Marvel made a comic of a Syrian family. It tells a story you won't see on the news.

Since July 2015, the Syrian mountain town of Madaya has been under siege by their own government.

40,000 people live there, and the government (mostly) allows people to move freely within the town limits. But with a few exceptions for emergency aid, no one has been allowed in or out of the mountainside town for more than a year, effectively turning the former resort town into an open-air prison.

Government officials have consistently denied travel visas to visitors, too, which means no one knows exactly what's going on within city limits — except that dozens of people have already starved to death and that it's all in retaliation for a few rebels in the town who opposed the brutal actions of the Assad regime.


The blockade leading into the city. Photo by Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images.

ABC News producer Rym Momtaz became obsessed with the city of Madaya early on.

She spent weeks working through her wide network of contacts (built up over years of war correspondence) to try to get news from the inside. Finally, she made contact with a mother of five who was trapped in Madaya.

At first, the woman feared for her life; she had a family to provide for, after all, and the Syrian government was not forgiving. But Momtaz gained the woman's trust over time, and the two began to communicate every day via encrypted text messages.

A family rushes to greet the aid trucks that arrived in January 2016. Photo by Stringer/AFP/Getty Images.

Momtaz started translating "Madaya Mom's" encrypted texts into English, chronicling the strife in an ongoing blog.

The woman, whose identity was kept secret to protect her and her family, shared the details of her life under siege — the furniture they burned for warmth; the bombs that rocked their schools and home; the scraps of food they struggled to keep down and sickness they endured from starvation; intimate details of her children's lives and passions; and all the other struggles of life during wartime.

The blog was shocking. It was heartfelt. It was real. But Momtaz worried that not even those bursts of words could do justice to the horrifying situation.

Photo by Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images.

Eventually, ABC teamed up with Marvel Entertainment to render the story of Madaya Mom in a way that people could actually see.

“[The Mother] agreed to speak with ABC because she wanted her story — and the story of her neighbors — to be known," explained ABC News digital executive producer Dan Silver. "However, with no visuals coming out of Madaya, our team spent a considerable amount of time imagining the ways we could illustrate her powerful journey."

Marvel tapped artist Dalibor Talajíc to bring Madaya Mom's words to life. Talajíc, who has previously illustrated "X-Men" and "Avengers," had his own experiences with armed conflicts in his native Yugoslavia and his current home country of Croatia.

"What I could relate to is this civilian point of view during the war because somebody else is fighting, and regardless of your actions, bombs are falling around, snipers are shooting around, and you just survive," he said in an interview with NPR.

Using Madaya Mom's own words, Talajíc turned the story into a stunning visual narrative.

He recreated the ruin and claustrophobia of life in wartime Syria in a stunning way.

“[Madaya Mom] is a huge fan of Spider-Man, and she could not believe that the people behind Spider-Man, Marvel, knew that she existed, knew her story and were interested in giving her story the same treatment they gave Spider-Man," Momtaz said in an interview with Fusion. "The only difference being Spider-Man is fiction and her story is unfortunately is … very real."

Check out the first few pages of the story below:

Images by Dalibor Talajic/ABC News/Marvel Entertainment, used with permission.

"January 19, 2016. Today our one meal was rice and bean soup. Our bodies are no longer used to eating. My children are hungry but are getting sick, severe stomach pains from the food because their bodies aren't able to digest and absorb the food because they were hungry for so long."

"When we wake up, we drink mint or thyme tea from the garden, with a little bit of sugar. It keeps the children from being hungry for a while."

The story of Madaya Mom is available for free online, and it's also an exclusive print comic. But the real-life Madaya Mom is still trapped under siege.

Right now, Madaya Mom's graphic narrative is the only way for the world to hear her story — though hopefully someday we will hear her voice directly from her mouth, too. Another aid convoy entered the city at the end of September, but the future is still unwritten for her and many like her.

For now, all we can do is share her harrowing story.

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via Hollie Bellew-Shaw / Facebook

For those of us who are not on the spectrum, it can be hard to perceive the world through the senses of someone with autism.

"You could think of a person with autism as having an imbalanced set of senses," Stephen Shore, assistant professor in the School of Education at Adelphi University, told Web MD.

"Some senses may be turned up too high and some turned down too low. As a result, the data that comes in tends to be distorted, and it's very hard to perceive a person's environment accurately," Shore continued.

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Truth

Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign. We don't do PSAs. We also need to update so to explain truth – the nonprofit behind the truth youth smoking prevention campaign – you could also say this in a funny way – best known for sharing the facts about smoking and vaping or pull from some old campaigns. Just layer in a description of truth and who the campaign is., is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

After the harrowing experience, he quit vaping, and began speaking out about his experience to help inform others and hopefully inspire them to quit and/or take action. "It shouldn't take having a seizure as a result of nicotine addiction like I had for teens to realize that these companies are taking advantage of what we don't know," Kinard said.

Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

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True

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

Culture
via Cadbury

Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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