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Philip Morris International is buying British pharmaceutical firm Vectura in a deal that will see a company synonymous with Big Tobacco taking over a firm that makes asthma inhalers. The American Lung Association, Asthma UK and other health groups have spoken out against the takeover.

People applying to immigrate to the U.S. will have to show they've been vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of a required medical exam, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says. The new policy takes effect on Oct. 1.

The requirement includes an exception for children who are too young to receive the vaccine as well as for people with medical conditions that rule them out for the shot. It also outlines a waiver process for people who refuse to be vaccinated due to religious and other reasons.

One of China's most prominent #MeToo cases has concluded with a Beijing court ruling that it could not determine whether sexual harassment occurred, a blow for gender equality advocates and for China's faltering #MeToo movement.

Last month, Dr. Simone Gold stood before a crowd at a conservative church in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and delivered a talk riddled with misinformation. She told people to avoid vaccination against the coronavirus. As an alternative, she pushed drugs that have not been proven effective at treating COVID-19 — drugs that she also offered to prescribe to the audience in exchange for $90 telehealth appointments.

In 2018, we reported on how the southern Indian state of Kerala beat back the deadly Nipah virus. Local filmmakers and musicians even made a celebratory music video about it. Three years later, the state is faced with yet a new case of Nipah — its third outbreak since 2018 — and it couldn't have come at a worse time.

On March 16, 2020, Patrick Phiri arrived in the small Dutch village of Middelstum (population 2,419) in the far north of the Netherlands. Patrick had traveled from Malawi to spend three weeks with his fiancée, Fiona, whom he'd met when they were both working for Heifer International, a nonprofit group that supports agricultural projects. He wanted to ask her parents for permission to marry their daughter. They agreed and welcomed him with open arms. A week later Patrick popped the question and Fiona said yes.

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

Back in 2018, I interviewed Angeline Murimirwa about her remarkable journey from poverty to power. She is the executive director of CAMFED in Africa – a group that has given scholarships and additional academic support to 4.8 million girls in the five countries where it works. She herself was one of the first scholarship recipients at a time when it looked as if she'd be unable to continue her education because her family couldn't afford school fees.

In February, NPR published a story on the tolls of the pandemic on Thailand's sex workers. Before COVID-19 hit, international tourism made up 20% of the country's gross domestic product — and fueled a thriving sex industry. That collapsed in March 2020 when the country shut its borders to keep the coronavirus at bay.

India imposed a strict COVID-19 lockdown last year, and tens of millions of poor day laborers lost their jobs. In a massive exodus from megacities, migrant workers sought safety in their native villages. One of the most harrowing stories to emerge from those months was that of now-17-year-old Jyoti Kumari, whose father drove a tuk-tuk in New Delhi and was recovering from an injury. Kumari had come to care for him.

Some scientists have called it "superhuman immunity" or "bulletproof." But immunologist Shane Crotty prefers "hybrid immunity."

"Overall, hybrid immunity to SARS-CoV-2 appears to be impressively potent," Crotty wrote in commentary in Science back in June.

No matter what you call it, this type of immunity offers much-needed good news in what seems like an endless array of bad news regarding COVID-19.

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

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Joel Charny has been a humanitarian aid worker for 40 years — but one of the first valuable lessons he learned about the job was as a Peace Corps volunteer in the 1970s.

At 21, he was assigned to work as a sixth grade English teacher in a remote part of the Central African Republic. The students didn't have textbooks. Some kids had to walk 5 miles to school and back. And many did their homework under a streetlamp because there was no electricity at home.

Sometimes when Shugri Said Salh is running errands in Sonoma, Calif., where she currently lives, she says she has "visions" of her former life as a young nomad in Somalia. For example, one day, while eating sushi in front of Whole Foods, she spotted a customer carrying an African-style basket and a water jug — and suddenly she was transported.

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

BEIJING – When Tom, an American businessman, got a dream job building up a multinational company in China, he happily moved his young family there.

Then the pandemic hit.

A third dose of the Moderna vaccine — given six months after the initial two doses — significantly boosts immunity, according to data the company submitted to the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday.

LONDON — Government-sanctioned memorials to the victims of COVID-19 may be years away, but in Europe, some people are making their own. One of the most striking memorials so far is in London, where volunteers have painted more than 150,000 red hearts on a wall along the south bank of the River Thames.

People stop to write the names of lost loved ones inside the hearts along with messages as a way to remember and make sense of huge loss of life in the United Kingdom.

Daniela Draghici knows firsthand what an abortion ban looks like.

In 1976, when she was a college student in the Romanian capital of Bucharest, she got pregnant after her contraception failed. Abortion was prohibited in Romania.

With the help of a friend, Draghici was taken to a woman with no medical training to end her pregnancy.

"Somebody took me during the night to some kind of house outside the city where there was this old woman," Draghici remembers. "She was boiling these metal instruments in a lot of alcohol on an ancient stove."

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

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

All around the world, there seem to be signs that immunity to SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19, doesn't last very long after you're vaccinated.

Israel is now having one of the world's worst COVID-19 surges about five months after vaccinating a majority of its population. And in the U.S., health officials are recommending a booster shot eight months after the original vaccine course.

When Chetana Madavi, 29, gets her period, she gathers a few clothes and makes her way to a kurma ghar — or menstruation hut — a few blocks from her home in a tribal community in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. It's a mud shack with a broken door and no toilet. When it rains, water leaks through the mud-tiled roof.

On March 23, 2020, with the deadly coronavirus reported in 167 countries and territories, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called for a global ceasefire to support a public health response. It was the first global ceasefire appeal since the agency was founded in 1945, in the aftermath of World War II. "The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war," Guterres said. "End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world."

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

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Masks are the emblem of the mystery man hero — think Zorro and Batman, the centerpiece of theatrical costume as in Japanese Noh plays and Phantom of the Opera. In their cultural context, masks are powerful ceremonial artifacts that obliterate the wearer's personality and change him or her into another being entirely.

The age of COVID adds yet another layer of meaning. When breath, the embodiment of life, becomes the carrier of death, a mask becomes literally a matter of life and death.

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

Early in the pandemic, one bit of encouraging news was that children weren't as vulnerable to COVID-19 as adults.

But doctors who treat children with cancer had special concerns.

These kids have impaired white blood cells — the ones that fight infection. That can be a result of the cancer itself or of cancer treatments like chemotherapy. So when it comes to common respiratory infections like the flu, children with cancer tend to show more severe symptoms.

Would COVID also be more severe in this population?

Sahar Education, a small, U.S.-based nonprofit that works in Afghanistan, was in the process of building a new boarding school for girls in the northern part of the country – until the Taliban regained control of the capital on Aug. 15.

That's when Sahar decided to pause all operations. It stopped construction of the school and removed anything from its website that might reveal the identities of its students and staff.

Updated August 30, 2021 at 7:01 PM ET

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

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Like most Americans, I learned to ride a bike as a kid. I still remember the glee after learning how to ride a bike on a subdivision road where I grew up in Florida. I had cracked the mysteries of balance, and now I had the giddy pleasure of my newfound freedom.

But girls around the world don't always get to experience the joy of a first bike ride. In some countries, conservative societies frown upon women and girls who ride bikes – it's not considered dignified or appropriate — and gives a girl too much independence.

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