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Updated at 10:26 p.m. ET

The U.S. launched airstrikes in Syria on Thursday targeting Iranian-backed militia groups in the first known offensive military operation carried out by the Biden administration.

Israel has vaccinated more of its population than any other country and this week it started opening places like gyms and the theater to people with both shots — but they have to prove it.

Japan is engaged in behind-the-scenes diplomacy to roll back the coup in Myanmar. But it faces a dilemma between values-based foreign policy and protecting its economic and geopolitical interests.

The White House might be about to release a damning report on the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but it seems intent on maintaining an alliance with Saudi Arabia.

The traditional prelude to the Olympics, the torch relay, will look – and sound – a bit different this year, as spectators are asked to avoid crowds and dampen their cheers when the torch passes by them.

Members of the Tokyo Organizing Committee announced a series of pandemic measures on Thursday, including leaving the option open for suspending portions of the relay should health officials deem it necessary.

Armenia's Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is warning of a coup after the army issued a scathing statement faulting his leadership and demanding he step down following a conflict last year with Azerbaijan that resulted in a significant loss of territory claimed by ethnic Armenians.

Human rights groups say a boat trafficking over 90 Muslim minority Rohingya from Myanmar has broken down. They have little food & water and nobody wants them.

Updated at 5:41 p.m. ET

The Biden administration is expected to release a report soon that addresses the key question in the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi: What role, if any, did Saudi Arabia's crown prince have in the death?

If the report by the U.S. intelligence community implicates Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in any way, it would damage the already complicated relations between the traditional allies.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

CDC launches tool for people to find where to get vaccinated. Biden administration is expected to release a report on the killing of a Saudi journalist. House panel presses postmaster on mail delays.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

This week, we're remembering some of the more than 500,000 people in the U.S. who have died from COVID-19 through the music that gave their lives meaning. We're calling our tribute songs of remembrance. Today, Lionel Mares shares stories about his mother, Maria Angelica Mares, of Sun Valley, Calif. He says the song his mom loved was "I Walk The Line" by Johnny Cash.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHNNY CASH SONG, "I WALK THE LINE")

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

This week, we're remembering some of the more than 500,000 people in the U.S. who have died from COVID-19 through the music that gave their lives meaning. We're calling our tribute songs of remembrance. Today, Lionel Mares shares stories about his mother, Maria Angelica Mares, of Sun Valley, Calif. He says the song his mom loved was "I Walk The Line" by Johnny Cash.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHNNY CASH SONG, "I WALK THE LINE")

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

This week, we're remembering some of the more than 500,000 people in the U.S. who have died from COVID-19 through the music that gave their lives meaning. We're calling our tribute songs of remembrance. Today, Lionel Mares shares stories about his mother, Maria Angelica Mares, of Sun Valley, Calif. He says the song his mom loved was "I Walk The Line" by Johnny Cash.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHNNY CASH SONG, "I WALK THE LINE")

President Biden's nominee to lead the CIA, William Burns, spent more than three decades as a diplomat. Yet Burns sounded very much like a national security chief at his confirmation hearing Wednesday as he described how the U.S. should be wary of China and its leader Xi Jinping.

"There are a growing number of areas in which Xi's China is a formidable, authoritarian adversary," Burns told the Senate Intelligence Committee in his opening remarks.

Vaccines are like milk. Both make us stronger, but if stored at the wrong temperature, they spoil.

Amnesty International says it no longer considers jailed Russian anti-Kremlin activist Alexei Navalny a "prisoner of conscience," citing past comments he's made that "reach the threshold of advocacy of hatred."

The pandemic and polio are colliding in Pakistan.

It's definitely harder for the country to keep up its efforts to wipe out this highly contagious disease. (Pakistan is one of the few pockets in the world where it's still circulating.) But the lessons learned from its polio effort are proving helpful for the coronavirus vaccination campaign.

The backstory

First, a bit of background is in order.

A German court has rendered its first verdict in a historic trial of two former Syrian military officials implicated in crimes against humanity after almost a decade of war in Syria.

Chinese pharmaceutical makers are seeking market approval from Beijing for two new coronavirus vaccines – one that has shown 72% efficacy and another 69% efficacy in human Phase III trials.

The separate announcements on Wednesday come from Sinopharm for its second vaccine after the state-run company's first was approved for distribution in December, and from CanSino Biologics, Inc. (CanSinoBIO), for its first vaccine.

As COVID cases began to rise a year ago, a Chinese company contacted several U.S. states and offered to set up testing labs. As a byproduct, the Chinese firm, Beijing Genomics Institute, would likely gain access to the DNA of those tested.

In times of health emergencies and humanitarian disasters where water is scarce, people worldwide have relied on the Tippy Tap. It's a DIY hand-washing station developed by aid workers that can be made fast with readily available materials: sticks, string and a water container.

But for heavy-duty use — washing up several times a day during a pandemic that has stretched beyond a year, for example — a makeshift Tippy Tap just won't cut it.

The first wave of coronavirus vaccines from the COVAX initiative are now reaching their destinations. Ghana became the first country to receive the vaccine on Wednesday, marking an important step for the international effort to help low- and middle-income countries cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the first round of allocations continues to roll out, more countries will receive their own doses in coming days, according to the World Health Organization, a leader of the initiative. In all, the COVAX alliance hopes to deliver nearly 2 billion doses of the vaccines this year.

An activist in Uganda, who has fought an authoritarian government with vulgar poetry, is now in exile. Fleeing a broad crackdown against the opposition in the country.

On Monday, the U.S. reached a heartbreaking 500,000 deaths from COVID-19.

But widespread death from COVID-19 isn't necessarily inevitable.

Data from Johns Hopkins University shows that some countries have had few cases and fewer deaths per capita. The U.S. has had 152 deaths per 100,000 people, for example, versus .03 in Burundi and .04 in Taiwan.

Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, Saudi Arabia's long-serving oil minister who was instrumental in catapulting the kingdom into the energy powerhouse it is today, has died in London. He was 90 years old.

Yamani held enormous sway on the global stage during his nearly 25 years as oil minister, starting in 1962, and rose to fame for engineering the 1973 oil embargo.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

SOFIA, Bulgaria - In an effort to boost vaccination rates among a skeptical public, Bulgaria has opened up COVID-19 inoculations to all who want them.

On Friday, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov told the nation he was creating "green corridors" where any Bulgarian resident could line up for the vaccine.

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