NPR Stories

Afghan forces, the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan and the Taliban militia will begin a seven-day "reduction in violence" across the country beginning Saturday midnight local time (2:30 p.m. ET Friday) — a possible prelude to a broader peace deal following two decades of war, according to U.S. and Afghan officials.

The quasi cease-fire was hammered out during protracted negotiations in Qatar that began in 2018. It could ultimately lead to a significant reduction of the approximately 12,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Karen Keating's eighth-grade English students at Lower Dauphin Middle School in Hummelstown, Pa., fire up their laptops and gather a bundle of snowball microphones. With the click of a mouse, their laptops become studios, and they're ready to record.

Keating's class is writing, producing and editing podcasts that they'll submit to the NPR Student Podcast Challenge, and, like many teachers, Keating is using apps to help them make it happen.

The music sounds, at first, like it belongs in a power yoga studio: electronic and rhythmic, rising and falling like breaths. But then a higher pitch juts into the mix, and the strains of sound diverge, becoming faster-paced and a bit more like electronic dance music. The rise and swell fluctuates, not entirely predictable. The artists at work are, ostensibly, plants: a philodendron, two schefflera and a snake plant.

Companies around the world are embracing what might seem like a radical idea: a four-day workweek.

The concept is gaining ground in places as varied as New Zealand and Russia, and it's making inroads among some American companies. Employers are seeing surprising benefits, including higher sales and profits.

The Democratic presidential primary is heading west for the third contest in the 2020 race. Nevada Democrats are hoping their caucuses avoid similar problems that plagued Iowa earlier this month.

Follow NPR's coverage for the latest updates, analysis and results as the caucuses get underway.

The Trump administration has revived the debate over "end-to-end encryption" — systems so secure that the tech companies themselves aren't able to read the messages, even when police present them with a warrant.

"It is hard to overstate how perilous this is," U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in a speech last fall. "By enabling dangerous criminals to cloak their communications and activities behind an essentially impenetrable digital shield, the deployment of warrant-proof encryption is already imposing huge costs on society."

A few dozen volunteers are spending a Saturday morning in a hotel conference room in Macon, Ga., for a boot camp of sorts on fighting voter suppression.

"We are walking into a year that's going to be exciting, a little bit stressful," explains Hillary Holley, organizing director for Fair Fight Action. The group is waging a campaign against voter suppression in the 2020 election.

"We're gonna be working a lot, but we're ready for it," she says.

Florida is planning a major expansion of its highways with a series of toll roads that would open new parts of the state to development.

Exactly where the roads will go hasn't been announced yet, but opposition to the highways is growing in rural areas such as Jefferson County in North Florida. Mike Willis' family has lived there since before Florida became a state. He likes to refer to it as, "the other Florida. Most people think of Florida as palm trees, white sandy beaches," he says. "We have rolling clay hills and beautiful pine forests."

China reported 889 new cases of novel coronavirus infection on Friday, including more than 200 from a prison, and an additional 118 deaths – all but three in the province of Hubei, bringing the total deaths in the country to more than 2,200.

The latest count came as South Korea, with the highest number of cases outside China, reported another jump in infections to 204.

And residents clashed with police in a central Ukrainian town where evacuees from Wuhan, the Chinese province where the epidemic began, arrived for a two-week quarantine.

Snow blowing across Montreal's St. Lawrence River contributed to a massive 140-vehicle crash in Canada, authorities say.

The pileup happened around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday along Highway 15, which runs parallel to the river, just south of Montreal.

Two people were killed and about 29 were injured, police say.

The first Americans quarantined after evacuation from Wuhan, China, the center of this winter's coronavirus outbreak, are now beginning to settle back into normal routines.

For 24-year-old Daniel Wethli, a history buff who majored in philosophy as an undergrad, leaving Wuhan last month at the urging of the U.S. State Department was bittersweet.

More than two decades after it went missing, a ceremonial crown dating back to the 18th century has found its way home to Ethiopia. The country's prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, received the glistening artifact at a ceremony Thursday in Addis Ababa, in a triumphant end to a twisty saga that transcends national borders.

Forever 21, the fast-fashion mall standby that filed for bankruptcy last year, will live on. Three companies announced Wednesday that they are jointly acquiring the retailer aimed at young shoppers and that they plan to continue to operate its U.S. and international stores.

The buyers are Authentic Brands Group, which owns major brands such as Barneys New York, Aeropostale and Nine West; and real estate companies Simon Property Group and Brookfield Property Partners.

What's it like living with a coronavirus infection, isolated in a biocontainment unit? For Carl Goldman, diagnosed this week in Nebraska, his condition doesn't feel any different from a typical cold, he told NPR's Noel King. But the treatment is unusual: Doctors visit him each day wearing hazmat suits, and hospital staff wave at him from behind double-sealed windows.

Updated at 3:23 p.m. ET

A federal judge sentenced Roger Stone, a political adviser to President Trump, to more than three years in prison on Thursday amid an uproar about what critics call Trump's interference in the workings of justice.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson found herself in the middle of a political sandstorm as she and the parties closed in on sentencing for Stone following his conviction last year.

Stone also was ordered to pay a $20,000 fine and to serve two years of supervised release.

Pages