NPR Staff

In the strange period of re-emergence that has characterized the first six months of 2021, we've asked for a lot from the music we love: brand-new sounds and nostalgic grooves, gnarly guitar solos and gentle lullabies, refreshing individuality and impressive collectivity. Thankfully, the songs released in the past six months have delivered. These 27 songs are the ones that have stuck with the staff of NPR Music the most during the first half of this year – one pick per person, presented in alphabetical order by artist.

Updated June 24, 2021 at 6:52 PM ET

Britney Spears is asking a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to end her 13-year conservatorship, saying she is being exploited, bullied and feeling "left out and alone."

Benjamin Netanyahu was Israel's longest-serving prime minister, in office uninterrupted for 12 years before parliament ousted him on Sunday.

NPR's Daniel Estrin has covered Netanyahu's prime ministership, traveled with him and chronicled how Israel changed under his leadership. From Jerusalem, he spoke with All Things Considered co-host Ari Shapiro ahead of the vote that removed Netanyahu from office. Here are excerpts from that conversation.

Updated May 20, 2021 at 4:29 PM ET

Tensions boil over in Jerusalem. Hamas fires rockets from Gaza into Israel. Israel unleashes its heavy firepower, causing casualties and destruction. Then it all repeats again and again. It is a familiar, devastating cycle of violence that has prompted protests around the world.

On Thursday, Israel's government announced a cease-fire after 11 days of fighting with Hamas. If the agreement holds, it will end the heaviest round of fighting since 2014.

Updated June 9, 2021 at 2:48 PM ET

Rep. Val Demings, a rising Florida Democrat who was on President Biden's shortlist for a running mate in last year's presidential election, announced Wednesday that she's seeking to oust Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in 2022.

Updated May 15, 2021 at 6:44 PM ET

If you're fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (as in, you've gotten all your shots and waited two weeks), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday, you can mostly go ahead and stop wearing your mask and stop social distancing — inside and out.

Update at 2 p.m. ET: NPR special audio coverage of the inauguration has ended. Watch the livestream below. Follow updates in our liveblog.

Updated at 12:22 p.m. ET

Joe Biden addressed the nation for the first time as its 46th president on Wednesday. Biden spoke at a scaled-down event before a divided nation still reeling from the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and from the coronavirus pandemic that has now killed more than 400,000 Americans.

But his remarks were ones of hope.

Updated at 12:37 p.m. ET

National security adviser Robert O'Brien promised a "professional transition" with the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden, partly diverging from the mode in use by President Trump, who says he contests the election.

"If the Biden-Harris ticket is determined to be the winner — and, obviously, things look that way now — we'll have a very professional transition with the National Security Council, no doubt about it," O'Brien said.

Updated at 10:17 p.m. ET

President Trump's campaign has unleashed a multipronged legal offensive directed at states where vote counting continued Thursday based on unsupported allegations about fraud and irregularities in the election.

Attorneys for the Trump campaign sought intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court and also filed suit in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Nevada seeking remedies they hoped would help their prospects in those places. In some instances, that included requests for counting to cease altogether or at least pause for a time.

The 2020 election is going to be different from any election in American history. Experts are anticipating record-high levels of people choosing to cast their ballots by mail because of concerns over the coronavirus.

President Trump's medical team held a briefing with reporters at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center again on Sunday.

The doctors said that since testing positive for the coronavirus, Trump has had two episodes of a drop in oxygen — one Friday morning before he went to the hospital and again on Saturday — and began a steroid treatment for that specifically.

Editor's note: President Trump's doctors gave a briefing Saturday morning outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and answered questions from reporters.

In a statement later, Dr. Sean Conley said he misspoke during his news conference. He said he incorrectly used 72 hours instead of "Day 3" for the president's diagnosis. He also said a reference to 48 hours ago should have been "Day 2" for administering Regeneron.

"The fact that the Afghans are sitting across the table for the first time in 42 years is a moment of hope and opportunity," U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad tells NPR. "But this moment is not without its own challenges."

Peace talks began in Doha, Qatar, last month between the Afghan government and the Taliban, even as deadly violence in Afghanistan continues.

Nearly two weeks after an Aug. 9 election kept Belarus' authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko in power amid accusations of vote-rigging, massive protests against Lukashenko continue and neither side is backing down.

"New fair, free and transparent elections must be held," Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Lukashenko's main challenger, told reporters in Lithuania on Friday. She fled there under pressure from Belarusian authorities last week. "People of Belarus have woken up and they do not want to live in fear and lies anymore."

Steve Bannon, a former adviser to President Trump, was indicted along with three others on Thursday in connection to an online fundraising campaign called "We Build the Wall." The campaign was advertised as an effort to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico, and according to federal prosecutors in New York, "hundreds of thousands of donors" were allegedly defrauded in the scheme. Read the indictment below:

Last month, we asked our audience: What are some of the inventive ways that people are addressing COVID-19 challenges in their community?

What TV are you bingeing these days?

It's a question you've probably been asked a lot — and asked others — five months into the pandemic. Movies are shut. Theater is on hold. So there's not much else to do. I myself can't stop watching Korean dramas (just finished Crash Landing On You) and reruns of Gossip Girl on Netflix.

Cardboard beds. Urban farms. Roving mariachi bands.

These are some of the ways that regular folks are solving problems and spreading happiness during the pandemic.

The solutions aren't perfect — public health experts have some critiques and suggestions. But at the same time, they applaud the ingenuity and positive vibes.

Read the stories of six grassroots change-makers — then nominate your own at the bottom of this story.

Our blog covers the globe. And as we in the U.S. mourn the citizens who died of novel coronavirus, we also wanted to pay tribute to lives lost around the world. Since the start of the pandemic, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of nearly 500,000 people worldwide.

It has been five months since the novel coronavirus started infecting Americans. Since then, the U.S. has lost more than 120,000 people to the sickness it causes — COVID-19.

So many have been touched by the deaths of family and friends. Here we remember just a few of those who continued working during the pandemic because their jobs called for it and who, ultimately, lost their lives.

Senate Republicans are unveiling their proposal on Wednesday to reform law enforcement in the United States in response to the national protest movement that followed the death of George Floyd.

Floyd, a Minneapolis man, was one of a number of black Americans who died at the hands of police in recent weeks and sparked a wave of demonstrations and debate about law enforcement and race.

President Trump unveiled an executive order on Tuesday as part of what he called an administration commitment to address the national protests over policing in black communities.

Trump and members of Congress have vowed to change federal practices — and, potentially, federal law — following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police.

Across the country, a national reckoning with race has sparked wide-ranging debates on defunding police, racial profiling, public monuments and systemic racism. This comes as protests continue nationwide, sparked by high-profile deaths of African Americans.

Updated at 10:30 p.m. ET

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., is stepping aside temporarily as chairman of the Intelligence Committee amid a Justice Department investigation of his stock trades, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Thursday.

The White House released guidance on coronavirus testing on Monday, which reiterates the administration's work on testing and includes recommendations for states to further develop and implement their own testing plans.

President Trump said in a letter to U.S. governors on Thursday that his administration is working to publish new guidelines for state and local governments to use when making decisions about "maintaining, increasing or relaxing social distancing and other mitigation measures" for the coronavirus epidemic.

Trump said officials are gathering testing data that will suggest guidelines categorizing counties as "high risk, medium risk or low risk" for the virus. The data will drive "the next phase" of the response, he said.

The challenges that COVID-19 poses for governments around the world are formidable. For Taiwan, there have been additional hurdles.

Experts say the island's response to the novel coronavirus has been remarkably effective so far, despite many serious challenges, starting with its close links to China, and may even hold lessons for others to follow.

Get the latest on Oklahoma's primary races for president, Senate and House.

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Updated at 3:55 p.m. ET

Attorney General William Barr is scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee after the Justice Department took the unusual step of intervening in Roger Stone's sentencing recommendation.

President Trump hailed Barr on Wednesday for making the recommendation.

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