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In just over four decades, obesity levels in children and teenagers have risen dramatically worldwide, though that rise has been far from uniform. In a new study published online Tuesday, British researchers and the World Health Organization say those levels have plateaued lately in high-income countries, "albeit at high levels," while the rise in obesity rates has only accelerated in regions such as East Asia and Latin America.

Oct. 11 is the "International Day of the Girl" – proclaimed by the U.N. as a time to look at the challenges girls face and to promote their "empowerment" and human rights.

What kind of year has it been for girls? We looked at the stories we've done over the past year, and the headlines alone captured both the tragedies and the triumphs. In many ways a horrible year for girls. But even at the bleakest moments, there are stories of hope and triumph.

Here is a sampling of our stories about the world's girls:

What will it take for the people of this world to drop their prejudices, to move past intolerance — and just get along?

That's a question Princeton psychologist Betsy Levy Paluck — one of the 24 MacArthur Fellows announced on Wednesday — has dedicated her career to answering.

With so much going on in the world right now, we wanted to know from our audience: Which global problem keeps you up at night?

In a wealthy suburb in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, a group of young Pakistanis veered between laughter and distress as they played a board game that echoed their lives in both funny and painful ways.

The name of the game is Arranged and the goal is to avoid at all costs an arranged marriage — and the matchmaker who sets them up. She's known as Rishta Aunty, slang in Urdu and Hindi for a certain kind of middle-aged, busybody matchmaker who knows all the single men and women.

Sometimes you can see the smoke of Myanmar's burning villages from across the border in Bangladesh.

For Muslim Rohingya who have fled their predominantly Buddhist country, it's a reminder of the violent crackdowns they faced. Since late August, half a million Rohingya have escaped Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh.

In the spring of 2016, there was a frenzy over the threat of Zika virus at Brazil's Olympic Games. As infections reached their peak, a group of scientists called for the games to be moved somewhere else. A number of athletes, worried about sexually transmitting the virus to pregnant partners, chose to stay home.

But a group of researchers with University of Utah and the United States Olympic Committee announced Saturday that they weren't able to find any evidence that U.S. Olympians, Paralympians or staff got Zika virus at all.

Last weekend's massacre in Las Vegas is only the latest reminder of the persistent gun violence in the United States. And a new set of statistics on the rates of gun violence unrelated to conflict underscores just how outsize U.S. rates of gun deaths are compared with those in much of the rest of the world.

His School For 540 Needy Kids Earns Him A U.N. Prize

Oct 5, 2017

"Once upon a time, I was a child," says Zannah Mustapha. And a fortunate one, at that, adds the 58-year-old Nigerian lawyer.

This is not the case for many young people today in his city of Maiduguri, the capital of Nigeria's Borno State — and the epicenter of the Boko Haram insurgency.

An estimated 1 million kids have been displaced, and too many of them have lost their parents to violence.

Mustapha's response? "I have to protect them."

Where can people expect to live the longest?

The answer to that question is usually pretty predictable and often dependent on wealth: People generally live longer in richer countries. Like Japan and Switzerland, where average life expectancies exceed 83 years.

In lower income countries, expected years of life are often far shorter — hovering below 55 in a number of sub-Saharan countries, including Chad, Mozambique and Sierra Leone.

This past weekend, basketball players from island nations across the Indian Ocean converged in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, to face off in the regional championships. But no one was to cheer on the teams. The bleachers were empty — because of the plague.

Of the 56 million annual abortions performed around the world, nearly half, or 25 million, posed some threat to the health or life of the woman. The vast majority of unsafe abortions – 97 percent — were performed in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Most people have had some exposure to mercury. Fish is one source. So are mercury vapors from workplaces and factories. That's what the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say.

At very low levels, the mercury isn't likely a problem (although it's hard to say exactly how low is "safe.")

Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young are the joint winners of the 2017 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, winning for their discoveries about how internal clocks and biological rhythms govern human life.

The three Americans won "for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm," the Nobel Foundation says.

There's an idea percolating up from the anthropology world that may make you rethink what makes you happy.

The idea is not new. It surfaced in the popular consciousness back in the late 1960s and helped to galvanize a growing environmental movement.

And now several books are bringing it back into the limelight.

Editor's note: The original version of this story said that the iguanas on the U.S. Virgin Islands feed on mosquitoes and that Hurricane Irma decimated the iguana population, which would most likely result in a proliferation of mosquitoes. In fact, iguanas do not feed on mosquitoes and there is no correlation between their reduced number and the mosquito population. We have updated this story.

The charity World Vision International is a major provider of disaster relief across the globe. So when Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, the group's office in the United States revved up its fundraising big-time.

"We've raised just under $4 million in cash donations," says Drew Clark, senior director of emergencies at World Vision's U.S. office.

Two weeks later Hurricane Irma roared through the Caribbean and Florida. This time World Vision brought in $900,000.

Drink Up! Volunteers Swallow Bacteria That Causes Typhoid

Sep 29, 2017

If somebody asked you to drink a solution filled with live bacteria that can cause typhoid, you'd probably say ... no.

The idea of giving up food for 25 hours for the Yom Kippur fast can seem daunting.

But for Shadrach Mugoya Levi, it's not so unusual. In his impoverished village of Magada, Uganda, there are many days when there's not enough food to eat.

"On Yom Kippur I am asking God to pardon me," Levi says of the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. "On other days when I don't have food, I still pray. I pray that I get what to eat, so that I can continue to live."

Scientists have started to unravel a key mystery about the Zika virus. And the findings are almost unbelievable.

"When I first started reading the study, I said, 'Oh, my gosh, that's amazing,' says molecular biologist Alysson Muotri, at the University of California, San Diego, who wasn't involved in the study.

The study — published Thursday in the journal Science — demonstrates how an obscure virus may have transformed into a global threat almost overnight.

Hurricanes and floods don't just wash away crops and livestock and businesses. Marcia Bauer will tell you there's another loss that feels just as devastating, even if you can't see it with your eyes: the loss of your sense that you can plan for the future — that it's even worth trying.

Which global problem keeps you up at night?

That's what we asked Amina J. Mohammed, the deputy secretary-general of the United Nations at the Global Goals Awards ceremony in New York City last week.

It's not an easy question to answer in a world buffeted by disasters: hurricanes, earthquakes, famine and refugee crises.

But without skipping a beat, Mohammed, a Nigerian diplomat who is No. 2 in command at the U.N., said:

It's the latest in a series of Trump remarks that went viral.

Even when things aren't going your way, there's chocolate: a universal balm if ever there was one. While cacao beans –– the precursor of a chocolate bar –– grow in many places, one country where you can find superb specimens is Venezuela.

Romanian photographer Mihaela Noroc spent nearly four years shooting portraits of — and collecting stories about — women from around the world.

The product of her vision — and her travels to 50 countries — can be seen in her book The Atlas Of Beauty, hitting shelves Tuesday.

The project, she says, began as something "very genuine and sincere" that she financed, initially, with her own savings — and by being frugal in her backpacking adventure. She later crowd-funded, including a Facebook campaign in March.

The study has a depressing name: The Million Death Study.

But its latest set of data, published in the journal The Lancet on Wednesday, is anything but depressing when it comes to the topic of childhood deaths in India.

India has the tragic distinction of being a world leader in childhood deaths. Between 2000 and 2015, the death toll for children under the age of five was 29 million — a fifth of global childhood deaths.

Well before this year's series of historically powerful hurricanes, Puerto Rico already had a notoriously fickle power supply and crushing debt — the power authority effectively declared bankruptcy in July. Power outages were routine, even in cities.

Sometimes it's hard to get people to pay attention to the biggest problems of the world — poverty, hunger, disease. But what if they were printed on M&M's?

What do Bolivia, Belgium, Burkina Faso, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Scotland, South Africa, the United States and Vietnam all have in common?

The pervasive idea is that girls are vulnerable and that boys are strong and independent.

A Neglected Family Of Killer Viruses

Sep 20, 2017

We think of HIV, TB and malaria as some of the deadliest infectious diseases on earth. And the death tolls bear that out.

But there's a family of viruses that is in the same league: hepatitis viruses.

There are five of them. Their alphabet soup of names tells us the order in which they were discovered: hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. According to a new report from the Global Burden of Disease, the viruses kill 1.34 million people a year.

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