NPR Stories

Arne Garlipp has farmed his 150 acres of asparagus in the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt for 24 years. For much of that time, he has relied on seasonal workers to help harvest it each spring.

"Our Romanian workers live with us on the farm," says Garlipp. "In the fields, they're surrounded by fresh air, birds and very few people."

One Friday in March, Todd Olson was suddenly pulled into a life-or-death project.

General Motors Co. asked Olson, CEO of Twin City Die Castings in Minneapolis: Could he help make tiny pistons? The giant carmaker was committed to helping the country by producing ventilators, which were suddenly in short supply as the coronavirus spread like wildfire. And GM needed lots of pistons for the kind of ventilator it would produce. Most importantly, the pistons had to come together fast.

Updated at 8:30 p.m. ET

Thousands of residents in central Michigan have been forced to evacuate their homes after rapidly rising waters from the Tittabawassee River following two dam failures threatened to flood parts of Midland County under as much as 9 feet of water.

The ongoing flooding is projected to be "historic," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said.

As Target remained open during the coronavirus pandemic, the surge in demand online and in stores made an average April day comparable to a peak holiday-season Cyber Monday sale.

At least once a week, the Port of Los Angeles launches a drone over its expansive facility. It gives port officials a good vantage point to check on the 7,500 acres and 43 miles of waterway that make up the busiest container port in North America.

Earlier this month, the port's executive director, Gene Seroka, displayed photos from a recent drone flight showing stacks of cargo containers on the docks.

Consumer goods are arriving from China and elsewhere, but a lot is not getting to its destination.

Democrats said the $3 trillion coronavirus aid bill that was approved last week in the House of Representatives is meant to meet the needs of everyday Americans. Republicans dismissed that same bill as a partisan attempt to enact a longstanding wish list of Democratic policy priorities.

Progressive Democrats don't exactly dispute that.

Updated at 10:10 a.m. ET

You will not find a citizenship question on the 2020 census forms.

Johnson & Johnson will stop selling talcum-based baby powder in the United States and Canada after being ordered to pay out billions of dollars related to lost legal battles over claims the product causes cancer.

The company made the announcement Tuesday. It denied allegations that the powder is responsible for health problems.

White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said on Tuesday that she is encouraged by the latest data showing declines in new cases of the virus, hospitalizations and deaths across all but a few areas of the United States.

Update at 8:51 p.m. ET

A scientist who created a dashboard for monitoring Florida's rising number of COVID-19 cases said she's been fired for refusing to manipulate the data.

California led the nation in issuing a statewide stay-at-home order. But there's been an economic cost for going first — in the form of a $54 billion budget shortfall and unemployment projected to be as high as 25% this quarter.

"Those are Depression-era numbers and they're numbers that you'll see across this country," Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom tells All Things Considered. "By some estimates ... this has been the biggest shock we've seen in living memory."

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham on Tuesday requested the identities of any Obama administration officials who may have sought intelligence information on members of President Trump's 2016 and 2017 campaign and transition teams.

Of the 4,624 people who have already died of the coronavirus in Pennsylvania, at least two-thirds of them were associated with nursing homes or other long-term care facilities.

Last week Pennsylvania's health department said it's "executing a robust universal testing strategy" for the more than 80,000 residents and 10,000 staffers at 1,900-plus facilities.

A short plea on the website of Shakespeare's Globe theater underscores a bleak truth: "As a charity that receives no regular government subsidy, we desperately need your support, more than ever before."

Updated at 3:35 p.m. ET

The U.S. and Canada have extended an order closing their shared border to nonessential traffic. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the decision Tuesday, prolonging for a second time an agreement was initially reached in March.

The move delays the border's reopening by another 30 days, until June 21. The prime minister also made clear that another delay after that may well be in the cards.

One day in early March, as the coronavirus was spreading across the country, Margaret McCown was in her office at the Pentagon figuring out how her staff could work from home.

As McCown went over the logistics, she began to feel a sense of déjà vu.

A pandemic. Government on alert. Schools and offices closing. It was a scenario she had seen before. Just not in real life.

"That was that uncomfortable moment where you find yourself a little bit living in your own war game," McCown said.

Facebook is making a big push into online shopping by letting businesses set up free storefronts on its social network and Instagram.

Businesses can feature items in their shops, advertise them to users, and communicate with customers through the company's messaging services. Shops will eventually be integrated across Facebook's apps, including WhatsApp and Messenger.

The Maryland Department of Health reported 1,784 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, setting a new high mark four days after the state began reopening its economy. Maryland is now reporting 41,546 cases, including nearly 2,000 people who have died from the disease.

Along with the new positive tests, 5,368 people tested negative for the coronavirus in the 24 hours leading up to 10 a.m. ET — meaning roughly 25% of the 7,152 tests in that period resulted in positive diagnoses.

Members of the Senate Banking Committee squabbled Tuesday over how quickly the U.S. economy can rebound from the coronavirus shutdown and whether the federal government is doing enough to support struggling families and businesses in the meantime.

A coalition of Democratic committees representing governors, attorneys general, senators and members of Congress released a strategy memo Tuesday outlining that their collective strategy for the 2020 elections is to focus on health care.

It didn't take long for Huber, a former Marxist guerrilla, to give up on peace.

A former member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC, Huber disarmed under the country's 2016 peace treaty. But he says the government failed to help former fighters transition to civilian life and that many have been killed.

All this prompted Huber, who asked to be identified only by his first name, and other disgruntled ex-rebels to take up arms once again.

Pier 1 Imports — one of America's most prominent home-decor chains — is packing it in.

The company, known for its colorful housewares and wicker furniture, declared bankruptcy in February. The coronavirus pandemic forced temporary closures of its approximately 540 stores and dashed its hopes of a recovery.

U.S. federal prosecutors are seeking the return to Iraq of a roughly 3,500-year-old clay tablet purchased by the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts store chain for display in the Washington, D.C.-based Museum of the Bible. The cuneiform tablet is described as "stolen Iraqi property" in a civil complaint filed Monday.

Already grappling with effects of a global pandemic, South Asia is now confronting another major cause for concern: Cyclone Amphan, a storm of historic scale, is churning over the Bay of Bengal and about to bear down on the coastal regions bordering Bangladesh and India.

The trickle of a pro sports comeback in this country is starting to happen following widespread shutdowns due to the coronavirus outbreak.

At a time of widespread layoffs and cutbacks throughout the local news business, a pair of philanthropists is seeking to promote more local coverage from public radio with a gift of $4.7 million for NPR collaborations in the Midwest and California.

The gift from Eric and Wendy Schmidt, the former executive chairman of Google and the head of the Schmidt Family Foundation, respectively, will launch the Midwest regional newsroom and boost the one in California with a focus on investigative reporting and coverage relevant to underserved communities.

As the largest retail chain that remained open during the coronavirus pandemic, Walmart became a huge draw for shoppers. Its sales skyrocketed both in stores and online as people stocked up on food and necessities, as well as supplies to work out, teach, play and work from home.

The retailer says it hired a whopping 235,000 new workers during the health crisis to keep up with big demand at stores and warehouses.

Updated at 3:45 p.m. ET

President Trump is giving the World Health Organization 30 days to commit to substantial changes in how it operates — or he will make his hold on U.S. funding permanent. The threat came in a letter that sharply criticizes the WHO response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its relationship with China.

In the pandemic, families are taking on all kinds of unexpected roles. Here's another one: zookeeper.

When the New York City schools closed in March, my son's teacher, Mary Pfeifer, sent an email to parents, asking who would be willing to invite the classroom pets into their homes — for the duration.

The response was immediate. "It's a very giving community" says Pfeifer, who teaches pre-K through second grade science at PS 58 in Brooklyn.

Editor's note: There has been speculation in the media and via Twitter that DNA fragments of the now-defunct 1918 flu pathogen could be preserved under the permafrost and might pose a potential threat to humans if the warming Earth continues to melt layers of frozen soil. A couple of years ago, NPR investigated that question: Could this pathogen — and others — be revived? A version of this story originally ran in January 2018.

Zac Peterson was on the adventure of a lifetime.

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