National News

Updated May 15, 2021 at 6:44 PM ET

If you're fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (as in, you've gotten all your shots and waited two weeks), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday, you can mostly go ahead and stop wearing your mask and stop social distancing — inside and out.

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Depending on the album, St. Vincent might inhabit a persona. Near-Future cult leader, dominatrix at the mental institution - that's how she's described some of them. On her new album, she's going for a time and place.

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The National Mall in Washington, D.C., took a step closer to normalcy today. Four Smithsonian museums and the National Gallery of Art reopened to the public. Millions of people visit the free museums in a typical year to see their collections of important objects from American history and culture. NPR's Elizabeth Blair has more.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: As soon as free passes to the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture were available, Allyson Carpenter was ready.

The city of Columbus, Ohio, has agreed to pay $10 million to the family of Andre Hill, a 47-year-old Black man who was shot and killed by a Columbus police officer in December.

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The National Mall in Washington, D.C., took a step closer to normalcy today. Four Smithsonian museums and the National Gallery of Art reopened to the public. Millions of people visit the free museums in a typical year to see their collections of important objects from American history and culture. NPR's Elizabeth Blair has more.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: As soon as free passes to the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture were available, Allyson Carpenter was ready.

Overnight, violence in the Gaza Strip and Israel accelerated to the brink of all-out war.

Israel deployed artillery and warplanes to attack the tunnel systems of Hamas. The Palestinian Health Ministry reports at least 126 dead.

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KABUL, Afghanistan — Shugofa Nayebi recently divorced her husband, signed up for dental college and began working in a hair salon doing eyelash extensions to pay for her studies.

"I'm independent now," Nayebi, 32, says over the din of hairdryers and music in the Shabnam Salon in an upscale Kabul neighborhood.

Israel has ramped up its attacks on the Gaza Strip to a new level, including using 160 aircraft along with artillery and tank fire to pummel what it says is a tunnel network that Hamas militants rely on to move people and equipment. And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel isn't done.

"This is not yet over. We will do everything to restore security to our cities and our people," Netanyahu said in a statement issued from Tel Aviv.

Eight members of the New York Yankees — the team's All-Star shortstop Gleyber Torres, along with seven coaches and staff members — have tested positive for the coronavirus this week, even though all of them had been vaccinated.

The outbreak of so-called breakthrough cases was first detected Sunday as the team was flying to Florida for a series against the Tampa Bay Rays. Seven more people, including Torres, tested positive over the three subsequent days.

BEIRUT — As fighting has escalated between Israel and Hamas this month, the conflict is being watched closely in the region — especially by Arab countries that opened relations with Israel last year.

Israel is pounding the Gaza Strip with artillery and tank fire as well as airstrikes, sending Palestinians rushing to find safety in the latest escalation of the conflict. Palestinian militants have now fired roughly 1,800 rockets at Israel, including hundreds that were intercepted or fell short of their targets.

More than 119 Palestinians have died, the Gaza Health Ministry said. In Israel, authorities say seven people have died.

Vaccines delivered by drones and by burros. People who shout about the danger of vaccines and refuse to get a jab. Public health campaigns to convince the vaccine hesitant. Public criticism of a failure to provide vaccines for lower-income countries and marginalized populations.

These are all part of the unprecedented world vaccination campaign now going on.

They're also the hot-button topics that go back to the very first vaccine — for smallpox in 1796.

It will take several days for the supply chain of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel to normalize fully even after the restart of full operations at a critical pipeline that was shut down this month.

Colonial Pipeline said late Thursday it had brought its entire pipeline system back into operation, noting that "product delivery has commenced to all markets we serve."

The company had to shut down its pipelines after suffering a cyberattack last week, sparking a wave of panic-buying that emptied many gas stations across the Southeast.

Japan's government moved Friday to put more of the country under a coronavirus state of emergency, as opposition to the Tokyo Olympics becomes more organized and vehement with only 70 days left to go until the opening ceremony.

Retail sales stalled in April as Americans ventured out more to bars and restaurants but spent less on things such as clothes or sporting goods.

Data from the Commerce Department on Friday showed retail sales were flat in April from a month earlier.

That's less than the 1% economists had forecast, but the number is still strong given the high level of spending seen in March, which was revised up to show a 10.7% surge in spending compared with the 9.8% increase initially announced.

Updated May 14, 2021 at 12:44 PM ET

House lawmakers have reached a deal on a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump and to recommend changes to protect the complex further.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, and Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., the panel's ranking member, will introduce legislation Friday to set up the commission.

Updated May 14, 2021 at 10:17 AM ET

GOP lawmakers have chosen Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York as the No. 3 Republican in the House, anointing a Trump loyalist to a leadership position charged with delivering party messaging.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., announced her election in a tweet.

Many state and city officials welcomed news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday that fully vaccinated people in the U.S. can forgo masks and social distancing.

But some still stopped short of immediately implementing the changes.

The CDC said vaccinated people must follow existing state, local or tribal laws and regulations on masks and social distancing, as well as policies at businesses and workplaces.

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Yesterday, we spoke to a senior adviser to Israel's president. That adviser's name is Mark Regev. Today, we're going to hear what the conflict looks like from Gaza. Steve Inskeep placed a call to find out.

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There's a lot that can go wrong during a live broadcast.

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JENNIFER MCDERMED: Fifty is the current temperature right now in Winona. Ooh, that's funky.

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Who hacked the Colonial Pipeline and caused panic buying of gasoline? Yesterday, President Biden said he doesn't believe the Russian government was involved.

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Chris Hodges, the principal of Gaylord High School in Otsego County, Michigan, never thought he'd be a contact tracer.

"I definitely thought, you know, 'Why — why am I doing this?'" he says with a laugh. "That's not what I went to school for."

Updated May 13, 2021 at 10:49 PM ET

This week has brought a few dizzying updates to the year-long school-reopening story.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced new guidance that fully vaccinated people can safely do most indoor and outdoor activities without wearing masks or social distancing.

But much of the transportation sector still operates on pandemic-era rules. Here's what is and isn't changed by the updated guidance.

What does the new guidance mean for mask requirements on public transit and air travel?

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