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A county official in Michigan is defending his use of the N-word — by repeatedly saying the slur, and insisting that it does not imply he is a racist.

Leelanau County Road Commissioner Tom Eckerle has been facing calls to resign since Tuesday, when he reportedly used one of the most taboo words in U.S. society to explain why he would not be wearing a face mask.

"Well, this whole thing is because of them n****** down in Detroit," Eckerle said, according to the Leelanau Enterprise.

When Westerners think of Beirut, they might rely on dated notions of the city: a 15-year civil war that ended in 1990; a war with Israel and sporadic airstrikes; bombings of the U.S. Marine barracks and the U.S. Embassy; an attack 15 years ago on the prime minister's convoy.

Updated at 7:10 p.m. ET

The top counterintelligence official in the U.S. government warned Friday of ongoing interference and influence efforts by China, Russia and Iran.

William Evanina, who leads the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said that the U.S. government has assessed that China prefers President Trump losing the election, because Beijing considers him "unpredictable," while Russia is working to undermine Democrat Joe Biden.

STACEY VANEK SMITH, HOST:

Most of us have heard of saving the elephants or saving the polar bears, but what about saving their parasites? Scientists are increasingly finding that parasites are a key part of ecosystems, and many are at risk of extinction. NPR's Lauren Sommer explains.

VANEK SMITH: When your job is to study parasitic worms, not everyone wants to hear what you do for a living.

CHELSEA WOOD: It's not a popular topic of conversation at cocktail parties, I can tell you that.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Americans are looking to Washington for coronavirus relief. But after nearly two weeks of talks, leaders from both parties can only seem to agree that they are nowhere close to a deal.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

O, The Oprah Magazine has commissioned 26 billboards calling for the arrest of the police officers involved in the killing of Breonna Taylor to be placed across Louisville, Ky., the magazine said in a Friday article.

"Demand that the police involved in killing Breonna Taylor be arrested and charged," each of the 26 billboards — one for every year Taylor was alive — reads.

Updated at 7:32 p.m. ET

The head of the U.S. Postal Service promised Friday to make the organization more efficient and more financially stable, but his remarks may do little to quell fears that the post office's cost-cutting measures will hurt service during the coronavirus pandemic.

"We are at the beginning of a transformative process," Louis DeJoy said in his first public remarks since becoming postmaster general. "Our goal is to change and improve the Postal Service to better serve the American public, and I am excited about the opportunities ahead."

Each week, we answer "frequently asked questions" about life during the coronavirus crisis. If you have a question you'd like us to consider, email us at goatsandsoda@npr.org with the subject line: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions."

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden sought to clear up comments he made earlier this week that suggested the African American community is mostly not diverse.

His comments came during a virtual interview published Thursday morning with journalists from the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross. Baseball is back, for now at least. And many major league teams this year are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues, which gave African Americans a place to showcase their talents before the game was integrated.

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