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If you asked me the scariest place I've ever been, I would instantly say the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire, whose cruel past has led to a disastrous present. I'll never forget lying in my hotel bed and hearing the nightly machine gun fire on the nearby streets. And this was during peacetime, not during Congo's two largely-ignored wars of the 1990s and early 2000s that killed three times as many people as the current wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria combined.

British artist Andy Goldsworthy works in the fields and forests near his home in Scotland using natural elements as his media. His pieces have a tendency to collapse, decay and melt, but, as he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross, "It's not about art. It's just about life and the need to understand that a lot of things in life do not last."

There's a lot of worry about nearsightedness in children, with rates soaring in Southeast Asia as populations become more urban and educated. But maybe it also has something to do about how much Mom and Dad make you hit the books.

Firstborn children are 10 percent more likely to be nearsighted than latter-borns, according to a study published Thursday in JAMA Ophthalmology. And they're 20 percent more likely to be severely myopic.

Spencer Stone, one of three Americans who thwarted a terror attack on a Paris-bound train this summer, was stabbed early this morning in Sacramento, Calif., according to an Air Force spokesperson.

In a stunning turn of events, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has withdrawn from the race to become the next speaker of the House.

McCarthy was the favorite ahead of Thursday's closed-door vote by House Republicans. He was in a three-way race for the top spot in the House with Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Daniel Webster, R-Fla.

This post was updated at 1:50 p.m.

In a shocking move Thursday afternoon, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., pulled out of the race for speaker of the House, throwing the GOP leadership race into chaos and confusion.

According to Republican congressmen coming out of the caucus meeting — where lawmakers were expected to pick a successor to retiring House Speaker John Boehner — McCarthy told Republicans he didn't have a path to victory.

Updated at 1:57 p.m. ET.

Corrections officials in Oklahoma used the wrong drug to execute Charles Warner back in January.

A bill proposed Wednesday by two U.S. senators would require drugmakers and medical device manufacturers to publicly disclose their payments to nurse practitioners and physician assistants for promotional talks, consulting, meals and other interactions.

These are critical days for the presidential campaign of Jeb Bush.

The former Florida governor has been traversing Iowa this week, in effect reintroducing himself to voters, with the first-in-the-nation caucuses in that state now less than four months away.

This is not where Bush and his advisers expected to be when he got into the race early this year. Back then he was quickly labeled the front-runner — the man to beat.

No one calls Bush that anymore, with the topsy-turvy, crowded GOP field and its outsiders named Trump, Carson and Fiorina sitting atop the polls.

Michael Horn, the CEO of Volkswagen's U.S. business, appeared before members of Congress on Thursday to answer questions about the German automaker's use of software in its diesel vehicles to fool emissions tests. VW has said some 11 million vehicles worldwide have the software.

Horn testified on the same day German prosecutors raided offices at Volkswagen's headquarters in Wolfsburg and elsewhere, seizing documents and records as they investigate the emissions scandal.

A day after the Russian navy fired cruise missiles at targets in Syria — and two days after Russia's warplanes veered into Turkey's airspace — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the alliance "is able and ready to defend all allies, including Turkey, against any threat."

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House Republicans will huddle privately at noon on Thursday to nominate the party's candidate to succeed John Boehner as speaker of the U.S. House.

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is heavily favored to secure the nomination, but his ultimate victory on the floor of the U.S. House later this month is still in question.

The House Freedom Caucus, a group of roughly 40 Republicans representing some of the nation's most conservative congressional districts, bucked the party leadership and endorsed Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., for speaker on Wednesday.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit

Updated at 8:09 a.m. ET

Investigative journalist Svetlana Alexievich has been awarded this year's Nobel Prize for Literature, the Swedish Academy announced Thursday. Alexievich is the first writer from Belarus to win the prize.

Alexievich won "for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time," according to the citation for the award.

New York City may have dodged a major storm recently when Hurricane Joaquin headed out to sea, but it was an unwelcome reminder of what happened three years ago when the city suffered catastrophic flooding during Superstorm Sandy. Now, the New York subway system is racing to get new flood-proofing technologies ready in time for the next big storm.

One of those methods is called the Flex-Gate, a big sheet of waterproof fabric designed to cover subway entrances and keep the water out.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit

The top Republican and Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee are preparing to introduce a bill Thursday they're billing as "companion" legislation to the major Senate sentencing overhaul unveiled last week.

Behind a complete-game shutout thrown by right-hander Jake Arrieta, the Chicago Cubs advanced to the Divisional Series on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, beating the Pirates 4-0.

Kyle Schwarber had a home run and three runs batted in for the Cubs and Dexter Fowler had three hits and scored three times. Chicago will open its series against St. Louis at 6:30 p.m. ET on Friday. The Cardinals won 11 of the 19 games the divisional rivals played this season.

Three members of one of the wealthiest and most politically well-connected families in Honduras have been indicted by the U.S. on money laundering charges.

According to the court document, three members of the Rosenthal family, along with their lawyer, are accused of laundering money for drug traffickers.

NPR's Carrie Kahn reports on the indictment that was unsealed after one of the men was arrested Tuesday in Miami:

The death penalty reared its head again at the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday. It was the first time the court publicly considered a death case since last term, when a constitutional challenge to lethal injection procedures erupted into a rare, nasty and vituperative debate among the justices. This time, the issues were far more technical but still a matter of life and death.

Republicans in the U.S. House will take an initial vote Thursday on who they think should replace John Boehner as speaker of the House.

Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz recently announced his candidacy for speaker, but the front-runner for the job is current House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from Bakersfield, Calif.

And McCarthy's roots in California's Central Valley provide some clues about how McCarthy might run the House, if he's elected speaker.

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A lot of politicians are being asked what to do about gun violence after a gunman killed nine people in Oregon last week. And the answers from the large field of Republican candidates for president are varied. NPR's Sam Sanders reports.

After months of not committing to a position on President Obama's proposed Asia trade deal, Hillary Clinton came out against it Wednesday.

The rain has stopped in South Carolina, but for people living along the coast, the worst of the flooding could still be ahead.

The floodwaters have not receded and as the water in the swollen rivers flow toward the ocean, more damaging high waters are expected.

As Laura Hunsberger reports for NPR, Gov. Nikki Haley says the state is ready:

The death-with-dignity movement took a giant step forward this week, with 38 million people coming under its umbrella in a single swoop when California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the End of Life Option Act on Monday.

Six days after communication was lost with the El Faro cargo ship as it drifted into the path of Hurricane Joaquin, the U.S. Coast Guard ended the search for survivors.

Of the 33 people aboard the ship, rescuers found one body on Monday:

"Several 'survival suits' were spotted floating in the water, one of which contained the body. In addition, an empty, heavily damaged lifeboat was found."

Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated his 63rd birthday Wednesday, amid a controversial bombing campaign in Syria, a weakening economy and tensions with the U.S. and its Western allies. The Russian leader made a point of taking it all in stride — including adulation from his fans.

He occupied an even more prominent place than usual on Russian state television on Wednesday. Putin was shown receiving a briefing on the Russian military operation in Syria, including the news that Russian warships in the Caspian Sea fired more than two dozen rockets at targets in Syria.

The latest Steve Jobs biopic may be named after the late Apple CEO, but critics are already standing by, worried that it may not do justice in how it portrays him. The film, from veteran screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and director Danny Boyle, opens in select theaters Friday.

It fronts an all-star cast with Michael Fassbender playing the lead in a three-act dramatization of some of the most pivotal product launches in Jobs’ career (curiously, the iPhone launch of 2007 is not one of them).