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Morning news brief

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

President Biden's classified document troubles are piling up.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

His lawyers announced they had found more files at his home in Wilmington, Del. And congressional Republicans pounced.

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JAMES COMER: Well, we don't know exactly yet whether they broke the law or not. I will accuse the Biden administration of not being transparent. Why didn't we hear about this on Nov. 2, when the first batch of classified documents were discovered?

FADEL: That was Republican Congressman James Comer, chairman of the House Oversight Committee on CNN yesterday.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So what does this mean for President Biden? We're joined now by NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith.

Tam, OK, so Congressman Comer has made it clear that Republicans seem pretty eager to investigate President Biden, but it sounds a lot different from how they're responding to former President Trump's hundreds of documents at his home in Florida.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Of course it is, but consistency is rarely in great supply in Washington. Comer yesterday sent a letter to White House chief of staff Ron Klain requesting visitor logs for the president's home in Wilmington, Del. But Ian Sams, a White House spokesman, tells me that like every president in modern history, Biden's personal residence is personal and he doesn't have visitor logs. Incidentally, former President Trump never released visitor logs from his private club and home in Florida, or even the White House, for that matter, which has been standard.

But to be clear, the White House has given their opponents and Congress plenty of ammunition. They gave incomplete information to the press multiple times, including Thursday and Friday, when President Biden, his counsel and press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre were pretty unequivocal about one last document being found in Wilmington, only to on Saturday put out a new statement saying five more pages of classified materials had been found in that same spot Thursday night.

MARTÍNEZ: And now, President Biden is speaking at the National Action Network annual MLK Day breakfast event in D.C. today. Any chance he addresses the documents controversy?

KEITH: Oh, not likely. Yesterday, he went to Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga., for Sunday services. That's the church where Dr. King was pastor until his assassination. Senator Raphael Warnock is the pastor there now. And Biden was the first sitting president to deliver remarks from the pulpit there on a Sunday service.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I've spoken before parliaments, kings, queens, leaders of the world. I've been doing this for a long time. But this is intimidating.

KEITH: Georgia has become a key swing state, one he would hope to win again if he makes it official and runs for reelection. And I can guarantee you that the will-he-or-won't-he drama would have been the focus here. But instead, he's facing the second scandal of his presidency - after the Afghanistan withdrawal - for documents that were likely packed up and moved at the end of the Obama presidency six years ago.

MARTÍNEZ: You know, it seemed as if President Biden ended 2022 on a bit of a high, or at least on an up. What does all this do to his start of 2023?

KEITH: You know, he had been riding high coming off the midterms, where Democrats performed better than expected, you know, at least by the laws of political gravity. Inflation is slowing. The unemployment situation is still strong. Gas prices have stabilized. And Biden consolidated support among elected Democrats and potential opponents. Even prominent Democrats who had been skeptical running of him running for reelection were saying they would support him. And I haven't seen yet any erosion of that support. But no president wants a special counsel investigation because, at the very least, it's going to cast a cloud over him until it's over, and you never know when it will end.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith.

Tamara, thanks.

KEITH: You're welcome.

MARTÍNEZ: California continues to get drenched by storms.

FADEL: At least 19 people have been killed, and more rain is forecast this week.

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GAVIN NEWSOM: The grounds are overwhelmed. What may appear less significant in terms of the rainfall may actually be more significant in terms of the impacts on the ground and the flooding.

FADEL: That was Governor Gavin Newsom speaking after surveying storm damage in central California.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Nathan Rott is in Southern California.

Nathan, you're in Ventura. That's about an hour northwest of LA. What's the situation there now?

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: Yeah. We got absolutely dumped on here last night. I drove up the coast a bit before sunset. And quite a bit of localized flooding in low areas, cars hydroplaning on the road. The beaches up and down the coast here are just trashed with, you know, full trees washed up on the shores or drifting in the waves. So the California's Geological Survey says they've now documented more than 400 landslides since the start of the new year. President Biden declared a major disaster declaration for the state over the weekend, which are - should free up some federal dollars, which should help with what's going to be a pretty major cleanup.

MARTÍNEZ: So cleanup - is that the phase that California's in now?

ROTT: Yeah, A. We're supposed to get more rain today up and down the state. But, yes. You know, I talked to Chris Outler, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, yesterday, and here's basically how he put it.

CHRIS OUTLER: My main message, I guess, would just be hang on a little longer. You know, we got this kind of last storm system here and maybe a little one mid-week, but we're just about to the end of the tunnel with a more extended dry period on the way as we get into the later portion of the week.

ROTT: And that last storm system he mentioned is supposed to be more of a typical winter storm, not a drenching atmospheric river, these bands of high-level moisture which have been moving water from the Pacific to the coast like we've been seeing over the last couple of weeks. So hopefully that'll allow swollen rivers to come back down a bit and for things to finally normalize.

MARTÍNEZ: So, Nathan, any time there's a lot of rain in California, everyone always wonders if it's making a dent in the drought. Is it?

ROTT: Yeah. It is. So all of this rain has made a serious dent. You know, it's filled some reservoirs. It's built this massive snowpack in the Sierra Nevada. A month ago, more than a third of California was in what the U.S. Drought Monitor was calling extreme drought. As of now, it's less than 1%. That being said, it's important to remember that there's still a lot of winter left, so there's still a chance we could get below-average precipitation through the rest of the rainy season. Also, bear in mind, the drought is much larger than just California. We're talking about a multidecade megadrought, the driest period in at least 1,200 years across western North America. And people have been depleting groundwater reservoirs. So it'll take more than a series of extreme storms like we've been seeing for us to dig out. And there's still a longer-term question of how best to support tens of millions of people living in a semiarid landscape as the climate warms.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So speaking of climate change, then, do we see its fingerprints on these storms?

ROTT: Yeah. We're seeing the kinds of extreme weather whiplash that climate scientists have been warning about for a while - extreme heat, drought, extreme rain. Climate change is really expected to take normal phenomena like these atmospheric rivers, like the drought and turn up the dial, making them more intense than before. So to answer your question directly, no. It's still too early to say whether this flooding and rain is a result of human-caused climate change. But we can say that this is the type of event that's going to become more common as the world continues to warm.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Nathan Rott in Ventura, Calif.

Stay dry, Nate.

ROTT: Hey, A, thank you. You, too.

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MARTÍNEZ: All right. If you sit all day at a computer, then spend hours on the sofa, you're putting your health at risk.

FADEL: A body of research links excessive sitting to a higher risk of diabetes, dementia and heart disease. And I'm sitting right now.

MARTÍNEZ: We both are. All right, so what is the least amount of movement needed to offset the risks of sitting? A new study aims to answer this question, and NPR's Allison Aubrey joins us for the discussion.

I think everyone probably knows that a sedentary lifestyle is not healthy, Allison. So how much movement do we need to get?

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Good morning. Yeah. Well, some of the same researchers who published a study several years back showing that people who sit the most were more than twice as likely to die early compared to people who sit the least - they've spent the last year or so trying to determine exactly how much or how little physical activity is enough to counteract this. Now, for this study, they had a whole bunch of volunteers come into their lab and emulate a typical workday. And I spoke to Keith Diaz of Columbia University Medical Center. He's an author of the paper.

KEITH DIAZ: They would come in and sit for eight hours, and we would use a continuous glucose monitor, just a small device that just measures your glucose levels, or blood sugar levels, automatically every 15 minutes. And then we measured their blood pressure every half hour.

AUBREY: Now, during the day, these participants took walking breaks on a treadmill of varying lengths and frequency, and they found short walks of just a minute or two once an hour helped to control blood pressure.

MARTÍNEZ: One minute per hour - is that enough?

AUBREY: Well, it helped some. I mean, it was enough to help lower blood pressure. But they saw much more significant benefits when they upped the frequency to every half hour and upped the total walking time to five minutes.

DIAZ: We found that a five-minute walk every half hour was able to offset a lot of the harms from sitting. And we were really struck by - what was surprising was just how powerful the effects were. When you move for five minutes every half hour, the blood sugar spike after a meal was reduced by almost 60%.

MARTÍNEZ: Right. So it sounds like the researchers were surprised by their own findings.

AUBREY: They were. And I spoke to doctors and exercise scientists about this who were also were impressed by this. Dr. Robert Sallis is a family medicine doctor at Kaiser Permanente. He told me it's already well established that exercise can help control blood sugar. But what's new here is how beneficial frequent short bouts of movement can be.

ROBERT SALLIS: It is surprising to me as a physician. I have never seen that kind of a drop in blood sugar, you know, other than with medication.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So why then is it so important to focus on the benefits of lowering blood sugar and blood pressure?

AUBREY: Well, about 1 out of every 3 adults in the U.S. has prediabetes and nearly half have high blood pressure. And these are two key risk factors for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Dr. Sallis says many, many, many people could benefit from short walking breaks.

SALLIS: I think it's easier to find small amounts of time through the day to get some exercise.

AUBREY: And there was one more benefit of short walks, A, found in this study, I should point out. People felt less fatigue. They were in better moods. So, you know, at a time when employers want to retain good workers and promote workplace wellness, I think this could be a way to keep people happier and healthier.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, Allison, I'm standing up. You've convinced me. That's NPR's Allison Aubrey. Thanks.

AUBREY: (Laughter) Very nice. All right. Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.