National & International News

We follow stories about America and the world, with help from NPR.

Have you ever noticed that when something important is missing in your life, your brain can only seem to focus on that missing thing?

Life lately in the tiny northern Minnesota town of Gilbert has resembled a scene out of an Alfred Hitchcock film. Birds, lots of birds, have been "flying into windows, cars and acting confused," according to the city police department, which has been fielding reports from anxious residents.

Nearly a week after an earthquake struck Sulawesi, spawning a massive tsunami that overwhelmed the Indonesian island's central coast, aid groups are finally getting a foothold in the badly battered region — though challenges remain immense for relief and recovery efforts.

"Some people are now receiving basic food items like rice, noodles and canned food, but this remains a small minority. The food situation in Palu remains dire, and with the market closed we're even struggling to feed ourselves," said Genadi Aryawan, a Mercy Corps team member stationed in the city.

Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello had just moved to New York when Hurricane Sandy blew in from the Atlantic and buffeted the East Coast.

She heard that the labs at New York University, where she was working — and its freezer — were losing power. So she ran to the failing freezer, took the microbiota samples she'd gathered as a researcher in Puerto Rico over the past 14 years and stored them elsewhere.

Microbiota are the bacteria colonizing the human body — the gut, skin, mouth, and so on — that often help regulate your health. Researchers call them "beneficial germs."

Updated at 3:18 p.m. ET

The Trump administration is accusing China of trying to interfere in the U.S. political process in an effort to undermine the president and his agenda in the upcoming midterm elections.

In a speech to the Hudson Institute on Thursday, Vice President Pence amplified the charge leveled by President Trump last week. Pence said China has used covert actors, front groups and propaganda in an attempt to sway U.S. public opinion.

Gregg Gonsalves took a wild, meandering path to the Ivory Tower. His route to becoming a professor at Yale started in street protests and spanned the globe.

On Thursday he was honored with a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship.

Gonsalves is one of this year's MacArthur "geniuses." The award from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation comes with a $625,000 no-strings-attached stipend.

On June 5, 1968, hotel busboy Juan Romero raced to congratulate Sen. Robert Kennedy moments after his victory in the California presidential primary. He had met the candidate the day before, bringing him room service at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

As Kennedy briefly paused to shake the hand of the 17-year-old, a man named Sirhan Sirhan gunned down Kennedy in front of Romero. A remarkable photograph captured the scene: young Romero, an immigrant from Mexico, cradling the glassy-eyed Kennedy, member of an American political dynasty.

Updated at 3:57 p.m. ET

What could possibly bring together a painter, an economist, a pastor and a planetary scientist? If you ask the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the answer is simpler than you may think: They've all shown creativity, potential for future achievements — and the likelihood that $625,000, meted out over five years, will help them complete their grand designs.

FBI special agents spoke with nine people as they investigated allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the White House said on Thursday.

Administration officials declined to detail who had spoken with investigators, but some of the people involved, or their lawyers, have talked on their own about whether or not they have given interviews to the FBI.

You Don't Have To Pass Out To Be Blackout Drunk

Oct 4, 2018

Sign up for the CommonHealth newsletter to receive a weekly digest of WBUR's best health, medicine and science coverage.

Unless you've been blissfully unplugged, you must have come across the term "blackout" lately. And you may have thought it means inebriated to the point of unconsciousness. Falling-down drunk. Blotto.

The wrenching testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, who is accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of a sexual assault years ago, raises questions about the long-term emotional and physical toll this kind of trauma takes on survivors and how our society responds to those who come forward long after the assault.

Updated at 10:12 p.m. ET

Judge Brett Kavanaugh issued a mea culpa of sorts on the eve of a key Senate vote that could determine whether or not he reaches the Supreme Court, admitting in an op-ed that his testimony last week forcefully defending himself from sexual assault allegations "might have been too emotional at times."

Updated at 2 p.m. ET

A federal grand jury in Pennsylvania has indicted seven Russian military intelligence officers, accusing them of hacking into U.S. and international anti-doping agencies and sports federations and of accessing data related to 250 athletes from about 30 countries.

Most of the Twitter accounts that spread disinformation during the 2016 presidential campaign remain active now, according to an ambitious new study released on Thursday.

Knight Foundation researchers examined millions of tweets and concluded that more than 80 percent of the accounts associated with the 2016 disinformation campaign are still posting — even after Twitter announced back in July that it had instituted a purge of fake accounts.

Advocacy groups are ratcheting up the war over Judge Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination, shedding the last vestiges of a high-minded issues debate in favor of more acidic attacks on character and motives.

The attacks are fueled by the allegation, now being investigated by the FBI, that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a girl while in prep school. And now they're further stoked by Kavanaugh's opening statement at last week's Senate Judiciary Committee meeting.

"A thousand newspapers with the same front page" is how the Chinese have for decades described the enforced uniformity of the country's state-controlled media.

Now, one face increasingly dominates those front pages. It belongs to China's president, Xi Jinping, who has gone to extraordinary lengths to control the narrative about China.

"The party controls the media, and of course, that means it controls the message," says University of Hong Kong media expert David Bandurski. "And basically, Xi Jinping is the message."

One late night in the spring of 1984, a group of sauced drag queens leaving Pyramid Club in Manhattan came up with an idea: a Woodstock for drag performers.

Flash-forward a year: The first official Wigstock was born in Tompkins Square Park. Over the next 16 years, the performers kept coming and crowds kept swelling, sometimes into the tens of thousands.

Eventually, a combination of inclement weather and trouble getting permits finally nixed the outdoor festival for good around the turn of the millennium.

Democrat Amy McGrath is running heavily on her military record in Kentucky's 6th Congressional District. In her announcement video, she tells the story of how, as a girl, she was told that women couldn't fly in combat — and how that fired her up to eventually do just that.

Capitol Police have arrested a man accused of publishing to the Internet restricted personal information about South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham.

The FBI has arrested a man in Utah who authorities believe mailed letters to the Pentagon containing castor seeds — a key ingredient in the highly toxic substance ricin.

William Clyde Allen III of Logan, Utah, was arrested by agents with the Salt Lake City Division of the FBI.

Two envelopes mailed to the Pentagon earlier this week tested positive in a screening center for a hazardous substance. After conducting further tests, the FBI determined the envelopes contained castor seeds.

A federal court in California has blocked the Trump administration from terminating the Temporary Protected Status program that allows immigrants from four countries to live and work in the United States.

The ruling issued late Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Edward M. Chen Wednesday affects more than 300,000 immigrants enrolled in TPS from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti and Sudan.

TPS was created by Congress in 1990 to allow people from countries suffering civil conflict or natural disasters to remain in the U.S. temporarily.

At 17 years old and partly blind and deaf, Lady is in the twilight of her life. But thanks to the keen eye of an animal control officer and some uncanny canine scrappiness, Lady will be able to live out the remainder of her days in the comfort of home in Brooklyn, Conn.

Updated Thursday at 1 p.m. ET

Seven law enforcement officers were shot — one fatally — in Florence, S. C., Wednesday evening, city police and sheriff's officials said. A city spokesman identified him as Officer Terrence Carraway.

Deputies on Thursday identified the alleged shooter as 74-year-old Frederick Hopkins, a military veteran who received disability payment. He was also a lawyer who had been disbarred.

The shooting occurred just outside Florence, a city two hours north of Charleston.

In the final weeks of the Illinois governor's race, one unusual topic has been stealing headlines: J.B. Pritzker's toilets.

Pritzker is the Democratic nominee, a venture capitalist, and a very wealthy man — an heir to the Hyatt Hotels fortune, he's worth $3.2 billion.

One of France's most notorious criminals, Rédoine Faïd, has been captured three months after he made an astonishing escape by helicopter from a French prison.

The repeat offender has fascinated the country, as NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports, and is known there as the "jailbreak king." He's spoken about how his actions are inspired by Hollywood gangster movies like Scarface.

Faïd had been serving a 25-year-sentence for a botched armed robbery in 2010 that killed a policewoman. And, he had previously escaped from another prison in 2013, that time using explosives.

Women seeking abortions in Missouri have just one clinic to turn to, after another Planned Parenthood facility that performed the procedure couldn't meet newly imposed state requirements.

It comes at a time when abortion rights activists fear the 1973 landmark ruling Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion, could be nullified if President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, is confirmed.

China's ambassador to the United States says his country is "ready to make a deal" to end a trade war with the United States — if they could find a trustworthy partner in Washington.

Cui Tiankai accused the United States of shifting positions and passing up opportunities for agreement. The United States has been escalating tariffs on imports from China, and China he responded with taxes on U.S. goods.

It used to be that the Communist Party focused on censoring free speech primarily inside of China. In recent years, though, China's authoritarian government has tried to censor speech beyond its borders, inside liberal democracies, when speech contradicts the party's line on highly sensitive political issues, such as the status of Tibet and Taiwan. It's part of the party's grand strategy to change the way the world talks about China.

For all the talk of how Democrats running for re-election in states President Trump won are a protective shield for Senate Republicans, Nevada's Dean Heller has the opposite problem.

He is the only Republican senator up for re-election in a state that Democrat Hillary Clinton won in 2016. The candidate challenging him for the seat is Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen. "Right now, the Republicans have all three branches of government," Rosen said. "So what we can do is try to hold their feet to the fire every way we can, because we don't have the votes to win."

After a day of wrenching testimony from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford — who has accused him of sexual assault in high school — more Americans say they believe Ford's account over Kavanaugh's denials, according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released Wednesday.

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