KRWG

Maanvi Singh

When Emmanuel Ikubese first saw the show MTV Shuga, he was a university student and an aspiring actor. Like many fans, he was hooked.

It started in late January. At my local grocery store in South London, salad seemed to be just a few pence pricier than usual. But I didn't think much of it.

Later that week, the same market had conspicuously run out of zucchini. I'm not particularly fond of it, but I lamented for the carb-conscious yuppies who depended — and subsisted — on spiralized zucchini spaghetti. How would they cope?

At the northern border of Somalia and Ethiopia, a group of teenage boys forced two girls — aged 14 and 16 — into a car, drove them to another location, stripped them and raped them.

The incident occurred on December 6. This weekend, a community court charged the perpetrators with thousands of dollars in fines, as well as up to 200 lashes and 10 years in jail. That's an unexpected outcome in a country where the perpetrators of rape often pay a small fine and walk free.

"I never thought I can make a film for Oscar!" says Khaleed Khateeb.

Khateeb is a volunteer for the Syria Civil Defense forces, rescuing those caught in the crossfire of the civil war. He began filming scenes of the rescue missions and posting them on YouTube.

When filmmaker Orlando von Einsiedel decided to make a documentary about the group, he got in touch with Khateeb, gave him training and better camera equipment and told him to keep on filming.

Right up until he absolutely had to leave, 24-year-old nurse Abu Hussam was determined to stay in Aleppo. Months of airstrikes and assaults couldn't dissuade him — his community needed him.

When forces supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad moved in to take control of the city last month, Abu Hussam was among the last of the civilians evacuated from the city. He couldn't stay, because the Syrian government has persecuted medical staff and their families for treating rebels.

Things were already going pretty badly for Florence Manyande. Then one day last spring, while walking down the street, she was hit by a car.

"This woman saw, and she pulled me out of the road." recalls Manyande, 50. "She tried to talk to me, but I couldn't talk then. I had a lot on my mind."

It's been a lively year for social media mavens as they hashtagged their way through the ups, the downs and the downright silly.

"I lost more than 80 percent of my university friends," recalls Jagannath Lamichhane.

After silently struggling with depression for two decades, Lamichhane published an essay in Nepal Times about his mental illness. "I could have hid my problem — like millions of people around the world," he says, but "if we hide our mental health, it may remain a problem forever."

When the last remaining hospital in besieged eastern Aleppo crumbled under a wave of artillery strikes on Nov. 18, one of the casualties was 25-year-old nurse Kefah.

"The last time he called me was one night before he was killed," says Dr. A.M. — an intensive care specialist based in Detroit who, for the past four years, has been providing training and support via Skype and WhatsApp to medical staff in Aleppo. He asked that we only use his initials because the Syrian government has persecuted doctors — and their families — for treating rebels.

It's around 6 o'clock on a Sunday evening, and Anne-Charlotte Mornington is running around the food market in London's super-hip Camden neighborhood with a rolling suitcase and a giant tarp bag filled with empty tupperware boxes. She's going around from stall to stalll, asking for leftovers.

Mornington works for the food-sharing app Olio. "If ever you have anything that you can't sell tomorrow but it's still edible," she explains to the vendors, "I'll take it and make sure that it's eaten."

Twenty-two-year-old Zeinab Sekaanvand is in jail, awaiting execution.

Charged with killing her husband when she was 17, she confessed to the murder but later recanted, saying her brother-in-law committed the crime and pressured her to take responsibility.

Now, her cause has galvanized civil rights groups like Amnesty International, which says that she did not receive a fair trial and that Iran has a record of executing juvenile offenders.

But any day now, she could be hanged.

Her story begins in a small village in northern Iran.

Khaleed Khateeb dreamed of being a photojournalist when he was in high school. As he watched Syria crumble into chaos around him, he wanted to share his country's story with the world.

Say you want to escape the doldrums of daily life — but you can't quite afford a trip to Hawaii. Why not to head to your local tiki bar for a sample of the South Seas?

Why do onions make us cry?

Many a poet has pondered. Is it because their beautiful, multilayered complexity moves us to weep? Are we mourning the majestic bulb as we cut it up and consume it?

Or are these tears induced by the tragic tedium of chopping, chopping, chopping?

Yes, yes. All of the above.

Sughra Hussainy makes her own watercolors — which she uses to paint intricate miniatures in the traditional Persian and Afghan styles. Her favorite hue is blue — made from powdered lapis lazuli gemstones.

Renate Senter clearly remembers the first care package she received, in 1946. She, her mother and her sister had fled Poland. In the aftermath of World War II, they'd ended up in a small town, in the British-controlled section of West Germany. "It was my first day of school and all the children got one," she says. "And I remember it was a small package — burgundy. And in white letters, it said 'CARE' on it."

The federal government is getting into hip-hop — well, sort of.

You know that feeling when your body is really craving a nice salad, but the only thing in your fridge is day-old pepperoni pizza? And you don't want to go through all the trouble of heading to the grocery store to gather all the ingredients for salad, so you settle for the pizza?

Well, Neanderthals feel you — kind of.

See, researchers are finding that Neanderthals and early humans weren't all that different — they even got together and made babies every now and then.

This April marks the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month, and here at The Salt, we wanted to celebrate with a selection of the sauciest, most scrumptious verses about food.

The tiny Samoan islands have among the highest rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in the world — and diet and weight-related health issues have been rising in these Pacific nations since the 1970s. Now 1 in 3 residents of American Samoa suffers from diabetes.

Chinese food has become ingrained in this country's culinary landscape over the years — giving rise to some uniquely Americanized dishes like General Tsao's chicken, beef and broccoli, and of course, the ubiquitous fortune cookie.

But some of the Chinese food you'll find in and around Boston is something else altogether. Bread often comes as a standard add-on with any takeout order. There's chow mein sandwiches and Peking ravioli (aka dumplings). There's the thick, dark lobster sauce.

So, maybe your Instagram pics of #delicious #foodporn never look nearly as scrumptious as the real thing.

Don't despair — it's not you. It's just that your food is too real.

Pot-infused edibles are big sellers in states that have legalized marijuana. The problem is, it's been tough to measure and regulate the potency of these ganja-laced gummy bears, lollies and brownies.

Editor's note: Last fall, NPR's Maanvi Singh embarked on a months-long quest to find her ideal pumpkin pie recipe. As she discovered, there's a lot of science involved in getting the crust and filling just the way you like it. To celebrate Pi Day, we reprise this story, first published last December.

It was the best of pies, it was the worst of pies. I have baked many, many, many pies.

And when I first began making pumpkin pies this autumn, my results were at best inconsistent and, at worst, disastrous.

Attend any conference on global health or peruse the United Nations website, and you'll find some ambitious thinking. World leaders say they want to eliminate tuberculosis and malaria, end AIDS and ensure that every pregnant woman can get the medical care she needs. And they want all that to happen now.

But is any of it actually achievable?

When Dr. Etheldreda Nakimuli-Mpungu graduated from medical school, her mother told her, "OK, good. But you know it's not good to just be a doctor."

Umm, what?

"She, said, 'There's some doctors you go to and they don't make you better. I want you to be one of the doctors that really makes people better,' " Mpungu recalls. "And I thought, 'Oh, no. What does she mean now?' "

Mpungu went on to work in a surgical ward. And then with children. She was helping people — but couldn't say she was really living up to her mother's high expectations.

The Aedes aegypti mosquitoes really suck — literally and figuratively.

They're really good at finding and sucking on human blood. Which especially sucks, because their inescapable, insidious little bites can infect people with the Zika virus as well as dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

These buggers — like most mosquitoes -- will bite where we're least likely to notice — at the ankles, behind the knees and at the back of our necks. No matter how much you cover up, one or two will home in on even the smallest cracks of exposed skin.

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