world

Updated at 10:15 a.m. ET

A main leader of Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine reportedly says the separatists have launched an attack on the port city of Mariupol, where rocket fire killed at least 15 people in an open-air market and residential area.

"Today an offensive was launched on Mariupol. This will be the best possible monument to all our dead," Alexander Zakharchenko was quoted as saying by Russia's RIA news agency.

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud of Saudi Arabia has died. He was 90 and had been hospitalized for a lung infection.

Abdullah was born before Saudi Arabia was even a country. It was the early 1920s, and his father, Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, set out to conquer the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula. In one famous battle, ibn Saud surrounded the capital of a rival tribe.

"Famously, instead of executing everybody, he invited them to be his guests," says Robert Lacey, author of two books on Saudi Arabia.

During a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, President Obama warned Congress that if it passed further sanctions against Iran, he would veto them.

The two leaders, speaking to the press after a series of bilateral meetings, stood shoulder to shoulder on all the issues that came before them. Cameron said that on Iran, he had been calling U.S. senators to tell them he didn't think new sanctions would work against Iran.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is trying to persuade his fellow OPEC leaders to reduce oil production as the price of crude continues to slide and hurt the Venezuelan economy, which depends on oil for 95 percent of its export revenue.

Maduro was in Qatar this week, seeking billions to shore up his economy.

Update at 1:40 p.m. ET. White House Backs Down:

"We should have sent someone with a higher profile," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said during a briefing Monday.

The admission came a day after criticism surfaced over the fact that the United States was not represented by a high-ranking official at a unity rally in Paris. The British, German, Israeli and Palestinian leaders all had been present.

Earnest said, however, that President Obama would have liked to have been present, but the security situation would have been impossible.

(This post was last updated at 6:50 p.m. ET.)

A nationwide manhunt for the suspects of France's deadliest terrorist attack in more than 50 years ended in a hail of gunfire on Friday.

After hours of tension in two separate standoffs that shut down parts of the Paris metro area, the two main suspects in the attack on a satirical magazine and a man who took hostages at a kosher grocery are dead, President François Hollande said in a speech to the nation.

FIFA Vice President Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein will challenge incumbent Sepp Blatter for the presidency of soccer's governing body.

"I am seeking the presidency of FIFA because I believe it is time to shift the focus away from administrative controversy and back to sport," he said in a statement on the website of the Jordan Football Association, of which he is president.

Evgeny Feldman / Wikimedia Commons

Updated at 11:36 a.m. 

A Russian activist with ties to Yale University has received a suspended sentence on fraud charges. Alexei Navalny has become a prominent political opposition leader in Russia, leading protests over the years against President Vladimir Putin. 

According to the Associated Press, thousands of protestors took to the streets outside the Kremlin in response to the conviction. Navalny was subsequently arrested for breaking the terms of his house arrest and joining the protestors.

Updated at 10:15 p.m. ET

Ships and planes have resumed the search for AirAsia flight QZ8501, which lost contact with air traffic control on Sunday. The search efforts, which were suspended overnight, picked up again at dawn, The Associated Press reports.

Bambang Soelistyo, the head of Indonesia's search and rescue agency, says the plane has likely crashed into the ocean, Reuters reports. Soelistyo calls that an "initial estimation."

Editor's Note: NPR Shanghai correspondent Frank Langfitt once drove a taxi as a summer job. He decided to do it again, this time offering free rides around Shanghai in exchange for stories about one of the world's most dynamic cities. This is the first in an occasional series.

I've been working on an unusual reporting project this fall in Shanghai. I picked up a car and have been driving around the city offering people free rides.

Flickr user "yosoynuts"

Many people were surprised by the news of a new relationship between the United States and Cuba. It was especially surprising for WNPR's Morning Edition host Diane Orson. When the news broke, she was returning from Cuba, and landed back in the United States. She shares her story and we hear the music of the Sarah LeMieux Quintet, who will brings us on an imaginary visit to a Paris nightclub.

Native-born Americans are making up a smaller percentage of those living in some areas of the U.S. as immigration moves to become the key factor in population growth within the next quarter-century, according to a new analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts that examined county-level census data.

The White House says the devastating cyber attack on Sony Pictures was done with "malicious intent" and was initiated by a "sophisticated actor" but it would not say if that actor was North Korea.

Spokesman Josh Earnest says the matter is still under investigation.

"Regardless of who is found to be responsible for this, the president considers it to be a serious national security matter," Earnest says.

American Alan Gross, who spent five years in a Cuban prison before his release today as a humanitarian gesture, said "it's good to be home," and that he hoped the U.S. and Cuba move past their "mutually belligerent" policies.

"Two wrongs never made a right," Gross said in Washington shortly after he returned to the U.S. aboard a government plane.

Gross appeared frail but cheerful. Some of his front teeth were missing.

Gross thanked President Obama and his national security team for working toward his freedom.

Updated at 2:39 p.m. ET

President Obama announced today the most significant change in U.S. policy toward Cuba in more than 50 years, paving the way for the normalization of relations and the opening of a U.S. Embassy in Havana.

Obama said "we will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries."

With news that the United States will work toward re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba and easing the embargo, there is already talk about the reaction in the Cuban-American community.

In political terms, this is a major voting bloc in the hugely important swing state of Florida.

(This post was last updated at 2:07 p.m. ET.)

Taliban militants stormed a school in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, leaving scores of students dead.

Quoting Pakistani officials, multiple media outlets say the death toll is at least 140, including at least 80 students in grades 1 through 10.

A little before 8 p.m. local time, police announced that the operation had ended after the gunmen were killed. Security personnel, police official Abdullah Khan told the AFP, were now in the process of sweeping the rest of the building.

Denmark, together with Greenland, today will claim around 350,000 square miles of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean, in an area around the North Pole that is slightly larger than the size of Texas and Oklahoma combined.

U.N. talks on global warming are wrapping up in Peru, but a divide between rich and poor countries and how to divvy up targets to reduce greenhouse gases is a key sticking point that has remained unresolved.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has acknowledged that the issue is "hard fought and ... complex," but he says it is crucial that the targets be agreed on before next year's summit in Paris. The talks in Peru end today.

CIA Director John Brennan defended his agency's actions after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and said while it is "unknowable" whether the CIA's interrogation techniques against terrorism suspects provided useful information, the agency did not mislead the Bush White House about its activities.

America, the Greatest*

Dec 10, 2014
Dean Franklin / Creative Commons

The United States of America has always been imperfect. In some ways, it was designed that way. Despite the fact that their faces are on money and engraved into the side of a mountain, the "Founding Fathers" were actually humans with all of the flaws and fallacies that accompany the species. Many, if not all of them, knew that too.

At what point in history did America start thinking of itself the "greatest country in the world"?

CPBN Learning Lab

I was born to a world of bamboo huts, food rations, and dirt roads. My family was in Beldangi 2, a refugee  camp in Nepal. We were floating there, in a kind of limbo, unsure of who we were and what our future held. 

Refugee Resettlement in Connecticut

Dec 9, 2014
Chion Wolf

Refugee resettlement is arguably one of our country’s noblest examples of foreign policy. It gives forcibly displaced people from around the world a chance to escape danger and rebuild a life for themselves in a safe environment.

Refugees run from war and persecution, often losing or leaving behind family and loved ones in the process. Many refugees then spend months and sometimes years in rundown, makeshift refugee camps. Less than 1% of all refugees get the chance to leave a camp and resettle in the U.S. or a handful of other countries who accept them.

Alarmed over rising threats in the Middle East and North Africa, the Gulf Cooperation Council is set to launch an unprecedented joint military command, according to regional officials and military analysts.

"At the moment, we are witnessing a new spirit," says Abdulaziz Sager, head of the Gulf Research Center, a think tank that focuses on the GCC, a six-member group of Arab monarchies.

Catie Talarski

The American Polish Advisory Council held its annual conference at Yale University this weekend. The group discussed issues ranging from U.S.-Polish relations to the crisis in nearby Ukraine. 

US Luge Athletes Prepare For World Cup Opener

Nov 26, 2014

   

The USA Luge team is preparing for its first World Cup competition of the season. Members spoke by conference call from Austria with reporters Tuesday, including WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Rep. Joe Courtney from Connecticut's second congressional district was the only member of the delegation to vote in favor of arming and training Syrian rebels in the fight against the so-called Islamic State.

Samantha Power / Facebook

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power told a Connecticut audience on Monday that she’s hopeful of meaningful cooperation with Senate Republicans as the Obama administration shapes its foreign policy. 

Soccer's governing body says it has lodged a criminal complaint against individuals in connection with the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, days after clearing the winning bids of corruption.

"In particular there seem to be grounds for suspicion that, in isolated cases, international transfers of assets with connections to Switzerland took place, which merit examination by the criminal prosecution authorities," FIFA said in a statement.

Preserved human parts — including an infant's head, a baby's foot and an adult heart — stolen from a medical museum in Thailand last month were discovered over the weekend in three boxes labeled as toys that were being shipped to Las Vegas.

Workers at DHL discovered five body parts when they X-rayed the boxes, then alerted the Thai police. They identified the man who shipped the boxes as Ryan McPherson, a 31-year-old American tourist, and questioned him and another American, Daniel Tanner, 33, about the packages.

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