China's President Xi Jinping has condemned the Islamic State for killing a Chinese man held hostage by the extremist group. But in keeping with China's long-standing policy of not intervening in distant conflicts, he did not specify what action, if any, China might take.

Updated on Tuesday, Oct. 27, at 3 a.m. ET.

The USS Lassen has sailed within 12 nautical miles of the contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. The Pentagon says the guided missile destroyer passed by the Subi Reef on Tuesday morning local time, NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports.

The move, which the Obama administration has billed as exercising the right to freely navigate international waters, is being characterized as a challenge to China's claim of control over the area.

The company that makes Legos has landed at the center of a social-media firestorm after Chinese artist Ai Weiwei complained that it refused to supply a bulk order of the toy bricks for his art.

Ai said he wanted to use the bricks for an exhibition on free speech at Australia's National Gallery of Victoria. The museum attempted to place an order but was told by the company that it "cannot approve the use of Legos for political works."

"We've been refused, and the reason is Lego will not support political art, which is very frustrating," Ai said in an interview with NPR.

Editor's Note: In some cities, transportation of the future may resemble the transportation of the past. From Washington, D.C., to Guangzhou, China, cities are looking to streetcars. NPR's Franklyn Cater looks at the struggles to revive them in Washington, while Anthony Kuhn examines the new technology that's up and running in Guangzhou.

New streetcars glide along tracks set into a grassy strip along the Pearl River in southern Guangzhou city. The first tramline covers five miles in the city's up-and-coming Haizhu district.

The U.S. Army / Creative Commons

A new memoir from British Middle East expert Emma Sky provides an insider’s account of the Iraq war. This hour, we talk to Sky about her book called The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro is calling on the Obama administration to release the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, now that Pacific nations have reached an agreement in principle on the pact.

"We, the trade ministers ... are pleased to announce that we have successfully concluded the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiation," U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman announced Monday morning, to a loud round of applause.

North Korea has returned a New York University student and South Korean national who had been detained in Pyongyang since April.

21-year-old Joo Won-moon was in North Korean custody after he crossed the border from China into North Korea, hoping to help strengthen ties between the two Koreas.

"I thought some great event could happen and hopefully that event could have a good effect in the relationship between the North and the South," Joo told CNN in an interview in May.

Just over a week ago, the Obama administration was considering sanctioning China in response to suspected hacking attacks, especially one on the Office of Personnel Management that compromised the data of millions of federal employees.

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy took part in a U.S. and Chinese climate change summit in Los Angeles Tuesday.

Updated at 10:05 a.m. ET

A pair of explosions at a restaurant in the state of Madhya Pradesh, that have apparently been traced to gas cylinders, killed more than 60 people, officials say. Some reports say the death toll is at least 89. Dozens of others were injured.

The saber rattling in the Korean Peninsula escalated Friday as the North threatened military action if South Korea does not stop blaring propaganda from speakers across the border by Saturday.

Reporting from Seoul, Haeryun Kang tells our Newscast unit that Pyongyang has put its frontline troops on a "semi-war state"

Haeryun reports:

As police searched for a man they believe is responsible for a blast that killed at least 20 people and injured 140 others on Monday, a second explosion hit Bangkok on Tuesday.

The second explosion was not deadly. According to the Bangkok Post, someone threw a pipe bomb off a bridge. The bomb hit a pillar and detonated, "sending up a large plume of water."

monkeybusinessimages/iStock / Thinkstock

Connecticut manufacturers are closely watching events in China as the country allows its currency to devalue. Government control of the yuan has for years been a point of contention for companies, who said it gives Chinese manufacturers an unfair advantage in export markets.

Updated at 5:20 p.m. ET

The death toll from an industrial accident has risen to 50 in Tianjin, a port city in northeast China. Emergency crews are still working to locate missing people; 12 firefighters are among the dead, and more remain unaccounted for.

Updated 1:45 a.m. ET Thursday:

The death toll from the Tianjin warehouse explosions has risen to 44, according to China's official Xinhau News Agency.

Updated 10:50 p.m. ET

Huge explosions have rocked the port city of Tianjin in northeast China. Media reports say at least 17 people were killed and hundreds are injured. Two firefighters are missing.

In a span of minutes, two passenger trains traveling in opposite directions derailed in central India on Tuesday night, sending them into the mud along a riverbank. At least 24 people died; officials say that tracks near the river had been flooded by monsoon rains.

Images from the scene show the trains' cars and engines resting at odd angles near the bridge, with the tracks lying twisted and curved in the mud. More than 300 people survived the crashes, according to multiple reports.

Authorities on the French island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean have found debris that may be from a missing Malaysia Airlines jet.

A source familiar with the investigation tells NPR's Geoff Brumfiel that the debris appears to have come from a large passenger aircraft, but it remains unclear whether it's from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which vanished from radar on March 8, 2014.

Frankie Leon / Flickr Creative Commons

News about other countries tends to focus a lot more on what’s wrong with a place, than what’s going right.

Recently, reports about the earthquake in Nepal, kidnappings in Nigeria and Islamic extremism in Iran have dominated the news.

More than 3,400 people are now under quarantine in South Korea's fight to contain an outbreak of the Middle East respiratory syndrome — a deadly virus that can cause severe pneumonia and organ failure.

So far, South Korea has reported 122 MERS cases. And the government is actively tracking the whereabouts of people possibly exposed to the virus.

Chung-ahm is a Buddhist monk who's quarantined in the Jangduk village in southern South Korea.

It's not often that the Dalai Lama calls out a fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

But that's what happened last week when he was asked about Aung San Suu Kyi, who has declined to speak out on the worsening plight of the Rohingya minority in her homeland of Myanmar.

The Senate voted 62-37 late Friday to grant President Obama additional trade powers, which the president plans to use in pushing through an extensive new agreement with a group of Asian countries.

The administration's Trans-Pacific Partnership has been opposed by labor groups and some Senate Democrats because of concerns that the deal could cost some U.S. workers their jobs.

Frankie Leon / Creative Commons

News about other countries tends to focus a lot more on what’s wrong with a place, than what’s going right.

Recently, reports about the earthquake in Nepal, kidnappings in Nigeria and Islamic extremism in Iran have dominated the news.

The spectacle of thousands of desperate Rohingya Muslim "boat people" being denied landfall in Southeast Asia has laid bare the region's religious and ethnic prejudices as well as its fears of being swamped by an influx of migrants.

A magnitude-7.3 earthquake struck Nepal on Tuesday, just over two weeks after a massive magnitude-7.8 quake killed more than 8,000 people.

The United States Geological Survey puts today's quake as close to the capital, Kathmandu, as the one two weeks ago.

The Senate could begin debate Tuesday on a bill that would give President Obama fast-track authority to complete a Pacific Rim trade agreement.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership has become the president's signature trade initiative, but it is also very unpopular with Democrats.

Leading the charge from the left against the deal in Congress is Sen. Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts. She says the TPP could result in the watering down of Wall Street regulations put in place by the Dodd-Frank Act, after the 2008 financial crisis.

North Korea said on Saturday that it successfully launched an anti-ship cruise missile from a submarine — a development, if verified, that would mark a new technological achievement for Pyongyang.

KCNA, the official North Korean news agency, reports that leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the test form a surface vessel as "a ballistic missile surfaced from the sea and soared into the air, leaving a fiery trail of blaze."

New York University student Joo Won-moon, who's a South Korean citizen, says he's healthy and being treated well in North Korean custody, according to an interview he gave CNN on Tuesday.

Joo, 21, acknowledged he crossed the border into North Korea illegally, out of hopes for a "great event" to help strengthen ties between diplomatic rivals North and South Korea.

Swayambhunath — also known as the Monkey Temple, for its holy, furry dwellers that swing from the rosewood trees — is one of the oldest and most sacred Buddhist sites in Nepal's Kathmandu Valley, an important pilgrimage destination for Hindus as well as Buddhists. It was also one of the worst damaged by last month's earthquake.

There hasn't been much to cheer about in Nepal this week as it copes with a devastating earthquake — but cheers and applause broke out in Kathmandu Thursday after a teenager was pulled alive from a collapsed building.

For five days, the teenager was covered in the rubble of a seven-story building hit by Saturday's powerful quake. Rescue workers who got him out included an American disaster response team that arrived in Nepal this week.