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It's the championship of the Afghan women's soccer league in the capital, and the Herat Storm is facing off against the Kabul Fortress. This is a conservative country, and the players sprint across the field in long-sleeved shirts, and leggings under their baggy shorts. Black hoodie-style hijabs cover their hair.

Men and boys clump in one bunch of seats; women and girls in another, but they're feisty: hollering, hooting and banging on drums as the players kick goals.

Want a reminder of how gorgeous our world is — you know, back before all we were thinking about was COVID-19 and lockdowns and vaccine trials?

Take a look at the winning entries of this year's Siena International Photo Awards, an annual contest organized by a group of photographers and enthusiasts from Siena, Italy, that aims to showcase images of beauty, culture and nature across the globe.

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."

The U.S. recorded nearly 122,000 new daily coronavirus cases in data released Friday, a sharp uptick over the previous day that saw the country's first six-figure increase since the start of the pandemic.

According to Johns Hopkins University, 121,888 new confirmed cases were added to the count on Thursday, which now totals more than 9.6 million since the first case was diagnosed in the U.S. in January. On the same day, another 1,210 COVID-19 deaths were recorded. Almost 235,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 since January.

On Feb. 6, a scientist in a small infectious disease lab on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention campus in Atlanta was putting a coronavirus test kit through its final paces. The lab designed and built the diagnostic test in record time, and the little vials that contained necessary reagents to identify the virus were boxed up and ready to go. But NPR has learned the results of that final quality control test suggested something troubling — it said the kit could fail 33% of the time.

Sometimes the call comes from a teenage girl.

She is pleading for help, "saying her parents are trying to get her married but she wants to stay in school," says Vijay Muttur.

He's the child protection officer in the town of Solapur in south-central India. After India went under a coronavirus lockdown in late March, his phone has been ringing off the hook. He's hearing from girls under the age of 18, from village elders, from social activists and child-care workers.

Rich countries are rapidly claiming the world's lion's share of future doses of COVID-19 vaccine, creating deep inequalities in global distribution.

Despite an international agreement to allocate the vaccine equitably around the world, billions of people in poor and middle-income countries might not be immunized until 2023 or even 2024, researchers at Duke University predict.

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."

Does wearing more than one mask at a time make you safer?

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday said there was "no alternative" to a new England-wide lockdown amid a spike in coronavirus cases that he warned could be "twice as bad" as anything seen in the spring.

Updated at 10:15 a.m. ET

As the U.S. grapples with a major spike in new coronavirus cases ahead of Election Day, President Trump is suggesting that he might fire the country's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci. The comments came at a late-night rally that spilled over into the small hours of Monday.

Speaking to supporters in Opa-Locka, Fla., the president expressed frustration with the media's coverage of COVID-19, saying that after Tuesday's election, "you won't hear too much about it."

It is 7 a.m. on a chilly morning in September.

Alice Akinyi Amonde is standing on a beach along the Kenyan shores of Lake Victoria. She makes her living by selling fish, and she's waiting for her boat to come in from a night on the lake so she can take the fisherman's catch, clean it and sell it in a nearby village.

When things were going well in her village of Nduru Beach, she'd earn about $50 a day. Now she is lucky if she makes $3 a day.

States should be working toward being ready to give out COVID-19 vaccines by Nov. 15, according to a target date made public by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday.

The multibillion-dollar global effort to eradicate polio hasn't just stalled. It's moving backward.

When the Global Polio Eradication Initiative began in 1988, roughly 350,000 kids a year were paralyzed by the virus. By 2016 that number had been driven down to 42 cases of any type of polio anywhere in the world.

When Steve Davis considers the prospects of the world's poorest citizens he is filled with .... hope. The reason: Five promising trends that, he says, are gaining steam even amid deeply worrisome developments that get much more attention.

As wildfires raged up and down the Pacific Coast last month, families across California and Oregon lived in – and breathed in — smoky, toxic air for weeks. Many days, the region's air quality ranked among the worst in the world.

The Trump administration issued an executive order and memorandum in September, prohibiting any discussion in the federal workforce of concepts such as systemic racism, white privilege and unconscious bias during workplace diversity training.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

New regulations and social distancing rules are being introduced across multiple European countries in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus as a second wave of the pandemic accelerates across the continent. Europe reported more than 1.3 million new cases this past week, its highest single week count yet, according to the World Health Organization.

Risa Calibuso, 34, wanted to give birth to her second child at home.

In the Philippines, where she lives, that's against the law.

In 2008 the country passed the Maternal, Newborn and Child Health and Nutrition Strategy policy — referred to as the "no home birth" policy. The goal was to reduce the country's high rates of maternal mortality, from 203 out of 100,000 live births that year to 52 by 2015.

It's a controversial law. Despite the good intentions, some local groups assert that it impinges on the rights of women.

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."

Is it safe to eat in an outdoor plastic dome?

Oh, to dine in a giant plastic bubble ...

This election season – like many before it – has been dominated by domestic issues. But whether Americans elect Donald Trump or Joe Biden president will also have significant consequences for the rest of the world, especially those countries that count on U.S. foreign aid. And when it comes to aid and other global issues, Trump and Biden's policies are starkly different.

Spain and France each surpassed 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases this week as Europe battles outbreaks and record numbers throughout the continent.

Spain surpassed 1 million confirmed cases on Wednesday and is reporting 1,005,295 cases as of Thursday evening local time, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

It became the sixth nation worldwide to report 1 million cases, following the U.S., India, Brazil, Russia and Argentina.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

TONYA MOSLEY, HOST:

Early in the coronavirus pandemic, air travel looked like a risky endeavor. Some scientists even worried that airplanes could be sites of superspreading events. For example, in March a Vietnamese businesswoman with a sore throat and a cough boarded a flight in London. Ten hours later, she landed in Hanoi, Vietnam; she infected 15 people on the flight, including more than half of the passengers sitting with her in business class.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

While scientists work to develop effective treatments for COVID-19, there is good news on another disease front.

This month the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted formal approval to an antibody cocktail from the pharmaceutical company Regeneron that's been shown to reduce an Ebola patient's chances of dying dramatically.

Ireland will be the first European country to return to a nationwide shutdown as COVID-19 cases rise, Prime Minister Micheal Martin said Monday.

Nonessential retail businesses are ordered to close. Residents are expected to stay within about 3 miles of their homes, except for work and other essential activities.

The country is entering its highest level of coronavirus restrictions for six weeks, beginning Thursday. The country expects 150,000 people to lose their jobs over the next "couple of days," Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said.

Updated at 9:00 a.m. ET

Researchers in Britain are preparing to start a controversial COVID-19 "human challenge" study in which dozens of healthy volunteers will be exposed to live coronavirus in an effort to speed up vaccine development.

Microplastics are tiny fragments of plastic, often too small for the eye to see. They're created as plastic degrades.

And they're everywhere.

They're in oceans, thanks to plastic garbage. They're in fish. They find their way into the water we drink in various ways, from surface runoff and wastewater effluent to particles deposited from the atmosphere.

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