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Tovia Smith

It's exactly what everyone's been waiting for.

"I'm very happy to get out," says one woman, sitting down to a view of the harbor, at the Pilot House restaurant in Sandwich, Mass., on Cape Cod.

"It's like we're free at last!" a friend laughs, joining her to celebrate a 70th birthday, albeit several months late.

They're as thrilled to be dining out again as restaurant owner Bob Jarvis is to see customers start pouring back in.

Updated March 10, 2021 at 5:27 PM ET

A move by the Biden administration to change the way cases of sexual assault and harassment are handled by schools is drawing both cheers and fears. Acting on a campaign promise, President Biden has ordered education officials to start considering how to rollback Trump administration rules that bolster the rights of the accused and limit the cases schools have to handle.

Michelle Queen does not consider herself part of QAnon, but she does believe some of its most outlandish conspiracies – including that Satan-worshipping elites in a secret pedophile cabal are killing babies and drinking their blood.

"When you are evil, you're evil," says Queen, 46, from Texas. "It goes deep."

For some, it was the final straw. The U.S. Capitol riots, and the president's behavior both before and after, has soured some of Trump's supporters.

For others, it has only ratcheted up their zealous devotion to the president, and their deep frustration with an election they falsely believe was rigged.

Carol Jones, 74, from Franklin, Tenn., is among those regretting her support for Trump since Wednesday's insurrection, when thousands of pro-Trump protesters stormed the Capitol building.

If you're the type to be disappointed by what's under the Christmas tree, this year you may find yourself even more dismayed by what's not under the tree. Millions of gifts may arrive late, as the U.S. Postal Service grapples with an unprecedented volume of packages from people shopping online, instead of at stores, and shipping holiday gifts instead of bringing them in person.

President-elect Joe Biden is doubling down on his calls for unity and healing, reminding Americans, "We are at war with the virus not with each other." In his Thanksgiving address this week, Biden reiterated the appeal he's been making since his first speech as president-elect, when he implored everyone to "put away the harsh rhetoric," "give each other a chance," and end what he calls "this grim era of demonization in America." But the notion is proving a hard sell to many, including Biden's own supporters.

To many people it's a giant leap forward for womankind. But to others, the historic election of the nation's first female and woman of color to be vice president is a long-overdue step, and a reminder of how much more of the road still lies ahead.

If you find yourself fighting with a friend over politics, or frustrated and furious with your nearest and dearest over whom they're supporting for president, you're hardly alone. A recent survey shows just how much the nation's bitter political divide is causing social splintering and taking a toll on friendships. Even decades-long relationships have been caving under the pressure, giving new meaning to "social distancing."

Voters are both denouncing and defending President Trump for how he's handling his COVID-19 diagnosis, reflecting the deep political divide over how he has managed the pandemic as a whole. Even in blue Massachusetts, the president is getting both criticism and kudos.

Tony Beaulieu never goes anywhere without his "Trump 2020" hat on the front windshield of his truck, and his Trump flag in the back. His face mask is usually somewhere on the floor.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Few people have been looking forward to colleges reopening – and staying open — this fall, as much as the people who run Cornwall's Tavern in Boston's Kenmore Square. A go-to for students and faculty at Boston University, the family-owned pub has been counting on the back-to-school crowds to help it survive. In an industry hard-hit by the pandemic, it's a test Cornwall's can't afford to fail.

"It's a frightening time," said Pam Beale, who owns the place with her husband John. "It feels like the earth is moving under your feel all the time."

As stressful as it always is for students applying to college, this year it's all that — and then some — for the admissions officials trying to decide whether to admit them. Because of the pandemic, many students will be applying without standardized test scores and several other metrics admissions officers at selective schools have long relied on, leaving colleges scrambling to figure out what else they might consider instead.

The protests since the death of George Floyd are being hailed by many as a watershed moment that might ultimately bring about an end to police brutality and systemic racism. But the high hopes are also tangled up in dark fears that the current uprising will eventually die down and will end up being just one more missed opportunity.

It has become a political and cultural flashpoint, drawing a clear divide between the "masked" and the "masked-nots." The disdain runs between the consciously unmasked president of the United States and his deliberately mask-donning Democratic rival, all the way on down to those crossing paths — and often crossing each other — in the cereal aisle of the grocery store.

Toilet paper has been an issue since the start of the pandemic, but now toilets themselves are the concern. As stay-at-home restrictions are lifting, many are feeling a long pent-up urge to go out, but what's stopping some is concern about their urge to go while they're out.

As in, use the bathroom.

Loath to risk the germs in a public restroom, if they can even find one that's open, many are limiting their outings while others are getting creative.

Updated on May 19 at 11 a.m.

Summer camps around the nation are grappling with whether or how they can open this summer as the pandemic continues. The prospect is especially challenging for overnight camps, where hundreds of kids play, eat and sleep together, and the very idea of social distancing is completely anathema to the camp experience.

Little wonder a growing number of sleep-away camps have already capitulated to COVID-19.

Amid all the disappointments and cancellations for high school seniors this year because of COVID-19, many schools around the nation are scrambling to salvage at least some sort of graduation for the class of 2020. Many are considering holding ceremonies online or staging some sort of drive-by celebration.

"To not have [graduation] just doesn't seem right to us," says Ken Freeston, schools superintendent in North Salem, N.Y.

North Salem High School Principal Vince DiGrandi agrees.

"Absolutely, they've earned it," he says.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

If it seems that your Facebook feed is flooded with as many fundraising appeals for animal shelters, humanitarian groups and cancer researchers as your postbox was in December, you aren't imagining things.

Those birthday fundraisers you've likely seen posted by your friends, tripled over the past year, from $300 million raised for charities in 2017-18, to $1 billion a year later. It's great news for those nonprofits. But some Facebook users think it's getting to be too much of a good thing.

You hear it said about sexual harassers all the time: "Guys like that will never change."

That may be true for those who are out-and-out psychopaths and those with other serious disorders, but experts say most sexual harassers are not in that bucket.

"They're apples and oranges," says forensic psychiatrist and Temple University School of Medicine professor of psychiatry Barbara Ziv, who has spent decades studying both victims and perpetrators of sexual misconduct. Most are "opportunistic offenders" or self-delusional, she says, but they're not beyond help.

For decades, chef Charlie Hallowell was a culinary star around Oakland, Calif., as beloved for his restaurants' hip vibe, as he was for his passion for all the right social causes. Even the national critics raved about his creative modern California cuisine and his "cult following." Bon Appetit fawned, "Hallowell should run for mayor already."

Updated at 11:35 a.m. ET Sunday

It's been two years since the #MeToo movement erupted, toppling many powerful men accused of sexual misconduct.

Actress Felicity Huffman, known for her role in Desperate Housewives, broke down in tears in federal court in Boston today, as she pleaded guilty to a scheme to boost her daughter's SAT scores.

Huffman is one of dozens charged in a sweeping conspiracy and bribery case involving wealthy parents, corrupt college coaches, test proctors and college consultants.

President Trump honored the 2018 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox at a White House ceremony Thursday, lauding the team as a "shining example of excellence" in "an American sporting tradition that goes back many generations."

But the tradition of an apolitical White House celebration has become something of a thing of the past, with the invitation from Trump becoming more of a loaded loyalty test, forcing players to pick sides. Roughly a third of the team skipped the event in protest.

As the recent college admissions scandal is shedding light on how parents are cheating and bribing their children's way into college, schools are also focusing on how some students may be cheating their way through college. Concern is growing about a burgeoning online market that makes it easier than ever for students to buy essays written by others to turn in as their own work. And schools are trying new tools to catch it.

The father of a Newtown, Conn., girl who was killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting has died in an apparent suicide. Newtown Police say 49-year-old Jeremy Richman was found dead early Monday morning, not far from his office.

"This is a heartbreaking event for the Richman family and the Newtown Community as a whole; the police department's prayers are with the Richman family right now, and we ask that the family be given privacy in this most difficult time," said Lt. Aaron Bahamonde.

Actress Lori Loughlin, from the TV show Full House, turned herself in to the FBI Wednesday, a day after being charged by prosecutors in a massive college admissions cheating and bribery scandal.

Loughlin along with her husband, designer Mossimo Giannulli, were among 33 parents who allegedly paid enormous sums of money to get their kids into the nation's top universities.

The Department of Education has been inundated with approximately 100,000 public comments on its proposed new rules for how campuses handle cases of sexual assault. Secretary Betsy DeVos opened the public comment period two months ago, after unveiling her plan to replace Obama-era rules with regulations that, she says, would better protect the accused. The window for comments closes Wednesday at midnight.

In federal courts around the nation, the wheels of justice may soon be grinding to a halt.

The government shutdown has already caused delays and disruptions throughout the federal court system, and officials are bracing for things to get a lot worse next week.

With many federal workers now losing hope that they'll get a paycheck this week, stress is mounting. But so are some efforts to help the hundreds of thousands affected by the ongoing shutdown — including about 8,000 in Massachusetts.

In Boston this week, a pop-up food pantry opened for men and women of the Coast Guard, the only branch of the armed services working without pay.

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