Health & Science

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I always get excited putting together Goats and Soda's list of most-read stories of the year. To me, it reveals a lot about how our audience feels about the world — What did you find surprising? Share-worthy? Illuminating?

You loved the stories that got you woke: how to ethically take selfies while volunteering abroad; how the Western media visually portrays women and girls in the developing world.

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When a pregnant woman finds out that she's likely to give birth to a baby with Down syndrome, she's often given the option to terminate the pregnancy. But families affected by the genetic disorder, which causes developmental delays, are conflicted over whether such abortions should be legal.

If you're a noted chef and invited to a holiday party, it's kind of assumed that you'll bring something homemade along. At least that's how it usually goes for Yotam Ottolenghi, who admits his success can sometimes intimidate hosts.

But you don't have to be a world-class chef to make showstopping desserts this holiday season: We asked him to suggest recipes that home cooks of all skill levels can tackle.

An international team of scientists have announced the discovery of a previously unknown species of prehistoric penguin.

The bird waddled around off the east coast of New Zealand between 55 and 60 million years ago. And it was a giant as far as penguins go. The researchers estimate that it probably weighed about 220 pounds and was around 5 feet 10 inches tall.

It's time to find out what, if anything, our "mysterious interloper" has to say.

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All this week we are talking to our friends here at NPR about their favorite things from 2017. And we're nerding out here. These are not, like, simple best-of lists.

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Many older adults want to stay in their own homes as long as they can, and often they need some help to make that possible. Not everyone has family to count on. So for tens of thousands of older Americans, the solution has been something called the village.

Thousands of firefighters who have traveled from across the country to Southern California have started making progress containing the fifth-largest wildfire in the state's history.

The week-old, nearly 230,000-acre Thomas Fire is now 20 percent contained, after firefighters on the ground and in aircraft took advantage of weakened Santa Ana winds on Monday night. The fire has consumed an area larger than the size of New York City.

This week, the skywatchers will experience a flashy double feature: The Geminid meteor shower — one of the year's best — will coincide with an unusually close encounter by an asteroid.

That asteroid? It's called 3200 Phaethon, discovered by a NASA satellite in 1983. With a diameter of about 3 miles, it's the third-largest near-Earth asteroid classified by the space agency as "potentially hazardous."

The latest viral video to capture young Africans' social media pages has a striking lack of epic fails or baby animals. It's literally just Ghana's president Nana Akufo-Addo in a joint press conference in Accra with French president Emmanuel Macron, who was making the last stop of his first Africa tour on November 30.

Editor's Note: This story was originally published in September and has been republished with updates about the U.N. investigation of extreme poverty in Alabama and other U.S. locations.

The United Nations is investigating extreme poverty in the U.S.

In Westfield, N.Y., perch, bass, catfish and trout are growing fat on the byproducts of an adjacent brewery and distillery. The fish, still young but intended to be harvested and eaten next year, are the first fruits of an innovative project aimed at turning waste into food while addressing a suite of problems associated with more conventional means of catching and farming seafood.

France's education chief says that when students go back to school next fall, all mobile phone use will be banned in schools for students roughly 15 and younger.

As a cattle herder in Benue, a rural state in central Nigeria, Sale Tambaya's life revolved around his herd of roughly 100 cows and a few dozen sheep. Normally, he would take them out from a pen near his thatched hut every morning to graze freely in the surrounding grassland. But on Nov. 1, taking grazing animals in the open was designated a criminal activity in Benue. Overnight, his family's livelihood had become a threat to their safety.

So at 6 a.m., he made his decision: The only way to keep both family and herd safe was to flee.

Updated at 5:22 p.m. ET Dec. 14

How do Native Americans experience discrimination in daily life?

The Arctic is a huge, icy cap on the planet that acts like a global air conditioner. But the air conditioner is breaking down, according to scientists who issued a grim "report card" on the Arctic on Tuesday.

They say the North Pole continues to warm at an alarming pace — twice the rate as the rest of the planet, on average. This year was the Arctic's second-warmest in at least 1,500 years, after 2016.

Ticks sucked the blood of feathered dinosaurs some 99 million years ago, a new study suggests.

Modern ticks are infamous for biting humans and other mammals. But ticks are very ancient, and scientists who study their evolution have long wondered what (or who) the little vampires ate before there were lots of mammals to feed on. Feathered dinosaurs apparently were among the possible creatures on the menu.

When it comes to the extinction of modern animal species, humans usually end up taking the rap.

The traditional view of the disappearance of the Tasmanian tiger is no different. It follows a well-worn indictment: After the first humans began arriving in Australia (by recent estimates) some 65,000 years ago, the dog-like predatory marsupial began to disappear.

This week marks five years since the mass shooting deaths of 20 young children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

One of those killed was 6-year-old Avielle Richman, who was shot in her first-grade classroom. Her parents, Jeremy Richman and Jennifer Hensel, plan to spend this year's anniversary day quietly, at home with the two children they had after Avielle's death.

The life expectancy of Native Americans in some states is 20 years shorter than the national average.

There are many reasons why.

It's a beautiful morning in Pittsburgh, but Ariel Haughton is stressed out. She's worried her young children's health insurance coverage will soon lapse.

"So, we're like a low-middle-class family, right?" she says. "I'm studying. My husband's working, and our insurance right now is 12 percent of our income — just for my husband and I. And it's not very good insurance either."

The policy that covers the couple requires high fees to even see a doctor, and it has a high deductible for further treatment.

French President Emmanuel Macron, in a not-so-subtle jab at President Trump, has awarded long-term research grants to 18 climate scientists — 13 of them U.S.-based researchers — to relocate to France and pursue their work with the blessing of a government that doesn't cast doubt on the threat of climate change.

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One of the country's best-known celebrity chefs has left day-to-day operations of his businesses after multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MOLTO MARIO")

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I'm Robert Siegel with All Tech Considered.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

It takes courage to confront a bully, to talk openly about the pain they can inflict. Maybe that's why star athletes, celebrities and thousands of other people are embracing Keaton Jones, a student in Tennessee who talks about bullies that persecute him at school, in a video that went viral over the weekend.

President Trump has formally told NASA to send U.S. astronauts back to the moon.

"The directive I'm signing today will refocus America's space program on human exploration and discovery," he said.

Standing at the president's side as he signed "Space Policy Directive 1" on Monday was Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt, one of the last two humans to ever walk on the moon, in a mission that took place 45 years ago this week.

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