Start your day here: The world marks Holocaust Remembrance Day

Published January 27, 2022 at 8:12 AM EST
German elected officials, including Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and the speaker of Israel's Knesset parliament, Mickey Levy, pose in front of Reichstag building that houses the German Bundestag in Berlin on Thursday, the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
John MacDougall
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AFP via Getty Images
German elected officials, including Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and the speaker of Israel's Knesset parliament, Mickey Levy, pose in front of Reichstag building that houses the German Bundestag in Berlin on Thursday, the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Good morning.

Here are the top stories we're following today:

Holocaust Remembrance Day: On the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1945, we offerstories of survivors of Nazi atrocities.

A replacement for Justice Stephen Breyer: President Biden is expected to fulfill a campaign promise to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court. Here's what to expect.

A weekend Nor'easter: Forecasters are putting the Northeast on high alert as potential hurricane-force winds could slam the coast with blizzard conditions.

🎧 Also, on Up First, our daily podcast, how Russia is responding to diplomatic moves to lower tensions with Ukraine.

— The Morning Edition live blog team

(Carol Ritchie, Nell Clark, Rachel Treisman and Chris Hopkins)

Coronavirus

Denver children's museum closes temporarily after some guests angrily objected to mask policy

Posted January 27, 2022 at 12:25 PM EST
A worker hands a nasal swab to a motorist at a drive-up COVID-19 testing site Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, in east Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski
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AP
A worker hands a nasal swab to a motorist at a drive-up COVID-19 testing site in Denver on Jan. 13.

A Denver children’s museum has temporarily closed after patrons directed anger at staff over its mask policy.

“We know the stress of the last two years has taken a toll on everyone in our community, but regrettably, some guests who object to the Museum’s mask policy have been inappropriately directing their anger toward our staff,” the Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus said in a message on its website.

The museum remains closed through Feb. 4.

The museum requires patrons to wear masks inside, in accordance with a local public health order. The museum requires all patrons age two and older to wear masks indoors, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Masks must be cloth or disposable and are required to cover the nose and mouth. Face shields and mesh masks are not permitted.

Due to rising COVID-19 cases, the museum said it was not accepting medical exemptions, according to museum policies last updated on Jan. 13. New daily COVID-19 cases peaked in Denver on Jan. 6, according to reports on the city’s dashboard.

Museum President and CEO Michael Yankovich toldThe Washington Post that the museum couldn't disclose details about the incidents that prompted the closure, but he called them “demoralizing” and said they have become intense and frequent.

On its website, the museum said it closed its doors in an effort to “bolster our policies with the hope of preventing this type of behavior in the future.” The museum thanked guests and members who have cooperated with the mask policy, adding: "We are sorry that the unacceptable behavior of others means you cannot enjoy the Museum at this time."

For the record

Idaho man says he completed his goal of breaking 52 world records in a single year

Posted January 27, 2022 at 11:56 AM EST

David Rush of Idaho set out to break one Guinness World Record every week of 2021.

The challenge was simultaneously no small feat and nothing out of the ordinary for Rush, an author, speaker and entertainer who describes himself on his website as "one of the most prolific Guinness World Records title holders on the planet." He says he's broken more than 150 records promoting STEM since late 2015.

"He is the world’s fastest juggler, the world’s slowest juggler, and has the record for most bowling balls juggled, most consecutive ax juggling catches, and longest duration balancing a bicycle on the chin," according to his bio.

Rush started the year off on Jan. 4 by stacking wet bars of soap with his neighbor, he explained in a blog post last week. From there, his missions included bouncing ping pong balls, catching fruit and marshmallows in his mouth, juggling and doing various tasks very quickly.

"I crossed the 200 Guinness World Records broken milestone with one of the 5 hardest for the most kiwis sliced in one minute using a samurai sword while standing on a swiss ball," he wrote. "I revisited my very first record – longest duration blindfolded juggling, this time extended the record from 22 minutes 7 seconds to 32 minutes 7 seconds."

Some of his tasks involved partners. Rush said he broke a couple of records with his wife, and put a bow on the year by wrapping his neighbor in wrapping paper with the help of an accomplice, becoming the fastest pair to do so.

Rush also posted a video compilation of some of those moments:

A spokesperson for Guinness World Records told NPR over email that Rush achieved a total of 43 Guinness World Records titles over the 52 weeks of 2021.

While it's not clear which ones fell short, here are the titles Guinness confirms Rush can officially add to his resume:

  1. Fastest time to wrap a person with wrapping paper (team of two)
  2. Fastest 100 m joggling with three objects whilst blindfolded (male)
  3. Fastest 100 m blindfolded
  4. Most consecutive axe juggling catches
  5. Most passes of a beach ball in one minute (team of two)
  6. Most marshmallows caught by mouth in one minute
  7. Most apples thrown and caught in mouth in one minute
  8. Fastest 10 m balancing a balloon on the face
  9. Farthest distance travelled on an electric unicycle while juggling three objects
  10. Most juggling catches while on a balance board (blindfolded)
  11. Most passes of a giant inflatable ball in three minutes (team)
  12. Fastest time to wrap a person in cling film/plastic wrap
  13. Most thumbtacks inserted into a cork board in one minute
  14. Fastest time to complete a 10 m shuttle run pushing a pram
  15. Most toilet paper rolls balanced on the head
  16. Fastest time to burst ten balloons (team of six)
  17. Most table tennis balls caught in shaving foam on the head in 30 seconds (team of two)
  18. Farthest distance walked balancing a baseball bat on the chin
  19. Most behind-the-back flying disc (frisbee) catches in one minute
  20. Fastest flying disc relay (20 m course)
  21. Most passes of a giant inflatable ball in three minutes
  22. Longest duration balancing a chair on the chin
  23. Most consecutive passes of a giant inflatable ball
  24. Most kiwis sliced on a balance board in one minute
  25. Most grapes thrown and caught in the mouth while juggling in one minute (team of two)
  26. Most consecutive catches of a spinning basketball
  27. Fastest time to flip three water bottles
  28. Most kiwifruits sliced in the air with a sword whilst standing on a Swiss ball in one minute
  29. Longest duration balancing an object on the head
  30. Most juggling catches while on a balance board (blindfolded)
  31. Fastest time to arrange a chess set
  32. Fastest time to arrange a chess set (team of two)
  33. Longest duration juggling three objects whilst on a balance board
  34. Most glasses balanced on a stick held in the mouth
  35. Most T-shirts put on in 30 seconds (team of two)
  36. Most T-shirts put on in one minute (team of two)
  37. Longest duration juggling three objects whilst on a Swiss ball
  38. Most grapes sliced in the air with a sword whilst standing on a Swiss ball in one minute
  39. Most juggling catches on a Swiss ball in one minute (three balls)
  40. Fastest time to bounce a ping pong ball into five cups (team of two)
  41. Most football (soccer) arm rolls in 30 seconds
  42. Most bars of soap stacked in one minute (team of two)
  43. Most drum stick flips in 30 seconds
Art and Culture

A rural hospital in Bangladesh won this year's award for the world's best new building

Posted January 27, 2022 at 11:52 AM EST
A view of the interior outdoor portion of the hospital. A canal snakes through the brickwork and palm trees can be seen.
Asif Salman
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URBANA
Winner of the 2021 RIBA International Prize, Friendship Hospital, designed by Kasef Chowdhury/URBANA.

A major prize for architecture has gone to an 80-bed rural community hospital in Bangladesh with an innovative rainwater collecting canal. The award's panel celebrated the hospital for its human-centered design in harmony with the waterlogged local environment, built with a modest budget and local low-cost materials.

The result is a serene, climate-resilient design with arched areas shaded for seclusion and rest from hot weather, as well as a zigzagging canal with practical uses.

The 2021 RIBA International Prize was awarded to Friendship Hospital, the Royal Institute of British Architects, which awards the prize, reported this week. The award is given every two years to a building that "exemplifies design excellence and architectural ambition and delivers meaningful social impact."

Designed by Bangladeshi architect Kashef Chowdhury of the firm URBANA and completed in 2018, the hospital is run by the non-profit group Friendship, which works with local communities in rural Bangladesh to respond to issues such as lack of access to vital services, poverty and climate change.

Friendship Hospital won the award for the innovative way the building's design scheme melds with the water-laden local environment, which is rapidly changing due to rising sea levels.

Situated in Shyamnagar in the southern region of Bangladesh, the area surrounding the hospital used to be filled with grain fields, but rising sea levels have caused it to be converted into shrimp fisheries, RIBA reports. The hospital's design features a canal that collects rainwater, aids in cooling the site and separates the inpatient and outpatient services.

A view from above shows the hospital's brick buildings and winding canal. The surrounding area are flooded with water like in rice paddies.
Asif Salman
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URBANA
An aerial view of Friendship Hospital.

"Rainwater from all areas of the complex is drained and stored in a newly built tank — an essential resource and tool to prevent water logging as the saline groundwater is unusable for most practical purposes and draining is needed from increasingly incessant rains," RIBA noted in its announcement of the award's winner.

Cyclones, monsoons and snowmelt from the Himalayas can combine to cause catastrophic flooding in Bangladesh, which is also facing increasing impacts from climate change.

Architect Kashef Chowdhury hopes the award may inspire people to commit to architecture that cares for humans and nature simultaneously.

“I am encouraged that this may inspire more of us to commit, not in spite of, but because of limitations of resources and means, to an architecture of care both for humanity and for nature, to rise collectively to the urgencies that we face today on a planetary scale," Chowdhury said.

The winning building was judged by a jury of prominent architects and designers, including French architect and urban planner, Odile Decq.

The longlist for this year's prize included 16 buildings from 11 countries, including the Polygon Gallery in North Vancouver, the Lille Langebro cycle and pedestrian bridge in Copenhagen and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Ala.

Seeking justice

Conn. police probe death of Lauren Smith-Fields, who was found dead after a date in December

Posted January 27, 2022 at 11:46 AM EST

Police in Bridgeport, Conn., have opened a criminal investigation into the death of Lauren Smith-Fields after weeks of criticism over the department's handling of the case.

The 23-year-old Black woman was found dead in her apartment in mid-December, shortly after meeting a man from a dating app. Members of her family have accused the police department of failing to notify them of her death and mishandling the subsequent investigation, and intend to sue over what their attorney described as its "racially insensitive" handling of the case.

The Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Monday ruled Smith-Fields' death an accident resulting from "an overdose of Fentanyl combined with prescription medication and alcohol," according to a police statement shared with NPR over email. It said the Brideport Police Narcotics and Vice Division have opened a criminal investigation and will be assisted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

"The Bridgeport Police Department continues to treat the untimely death of Lauren Smith-Fields as an active investigation as we are now refocusing our attention and efforts to the factors that lead to her untimely death," said chief Rebeca Garcia, adding that several partners will assist with this portion of the investigation and anyone with information should call 203 576-TIPS.

The family's attorney, Darnell Crosland, said on Twitter that the medical examiner's findings had left them with more questions than answers.

"I’ve never seen a medical examiner conclude a mixer of drugs as an accident without knowing who provided the drugs, or how it was ingested," he added. "Lauren didn’t use drugs."

Also on Monday, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim announced that he had referred the police department's handling of the case to its Office of Internal Affairs, saying in a statement shared with NPR that "there is no tolerance for anything less than respect and sensitivity for family members and their loss."

Ganimi added that he shared the "concerns echoed by many about the amount of time and manner a family is informed of a loss," and pledged to work with the police chief to make urgent changes to the department's policies around notifying family members of a death.

"I recognize that the family and the community is experiencing a lot of pain because of the loss of a young woman in addition to unanswered questions and concerns about the way the matter has been handled," Ganim said.

Here's what we know so far.

Smith-Field's date called police after finding her unresponsive

Officers responded to a call for service at Smith-Fields' Bridgeport apartment Dec. 12 and discovered upon arrival that she had "passed away unexpectedly," according to the police department.

They found Smith-Fields lying on her back on the floor, with dried blood in and around her right nostril, according to a police report shared with CNN and other news outlets. (NPR has asked city and police department officials for a copy of the report.)

The man who placed the call was also at the scene when police arrived. His name was redacted in the report, though NBC News has identified him as a 37-year-old white man (many outlets, including NPR, are not releasing his name because he is not facing any charges).

The report said he had been doing chest compressions with the guidance of the emergency operator on the phone, and described him as frantic, "trembling and visibly shaken." He told police that he had met Smith-Fields on the dating app Bumble three days earlier, and had met her for the first time the previous night.

The man told police that Smith-Fields' had invited him over, and the two were taking tequila shots when she became ill and went to the bathroom to vomit. When she returned, he said, they drank more tequila with mixers, played games, ate food and started watching a movie.

Smith-Fields fell asleep on the couch, and the man reportedly carried her to bed and fell asleep next to her. He said he heard her snoring when he woke up early in the morning to use the bathroom. When he woke up again around 6:30 a.m., he saw that she wasn't breathing and had blood coming out of her nose, and called police.

Medics said she had been dead for at least an hour, according to the report.

Her family says the police were dismissive of both evidence and her loved ones

Smith-Fields' family maintains that the police did not notify them of her death, and failed to collect key pieces of evidence from the scene.

Crosland filed a legal notice last week as part of a planned lawsuit against the city and the police department, alleging that — in addition to not properly investigating Smith-Fields' death — police violated the family's civil rights.

Crosland told CNN that Smith-Fields' family only learned of her death two days later, through a note from her landlord. They had visited her apartment because "Christmas dinner was supposed to be at Lauren's house that year" and she hadn't been answering her calls.

"When I got there, there was a note on the door saying, 'If you're looking for Lauren, call this number,'" Shantell Fields, her mother, told CBS News.

Her brother, Tavar Gray-Smith, said a detective later told him they didn't need to reach out to family members because "we had her passport and her ID, so we knew who she was."

Officers did collect some items from the scene — like cash, her passport, a credit card and her cell phone — as evidence, according to the police report.

But Smith-Fields' family says potentially key pieces of evidence weren't processed until two weeks later when police returned to her apartment at their urging. Those include bloodied sheets, drinks, a pill and a condom with semen in it.

The family also alleges that police have refused to interview the man who reported her death as a person of interest.

“When we asked about this guy, [the initial detective on the case said] ‘he was a nice guy, there was no need to investigate,' ” Lauren's father, Everett Smith, told ABC affiliate WTNH.

They also said that the first detective assigned to the case told them to stop calling to ask about the investigation, and at one point hung up on her father. They were told that the detective has since been removed from the investigation, CBS News reports.

Crosland told CNN that the family "is not paranoid" about the racial insensitivity they have perceived. He pointed to the different level of resources and attention given to the investigation into Gabby Petito's disappearance and death last fall, which many have noted was disproportionate to the kind of attention typically given to missing Indigenous women and people of color.

"We will not stop until we get justice for Lauren and the thousands of Black girls that go missing in this country every year," Crosland said. "We owe them equal rights and justice regardless of race and we wouldn't stop fighting until we get it."

The family's push for justice is gaining national attention

Sunday would have been Smith-Fields' 24th birthday. Supporters and community members marked it with a rally, marching from the police department to the city government center to demand answers from officials.

Smith-Fields' family reflected on her life and called for humanity and justice in the investigation into her death.

The Stamford High School track star was studying cosmetology at Norwalk Community College and owned her own business on the side, according to News 12 Westchester. Her brothers remembered her as bubbly, kind-hearted and funny.

"No one is going to discard my daughter like she is rubbish," Fields said, according to footage from the rally. "She is not rubbish. She had a life, she had a business, she was in college and she had a family and friends that love her."

Her family reiterated calls for the state to conduct an independent probe, and for legislators to pass a law that would require families to be notified of relatives' death in a timely manner. State Sen. Dennis Bradley said he had submitted a bill on the matter, WTNH reports.

They have also reportedly paid out of pocket for an independent autopsy, and have set up an online fundraising pagein the hopes of hiring a private investigator to conduct their own parallel investigation.

Bumble has released several statements in the wake of Smith-Fields' death. In an initial statement shared with NPR, a spokesperson said the company had contacted her family directly to offer support and was ready to provide information as requested by law enforcement. A Bumble spokesperson later told NPR that "law enforcement has not requested any customer information to date."

Its most recent statement came in the form of an Instagram post on Wednesday, in which it said "we continue to be unsettled by this loss" and called for a "thorough and serious investigation."

Buzzfeed News notes that people have been posting about the case — and lack of progress — on social media apps like TikTok and Instagram for weeks. Rapper Cardi B also tweeted about the tragedy over the weekend, which Crosland later told TMZ was "instrumental" in getting the police to open a criminal probe.

The growing calls for justice, and the announcement of a criminal investigation, have prompted an explosion in national media coverage in recent days.

"Lauren was bright," her brother, Tavar Gray-Smith, told CBS. "She had a future, and the world knows she should be here, and that's why [the news is] going viral like it is."

Law

An ex-pastor and a lay leader of the AME Zion Church are facing federal fraud charges

Posted January 27, 2022 at 11:41 AM EST
 Staccato Powell, a former bishop in the AME Zion Church, and Sheila Quintana are charged with conspiracy, wire fraud, and mail fraud, federal prosecutors announced.
Erich Rau / EyeEm/Getty Images/EyeEm
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EyeEm
Staccato Powell, a former bishop in the AME Zion Church, and Sheila Quintana are charged with conspiracy, wire fraud, and mail fraud, federal prosecutors announced.

A former pastor and a lay leader in the AME Zion Church are facing federal criminal charges related to a property scheme they allegedly hatched on congregations across California.

Staccato Powell and Sheila Quintana are being charged with conspiracy, wire fraud, and mail fraud, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

According to the indictment, Powell and Quintana “re-deeded” the property of local congregations in Oakland, San Jose, Palo Alto and Los Angeles in the name of Western Episcopal District, Inc., an entity formed by the pair. Powell and Quintana made “false statements and material omissions” to obtain the deeds from local pastors, prosecutors say.

The pair then allegedly used “fake resolution documents” that purported to show the local congregations had agreed to new mortgages on church properties when in reality they hadn’t.

Prosecutors say Powell, Quintana and others not named in the indictment used the properties as collateral to secure high-interest loans exceeding $14 million in net proceeds. The pair then used some of the money to pay for properties for Powell in North Carolina, retire mortgage debt on his home in North Carolina and make cash payments to Quintana’s spouse, the indictment says.

Powell was disrobed as a bishop last year, and church leaders said that half a dozen churches were in court over the deed changes and at least one was lost to foreclosure, Religion News Service reported.

Powell issued a document defending himself at the time, according to Religion News Service, claiming he “innovatively employed sophisticated financing of church property” to further the church’s mission. An attorney for Quintana was not immediately available for comment; neither has yet to issue a plea in the case.

According to the church website, Powell was the presiding prelate of the Western Episcopal District, where he oversaw churches in the Alaska, California, Colorado, Oregon-Washington and Southwest Rocky Mountain Conferences. Quintana was the Western Episcopal District’s chief operating officer.

Powell, 62, and Quintana, 67, each face one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud as well as two counts of wire fraud. Powell faces an additional count of mail fraud.

World

The U.S. and NATO stress a ‘united front’ on Ukraine as European leaders worry about internal divisions

Posted January 27, 2022 at 11:21 AM EST
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron give a joint press conference ahead of talks at the Chancellery on Tuesday in Berlin, Germany.
Kay Nietfeld
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Pool/Getty Images
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron give a joint press conference ahead of talks at the Chancellery on Tuesday in Berlin, Germany.

As the U.S. and NATO stressed a “united front” in their response to Russia’s security demands, European leaders are working their own diplomatic avenues to end the tensions and worry that talk of a Russian invasion of Ukraine could be deepening divisions among them.

On Wednesday, the same day U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned of “steep consequences” facing Russia should Putin refuse to de-escalate, France hosted its own diplomatic meeting with representatives from Germany, Russia and Ukraine.

French President Emmanuel Macron has urged Europe to take Putin down a path of de-escalation and said that the European Union will use every tool in its diplomatic toolbox to avoid a major war. For its part, Germany has refused to provide military aid directly to Ukraine – other than helmets – saying it will not send weapons into a crisis zone.

But efforts by France and Germany at a Europe-led diplomatic push are complicated by Putin’s desire for dialogue with the U.S., says French political analyst Christian Markarian.

“Putin wants the Europeans to understand that between Russia and America there is nothing. Russia is a superpower, America is a superpower, and Europe is not,” Markarian said.

The approaches taken by France and Germany could be at odds with fellow NATO members Poland and the Baltic states, which favor a harder line against Russia.

And political divisions – both across the Atlantic and among Europeans – only serve to help Putin, experts say.

“I think there’s an awareness now that the West cannot afford to appear divided in front of the Russian threat. And there’s also an awareness that this crisis and this conflict is larger than Ukraine,” said Sylvie Kauffmann, editorial director of France's Le Monde newspaper.

The Russian government’s security demands include a guarantee that Ukraine will not join NATO and the withdrawal of NATO military personnel and equipment from states neighboring Russia that joined the alliance after 1997.

Health care

A record-breaking 14.5 million sign up for the Affordable Care Act

Posted January 27, 2022 at 10:39 AM EST
The healthcare.gov website in December.
Alex Brandon
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AP
The healthcare.gov website in December.

A recording-breaking 14.5 million Americans have signed up for the Affordable Care Act, President Biden said in a statement today.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 1 in 7 Americans without insurance gained coverage between the end of 2020 and September 2021. Lower-income Americans got covered at the highest rate.

“Health care should be a right, not a privilege, for all Americans,” Biden said. “And one year into my Administration, we are making that right a reality for a record number of people.”

Biden cited the American Rescue Plan, adding that it did more to increase accessibility and lower costs to health care than any action since the Affordable Care Act, which was enacted 11 years ago.

The American Rescue Plan, which Congress approved in March, increasedthe number of people eligible to save on health care coverage. Under the plan, 3.6 million uninsured people were estimated to become eligible for savings, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Four out of 5 consumers are paying less than $10 per month for their plans, according to the statement.

Estimates from a National Health Interview Survey, published in Feburary 2021, showed that 11.1% of U.S. residents under 65 did not have health insurance as of January-June 2020.

Biden urged uninsured Americans who live in areas with their own health insurance marketplaces to get insured by Jan. 31.

Remembrance

A sculptor unveils a statue of Kobe and Gigi Bryant at the crash site where they died

Posted January 27, 2022 at 10:25 AM EST

A sculpture of NBA great Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant was placed Wednesday at the site where they perished along with seven other people in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles two years ago.

The 160-pound bronze statue depicts the pair wearing basketball uniforms and sharing a loving glance. Gigi holds Kobe’s hand as it rests on her shoulder.

Sculptor Dan Medina was on hand to greet fans who made the 1.3-mile hike to the site to pay their respects to the sports legend.

“This is all on my own, no one asked me to do it,” said Medina.

“On this day, the second anniversary of the accident, I decided to bring it up from sunrise to sunset and create a bit of a healing process for fans,” he told Reuters. “Today was special because I witnessed a lot of that. People would come up and they would leave with some sort of satisfaction.”

Engraved on the statue’s steel pedestal are the names of all nine victims of the early morning crash in foggy weather on Jan. 26, 2020. It also includes an inscription of Bryant’s famous quote: “Heroes come and go, but legends are forever.”

A five-time NBA champion in his 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant’s death at age 41 shocked the world of professional sports and sent his legions of fans into mourning.

Gigi was 13 at the time of the crash, which occurred as they were headed to a youth basketball tournament.

Sports

Ash Barty breaks a 42-year drought by reaching the Australian Open final

Posted January 27, 2022 at 9:16 AM EST

Ash Barty will play U.S. tennis star Danielle Collins in the Australian Open final on Saturday, becoming the first Australian woman to reach the final of her home major tournament in 42 years.

Barty beat U.S. player Madison Keys in a businesslike match Thursday, taking just over an hour to win 6-1, 6-3.

While it’s a feat simply to reach the final of a Grand Slam, Barty, the world’s no. 1 player, wants to break a 44-year drought: the last Australian woman to win the Australian Open title was Chris O'Neil, in 1978.

"It's just incredible," Barty said in an on-court interview after her win, discussing the possibility of winning a Grand Slam on home soil.

"I'm just happy that I get to play my best tennis here,” she said. “I enjoy it, I've done well before and now we have a chance to play for a title. It’s unreal."

Barty, 25, has been dominant in this tournament, in which she hasn’t lost a single set. After the match, a reporter asked Keys what it’s like to play her in top form.

“It’s tough. It sucks,” Keys said with a laugh. “She’s just playing incredibly well” in all aspects of her game.

Keys, who was unseeded, had been on a remarkable run in Australia, where she captured the title in the WTA’s tune-up tournament in Adelaide. After losing to Barty, Keys said she was disappointed -- but she added that she’ll also have more confidence for her 2022 campaign.

“All in all, after the year that I’ve had, I’m pretty happy with my summer in Australia,” Keys said.

Collins, 28, will be playing in the first Grand Slam final of her career. Currently ranked no. 30 in the world, she dispatched Iga Swiatek, the tourney’s seventh seed, 6-4, 6-1. After bouncing back from medical issues in 2021 -- including surgery for endometriosis -- Collins has been able to dictate play by crushing baseline strokes in Melbourne.

"Feels amazing,” Collins said after reaching the final, according to the Australian Open website. “It's been such a journey and it doesn't happen overnight. It's so many years of hard work and hours in an early age on court.”

"All the early mornings my dad would practice with me before school, and it's just incredible to be on the stage," she added. "Especially with the health challenges, I'm just so grateful. I couldn't be happier."

For Barty to make history, she’ll have to beat her fourth U.S. opponent in a row. Amanda Anisimova remains the only player to break Barty’s serve, in the fourth round. Barty then beat Jessica Pegula in the quarters, before setting her sights on Keys and a trip to the final against Collins.

International

On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, revisit NPR's stories from survivors

Posted January 27, 2022 at 8:51 AM EST
Six people in dark coats and face masks stand amidst the grey blocks of Berlin's Holocaust memorial, with wreaths of flowers placed on those immediately in front of them.
Sean Gallup
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Getty Images
From left, German Federal Constitutional Court President Stephan Harbarth, Bundestag President Baerbel Bas, Israeli Knesset President Mickey Levy, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Bundesrat President Bodo Ramelow attend a wreath-laying ceremony on International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe on Thursday in Berlin.

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1945.

Nearly two decades ago, the United Nations General Assembly designated Jan. 27 an annual day of commemoration for its member states, in honor of the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and millions of other victims of Nazism. (In addition to marking the anniversary of Auschwitz-Birkenau, many countries hold national commemoration ceremonies on other dates connected to the Holocaust).

Remembrance Day also aims to promote Holocaust education, an especially timely mission with antisemitic incidents and Holocaust denialism on the rise in the U.S. and other parts of the world.

Notably, today's event arrives less than two weeks after a gunman held a rabbi and three others hostage for hours at a synagogue in the suburbs of Fort Worth, Texas.

And it comes as outrage is building over a Tennessee school board's decision to ban the Pulitzer Prize-winning Holocaust graphic novel "Maus" — over concerns about profanity and nude imagery (despite the characters being cartoon mice) — earlier this month, at a time when conservatives in many states seek to dictate how schools teach sensitive topics like racism and sexual health. In October, a Texas district made headlines after an administrator reportedly instructed teachers to provide students with "opposing" views of the Holocaust.

In the U.S., President Biden will mark the day by inviting Auschwitz survivor Bronia Brandman — who lost her parents and four of five siblings and didn't speak of her experience for half a century — to share her story at the White House.

Biden said in a statement that the world has an obligation to honor victims, learn from survivors, pay tribute to rescuers and carry on the lessons of the Holocaust, a charge he described as especially urgent since fewer and fewer survivors remain.

"From the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, to a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, we are continually and painfully reminded that hate doesn’t go away; it only hides," Biden said. "And it falls to each of us to speak out against the resurgence of antisemitism and ensure that bigotry and hate receive no safe harbor, at home and around the world."

He added that it is imperative to "teach accurately about the Holocaust and push back against attempts to ignore, deny, distort, and revise history," noting that the U.S. co-sponsored a U.N. resolution this month charging the global community with combating Holocaust denial through education.

The U.N. designates each remembrance day with a guiding theme. This year, it's "Memory, Dignity and Justice." The theme aims to encourage action to challenge hatred, strengthen solidarity and champion compassion, as the U.N. explains on its website.

"The writing of history and the act of remembering brings dignity and justice to those whom the perpetrators of the Holocaust intended to obliterate," it says. "Safeguarding the historical record, remembering the victims, challenging the distortion of history often expressed in contemporary antisemitism, are critical aspects of claiming justice after atrocity crimes."

In that spirit, here is the U.N.'s full listof virtual ceremonies, seminars and cultural events running today and well into the month of February. Those include the U.N. Holocaust Memorial Ceremony, which will be livestreamed worldwide between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. ET. Additional educational resources and another ceremony livestream are available from the website of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

And what better way to remember than by hearing the stories of Holocaust survivors themselves? We've collected some of NPR's recent coverage and interviews below.

Weather

A major snowstorm is expected to blanket the Northeast this weekend

Posted January 27, 2022 at 8:43 AM EST
People shovel snow in a residential area. The tress are blanketed with snow, which is still falling.
Joseph Prezioso
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AFP via Getty Images
People shovel snow during a snowstorm in Saugus, Mass., on Jan. 7.

A major winter storm known as a nor'easter is expected to bring strong winds, heavy snow and possible coastal flooding to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic beginning Friday, the National Weather Service reports.

The National Weather Service is tracking the storm's development and has issued winter storm watches for Friday evening through Saturday evening for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. The storm will bring the potential for blizzard conditions and is expected to see the most significant snowfall Friday evening, with some lighter snow possible that afternoon. Forecasters say it is still too soon to know how much total snow will fall across the region, but major impacts are expected.

"It has been a live-or-die-by-every-model-timestep sort of night here at the office. And what the models give, they also take away, which basically describes the model variability we have seen the past couple of days," the NWS wrote in its forecast Thursday morning.

Powerful winds will be a big factor of the storm, likely producing gusts of up to 30 or 40 mph, witheven higher gusts possible in higher elevations or along the coast, forecasters warn.

Depending on the winter storm's development over the next two days, impacts could be felt farther south along the East Coast and into North Carolina.

Because the storm is difficult to fully forecast, the National Weather Servicepoints out that snow or ice totals can vary greatly over short distances, making it essential to check weather.gov for frequent updates to stay safe.

Nor'easters are big storms notorious for dropping significant snowfall in a short period of time, often causing power outages and transportation disruptions.Past nor’easters have caused billions of dollars in damage, brought severe disruptions, and in some cases, caused disastrous coastal flooding.

They often strike along the 1-95 corridor, the heavily populated region between Washington, D.C., and Boston, and their strongest coastal winds typically blow from the northeast, which is where their name comes from.

Jan. 6 Insurrection

Capitol police officer gives his first interview on Jan. 6: 'It could have easily been a blood bath'

Posted January 27, 2022 at 8:21 AM EST
U.S. Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman arrives at the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021 in Washington.
Win McNamee
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Getty Images
U.S. Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman arrives at Joe Biden's inauguration at the Capitol in January 2021.

U.S. Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, widely seen as a hero for his bravery during the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, has broken his silence.

Speaking on an episode of the podcast3 Brothers No Sense — co-hosted by another Capitol police officer, Byron Evans — Goodman publicly described his experiences during the deadly riot for the first time.

“It could have turned. I heard stories of people being armed … ” Goodman said of the insurrection. “It could have easily been a bloodbath. Kudos to everyone there that showed a measure of restraint with deadly force because it could have been bad. Really, really bad.”

Goodman became famous last year after a viral video from the attack showed how Goodman’s heroism and, as he described it, “situational awareness” helped prevent further loss of life.

In the video, Goodman can be seen leading a mob of predominantly white Trump supporters away from the door leading to the Senate floor. The supporters were attempting to prevent the certification of the 2020 presidential election. By diverting the mob up a flight of stairs, he provided time for lawmakers and former Vice President Mike Pence to escape.

Another video depicts Goodman running down a Capitol hallway and warning Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, to head in the other direction to escape the mob.

Here’s how Goodman described the critical encounter with Romney:

  • “What people don’t know is that when I passed by Mitt Romney … I had just come from another tunnel where other officers were. I was communicating on the radio and all that. When I got down there, down the stairs, and got confronted by all of them, I was backpedaling to where I had last seen help. They looked to be coming my way, but I wasn’t sure."

One of the hosts then joked whether Goodman had considered not helping Romney, which he quickly rejected:

  • “It didn’t [cross my mind]. When I got confronted, I didn’t know they had gotten that far up into the building … When you see me come up the stairs [in the video] … and you see me look, before I went down there, [the Trump supporters] were actually out there and standing around. I told [the other officers] I think they are downstairs. So when I went down there and got confronted [by the mob], I thought, ‘Oh, they are actually in the building’ … They locked eyes on me right away. Like that, I was in it. It was not a matter of leaving them alone. They would have followed me anyways.”

Goodman, an Army veteran who served in Iraq, suggested that his military experience and training were critical.
“It all came together in that moment. I wasn’t thinking about the military when I was in that moment, but it all came together in that moment …” he said. “I was just in Go Mode.”

While Goodman said he was concerned with de-escalating the situation with the mob, his first priority was his and others’ safety.

“In any situation like that you want to de-escalate, but you also want to survive first,” he said.

As for why Goodman has declined interviews despite receiving numerous honors for his efforts, including a Congressional Gold Medal, he indicated that he’s struggled with the negative aspects of his celebrity.

“I have my ups and downs with the popularity because I tell people, you have to take the bad with the good,” he said.

“Man, people say you should embrace [the celebrity] but I say, ‘Yeah but then I have to embrace the negativity too.’ I’m trying to steer clear. That’s mostly why I haven’t done any interviews. I don't want any part of the negativity.”

The full interview with Goodman is available here (he starts talking around the 11-minute mark).

Politics

With Breyer retiring, all eyes are on the Black women Biden could pick to replace him

Posted January 27, 2022 at 8:11 AM EST
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, wearing a black robe and round glasses, sits looking at the camera.
Erin Schaff
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POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Associate Justice Stephen Breyer sits during a group photo of the Justices at the Supreme Court in April.

Justice Stephen Breyer, an influential liberal on the Supreme Court, will be retiring after more than two decades in the role. He is expected to formally announce the news at the White House today.

"Breyer — professorial, practical and moderately liberal — wrote many of the court's legally important but less glamorous decisions and sought, behind the scenes, to build consensus for centrist decisions on a conservative court," as NPR's legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg put it.

The 83-year-old justice spoke with Totenberg back in September about wanting to retire on his own terms, despite mounting calls from progressives to step down so that President Biden could replace him with a younger liberal.

His departure gives Biden his first opportunity to name a new justice to the majority-conservative court, and fulfill a 2020 campaign promise to name a Black woman.

Two names we're hearing a lot about are federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was on President Barack Obama's shortlist for the court in 2016, and California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, who served as assistant and then deputy solicitor general in both Democratic and Republican administrations prior to her nomination to California's highest court. Here's more on what to expect.

For more insight on who Biden might pick and how the process could work, Morning Edition's Rachel Martin spoke with Christopher Kang, co-founder and chief counsel of advocacy group Demand Justice — who also helped vet and select more than 200 judicial nominees during his time in the Obama administration.

Listen to the interview or keep reading for highlights.

On the legacy Breyer leaves behind:

Kang says Breyer has written powerful decisions with respect to protecting access to abortion, which he considers especially relevant this term with the Republican supermajority appearing poised to overturn Roe v. Wade.

"He's seen a lot of change, he's been on the right side of history of so many important cases, but I also think that his decision to step aside now and ensure that President Biden can nominate a successor while Democrats control the Senate is an important decision as well," he said.

On the leading contenders:

Kang describes Jackson as the top contender, noting the D.C. Circuit Court on which she serves is "often considered the second-most important court in the country." She has nearly a decade of experience as a federal judge and also "embodies Biden's commitment to professional diversity," he adds.

She's spent time as a federal public defender, representing people accused of crimes who can't afford lawyers, and has also served as a sentencing commissioner. Kang points out that experience on the criminal side has been lacking on the Supreme Court, which hasn't had a lawyer who has represented defendants in criminal cases since Thurgood Marshall retired nearly three decades ago.

Jackson is also related by marriage to former Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who introduced her with glowing remarks when she was nominated to the D.C. District Court last year — which Kang says speaks to the bipartisan support she would have if nominated.

Kruger, the California Supreme Court justice who also served in the Obama administration, is also on the list. Very few Black women have risen to the level she has in the nation's courts, Kang says.

On what might happen next

NPR and other outlets are reporting that Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wants to move fast, the way that Republicans ushered along the 30-day nomination process for Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

"Republicans set this precedent of confirming a Supreme Court nomination 30 days after the president put the name forward, and I think that should be the expectation this time around as well," Kang says.

Democrats could confirm a nominee with their 50 Senate votes plus Vice President Kamala Harris' tiebreaker. But Kang expects the vote won't fall solely along party lines, noting that Jackson was confirmed to her current position by the same Senate less than a year ago, with three Republican votes.

"I think that anybody who the president is looking at, [a] highly qualified, historic nominee, is going to bring that kind of bipartisan support," he says.

On the flip side, however, he predicts that the first Black woman nominee will face "a lot of bad faith attacks" — in the form of more aggressive questioning or double standards as far as knowledge of the law — as he says has been the case with other people of color and women of color that the president has nominated to judgeships and other positions.