Ari Shapiro

The new podcast Anything for Selena, from NPR member station WBUR, doesn't begin with the late singer's biography or her most popular songs. Instead, it starts on the U.S.-Mexico border, with a narrator describing the creosote plants that grow there in vivid sensory terms.

"It has this unforgettable smell when it rains," the voice says. "It's slightly floral, but mostly it's this very specific, cool earthy desert aroma. And there's usually a calm clear breeze, which carries these concentrated little pockets of fragrance."

Slightly more than 6% of American adults have received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine — but a disproportionately small number of them are Black and Hispanic people.

Aid groups who help resettle refugees in the U.S. are hopeful about what President Biden's actions will mean for people fleeing persecution.

The equation for COVID-19 hot spots has been clear since the earliest days of the pandemic: Take facilities where people live in close quarters, then add conditions that make it hard to take preventive measures such as wearing personal protective equipment or keeping socially distant.

Major outbreaks in nursing homes this spring shocked the nation. Now, residents of those facilities are among the first in line for the vaccine.

The Food and Drug Administration looks set to allow emergency authorization of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine shortly. With that, vaccinations will likely begin soon for health care workers and people in nursing homes.

The pandemic has made 2020 a crazy year for the movie industry. And Warner Bros. made a recent announcement that guarantees next year will be just as upside-down.

For 78 years, the Advertising Council has been helping Americans face national challenges. From Smokey Bear's "remember, only you can prevent forest fires," to "loose lips sink ships" during World War II and the 1990s campaign friends don't let friends drive drunk.

More recently, during the coronavirus pandemic, the nonprofit advertising group launched a #MaskUpAmerica campaign.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We're celebrating an annual December tradition today, the launch of NPR's Book Concierge. It's bigger than a top 10 list - much bigger - more than 350 titles, including NPR staff picks. And one of mine is a novel called "Piranesi" by Susanna Clarke. When I interviewed Clarke earlier this year, she told me about parallels between her protagonist and her own experience. The character Piranesi is disoriented and trapped in a mysterious sort of house, and Susanna Clarke spent years struggling with an illness that left her disoriented and housebound.

It may only be weeks until a COVID-19 vaccine is approved for use in the U.S. Pfizer and its partner BioNTech asked the Food and Drug Administration to grant an emergency use authorization for their vaccine a week ago, and Moderna is expected to follow suit in coming days.

On the last edition of Play It Forward, All Things Considered's chain of musical gratitude, Los Angeles singer-songwriter Mia Doi Todd spoke about Grammy Award-winning multi-instrumentalist Thundercat.

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