Michele Kelemen

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In Afghanistan, U.S. Embassy officials are in lockdown because of an outbreak of COVID-19. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

Updated June 17, 2021 at 3:52 PM ET

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul says it is suffering from a major COVID-19 outbreak that has largely confined staff to their quarters and is disrupting many of its operations. Earlier this week, the embassy announced that it was suspending in-person visa interviews for Afghans who had worked for the U.S. military.

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People who have been eager to remove Benjamin Netanyahu as the leader of Israel had their moment yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CELEBRATING)

The Biden administration wants a more stable and predictable relationship with Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to show that his country is taken seriously as a world power. That is the backdrop for the first summit between the U.S. and Russian presidents, which will take place in Geneva on Wednesday.

"Russia is quite invested in having a very friction-filled rather than friction-free relationship with the United States," warns Fiona Hill of the Brookings Institution.

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Updated April 27, 2021 at 4:21 PM ET

The State Department is downsizing the U.S. embassy in Kabul, ordering some nonessential personnel to leave amid concerns about heightened violence as U.S. and NATO troops pull out of Afghanistan.

The department "ordered the departure from U.S. Embassy Kabul of U.S. government employees whose functions can be performed elsewhere," it noted in a travel advisory issued Tuesday.

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Updated at 6:20 p.m.

The United States will offer temporary protected status to people from Myanmar who fear returning home, the Biden administration said Friday, as it tries to ratchet up pressure on military coup leaders in the Southeast Asian country, and provide protection to some of those criticizing it.

President Biden and the leaders of Australia, India and Japan launched a plan on Friday to boost COVID-19 vaccine production and distribution in Asia as the White House seeks to deepen coordination with partners around the world to counterbalance China.

The four countries, collectively known as the Quad, short for the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, also agreed to set up working groups to cooperate on vaccines, climate change and technology, including cybersecurity.

When U.S. diplomat Maryum Saifee was based at the U.S. Consulate in Lahore, Pakistan, she oversaw a program that brought together tech entrepreneurs from Austin, Texas, and businesses in Pakistan's Punjab region. The goal: to expand investment and business opportunities in both countries.

"We have mayors and governors already engaging with their overseas counterparts, and they've been doing this for years," Saifee says.

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All this month, we've been spotlighting community organizations across the country that are shaping Black history for the future. And we end this series with a look at the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, BAJI for short, a nonprofit group that tries to advocate for the millions of Black migrant families who live in the United States and many more in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America who seek sanctuary here. Nana Gyamfi is executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and joins us now. Ms. Gyamfi, thanks so much for being here.

Updated at 12:45 p.m. ET

President Biden on Friday sought to turn the page on former President Donald Trump's "America First" ethos, declaring "America is back" and vowing to rebuild trust with European allies by working on challenges like arms control, COVID-19 and climate change.

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The Biden administration is taking first steps to reopen diplomacy with Iran. The European Union says it is willing to host a meeting of all the signatories of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and the U.S. says it would attend. That is just the start of what could be a complicated job of reviving a deal that the Trump administration deserted. Joining us now to talk about this is NPR diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen.

Hey, Michele.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Hi there, Ailsa.

CHANG: Hi. So, first of all, just tell us what happened today.

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President Biden and Vice President Harris made a joint trip to the State Department today, vowing that the U.S. will lead through diplomacy.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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With bipartisan support, the Senate confirmed Antony Blinken as the new secretary of state on Tuesday. The final vote was 78-22.

Blinken, 58, was earlier approved overwhelmingly by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. As the top U.S. diplomat, Blinken will face a number of national security challenges, including how to deal with China, Russia and Iran. Blinken has vowed to restore American leadership to the global stage. One of the first acts of the Biden administration was to start the process to rejoin the Paris climate accord.

Updated at 4:39 p.m. ET

Antony Blinken, President-elect Joe Biden's nominee for secretary of state, vowed to restore American leadership on the world stage and work for the "greater good" during his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday.

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President-elect Joe Biden's promise of a firm response to the latest hacking attack attributed to Russia signals a much tougher assessment of Vladimir Putin than President Trump's deferential attitude.

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo launched another broadside against China this week, warning of Chinese threats to U.S. research universities.

"Americans must know how the Chinese Communist Party is poisoning the well of our higher education institutions for its own ends, and how those actions degrade our freedoms and American national security," he said in a speech Wednesday at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

The Trump administration is imposing sharply tighter restrictions on travel to the United States by Chinese Communist Party members and their families, a move Beijing describes as part of a "deep-rooted Cold War mentality."

The restrictions target holders of business (B-1) and tourist (B-2) visas, reducing the travel documents' maximum validity to one month, down from the current maximum of 10 years.

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So a team of international observers is here to watch the election. They've been invited by the State Department, as is customary. But in another sign of these times, they already have major concerns, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

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