Ruth Sherlock

A surge in coronavirus cases is overwhelming hospitals across Lebanon, leading doctors to tell families to care for sick loved ones at home because there's no more space in the wards.

Jean Nakhoul, an executive producer for Lebanon's MTV channel, says his family has been calling around the country and finding no medical treatment for his 83-year-old grandmother who is sick with COVID-19.

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And finally today, you know you've heard those ads. You might even have succumbed to one of them. I'm talking about the big push for new gym memberships. It's usually right now. And that's because getting fit is one of the most common New Year's resolutions. But this year, many gyms are closed because of the pandemic. So what are the alternatives for people who are resolved to get fit in 2021? We reached out to Jennipher Walters for some ideas. She is a certified personal trainer and health coach, and she also co-hosts the "Fit Bottomed Girls" podcast.

Updated at 5:23 p.m. ET

A large explosion rocked the airport in Aden, Yemen, on Wednesday shortly after a jet landed carrying officials of the country's Saudi-backed government. Dozens of casualties were reported. Video from the scene shows hundreds of people were gathered on the tarmac when the blast struck.

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Nine years ago this month, residents of the small Syrian town of Douma were in full rebellion against the regime of President Bashar Assad. Throughout the preceding year, Assad had watched as popular protests ousted dictators in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and demonstrations spread to Bahrain, Algeria, Yemen. Now pro-democracy dissent had ignited across his country — including in Douma, just five miles from the capital Damascus.

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What is left of the Arab Spring? After a decade of civil wars and government crackdowns, it's easy to forget that December of 2010 started as a time of hope in the Middle East.

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Abu Alaa leaves his home in Damascus at dawn to buy bread from his local bakery. There he stands in line for up to six hours to get the two packets of the round flat pita bread that government rations allow for a three-child family like his.

After this he goes to the gas station, where he usually waits a further six hours to buy the fuel he needs for his work as a minivan driver.

"Half of my day is spent waiting for bread — God, it's laughable," he says. "And the other half is spent waiting in line for diesel!"

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Khaled Taleb steps out of his vehicle high on a mountainside in northern Lebanon, and surveys the charred remains of the cedar forest he fought to save. A black carpet of the trees' burned needles crunches underfoot.

Armed with only gardening tools and cloth masks, Taleb and four friends spent the night of Aug. 23 on this mountainside battling a wildfire that swept up from the valley and engulfed this high-altitude woodland of cedars and juniper trees.

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Lebanon's capital, Beirut, remains devastated by the massive explosion at the city's port last month. The country is in the depths of an economic collapse, and the coronavirus is spreading.

But as Lebanon reels from multiple tragedies, conservationists are pointing to one bright spot. They say a record number of endangered green sea turtles have come to nest on the country's shores. Loggerhead turtles have also come in large numbers.

Updated at 2:25 p.m. ET

Rescue workers in Beirut are delicately exploring the rubble of a collapsed building where a specialist team says it detected signs of life — one month after Lebanon's capital was devastated by a massive explosion at its port.

The effort began after a sniffer dog named Flash signaled to his Chilean search and rescue team that someone might be alive under the concrete and debris in the neighborhood of Mar Mikhael.

Lebanon is seeing a dramatic increase in the spread of the coronavirus since last month's massive explosion at Beirut's port, which damaged much of the capital city. Since the Aug. 4 blast, the number of COVID-19 cases has increased by some 220%, according to an assessment by the International Rescue Committee.

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As terrible as last week's explosion at Beirut's port was, killing 172 people and injuring some 6,000 others, it has prompted new hopes for political change in Lebanon.

On Monday, Prime Minister Hassan Diab and his cabinet resigned, as it emerged that the blast was likely the result of government negligence. Now Lebanese are calling for major reforms.

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When Westerners think of Beirut, they might rely on dated notions of the city: a 15-year civil war that ended in 1990; a war with Israel and sporadic airstrikes; bombings of the U.S. Marine barracks and the U.S. Embassy; an attack 15 years ago on the prime minister's convoy.

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Updated at 4:51 a.m. ET Thursday

Beirut is reeling and Lebanon is in grief after a powerful explosion tore through the capital's port area on Tuesday. The enormous blast, which officials said was driven by thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate, killed at least 137 people and injured thousands more. Emergency crews are still working to find all the victims.

The coronavirus is spreading through government-held areas of Syria at an alarming rate and the authoritarian regime uses a campaign of intimidation to suppress information about the outbreak, a medical worker inside the country says.

With hospitals overwhelmed, staff are treating patients in dirty rooms, without enough medication and with little equipment to protect themselves, one medical worker in the country told NPR.

But talking about it can be dangerous.

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The U.S. isn't the only country reckoning with racism right now. In Lebanon at the prestigious American University of Beirut, African students are speaking up about discrimination. NPR's Ruth Sherlock reports.

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In Syria, rifts at the top of the country's regime are usually kept secret. But as the economy collapses, a power struggle between President Bashar al-Assad and the family oligarch has burst into the open. NPR's Ruth Sherlock reports.

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Doctors Without Borders says that a catastrophe is unfolding in the Yemeni city of Aden. Doctors and aid workers talk of hospitals being overwhelmed and of the ill dying in their homes. And as NPR's Ruth Sherlock reports, the doctors themselves are falling ill.

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