Kathy Griffin Shares Cancer Diagnosis, COVID Spikes In These States

Published August 3, 2021 at 7:04 AM EDT
A person holds a child while kissing another person on an athletic track.
Steph Chambers
Getty Images
Allyson Felix kisses her husband Kenneth Ferguson while holding her daughter Camryn during the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials in Eugene, Oregon.

Happy Tuesday ☕

Here's what we're following this morning:

🎧 Also on NPR's daily Up Firstpodcast, Texas voting rights legislation adds new criminal penaltiesfor helping others vote.

— The Morning Edition live blog team

Emily Alfin Johnson, Nell Clark, Nicole Hernandez, Casey Noenickx, Carol Ritchie and Rachel Treisman

Before You Go

Here Are Some 1971 Classics To Bring You Joy This Week

Posted August 3, 2021 at 10:40 AM EDT
Marvin Gaye wears a white suit and walks in front of a black Rolls Royce.
John Minihan/Getty Images
Hulton Archive
Marvin Gaye walks in front of his car in Notting Hill, London, on 6th October 1976. His classic album 'What's Going On' depicted social unrest and was released in 1971.

What do the Shaft soundtrack, a landmark Marvin Gaye album and what NPR's Glen Weldon calls, "Baby's First Post-Structuralist Meta-Narrative" have in common? Well, they're each bringing joy to our panelists from Pop Culture Happy Hour this week and they were also all popular in 1971.

This special edition of Pop Culture Happy Hours' 'What's Making Us Happy This Week' features only classic works from 50 years ago.

That's because if you haven't yet heard, this year marks 50 years since NPR's first broadcast. All across the network we're honoring the anniversary by looking back at what the world was like in 1971.

Click here to see the team's suggestions and to listen to the full episode.


Visitors Are Overwhelming National Parks. Nearby Towns Are Rethinking Their Marketing Tactics

Posted August 3, 2021 at 10:22 AM EDT
A biker with braided hair cross a city intersection filled with a van and other cars, with red mountains and blue sky in front of her.
Claire Harbage/NPR
Traffic in downtown Moab. In the 1950s, it was a sleepy uranium mining town.

Record numbers of tourists are visiting U.S. national parks this summer, eager to get out of the house and into nature.

When parks hit capacity, visitors spill out into the surrounding towns and federal public lands.

The explosion in tourists is prompting some local leaders to stop and ask: “Are we promoting ourselves too much?”

That’s certainly the case in Moab, Utah, home of Arches National Park, where crowds are overwhelming not just the park but the roads, rental homes, nearby canyons, campsites and other beloved local spots.

NPR’s Kirk Siegler went to Moab to hear from local residents and city officials firsthand. Here’s what they told him.

In Case You Missed It

1 in 3 U.S. COVID Cases Last Week Were All in Florida And Texas

Posted August 3, 2021 at 10:15 AM EDT
A woman wearing a blue protective gown and gloves, as well as a black face mask, stands next to a car speaks with the driver through the window.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Getty Images North America
A healthcare worker prepares to give a COVID-19 vaccine at a drive-thru site setup by Miami-Dade and Nomi Health in Miami on July 26. Miami-Dade County has opened five new mobile vaccine and testing sites as COVID-19 cases rise.

One-third of all COVID cases nationwide occurred in Florida and Texas last week, according to Jeffrey Zients, White House COVID-19 response coordinator.

This comes as the CDC reports a 44% increase in daily new cases in the last week of July. Last week's average of daily new COVID-19 cases is "higher than our peak of last summer," according to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

At press briefing at the White House Tuesday, Zients expressed concern about the number of cases of COVID-19 being reported in communities with lower vaccination rates. Zients said about 90 million eligible Americans remain unvaccinated. "Each and every shot matters," Zients added.

How is the vaccination campaign going in your area?Find out here.

According to Zients, over the past two weeks:

  • There's been a 70% increase in the average number of new people getting vaccinated daily.
  • A 50% increase in the average number of 12- to 17-year-olds getting vaccinated daily.

And in the last week, 3 million Americans got their first shot. On Tuesday, the U.S. hit President Biden's July Fourth goal of 70% of adults receiving at least one shot.

Zients said that in the eight states with the highest case rate, the rate at which people are getting vaccinate has also increased.

"While we desperately want to be done with this pandemic, COVID-19 is clearly not done with us," Walensky said Monday, "and so our battle must last a little longer."


Deadly Wildfires Are Still Burning Through Turkey's Southern Coast

Posted August 3, 2021 at 10:02 AM EDT
A firefighter stands in the foreground. Behind him is a wildfire burning trees and creating dark smoke.
YASIN AKGUL/AFP via Getty Images
A firefighter walks ahead of a wildfire on August 2, 2021 in Mugla, Marmaris district, Turkey.

In Turkey, teams are battling a sixth day of wildfires that have already killed eight people and forced thousands to evacuate.

The wildfires burning on the country's southern coast are scorching through farmland, olive groves and some of Turkey's popular resort towns.

Most of the more than100 fires that broke out last week across the country last week are now contained or extinguished. . The cause of the fires remains under investigation, but strong winds and a heat wave sweltering Southern Europe likely played a part. Experts also point to climate change, which has been cited as a factor in severe weather in Europe and China recently.

You can see photos of the damage in Turkey and read more from NPR's Josie Fischels here.


Voters On Both Sides In This Pa. Swing District Worry About Rising Prices

Posted August 3, 2021 at 9:40 AM EDT

As the U.S. economy continues to recover from the pandemic, the prices of goods from groceries to rental cars to airplane tickets are going up.

President Biden has sought to ease fears of persistent inflation, but polls show that many Americans are worried about rising costs.

As NPR White House correspondent Asma Khalid reports, it's becoming a concern for voters across the political spectrum.

"Republicans have been trying to seize on rising prices by warning people that the country is on the verge is of 1970s-style inflation, but what's interesting is when that concern began to move outside of GOP circles, to Democrats and Independents," she says.

To better understand the political significance of these economic trends, Khalid traveled to a place where politics could really be at play at next year's midterm elections: the swing district of Northampton County, Pa.

🎧 Here's what she heard from people there.

National Security

What We Can Learn About The World From More Than A Century Of Countries’ Olympic Medal Counts

Posted August 3, 2021 at 9:30 AM EDT

It's Day 11 of the Olympics, and the U.S. is trailing China in gold medals. They're followed by Japan, Australia, the Russian Olympic Committee and Great Britain. Here's the full tally.

NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre brings us this fascinating history lesson:

“Imagine a Martian trying to make sense of this world, and the only available data are the Summer Olympic medal tables from the past century. How much would that explain? Quite a lot, it turns out. In fact, it would be challenging to find anything else so concise that says so much about the past century as the tables below.”

Here are those tables he’s talking about.They show how the U.S., China, Russia and Germany (the countries that usually win the largest share of medals) have fared at the Games since 1912.


Myre spoke to Morning Edition about what the world’s medal counts can teach us about wars, economics and a country’s overall standing on the global stage.

Listen here.

Election Security

A Texas Voting Bill Would Add Criminal Penalties For Common Voting Mistakes

Posted August 3, 2021 at 9:18 AM EDT
Two Texas lawmakers sit on either side of Vice President Kamal Harris. The three women are at a table among others.
Mandel Ngan
AFP via Getty Images
Texas Democratic lawmakers, including state Reps. Senfronia Thompson (left) and Gina Hinojosa (right), meet with Vice President Harris on June 16 at the White House.

Crystal Mason is facing jail time in Texas for voter fraud. Mason was released from prison for tax evasion several years ago on federal supervised release — and had no idea she couldn’t vote in an upcoming election because she technically hadn’t finished her sentence yet.

“The idea that she was committing fraud never occurred to her, because she voted in her own name, with her own license, she only voted once, she had no attachment to any particular candidate,” said Alison Grinter Allen, Mason’s attorney. "She wasn’t a part of any campaign. It just wasn’t a major event in her life. So she was absolutely shocked when she was arrested."

Hervis Rogers faces a similar situation. He got national attention last year for waiting a grueling six hours to vote in Houston — before it turned out he was also on supervised release when he voted.

All of a sudden you have a situation where people are just trying to help their neighbor, their mom or dad, or even their community members, are going to be staring down a state jail felony if they make innocent mistakes.
Tommy Buser Clancy of the Texas ACLU

Texas Democratic lawmakers have been in D.C. for weeks to block Republicans from passing restrictive voter legislation. State Rep. John Bucy of Austin has been pushing for measures to stop arrests like Mason's and Rogers's.

“All we are trying to do with this language is very much clean up the language so there is no misinterpretation by any D.A. who wants to try to make a name for themselves, which is what happened in Crystal Mason’s case,” Bucy said.

The bill would create new ways to criminally penalize voters for making mistakes, and penalize people who help in certain ways with mail-in voting — for instance, mailing a vote-by-mail application to someone who hasn't requested one.

Studies have shown that voter fraud is extremely rare. State election officials have also told lawmakers that elections are secure in Texas.

Republican State Sen. Bryan Hughes is the sponsor of the Texas voting legislation.

“This bill makes it easier to vote and harder to cheat. Is there voter fraud? Of course there is,” Hughes said. “That is why I have a county commissioner in my district under indictment — out on bail — for mail ballot fraud. This is happening all over the state. We don’t know how pervasive it is. How much fraud is okay? Well, none is okay.”

🎧Listen: Ashley Lopez of NPR member station KUT reports on the restrictive legislation.


Dolly Parton Paid Tribute To Whitney Houston By Investing In Nashville's Black Community

Posted August 3, 2021 at 9:01 AM EDT
Dolly Parton smiles for a photo. She wears a sequined black long sleeve outfit and gold jewelry.
John Lamparski/Getty Images
Getty Images North America
Dolly Parton at a We Are Family Foundation in New York City in 2019.

Country music icon and noted philanthropist Dolly Parton says she used some of the royalties she earned from Whitney Houston's cover of her song "I Will Always Love You" to invest in an office complex in a Black neighborhood in Nashville, Tenn.

During an appearance on the show Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen, Parton said she thought it was an apt way to honor the late Black singer. Houston's cover reportedly earned Parton $10 million in royalties in the 1990s, according to Forbes.

"I just thought, 'This was great. I'm going to be down here with her people, who are my people as well.' And so I just love the fact that I spent that money on a complex. And I think, 'This is the house that Whitney built,'" Parton said.

Read more here.


Kathy Griffin Says She’s Been Diagnosed With Lung Cancer

Posted August 3, 2021 at 8:53 AM EDT
A red-haired woman wearing a black t-shirt looks away from the camera with her mouth closed and eyes upward.
John Sciulli/Getty Images for Playboy Playhouse
Getty Images South America
Kathy Griffin speaks at a Playboy Playhouse panel in 2019. Griffin announced Monday that she has been diagnosed with lung cancer.

Controversial comedian Kathy Griffin revealed on Twitter on Monday that she will undergo surgery for stage one lung cancer.

Griffin said she has never smoked, and that doctors are optimistic because the cancer appears to be contained to her left lung — half of which she is getting removed.

"I should be up and running around as usual in a month or less," she added. "It's been a helluva 4 years, trying to get back to work, making you guys laugh and entertaining you, but I'm gonna be just fine."

Griffin's career took a hit in 2017 after she famously posed for a photo with a mock-severed head of then-President Donald Trump.

She spoke to It's Been A Minute With Sam Sanders in 2019 about life after the infamous photo, when she was fired by CNN, lost work and was threatened by federal officials with the charge of conspiracy to assassinate the president.

"I'm going to have to do this one myself," she said of her comeback. "Like, nobody's got a shovel for me and is going to help me dig my way out of it ... I'm a little bitter, but hopefully funny first."

On Monday, Griffin closed her Twitter announcement by noting that she is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

"The consequences for being unvaccinated would have been even more serious," she said.

She also urged her followers to stay up to date on their medical appointments, adding, "it'll save your life."

Colorado Public Radio Reports

A Vital Colorado Highway May Be Shut For Weeks After Mudslides Worsened By Climate Change

Posted August 3, 2021 at 8:49 AM EDT

As wildfires continue to ravage parts of the Western U.S., damage from last year's fires is now taking its toll on a vital highway in Colorado.

Colorado Public Radio's Nathaniel Minor reports that Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon could be closed for days or even weeks after last week's mudslides.

The slides dislodged rocks, trapped people in their cars overnight and diverted the flow of the Colorado River so that parts of the road are now underwater.

The highway is suspended over the Colorado River in a narrow canyon with steep 1,300-foot high walls, making it especially vulnerable to flash floods and mudslides.

The average monthly rainfall for the area in July is 2.4 inches. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said it's seen nearly twice that in the last five days.

And because last year's wildfires burned up the vegetation that helps soak up water, these heavy rains resulted in some 10 feet of mud blanketing the highway on Thursday.

Polis said at Monday press conference that best-case scenario, one lane in each direction could open in a few days, though they're more likely to be closed for weeks — at significant cost to local economies and families.

"Tens of thousands of cars use the road every day, and in these mountains, the shortest detour over good roads adds at least two and a half hours," Minor says.

Click here to read more from CPR about the extent of the damage and timeline for repairs.

GBH Reports

Underage Boys Are Heading To Grindr Looking For A Safe Space. Instead, They Risk Exploitation

Posted August 3, 2021 at 8:41 AM EDT
A close up of a smartphone screen, as finger hovers above the logo of the app Grindr.
Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty
Photothek via Getty
Photo illustration the app of Grindr. The company says it works hard to avoid underage individuals from accessing the app.

The dating app Grindr is a popular with men seeking other men. But it’s also used by underage boys looking for connections, guidance and support as they navigate their sexual identity. And that can put them at risk of sexual exploitation and trafficking.

Since 2015, more than 100 men across the United States have faced charges related to sexually assaulting or attempting to meet minors for sex on Grindr, according to an investigation by the GBH News Center for Investigative Reporting.

GBH investigative reporter Jenifer McKim has been looking into this as part of an ongoing series about boy victims of the sex trade. Check out her full investigation at wgbh.org.


Louisiana's Current COVID-19 Surge Is Its Worst Yet

Posted August 3, 2021 at 8:32 AM EDT
Lisa Chestang, a paramedic from Mobile, Ala., recites the Pledge of Allegiance with nearly three dozen healthcare workers who arrived from around the country to help supplement the staff at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, La., on Monday. Louisiana has one of the lowest coronavirus vaccination rates in the nation and is seeing one of the country’s worst COVID-19 spikes.
Ted Jackson/AP
FR 171790 AP
Lisa Chestang, a paramedic from Mobile, Ala., recites the Pledge of Allegiance with nearly three dozen healthcare workers who arrived from around the country to help supplement the staff at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, La., on Monday. Louisiana has one of the lowest coronavirus vaccination rates in the nation and is seeing one of the country’s worst COVID-19 spikes.

In Louisiana, which now has the country's highest number of COVID-19 cases per capita, Gov. John Bel Edwards ordered an indoor mask mandate and offered a stark warning Monday:

"Nobody should be laboring under the misapprehension that this is just another surge," he said. "We've already had three of these. This is the worst one we've had thus far."

Dr. Joseph Kanter, an emergency room doctor and the top medical official of Louisiana's health department, spoke with Morning Edition about the increasingly dire situation. 🎧 Listen to the full interview.

Delta changed the game. Kanter says the state went from its lowest to highest-ever number of cases and hospitalizations in just four weeks, and the surge doesn't show signs of slowing.

Hospitals have "never been busier." "We're on track today, short of a divine intervention, to exceed the peak, at any point prior in the pandemic, of the number of hospitalized COVID patients," Kanter says. Large hospital systems have had to cancel procedures and decline patient transfers, and he's heard stories of patients sitting in emergency rooms for four or five days while teams try, unsuccessfully, to find them a bed.

There's a staffing shortage. Many nurses have taken time off, pursued nonclinical jobs or gone back to school after a challenging year. Hospitals are struggling to recruit and retain new nurses, and have had to call in federal disaster assistance medical teams — what Kanter calls a "drastic move" that typically only follows natural disasters.

Vaccines have a new sense of urgency. Only about 37% of Louisiana residents are fully vaccinated. Up until now, Kanter says, there was a sense that a lot of people would get the jab at some point, just not yet. But it's a small state, and many people now know others who are getting sick — and they're scared. The rate of vaccinations has increased fourfold over the past two weeks, and yesterday alone saw 11,000 people opting to begin their vaccine series. He adds: "I guarantee each one of them would rather have done it five weeks ago."

In Case You Missed It
Tokyo Olympics 🥇

For Olympians With Kids, Child Care During Competitions Presents A Major Hurdle

Posted August 3, 2021 at 8:15 AM EDT
An athlete sits on a court during a 2012 Paraolympic sitting volleyball competition.
Dan Kitwood
Getty Images
Lora Webster plays a shot during the Women's sitting volleyball final at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. She is competing in Tokyo this year while pregnant with her fourth.

If you think parenting is stressful, imagine parenting while also competing as a Paralympic athlete.

Lora Webster, who competes in sitting volleyball, is a mother of three, with number four on the way.

"This baby is a surprise and also the timing of it. I never planned to go to Tokyo pregnant," she says.

Like most athletes, she's on her own to pay for child care during the competition. Many female athletes have to choose between parenting and competing.

But Webster just received a $10,000 grant so her mother can take care of her kids in New York while she's competing in Tokyo.

"This money is going to help us just make sure that my parents are taken care of when my mom loses those 10 days of work."

The grant is part of a $200,000 fund set up by the Women's Sports Foundation and the clothing maker Athleta. Track star Allyson Felix, an Olympic gold medal winner competing this year in Tokyo, helped establish the fund. Felix, once criticized her sponsor, Nike, for refusing to pay her while on maternity leave.

A person runs in a candid image from Olympic running competition.
David Ramos
Getty Images
Allyson Felix of Team United States competes in round one of the women's 400m heats on Tuesday in Tokyo.

In 2019 she told Morning Edition:

"Many times, you are still doing appearances, and you're doing work on behalf of the company, and you are still training," Felix explained. "This is not just a Nike issue, this is the industry."

Webster says the child care grant made it much easier to compete.

"Having a child and expanding your family should never be a burden like this, where you have to choose between one dream and the other," Webster said, "And they've really created this opportunity where you don't have to choose."

In this year's Paralympics, she won't have to choose.

More from NPR's Leila Fadel here.


The U.S. Says It Has Shared More Than 110 Million COVID-19 Vaccine Doses Abroad, From Afghanistan To Zambia

Posted August 3, 2021 at 7:25 AM EDT
Workers with neon yellow and orange vests stand under the side of a plane, next to silver freezer boxes.
Alfredo Estrella/AFP via Getty Images
Employees unload shipping containers of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine from the US from an Aero Union airplane at Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City on March 28, 2021.

President Biden is expected to announce this afternoon that the U.S. is on track to deliver 110 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to more than 50 countries, with more on the way.

As NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith explains on Up First, it's a significant milestone but only a start.

"It's more than any other country in terms of donations and yet, when the world needs 10 billion doses to get to where we need to go, it puts that in context that we're a hundred [times] off where we need to be."
- Dr. Krishna Udayakumar, founding director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center

It was a tricky goal to reach. The initial aim was to ship 80 million doses to countries in need by the end of June, but the U.S. didn't hit that number until July. The pace of vaccine sharing has since picked up, with the administration getting more than 100 million doses delivered and another 10 million on the way out the door.

Navigating bureaucratic and logistical barriers:Gayle Smith, the global COVID response coordinator at the State Department, says there’s more to vaccine sharing than just putting doses on a plane. It involved legal and regulatory steps on both sides, with countries having to pass new laws in order to accept the doses. In theory, the next round will be easier to ship.

Spreading doses and delta: The Biden administration secured a contract with Pfizer for another half a billion doses. They’re starting to go out this month, but it could take as much as a year for them to be delivered. Meanwhile, the delta variant is ravaging places with low vaccination rates.

Read more from Keith and Will Stone here. Plus:

The U.S. finally hits a vaccine goal: Now 70% of American adults have had at least one shot, almost exactly one month after Biden's July Fourth target date. See how your state is doing.

International Dispatch

Wuhan Orders Citywide Testing After Eight People Test Positive

Posted August 3, 2021 at 7:09 AM EDT

People wear face masks as they wait in a line to be tested for coronavirus. People in protective suits administer the tests.
STR/AFP via Getty Images
In Wuhan, China, residents wait in line for coronavirus testing on Tuesday. The city is testing its entire population for COVID-19 after the discovery of eight cases in the city.

The fast-spreading delta variant of the coronavirus has been found in China.

Over the last week more than 500 cases of COVID-19 have been identified across the country after the first delta cases were found in the port city of Nanjing. On Tuesday, authorities said they had discovered 90 new cases, concentrated in Jiangsu, Henan, and Hubei provinces.

Authorities have locked down the hardest-hit neighborhoods, including Zhangjiajie, and begun mass testing of all residents. These measures are all part of China’s zero tolerance approach to COVID-19 - to contain it at all costs. The city of Wuhan said it would mass test all 10 million of its residents after discovering eight cases of the virus this week.

Authorities say the delta variant may have come in on the surface of international baggage. From there, infected airport workers passed it on to four travelers who then visited Zhangjiajie, a popular tourist spot known for sharp, vertical mountains that inspired the world in Avatar.

While in Zhangjiajie, they watched a musical performance attended by about one thousand other people.

From there, performance participants spread the delta variant to at least 18 other provinces — including to the city of Wuhan, where the first strain of novel coronavirus was discovered.

Beijing, China’s capital, is being very careful even though they only have 20 COVID-19 cases right now. In a Monday press conference, Beijing health authorities said they are preventing anyone who has been to an area with COVID-19 cases from entering Beijing.

China's immigration authorities also said this week that they are not issuing new passports to their citizens unless there is a pressing need to travel abroad for education or employment.

WPLN Reports

A Pandemic Silver Lining: Laptops Sent Home For Remote Learning Are Helping Parents Learn English

Posted August 3, 2021 at 7:03 AM EDT

When the pandemic hit, Metro Nashville Public Schools distributed nearly 60,000 devices to students learning from home — and created an opportunity for some of their parents, too.

The district’s English learning program for parents used to be only in person, with limited virtual options.

As WPLN’s Alexis Marshall reports, when the district began offering English classes online for adults for the first time this spring, sign-ups more than tripled. And it was so successful that the virtual offerings will continue this fall.

Marshall spoke to students about what this program means to them.
🎧 Listen to the story or read more from WPLN.

Just In
Tokyo Olympics 🥇

Simone Biles Takes Bronze In Individual Balance Beam

Posted August 3, 2021 at 6:00 AM EDT
Simone Biles flies feet above the competition balance beam in a split during the individual finals.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Getty Images
Simone Biles of Team United States competes in the Women's balance beam final on Tuesday at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

American gymnast Simone Biles returned to Olympic competition, winning bronze in the individual balance beam. China’s Guan Chenchen and Tang Xijing won gold and silver. American Sunisa Lee, the individual all-around champion, placed fifth.

It was Biles’ first individual competition of the Tokyo Olympics. She withdrew during the team all-around last week citing the need to focus on her mental health. She then withdrew from each of the individual events in floor, vault and uneven bars. Her return was one of the most anticipated events at the Tokyo Olympics.

Biles smiled both before and after her one-minute and ten-second balance beam performance, looking relieved and happy. Her competitors walked up afterwards and gave her long, sustained hugs.

The result equaled Biles’ Olympic individual performance on the balance beam from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, where she also won bronze.