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When Amanda Gorman was asked to write a poem for President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday, she didn't know where to begin. The nation has just been through a bitter election. Americans are as divided as ever. And the pandemic continues to rage.

"It was really daunting to begin the poem because you don't even really know the entry point in which to step into the murk," she said in an interview Monday with NPR's Steve Inskeep.

Filmmaker Ken Burns has spent his career documenting American history, and he always considered three major crises in the nation's past: the Civil War, the Depression and World War II.

Then came the unprecedented "perfect storm" of 2020 — and Burns thinks we may be living through America's fourth great crisis, and perhaps the worst one yet.

Gov. Jared Polis needed a dry-erase board and some math skills on Friday as he attempted to clarify Colorado’s current vaccine distribution situation in front of a live TV audience.

Polis kicked off his latest COVID-19 update by blasting the Trump administration, saying it lied to Colorado and other states about speeding up distribution of millions of vaccine doses from a national reserve.

“I’m not going to cast dispersions; my guess is it’s gross incompetence,” he said.

A bag of Doritos, that's all Princess wanted.

Her mom calls her Princess, but her real name is Lindsey. She's 17 and lives with her mom, Sandra, a nurse, outside of Atlanta. On May 17, 2020, a Sunday, Lindsey decided she didn't want breakfast; she wanted Doritos. So she left home and walked to Family Dollar, taking her pants off on the way, while her mom followed on the phone with police.

As the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out, three big questions loom. First, can someone who has been vaccinated still spread the disease? Second, will the vaccine remain effective as the virus itself evolves? And third, how long will the vaccine's protection last?

Answers to these questions lie in our immune systems. And the answers aren't straightforward because our immune systems are both remarkably adept and remarkably challenging to predict.

Governors across the country are expressing frustration with the Trump administration over a slowdown in the rate of vaccination against COVID-19. States are facing a shortfall in the number of doses promised by the federal government, as a more infectious variant of the coronavirus is spreading.

Two weeks after Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert took office, there are already calls for her to resign or be expelled from Congress.

The political newcomer, who has vowed to carry a gun in Washington, has long inspired excitement and anger. But since the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, she’s come under new scrutiny.

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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.

Every January, in the middle of the night, thousands of volunteers and outreach workers spread out across the country to count the nation's homeless population. They search highway underpasses, wooded areas, abandoned buildings and sidewalks to locate those who are living outside.

But this year, because of the pandemic, the annual street count has been canceled or modified in hundreds of communities, even as the nation's unsheltered population appears to be growing.

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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.

Osvaldo Golijov is a MacArthur "genius" composer who's written for Yo-Yo Ma, Kronos Quartet and soprano Dawn Upshaw. But in 2012, he was accused of plagiarism, and he disappeared from the scene. Only now, nearly a decade later, is Golijov reemerging — with a work that could not have a more timely subject: it's a meditation on grieving and loss.

Eager to get out of the house and enjoy the outdoors, more people than ever are hitting the slopes on skis and snowboards.

"Oh, yeah. I mean, we sold probably a thousand more season passes this year than we ever had," says John DeVivo, the General Manager of Cannon Mountain in New Hampshire. "We were up about 20% in pass sales."

When Nadia Owusu was 7 years old and living in Rome with her father, stepmother and younger sister, two events occurred on the same day that upended her world.

The first was a disaster she didn't experience personally, but heard about on the radio: a catastrophic earthquake in Armenia, where her mother's family had lived before they sought refuge in America. The second was the sudden appearance of her mother, standing nervously at the front door, gripping a pair of red balloons in her hands.

From the March on Washington in 1963 up until his assassination in 1968, the FBI engaged in an intense campaign to discredit Martin Luther King Jr. and his work. Film director Sam Pollard chronicles those efforts in the new documentary, MLK/FBI.

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We continue to remember some of the nearly 400,000 people we've lost to coronavirus in the U.S. We want to tell you about Florinda Flores from Roswell, N.M.

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Marvel has a new series of shows for Disney+. New actually is kind of a stretch. It is remixing and reimagining classic sitcoms. Here's NPR TV critic Eric Deggans.

When Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have A Dream" speech 58 years ago, he changed the course of history with his aspiration.

The metaphors, political overtones and themes King employed were inspired by Langston Hughes' poem "I Dream A World:"

I dream a world where man

No other man will scorn,

Where love will bless the earth

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Let's talk more about the inauguration now. Even though the festivities are pared back this year, some people are still finding ways to honor the incoming administration.

I was thinking about the inauguration this week. I've been a journalist a long time, which means I've been to more inaugurations than I can count. And I'm talking about the gamut — I'm talking county council to president. I'm talking boxed Pepperidge Farm cookie and coffee-urn affairs where you mix and mingle with the newly elected official's mom, to the not quite front-row tickets within arms length of famous people events, complete with fancy party invitations.

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Sadeqa Johnson's new novel, Yellow Wife, is a harrowing tale of the life of an enslaved woman in Virginia, beginning in the 1850s. A challenging read but beautifully told, this thought-provoking page-turner is also surprisingly uplifting. And at its core, Yellow Wife is also a story of motherhood and the sacrifices a mother will make to protect her children — no matter how those babies come into the world.

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