Samantha Balaban

Samantha Balaban is producer at Weekend Edition.

After receiving her M.A. in Journalism and Latin American studies from New York University, she got her start in public radio covering the James "Whitey" Bulger trial for WBUR as an intern. Since coming to NPR in 2014, she has reported on a perfume-loving tiger, traveled to Mexico to meet actor Diego Luna (and cover the elections), ridden with border patrol officers along the Rio Grande River, eaten very well in Houston, interviewed a Bangle and used her waterproof fanny pack to help keep her mic dry during hurricanes. She's also responsible for Picture This, a series of conversations with authors and illustrators.

Most days, you can find her under a pile of books and mail coordinating Weekend Edition's book coverage. On weekends, she's hanging out with her dog, Winnie.

TORKHAM, Pakistan — Although the Kabul airport has opened again to international flights, many Afghans are still trying to flee overland, through major border crossings like the one in Torkham, Pakistan.

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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, HOST:

At its heart, Hunter Biden's new memoir, Beautiful Things, is a story of addiction.

Biden, the 51-year-old son of the president, writes that he first bought crack cocaine at age 18. He first fell in love with alcohol in high school and started drinking heavily after work in his 20s. "I always could drink five times more than anyone else," he writes.

He has been in and out of rehab numerous times over the last two decades and has had long periods of sobriety between relapses.

Food banks have seen demand climb dramatically this year. Eric Cooper of the San Antonio Food Bank talks about how additional federal dollars could make a difference to his clients.

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SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Animal shelters around the country say that they're seeing more interest than usual during the pandemic. Are you perhaps thinking of adopting a dog? Or B.J. Leiderman, who writes our theme music? NPR's Samantha Balaban worked with our Life Kit podcast to assemble advice on where to start and how to prepare.

JILLIAN MOLINA: If possible, I'd love to just see your yard to make sure it's, like, dog proof.

Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey have been "making stuff" together since they were kids. They grew up in a family of four brothers, and from a young age, Jarrett says, he and Jerome "just clicked."

Dr. Carrie Jurney is on the board of an online organization that works to prevent suicides. It's called Not One More Vet.

This isn't a mental health support group for veterans — it's for veterinarians.

For nine months, Rosa Gutierrez Lopez has been living at Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethesda, Md. She can't leave the property. If she does, she risks being deported to El Salvador.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes early in life, and ever since has given herself insulin shots before she eats, to help manage her blood sugar levels. No big deal. But some years ago, she had an upsetting experience at a restaurant.

She was in the restaurant bathroom, just finishing up her injection when another woman walked in. They both returned to their dinners, but as Sotomayor left the restaurant, she heard the woman from the restroom say: "She's a drug addict."

Dr. Julie Rickard thought her visit to Wisconsin over the Christmas holiday would bring a break from her day job working in suicide prevention in Wenatchee, Wash.

The visit didn't go as planned. After a tense fight broke out between her mother and another family member, everyone dispersed. Rickard readied herself for the trip back to the Pacific Northwest.

At the airport, she received a call from her mother, Sheri Adler. This was not out of the ordinary — Adler, like many adoring mothers, always calls her daughter after parting ways.

Nicole Rikard had recently married Sgt. John Rikard of the Asheville Police Department in North Carolina. He had an 8-year-old son, Tucker, from a previous marriage. From the time Nicole and John started dating, they had scarcely been apart.

Soon after they married, however, Nicole had to go to Florida for some work training — she was a crime scene investigator in the same police department. John worked an overnight shift and would call her when he woke up to check in.