Rachel Martin | WGLT

Rachel Martin

The podcast Song Exploder lets your favorite musicians tell you how they made your favorite songs. Now, host Hrishikesh Hirway is showing you that story, via a new version of the show adapted for Netflix. Each episode starts at the beginning — the very first moment of inspiration. Then we get to see each layer: the percussion, the bass line, the lyrics.

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So if you were kind of cringing during the first presidential debate, you are not alone.

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In the 1970s, there were few singer-songwriters more beloved than Cat Stevens. A lot has changed since his landmark album Tea for the Tillerman. For one, he's a grandfather. For two, he's not even Cat Stevens anymore: He's gone by Yusuf Islam, or simply Yusuf, since his conversion to the Muslim faith later that decade.

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Rachel, here in Los Angeles, the air was just nasty all weekend from some wildfires that are not very far from here. But it is so much worse as you go up the coast.

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It can be helpful to focus on the wonder of the natural world when so much of what is happening around us feels out of our control.

Poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil's new book aims to help introduce readers to nature's marvels — it's called World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks and Other Astonishments.

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RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: And at this point, Noel and I are going to take over the show for a few minutes because we have both been riveted, obsessed - shall I use that word? - by an...

NOEL KING, BYLINE: Oh, yeah.

It was Memorial Day, May 25th, 2020. The coronavirus had locked down the country for weeks. Tens of thousands had died. Millions were out of work. And in Minneapolis, a 46-year-old Black man named George Floyd went to buy a pack of cigarettes.

Floyd's stop ended with a police officer's knee dug into his neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd begged for his life, called for his mother and repeatedly told the police, "I can't breathe." His cries went unanswered and he died in police custody.

"In a battle for facts, in a battle for truth, journalism is activism," says Philippine journalist Maria Ressa.

Ressa, who is internationally known and lauded for standing up to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's escalating attacks on the press, tells NPR that circumstances in the Philippines have forced her to evolve as a journalist.

Mark Shaver hadn't seen his 96-year-old mother, Betty, in months when he hit a breaking point and decided he had to see her.

Shaver lived in South Carolina and Betty was in a nursing home in Morgantown, W.Va., when COVID-19 outbreaks began sweeping across the nation. By early March, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice requested that nursing homes in the state restrict visitors, blocking any real chance Shaver would have to see his mom in person.

Phoebe Bridgers is the first to admit that she's not reinventing herself on her new album. "There's nothing avant-garde about it," she says of Punisher, her second solo record and fourth major musical project in the last three years. Even so, there's a quiet, assertive power to Punisher.

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Former Defense Secretary and CIA chief Robert Gates said Thursday that it was "misguided" and "a bad mistake" to push away peaceful protesters at St. John's Church in Washington, D.C., where they had congregated on June 1 after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

The area was cleared with chemical irritants before President Trump took a photo with the Bible in front of the church.

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More than 100,000 Americans have now died from COVID-19.

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The world's top health officials are warning that there could be a "second peak" of coronavirus infections during the current outbreak, separate from a second wave expected in the fall. As cases decline, officials worry that some countries are lifting restrictions too quickly — the U.S. among them.

What's key to understanding the different patterns emerging around the globe is recognizing that "this coronavirus is not the flu," said Dr. Margaret Harris, a member of the World Health Organization's coronavirus response team.

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Demonstrators brought traffic to a halt in south Minneapolis after a black man was killed in police custody on Monday night.

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After the death of Ahmaud Arbery, Morning Edition asked for your reactions to the killing in the shape of a poem. The 25-year-old black man was shot and killed by two white men while he was out for a jog in February in Glynn County, Ga.

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Much of the country is reopening slowly. But it's not like businesses are just jumping back in at full force.

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The coronavirus spread rapidly throughout crowded cities in the country. But one rural area has more COVID-19 cases per capita than nearly any other place in the United States: the Navajo Nation.

When Dr. Vivek Murthy was surgeon general of the United States during the Obama administration, he went on a listening tour of America: He wanted to hear firsthand about people's health concerns.

That meant addressing opioid addiction, diabetes and heart disease. And one more thing — something he wasn't really prepared for — the number of Americans suffering from a lack of human connection. Loneliness, he learned, was impacting them not only mentally but also physically.

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How safe is it for Americans to return to work, whether it's to auto factories in Michigan or tattoo parlors in Georgia?

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Earlier this month, NPR issued a poetry challenge: submit lines describing how you've been affected by the global coronavirus pandemic.

NPR's poet-in-residence Kwame Alexander pointed to Nancy Cross Dunham's poem, "What I'm Learning About Grief," and asked that submissions begin with those same words.

The responses were deeply emotional and vividly captured some of the ways you are coping with uncertainty and crisis.

For nearly three years, Mark Green led the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in delivering foreign aid to countries in need during times of crisis, including the coronavirus pandemic.

Vinton County, Ohio, has been on the front lines of the opioid crisis in the U.S. for several years. The drugs may have changed over the years — from opioids to meth — but the devastating effects on families have not. And even though the county hasn't had high infection rates of the coronavirus, the necessary social restrictions have made it harder to keep people addicted to drugs and their children safe.

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Several states begin to reopen this week. Before that can happen everywhere, though, a robust contact tracing system has to be in place.

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In this time of uncertainty and crisis, poetry can bring positivity, insight and comfort. Morning Edition wants to hear from those whose lives have been affected by COVID-19 — in the form of a poem.

We want to hear your poems on mourning, on resilience, on your hopes and dreams in the midst of the global pandemic. Here is an example posted to our poetry Facebook group by Nancy Cross Dunham:

The Clark Sisters — Jackie, Dorinda, Denise, Twinkie and Karen — were one of the most important gospel groups of the 20th century. The sisters grew up in Detroit and learned to sing from their mother, Mattie Moss Clark, a renowned gospel singer in her own right. With her help, the Clark Sisters went on to win three Grammy awards and become the top-selling female gospel group of all time. Simply put, they changed the sound of modern gospel music.

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Amanda Tackett was asleep at home in Florida when she got a call in the middle of the night.

AMANDA TACKETT: You know, when the phone rings at 2:30 in the morning, it's usually never a good thing.

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