Kelly McEvers

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Last spring, the state of Indiana declared an emergency after a major HIV outbreak in the small town of Austin. Drug users there were injecting the painkiller Opana and sharing needles.

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And next, Kelly, you're about to take us into a house in Austin, Ind. And it's in this small town that I know most of us have never really heard of it until this HIV outbreak last year.

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A major natural gas storage well in Southern California is still leaking, though less so than back in late October, when the giant gas leak was first reported. More than 5,000 families and two schools have been relocated since then, and the local utility that operates the facility is now facing several legal actions.

We know more than ever about concussions, the permanent brain damage of chronic traumatic encephalopathy and the other physical risks of football.

Yet so far this year, at least 19 students have died playing football, according to the University of North Carolina's National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research.

Though participation is slowly declining, football is still the country's most popular high school sport. Over a million high schoolers played last season.

The latest front in the debate over religious freedom is all about an 8 1/2-by-11-inch piece of paper.

This particular piece of paper is a notice — one the state of California will soon require to be posted in places known as crisis pregnancy centers. These resource centers, often linked to religious organizations, provide low-cost or free services to pregnant women, while encouraging these women to not have abortions.

In many countries, the decisions teens make at 15 can determine the rest of their lives. But, often, girls don't have much say — parents, culture and tradition decide for them. In a new series, #15Girls, NPR explores the lives of 15-year-old girls who are seeking to take control and change their fate. Warning: Some of the depictions and images in this story are graphic.

There's a clearing in the jungle in central Liberia that now serves as an Ebola burial ground. Every day, a woman who works as a nurse in the nearby Ebola treatment unit, or ETU, changes from her scrubs into traditional dress, walks into that clearing and sings a song of mourning.

The song is meant to prepare the space for the dead. There is a burial every day. So far, nearly 100 people have been buried in this clearing. Sixteen are from one village about 45 minutes away, a place called Taylortown, or Taylata in the local dialect.

In Liberia, the number of new cases of Ebola is going down, but the risk has not been eliminated. To help contain the disease, schools are set to be closed until March.

But a national Senate election, which was postponed once, is now set for mid-December. That means campaigning — which means crowds.

Back in August and September, when a hundred people were getting Ebola a day, Monrovia was a ghost town. Ebola treatment units were full and regular hospitals were closed. Some people died in the streets. A lot of people stayed home.

The Ebola outbreak started in rural areas, but by June it had reached Liberia's capital, Monrovia.

By August, the number of people contracting the Ebola virus in the country was doubling every week. The Liberian government and aid workers begged for help.

Enter the U.S. military, who along with other U.S. agencies had a clear plan in mid-September to build more Ebola treatment units, or ETUs. At least one would be built in the major town of each of Liberia's 15 counties. That way, sick patients in those counties wouldn't bring more Ebola to the capital.

There's a new phase of Ebola in Liberia. Epidemiologists call it pingponging.

Back in March, the disease was found in the rural areas. Then as people came to the capital to seek care, it started growing exponentially there. Now, some sick people are going back to their villages, and the disease has pingponged to the rural areas again.

So that's where we're headed — into the hot, thick jungle of Liberia to investigate a new Ebola hotspot.

Wencke Petersen came to Liberia in late August to do what she normally does for Doctors Without Borders in hotspots all over the world — manage supplies.

But the supplies she was meant to organize hadn't arrived yet. So she was asked to help with another job: standing at the main gate of the walled-in compound, turning people away when the unit was full.

For five weeks, she gave people the bad news.

While life expectancies are getting longer for those who are well off, life spans for poor women are actually getting shorter. The stories of two women, from two very different places, illustrate the reasons for the gap.

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