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BEIJING — The window shades are drawn, the air's filled with cigarette smoke and tension. About three dozen people, mostly men, huddle around a table, in silence — all that can be heard is an unmistakable chirp.

It's a cricket fight.

On his very first day in office, President Biden signed an executive order meant to begin unraveling the systemic barriers that have magnified economic inequality in the United States.

Now months later, as Congress haggles over the size and scope of Biden's proposals to transform the social safety net, advocates for equity are worried that the final product may leave out too many who need help.

A lot "ales" Congress these days — with members clashing over President Biden's domestic agenda and continued fallout from the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

But on Wednesday night, bipartisan cooperation was on full display during the fourth annual Anheuser-Busch Brew Across America Congressional Brewing Competition, where five pairs of lawmakers work with breweries across the country to create new small batch beers and bring them back to Washington, D.C., to find out whose concoction is best.

'Nothing but Blackened Teeth' is a real spooky trip

17 hours ago

Lights on? Good. Dysfunctional relationships from the past, expunged or resolved? Very good! Wedding invitations that involve ghost hunting in an abandoned Japanese manor? Ignore, however tempting.

Last year, band and choir classes were a far cry from normal, with students practicing outside or over Zoom. But with students back in school this fall, many are overjoyed to take part in almost-normal music classes. That includes senior tenor sax player Frank Papetti.

"Oh my God, I'm super excited," he says. "I love playing my instrument," Papetti is a member of the wind ensemble at Westwood High School, about 24 miles south of Boston.

Tiphanie Yanique's Monster in the Middle is an ambitious novel. It's a story about love that sets out to capture both minds and hearts. Like an earnest suitor, it declares its intentions from the start: in the epigraph that laments the challenge of being taken seriously when writing about love and in a prologue that explores the complex nature of romantic love. To varying degrees, it succeeds on both counts.

Hours after polls closed on Nov. 3, angry Donald Trump supporters on Facebook coalesced around a rallying cry now synonymous with the siege on the U.S. Capitol: "Stop the Steal."

Inside Facebook, employees were watching with concern.

Going into their second week of sit-ins, students at Howard University in Washington, D.C., are continuing to fight for answers from the campus administration as they protest the school's poor housing conditions.

A top Howard official says the school has worked with student leaders to "provide a best-in-class university experience."

Walmart is recalling an essential-oil aromatherapy spray after a "rare and dangerous bacteria" that can cause a potentially fatal condition was reported, the Consumer Product Safety Commission says. Officials are investigating four confirmed cases and there have been two deaths, including that of a child, associated with the bacteria, according to the agency.

LOS ANGELES — Peter Scolari, a versatile character actor whose television roles included a yuppie producer on Newhart and a closeted dad on Girls and who was on Broadway with longtime friend Tom Hanks in Lucky Guy, has died. He was 66.

Scolari died Friday morning in New York after fighting cancer for two years, according to Ellen Lubin Sanitsky, his manager.

Oh no. Not again.

Just when COVID surge in the U.S. has begun to decline, another coronavirus variant has immediately cropped up. This time in the U.K.

Known in the media as "delta-plus," this mutant is raising some concern because over the past few weeks, it's begun to spread in several parts of Britain. It now accounts for about 6% of all cases in the U.K.

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Earlier this year, an upstart won a Grammy in the category of Roots Gospel.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: And the Grammy goes to "Celebrating Fisk!"

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Our next story begins in a place many of us are familiar with - up awake, watching a YouTube video at 3 in the morning. That's where Princeton evolutionary biologist Shane Campbell-Staton found himself a few years ago.

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Updated October 22, 2021 at 5:24 PM ET

A coalition of nearly 100 civil rights and criminal justice reform groups is protesting a Biden administration proposal that would potentially stiffen prison sentences for certain synthetic opioids, warning that it will exacerbate racial disparities already in the system.

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Each week, we answer frequently asked questions about life during the coronavirus crisis. If you have a question you'd like us to consider for a future post, email us at goatsandsoda@npr.org with the subject line: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions." See an archive of our FAQs here.

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Today in video game news: Pixelated ghosts who carry artisan chocolates.

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