NPR World News

You might assume that with the thawing of relations between Cuba and the U.S., Cubans would see positive change at home, and less reason to attempt the perilous water crossing to Florida. You'd assume wrong.

U.S. law enforcement authorities are confronting a surge of Cuban migrants trying to make the journey by boat across the Florida Straits; it's the highest numbers they've seen in two decades.

Mexico City's Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera is handing out plastic whistles. A half-million of them. At three bucks a pop, he's hoping that women will use the whistles to scare off harassers on the packed public transportation system.

When the plan was announced this summer, it received a flurry of scathing criticism and mocking memes on social media. But city officials are moving forward and have been handing out the whistles by the thousands at subway and bus stops.

Russia and Syria have temporarily halted airstrikes on the beleaguered eastern part of Aleppo, the part of the city controlled by the rebels. Instead, Aleppo has been showered with leaflets that urge rebel fighters and civilians to flee.

Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Thursday his country's air force was extending for another day a "humanitarian pause" so civilians in need of medical care can get out of the city.

"We are appealing [to] countries that have influence on armed groups in eastern Aleppo to convince them to stop fighting and leave," Shoigu said.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

Cubans are bracing for a tough end of the year, after what has already been a rough summer. The island's economy is in trouble. Venezuela, Cuba's main patron and supplier of cheap oil, has slashed its generous subsidies, while Cuba's other top cash commodities are facing worldwide price plunges.

Since the U.S. and Cuba improved relations and President Obama made his historic trip to the island in March, expectations had been running high among Cubans that better economic times were coming.

Few things inspire more loathing in the hearts of high school students than the words "extra homework." But as Florence Mattei hands out a pamphlet to her homeroom class at the Southlands School in Rome, she tells them they may want to give this assignment a chance.

"Who would like to read what it's about?" she asks the room full of 18-year-olds.

A senior named Alessio translates from Italian into English: "For the people born in 1998 there is a 500-euro bonus that you can spend on cultural things, such as going to the cinema, visiting museums and this kind of stuff."

It's almost a year to the day since world leaders committed to meeting 17 "Sustainable Development Goals" by 2030, from wiping out extreme poverty to fighting disease and inequality.

Perhaps they should have added an 18th goal — compiling all the data needed to achieve the other goals.

This data gap has been the talk among advocates for the poor this week as the U.N. General Assembly's current session got underway. It was at last year's General Assembly that the 17 goals were set.

Historical. A possible turning point.

These are the words health researchers are using to describe a declaration passed Wednesday by the U.N. General Assembly aiming to slow down the spread of superbugs — bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics.

"I think the declaration will have very strong implications," says the World Health Organization's Dr. Keiji Fukuda. "What it will convey is that there's recognition that we have a big problem and there's a commitment to do something about it."

A mysterious glowing "blob" in outer space has puzzled astronomers for more than 15 years. Now, a team of researchers says it has uncovered the secret behind the blob's eerie light.

The blob was first spotted back in the late 1990s by Chuck Steidel, an astronomer at Caltech, and some colleagues. They were observing a bunch of galaxies in the distant reaches of the universe, he recalls, "but we also saw these big blotchy things."