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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The mango juice tasted funny.

That's how Kusuma started her personal essay when applying to U.S. colleges this year.

Kusuma was then 3 years old. She had 2 older sisters. They lived with their mother, who was raising her 3 daughters on her own.

The family traveled from village to village in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, hiding from money lenders who often threatened them with violence. "For years, I had struggled alone, desperate to feed my kids," says Kusuma's mother, Yashodha.

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 2017, a team of medical personnel, including doctors, nurses and volunteers, returned home to Florida after volunteering at a clinic in Haiti. Soon after their return, 20 members of the team began to feel a bit under the weather.

"They had a slight fever and didn't feel 100% right," says virologist John Lednicky at the University of Florida. "But they weren't very sick."

BEIJING – Residents left starving inside makeshift quarantine centers fashioned out of shipping containers. Businesses forbidden from selling goods – even online. A baby reportedly tested for COVID 74 times.

Sixty years ago this week, President John F. Kennedy established the United States Agency for International Development.

It's one of the largest foreign aid agencies in the world. With a budget of tens of billions of dollars, it does everything from supporting girls' education in lower-income countries to spearheading electricity programs in sub-Saharan Africa.

Pfizer says that its COVID-19 pill reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 89%, in a clinical trial that tested the drug in adults with the disease who were also in high-risk health groups.

The oral medicine is called Paxlovid. Similar to Merck's new pill that was approved in the U.K. on Thursday, Pfizer said its drug showed good results when administered within five days of the first COVID-19 symptoms.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

BEIJING – In a long, confessional social media post on Tuesday night, a celebrated Chinese athlete described her alleged assault ten years ago at the hands of one of the country's most powerful Communist Party officials at the time, which she says happened while someone stood guard outside the bedroom door.

"I was so scared that afternoon," Peng Shuai wrote in her post on the Chinese social media site Weibo. "I never gave consent, crying the entire time."

Vinisha Umashankar was returning to her home in southern India from school a few years ago when she saw a man throwing away burnt charcoal on the side of the street.

He was an ironing vendor who pressed people's clothes for a living – and his main appliance was an old-fashioned iron box, which he filled with hot charcoal that emitted a cloud of smoke. Umashankar counted at least six such vendors in her neighborhood in the temple town of Tiruvannamalai alone. She started thinking about how this was happening across India, where the ironing vendor is a fixture.

At 22 years old, Hilda Flavia Nakabuye stepped onto a very big stage. The audience was filled with hundreds of international delegates attending the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference, where countries were hashing out efforts to slow climate change.

Updated November 8, 2021 at 9:17 AM ET

The U.S. has come up with new rules and regulations for travelers flying in from other countries, taking effect on Monday, November 8, updating a set of restrictive rules set in effect by the Trump administration.

But like all matters relating to travel and the pandemic, the rules can be complicated.

In a nutshell, if you've got a WHO-approved vaccine you're welcome. If not you may find yourself in pandemic limbo — and feeling very frustrated.

Global deaths from COVID-19 have now surpassed 5 million, according to the data released Monday from Johns Hopkins University's coronavirus tracker.

The U.S. leads the world in the number of confirmed deaths from the virus with more than 745,800 people dead from COVID-19. Brazil (with more than 607,000 deaths) and India (with more than 450,000 deaths) follow the U.S. in the number of lives lost since the start of the pandemic.

Sufia Khatun says big cyclones used to hit her community of Morrelganj, in southwest Bangladesh, once every quarter-century or so. Now, she says, "we experience a big cyclone [every] two to three years, a smaller cyclone almost every year." The community needs stronger defenses from the assault of wind and water, she says; otherwise the region could become uninhabitable.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

When I first reached Maria Laura Rojas and told her that I was looking for people in Colombia who'd been affected by climate change, she was hesitant to be interviewed. She figured I was looking for someone who'd lost everything in a flood or whose crops had failed due to drought.

"I wouldn't be able to tell a story like that," she said. "I live in the capital city, on the seventh floor in a building in Bogota. To be very honest."

The Food and Drug Administration has authorized a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. This lower-dose formulation of the companies' adult vaccine was found to be safe and 90.7% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19.

Back in the 1980s, scientists in the U.K. performed an experiment that — at first glance — sounds unethical. "Volunteers came into the lab, and someone squirted virus up their nose," says computational biologist Jennie Lavine.

The researchers took a liquid packed with coronavirus particles and intentionally tried to make 15 volunteers sick.

MOSCOW — Russia's capital entered a 10-day partial lockdown on Thursday — as the rest of Russia braced for a series of COVID-19 restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of a virus that has set, and continuously reset, records over the past month for daily fatalities and infections.

On Thursday, the government's coronavirus task force reported the latest grim milestone — a record-high 40,096 infections and 1,159 deaths in the past 24 hours alone.

They wore white coats and gave a press conference, standing next to a 12-foot-tall pile of fake bones. The 15 or so doctors and scientists from Harvard Medical School staged this protest in front of the Boston home of Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel. The bones, they said, symbolized unnecessary COVID deaths.

The U.S. biotech company is one of two in the world that have come up with an mRNA vaccine against COVID-19. Of the World Health Organization-approved vaccines, these mRNA vaccines show the highest efficacy rates against COVID.

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SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

The highest rate of COVID-19 vaccination in the U.S. is not in a liberal-leaning Northeastern or West Coast state.

It's in Puerto Rico, where more than 73% of the total population is fully vaccinated. The U.S. national average is just over 57%.

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NOEL KING, HOST:

The U.S. has given 200 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to countries in need and has said it will give a total of 1.1 billion by 2022. Yet public health specialists say several more billion doses are needed around the world. Steve Inskeep of NPR's Morning Edition interviewed Gayle Smith, coordinator for global COVID response and health security at the U.S. State Department, to learn more about global vaccine distribution.

Oh no. Not again.

Just when COVID surge in the U.S. has begun to decline, another coronavirus variant has immediately cropped up. This time in the U.K.

Known in the media as "delta-plus," this mutant is raising some concern because over the past few weeks, it's begun to spread in several parts of Britain. It now accounts for about 6% of all cases in the U.K.

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.

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

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Rochelle dos Santos learned that her daughter would probably be born with microcephaly — a condition where a baby's head is much smaller than expected — when she was seven months pregnant. It was 2016 and Brazil was going through an unprecedented microcephaly outbreak associated with the mosquito-borne virus Zika.

It may seem obvious: Heat kills. Wildfires burn. Flooding drowns.

Fans of the television series The Great British Bake Off have long marveled at the skill contestants show during the dreaded "technical challenge" — for which they are given a basket with all the ingredients needed to make a highly unusual dish but a set of instructions that are often as vague as, "Bake until ready." Now a team of scientists at a pharmaceutical startup in South Africa is essentially confronting the same type of test — except the stakes are life and death.

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