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Saule Omarova has withdrawn her nomination to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), a little known agency that has a major role in overseeing banks in the country.

Omarova, a Cornell University law professor, had faced strong opposition from Senate Republicans over her academic research, which had proposed some major changes to the banking system.

Some of the attacks were unusually personal, including outright suggestions that the Kazakhstan-born nominee held "communist" views. Omarova, who's a U.S. citizen, has strongly denied that.

Greg Tate, the essential music writer, cultural critic and journalist, has died. He was 64. The news was confirmed by a spokesperson at Duke University Press, his publisher. No further details were provided.

When President-elect Joe Biden was asked whether student loan cancellation figured into his economic recovery plan, he declared, "It should be done immediately."

"[Student debt is] holding people up," Biden said on Nov. 16, 2020. "They're in real trouble. They're having to make choices between paying their student loan and paying the rent."

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We're going to talk now about a subject that directly affects 46 million Americans - federal student loan debt. When he was running for president, Joe Biden talked a lot about helping these borrowers. He pledged to forgive at least $10,000 per person in student debt - a pledge he repeated a few weeks after the election.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We're going to talk now about a subject that directly affects 46 million Americans - federal student loan debt. When he was running for president, Joe Biden talked a lot about helping these borrowers. He pledged to forgive at least $10,000 per person in student debt - a pledge he repeated a few weeks after the election.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

Moncef Slaoui, the former head of the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed, says he's "cautiously optimistic" about how well existing vaccines will hold up against omicron, the latest coronavirus variant of concern.

Omicron has more mutations than previous variants, with around 30 mutations on just its spike protein.

That's worrying for virologists, who note that the spike protein is what vaccines use to "teach" our bodies to recognize the coronavirus.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We're going to talk now about a subject that directly affects 46 million Americans - federal student loan debt. When he was running for president, Joe Biden talked a lot about helping these borrowers. He pledged to forgive at least $10,000 per person in student debt - a pledge he repeated a few weeks after the election.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We're going to talk now about a subject that directly affects 46 million Americans - federal student loan debt. When he was running for president, Joe Biden talked a lot about helping these borrowers. He pledged to forgive at least $10,000 per person in student debt - a pledge he repeated a few weeks after the election.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A Canadian biotech firm is reporting positive results from a large study of its COVID-19 vaccine. What makes it unusual is that the key ingredient of the vaccine is grown in plants.

Medicago has already developed an experimental flu vaccine in Nicotiana benthamian, a plant related to tobacco. When the pandemic struck, the company decided to try to make a COVID-19 vaccine.

Now it appears those efforts have succeeded.

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