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Rose Friedman

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Ed Ward, an incisive former critic and editor for Rolling Stone and longtime contributor to WHYY's Fresh Air, died this week in his home in Austin, Texas. He was 72 years old.

Liz Tallent was by her computer, ready. She's the marketing and special events director at The Orange Peel in Asheville, N.C., a 1,050-cap venue that has hosted everyone from songwriter Nick Lowe, to Sublime cover band Badfish, to rapper Danny Brown. Like every other music venue, The Orange Peel was hit hard by the pandemic shut downs. Distanced indoor events would barely break even, and because of how the space is set up, there hasn't been a real way to do outdoor events, either.

The winner of this year's Booker Prize is Douglas Stewart for his debut novel, Shuggie Bain. Based on his own life, the book tells the story of growing up in Glasgow, Scotland, in the 1980s with a mother struggling with addiction.

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A few weeks ago, standing outside his New York City apartment building, Bill Buford handed me a bag. Inside was what looked like a deflated, veiny football, wrapped loosely in plastic. It was the dried-out bladder of a pig.

Buford was a little sketchy about the specifics, like who he got it from. "I think it arrived in a DHL parcel labeled 'Documents,'" he told me. I tried not to laugh as he evaded the details and then disappeared upstairs for more ingredients.

The iconic score to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: This is the sound of the American West, at least filtered through the ears of an Italian — specifically, composer Ennio Morricone. He was a giant in the world of film scores who wrote the music for more than 500 movies.

It's powwow season — the time of year when across the country, Native American tribes should be getting together to celebrate their culture with food, dancing, singing and drumming. Kay Oxendine is a member of the Haliwa Saponi Tribe in North Carolina.

"Every year we know it's coming; like, the birds sing differently," she told NPR. "It's almost like spring arrives when the powwow does."

If the name of this year's U.S. Poet Laureate sounds familiar, that could be because Joy Harjo was also last year's pick for the job. In a statement announcing the reappointment, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden called Harjo "an inspiring and engaging poet laureate," who would "help the Library showcase Native poets from coast-to-coast."

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that for the first time since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis the number of people in intensive care units has gone down.

The difference was small. Speaking to reporters Friday, Cuomo said that across the state there were 17 fewer ICU patients than the day before. But he said he's cautiously optimistic that the infection rate is slowing, and urged people to continue staying at home.

Another 777 people died, bringing the total so far to 7,844.

In separate press conferences, both the governor of New York and the mayor of New York City said social distancing as well as the restrictions on nonessential businesses are working to flatten the curve of the coronavirus.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, speaking in Albany, pointed to lowering rates in the state of hospitalizations, intubations and people admitted to ICUs, telling reporters, "Our efforts are working. They're working better than anyone projected they would work. That's because people are complying with them."

Publishing house Macmillan is backing off a controversial policy restricting e-book sales to libraries, announcing in a letter to librarians, authors, illustrators and agents on Tuesday that "There are times in life when differences should be put aside."

In November, NPR's Lynn Neary reported on the restrictive policy:

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Harvey Weinstein's defense team has begun presenting its case in New York City. NPR's Rose Friedman has been in that courthouse for the entire trial, and she brought us this. And just a quick warning, this story deals with sex crimes.

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Before we get to this next story, we should let you know that we will be talking about sexual assault, and it might be disturbing to some of you. We are talking about Harvey Weinstein's trial, which continues in Manhattan this week.

Actress Annabella Sciorra took the stand Thursday in the criminal sex crimes trial of movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

She is the first of six women expected to testify that they were raped or sexually assaulted by Weinstein.

Weinstein is charged with five counts of rape and assault against two women in New York City. Weinstein maintains all of the sexual contact was consensual.

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Editor's note: This report includes descriptions of sexual assault.

Once one of Hollywood's most powerful men, whose very reputation could help determine the fate of the films he financed, Harvey Weinstein is set for a starring role on a very different kind of stage: The former megaproducer's criminal trial opens Monday in Manhattan, where Weinstein faces sexual assault charges that may land him in prison for a very long time.

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