Mary Louise Kelly

The COVID-19 response plan that President Biden unveiled last week aims to dramatically increase the accessibility of rapid tests for the coronavirus.

The Biden administration announced it was spending $2 billion on 280 million quick-turnaround tests to be distributed to community health centers, food banks, testing sites, shelters, prisons and other congregate settings. It's also leaning on Walmart, Amazon and Kroger to sell rapid tests at wholesale cost for the next three months.

How is Afghanistan's health system faring amid the Taliban takeover?

To get a perspective, NPR spoke on Thursday with Filipe Ribeiro, the country representative for Doctors Without Borders, to find out where things stand for patients and health workers in the organization's hospitals and clinics across Afghanistan.

Updated August 16, 2021 at 7:30 PM ET

Kabul fell on Sunday, reestablishing Taliban rule over Afghanistan for the first time in 20 years. Leaders of the militant group who've spent years fighting are suddenly in control of the whole country, with their internal divisions and actions affecting the lives of millions of Afghans.

At the height of his career, former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was one of the most influential leaders of the Catholic Church in the U.S., heading the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. Last week, he became the first U.S. Cardinal to be criminally charged with a sexual crime against a minor, making the 91-year-old the highest-ranking Catholic Church official in the country to face criminal charges for clergy sexual abuse.

Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona is batting away criticism that her bipartisan approach to legislating is bad for her party.

To Sinema, a moderate, bipartisanship is the way Washington should work.

"We know that the American people are asking for us to take action," she told NPR's All Things Considered. "What they don't want to see is us sit on our hands, waiting until we get every single thing that we want. ... That all-or-nothing approach usually leaves you with nothing."

CIA Director William Burns says he has redoubled the agency's efforts to uncover the cause of Havana syndrome — the mysterious set of ailments that has afflicted more than 200 U.S. officials and family members around the world.

Coronavirus cases and deaths in the U.S. are down dramatically from last winter's peaks, but the road ahead could still be a long one, with the rapid spread of the delta variant — now the dominant strain of the virus in the U.S. — and mounting questions over how effective current vaccines are against it.

Hundreds of rescue workers are still searching for survivors in the rubble of the collapsed Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Fla. As of Tuesday, 32 people have been reported dead, and 113 are still missing.

Mental health counselors are also on the scene, helping families whose loved ones have been confirmed dead and those still waiting for news of missing loved ones.

Geneva is crawling with spies right now, says a longtime CIA veteran.

Intelligence agents from the U.S. and Russia are out in force as President Biden prepares to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, says Daniel Hoffman. Hoffman served as CIA station chief in Moscow for five years, and had assignments elsewhere in Europe, the Middle East and South Asia.

Tanitoluwa Adewumi, a 10-year-old in New York, just became the country's newest national chess master.

At the Fairfield County Chess Club Championship tournament in Connecticut on May 1, Adewumi won all four of his matches, bumping his chess rating up to 2223 and making him the 28th youngest person to become a chess master, according to US Chess.

"I was very happy that I won and that I got the title," he says, "I really love that I finally got it."

Scores of teenage schoolgirls are dead, killed by unknown bombers on Saturday as they were leaving school in Kabul, Afghanistan.

The attackers appeared to have targeted girls. More than 80 people were killed and about 150 injured, most of them girls of high school age. Most were from poor families; many weaved carpets in addition to studying to support their families.

It was the deadliest bombing targeting civilians in at least a year in Afghanistan.

Scientists and public health experts agree that masks are effective at lowering the spread of the coronavirus indoors, where the vast majority of transmission is likely to occur.

But what about outside?

About two dozen states have statewide mask mandates that generally require people to wear masks outside when they're not able to stay at least 6 feet apart. Many cities have their own rules.

College-bound high schoolers are making their final deliberations ahead of May 1, the national deadline to pick a school. That day will mark the end of a hectic admissions season drastically shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many colleges dropped standardized testing requirements, and because some high schools gave pass/fail grades and canceled extracurriculars and sports, admissions counselors had to change how they read and evaluate applications.

It's no secret why poor countries don't have as many vaccines as rich countries.

"There's really just a scarcity of doses," says Kate Elder, senior vaccine policy adviser at Doctors Without Borders' Access Campaign. The question is, how do you fix it?

With the signing on Thursday of President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, Democrats in Washington have now secured their first major achievement since winning control of the White House and both chambers of Congress.

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