or six and a light bulb went off in my head ..." Hamill says. "Suddenly it occurred to me that somebody gets up in the morning, goes to work, and does Donald Duck for his job. I want that job!"

Super Bowl III, 1969: The New York Jets were playing the mighty Baltimore Colts. Nobody predicted the Jets would win. Well, except for Jets quarterback Joe Namath, who did more than predict a victory. "I guarantee it," he said before the game.

Fifty years later, his legacy is still tied up in those three words.

Carly Rae Jepsen has evolved into one of pop's most endearing and indelible voices; her relatable lyrics hit home but her dance-pop arrangements soar above the everyday. She's a long way off from the bubblegum pop days of "Call Me Maybe." Over the course of her first three records, Jepsen went from a relatively unknown Canadian Idol contestant to a viral phenomenon to a lowkey critical darling. Still, Jepsen had yet to really let fans in until now.

In an effort to explore her Italian roots, Saveur magazine Editor-in-Chief Stacy Adimando took a life-changing trip to Italy in 2012 – one that helped inspire her cookbook, Piatti: Plates and Platters for Sharing Inspired by Italy. The book focuses on Italian antipasti — the small plates that usually greet you before a meal.

When she got to Italy, Adimando was greeted with her big family and a staggering antipasti course – which she mistook for the whole meal. She writes:

The Netflix anthology show Easy deals with topics that are anything but: searching for love, navigating relationships, seeking knowledge of ourselves — and sometimes looking for it in other people. The show's third and final season is out now on Netflix.

Its creator, writer and director, Joe Swanberg, has a naturalistic filmmaking style with a lot of improvisation — it's often categorized as part of a movement called "mumblecore." In an interview, he says he had to translate that style into something authentic for TV.

After nearly 50 years, KISS is saying goodbye to touring. The over-the-top purveyors of heavy metal have embarked on a year-long finale tour titled "One Last KISS: End of the Road World Tour." The 105-stop tour spans North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand and will encapsulate KISS' larger-than-life show for the last time.

In the Broadway musical The Prom, a high school PTA decides to cancel the dance rather than allow two girls to attend together. The show's creators, Chad Beguelin and Bob Martin, started writing a musical eight years ago, before same-sex marriage was legalized in the U.S. They worried that the show might feel irrelevant by now — but they were wrong. The Prom just received seven Tony nominations, including Best Musical.

For one Native American tribe whose land straddles the U.S.-Mexico border, President Trump's proposed border wall would, literally, divide its people.

The Tohono O'odham Nation stretches through the desert from just south of Casa Grande in southern Arizona to the U.S. border — and then beyond, into the Mexican state of Sonora. This means that if Trump gets his $5.7 billion border wall, it would cut right through the tribe's land.

Normally, the bookers of the Super Bowl halftime performance don't have a lot of trouble finding talent for the big show. Superstars like Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Beyoncé have all performed. But for this year's upcoming game, nailing down a halftime act hasn't been so easy.

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Matty Healy has long treated writing songs for The 1975 as his diary. As frontman for the Manchester band, Healy's approach to music has been full of conviction, transparency and a millennial wink. The band's latest album is no exception. A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships, out Nov.

When he's not busy on a movie set, Jeff Goldblum owns Wednesday nights in Los Angeles.

The actor, known for roles in Hollywood blockbusters and a singular, chin-stroking comic persona, plays piano in a jazz band with a standing weekly gig, which he calls The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra. The performances are casual and unstructured, with the man of the hour playing keys one moment, holding court and posing for photos with attendees the next, just generally being ... well, Jeff Goldblum.

Carla Hall grew up eating soul food since before she could speak.

Her latest book, Carla Hall's Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration, brings to life the cuisine of her childhood, and explores her winding, but rewarding, journey back to her heritage and Southern roots.

Ever since he was a kid, Ketch Secor was obsessed with old-time country music. In fact, he made a career of it by leading the string band Old Crow Medicine Show. Appalachia, the birthplace of the band, has served as a wellspring of knowledge for Secor, and even inspired the musician to write a new children's book, Lorraine.

"That's where this story comes from," Secor says. "This is an Appalachian folktale, with a couple of personal twists."

Paul Simon says he's ready to stop touring and retire from music. But first, he's going back through his discography to do a little tinkering.

In Charlotte, N.C., back in May, fans at Willie Nelson's Outlaw Music Festival only saw a few moments of the country legend. He walked stiffly across the stage, struggled to put on his guitar, then, clearly frustrated, he tossed his hat into the crowd and walked off stage. Nelson had already canceled a string of performances in February, citing a bad case of the flu. Some fans were wondering whether this was it.

Bill Browder was not surprised Vladimir Putin called him out by name at Monday's press conference with Donald Trump in Helsinki.

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