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The Afghans will elect a new president, and the U.S. combat mission will end. There are worries about a resurgent Taliban, the fragile economy and the future of women's rights. In short, Afghans are concerned about most everything.

Just six people managed to sign up for health insurance through the federal website the day it opened for business. The numbers are better now, but the botched rollout may have not only inconvenienced people, but also permanently changed people's perceptions of the Affordable Care Act.

Women are supposed to do three pullups, part of the new physical test intended to determine whether women are ready for ground combat. The pullup test has been put on hold because most female recruits have been unable to meet the standard.

Scientists hope to solve mysteries of the human brain by studying much simpler neural networks — like the brain circuits of fruit flies and mice. Already such research is turning up clues to why many people with autism are easily overwhelmed by bright lights and loud sound.

Japan already relies on a system that helps prevent industrial accidents and train derailments by sending warnings as much as a minute before the ground starts shaking. That much time could save lives after a major earthquake in California, but seismologists say a prototype system there lacks funding and has big gaps.

As 2013 wraps up, NPR is looking at the numbers that tell this year's story. The number 1,134 got us all talking about where our clothes come from, who's making it, and under what conditions. It's the official death toll of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh.

Iowa initially chose not to expand Medicaid to thousands of beneficiaries under the Affordable Care Act. But it's come up with a plan that uses federal money to pay for expansion, while writing its own rules. Beneficiaries will have to pay a small premium, for instance.

Before Syria's civil war, there was no real need for a clinic that could teach the disabled how to walk on artificial legs. Now there's huge demand, not only for the legs, but also for training.

Utah's surprise decision to legalize same-sex marriage caps a landmark year for gay rights. The last 12 months saw a huge string of victories, from state legislatures, to Congress, to the Supreme Court.

An experimental technique called optogenetics is starting to change the way researchers look at the brain. The tool allows them to switch entire brain circuits on and off using light, and may help figure out what's going wrong in brain ailments from epilepsy to depression.

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