Elizabeth Blair

Five landscape architects unveiled proposals Wednesday to save the sinking Tidal Basin on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The plans run the gamut from a conservative approach to radical reimaginings.

The Tidal Basin connects centuries of American history and includes memorials to Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr. Some 1.5 million people walk along the basin's rim during the annual Cherry Blossom Festival each spring. But with increased car and foot traffic, the ground underneath is dipping. As sea levels rise, the walkways flood daily.

When Irving Berlin's Oscar-nominated movie musical Top Hat entered the National Film Registry, the Library of Congress wrote "This effervescent musical proved the perfect tonic for Depression-era audiences." 85 years later, a mesmerizing, modern rendition of one of its dance numbers could be seen as a "pandemic-era" tonic for today's audiences.

The Smithsonian Institution has announced that poet Kevin Young will be the next director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. With more than 37,000 objects, the NMAAHC in Washington, D.C., is the largest center dedicated to the African American experience in the country. Young succeeds the museum's founding director, Lonnie G. Bunch III, who was named secretary of the Smithsonian in 2019.

The Walt Disney Company's theme parks, resorts and cruises have been devastated by COVID-19. Tuesday Disney announced it is laying off 28,000 workers from its Parks, Experiences and Products division.

Burning Man — the dazzling, days-long, annual arts and lovefest drawing 70,000 to the dusty Nevada desert — was cancelled this year. But organizers are trying to capture the quintessential, communal arts experience online.

For this year's theme, Multiverse, teams have created 2D and 3D virtual experiences. The program runs Aug. 30-Sept. 6.

The pandas in D.C., the grizzlies in Oakland, the gorillas in the Bronx are all getting reacquainted with human visitors. As of a month and a half ago, the pandemic had forced 90% of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums' members to close. Today, the AZA reports, about 80% of them have reopened.

The Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C., opens its gates to the public for the first time in 19 weeks on Friday — and this week, I was one of the lucky few humans allowed in for a preview.

Five years before the coronavirus pandemic, Bill Gates didn't mince words: "If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it's most likely to be a highly infectious virus, rather than a war," he said at the 2015 TED conference in Vancouver, Canada.

After longstanding criticism over its lack of diversity, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is continuing to invite more women and minorities to its membership.

For more than 30 years, Emmy Award-winning television writer, director and producer Greg Daniels has spun comedy from the threads of ordinary life, turning its frustrations and awkward moments into such hit shows as The Office, Parks And Recreation, and King of the Hill.

Now he's reflecting on these notions again in Upload, a futuristic comedy on Amazon Prime — but this time they play out in the afterlife too. He's also behind the upcoming Netflix satire Space Force, launching May 29, starring Steve Carell.

Updated at 7:13 p.m. ET

Little Richard, the self-described "king and queen" of rock and roll and an outsize influence on everyone from David Bowie to Prince, died Saturday in Tullahoma, Tenn. He was 87 years old.

Bill Sobel, a lawyer for Little Richard, tells NPR that the cause of death was bone cancer. Rolling Stone was the first to report on Little Richard's death.

Billy Crystal has been friends with Alan Zweibel for more than 40 years, but he'll be blunt: "Alan was the worst stand-up comic," Crystal recalls of Zweibel's sets in the early 1970s. "He just looked panicked."

Even Zweibel admits that he was "dreadful" on stage. But his jokes were great. "They were smart, good, neurotic, Alan-based material," says Crystal.

Parents and caregivers face a daunting task right now: keeping their children safe, active and engaged for what will likely be several weeks of school closings. The good news is that all kinds of people — families, educators, artists — are sharing best practices.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for kids will be staying active, while at the same time staying socially distant, says pediatrician Dr. David Hill. He says families should get outside, but avoid playgrounds because they encourage children to play in close contact with one another.

Money talks ... in verse.

"Money is a kind of poetry," the poet Wallace Stevens once wrote. That might be so, but poems rarely pay the poet's bills. Still, poetry reading in the U.S. has skyrocketed in recent years, according to the National Endowment for the Arts' Survey of Public Participation in the Arts.

Jim Lehrer, the veteran journalist and writer known for his steady, low-key presence in the often noisy world of TV news, died Thursday. He co-founded PBS' NewsHour and won numerous honors — including Peabody and Emmy awards and a National Humanities Medal — in a career that spanned some 50 years.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, "Pettifogging people give too much attention to small, unimportant details in a way that shows a limited mind."

On that note, let's dive in.

Petty + fogger = pettifogger

Petty means small or insignificant. A fogger is old slang for a "huckster, a cringing whining beggar."

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Comedian Gina Yashere has toured the world with her standup, filmed specials for Netflix and made regular appearances on "The Daily Show With Trevor Noah."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH")

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"Fiction is life with the dull bits left out." That is just one of the many clever observations of the writer, TV host and cultural critic Clive James, who died at his home in Cambridge, England, on Sunday. James suffered from multiple illnesses in recent years, including leukemia. He was 80 years old.

Dave Chappelle grew up near Washington, D.C. So when he received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on Sunday night at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, it was a family affair.

Chappelle's wife and kids were there. A selection of his favorite musicians — people like Yasiin Bey, Common, Erykah Badu, Q-Tip, Frederic Yonnet and John Legend — performed throughout the evening. And his fellow comedians talked about him like he was kin.

Updated at 12:19 a.m. ET Friday

Actor James Franco has been named in a lawsuit that alleges he and two other men ran an acting school that sexually exploited female students. The complaint was filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court. The plaintiffs are two former students of the now-closed school, which was called Studio 4.

Before Bob Iger took over as CEO of The Walt Disney Co. in 2005, Disney's stock value was stagnant. Its studios, networks and theme parks had lost some of their magic.

"We were embattled and somewhat discouraged and not as optimistic as we needed to be," he says. "And we needed to find our way."

How Iger turned the company around is chronicled in his new business memoir, The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of The Walt Disney Company. The book is being published as he looks toward his retirement in 2021.

When Gina Yashere was growing up, she loved to entertain other kids. "At school I had a drama teacher who was like 'You should be an actor or an entertainer,'" she recalls. Her mom didn't agree. "My mom was like 'Actor? No, no, no. You can act like a doctor when you become a doctor.' There was absolutely no chance of me going into the arts."

In 2017, the "S****y Media Men" list began making the rounds on the Internet. Coming right on the heels of the downfall of movie producer Harvey Weinstein, the list seemed poised to take down even more men in media. The editable, crowdsourced spreadsheet contained accusations — all made anonymously, that ranged from "creepy" direct messages to "rape" — against prominent figures in journalism and publishing.

Updated at 8:08 p.m. ET

One of TV's most beloved sidekicks has died. Valerie Harper, best known for playing Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, died Friday in Los Angeles. She was 80.

As the blunt, self-deprecating Rhoda, Harper created one of the most beloved sitcom characters of the 1970s. The Mary Tyler Moore Show was a ratings powerhouse, centered on best friends Rhoda and Mary Richards, two single women making their way through life, love and career.

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.


The earliest anthems were sacred hymns, religious songs of praise. For this installment of NPR's American Anthem series, we examine a rock and roll hymn — from Ireland.

Montreal's annual Just For Laughs festival is best-known as a showcase for current and future stars of stand-up comedy. Not as well known to people who've never been here is that laughs of all kinds can be found outdoors, for free, throughout Montreal's cultural district, the Quartiere des Spectacles. Professional musicians, magicians, acrobats, jugglers, puppeteers — the outdoor performers' punch lines don't need words. That helps, since Just For Laughs/Juste Pour Rire is a bilingual festival for both French and English speaking performers and fans.

For the past year, NPR has been taking a deep look at American anthems and all the forms they can take. These are the songs that unite us, inspire us or say something about what it means to be an American — songs as traditional as Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land," or as defiant as Public Enemy's "Fight the Power."

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The global youth brand MTV has chosen Sheila Nevins to head a new documentary division. Nicknamed the "doyenne of documentaries," Nevins, 80, was the president of HBO Documentary Films. With some 1,500 credits to her name, Nevins has executive produced numerous Oscar, Emmy and Peabody Award-winning films, and received several lifetime achievement awards.

Comedian Dave Chappelle will be awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor this year, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has announced.

The stand-up comic, actor, producer and director joins a prestigious group of comedians to receive the award. Among them are Carol Burnett, Whoopi Goldberg, Bob Newhart and Richard Pryor — who won the very first Twain Prize in 1998.

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