David Greene

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It's been a brutal year for Americans.

The relentless spread of COVID-19, the ensuing economic crisis and the reckoning around social injustice has made this a year like none other.

NPR wanted to know how these cataclysmic, consequential events have affected American families and how those experiences might shape their political choices in the upcoming presidential election.

Why are coronavirus cases so much higher here in the United States than other countries?

For Andy Slavitt, former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Obama, the fundamental issue at play isn't simply a slow turnaround for virus test results or mask mandates.

He blames a widespread erosion of fundamental trust at all levels of society.

The pandemic, a bad economy, police killings and a fight for racial equality: It's a lot of take in. For some, music has been a way to cope and try to make sense of it all and that is the premise behind the Morning Edition Song Project, in which we asked musicians to write and perform an original song about this moment.

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George Floyd was buried in his hometown of Houston, Texas, this week. Floyd left his mark on the city through his friends and family, but also through the music he made under the name Big Floyd.

George Floyd grew up in Houston's Third Ward — the home of the city's hip-hop and rap scene. Floyd used to spend hours in producer DjD's home studio, making the kind of slow-the-music-down form of rap made famous by the late DJ Screw, who also knew and worked with Floyd.

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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U.S. officials are publicly debating whether and how to open schools this fall. The testimony of Dr. Anthony Fauci is to be careful. Conditions around September will be far from ideal.

(SOUNDBITE OF SENATE HEARING)

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Is it time for states to reopen their economies? President Trump really wants it to happen. But the question is whether or not it's safe.

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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."

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One trillion dollars.

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After days of floating at sea, the Grand Princess cruise ship is set to dock today in California.

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U.S. and Taliban officials announced a major peace deal on Saturday, but today that agreement already seems to be in jeopardy. A Taliban spokesman said today that the group could resume attacks on targets in Afghanistan immediately.

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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.

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We're about to bring you live remarks from President Trump, who is at an Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. We'll bring those remarks to you live, and, actually, we're hearing from the president right now, so let's go to him.

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After nearly a month of waiting, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is ending her hold on the articles of impeachment.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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Well, Boeing has a new chief executive now, but he is facing the same problems as the old one.

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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.

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After weeks of raucous, jubilant protests and sometimes violent attempts to quell them, there was celebration in the streets of Beirut today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting in foreign language).

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.

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