World News

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This story is part of NPR's podcast Embedded, which digs deep into the stories behind the news. Warning: Some of the images in the story are graphic.

When Pope Francis travels to the Greek island of Lesbos on Saturday, he will likely bring with him a sharp rebuke for Europe's response to the migrant crisis.

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Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The leaking of more than 11 million documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca earlier this month cast new light on the arcane world of offshore shell companies, long a favorite hiding place for the very rich.

Developing countries got $131 billion in official aid in 2015.

And they got $431.6 billion in remittances — money sent home by migrants who are working abroad.

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Springtime is usually beautiful in Mexico City. As the weather warms, the purple jacaranda trees that line boulevards and dot neighborhoods are in full bloom. Everything is prettier, says Fernando Padilla, a driver taking a break in a park.

"It's my favorite time of the year," he says.

But this spring, his eyes are watering, his throat hurts and one day a week he's not allowed to use his car on the road, which means he's poorer too.

The Obama administration has shaken up U.S. policy by reaching out to longtime foes including Cuba, Iran and Myanmar. This has spurred a debate about what impact, if any, the U.S. moves have on human rights in these countries.

Some argue that such engagement can encourage authoritarian countries to improve their human rights record, while others say it makes no difference, or may even lead regimes to feel they don't have to worry about punitive measures for rights violations.

Syria's bloody civil war has been raging for six years. At least a quarter of a million people have been killed, and half the country is displaced. Major swaths of the county are held by ISIS or opposition fighters.

But in government-held areas, citizens queued up to cast ballots Wednesday for parliamentary elections, the second since the start of the war. Syrian state media carried photos from multiple provinces showing voters tucking their ballots into boxes and dipping their fingers into ink to show their participation.

The dispute over the South China Sea, one of the most complicated geopolitical issues of the 21st century, keeps heating up. China, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and other regional governments are all part of the dispute — along with the United States.

Here are four key things to know about the dispute.

1. What's At Stake

The South China Sea holds immense resources, from the oil and gas located underneath the seabed to the lucrative fishing it has afforded for generations.

A court in central China has ruled against a gay couple seeking to register for marriage. It's the first time a Chinese court has addressed the issue of same-sex marriage.

The lawsuit against authorities in the city of Changsha, Hunan province, was filed after they said Sun Wenlin, whose age has been put at 26 or 27, could not register to marry his 36-year old partner, Hu Mingliang. In January, a district court unexpectedly accepted the case.

A German train dispatcher was playing a game on his cellphone shortly before he misdirected two trains, causing a head-on collision that killed 11 people, according to prosecutors.

The dispatcher may face charges of negligent homicide, according to Reuters and The Associated Press — though he insists he was not distracted by the game.

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The South China Sea fills Ma Sijin with national pride.

The retired ink factory worker says he is glad to see China challenging foreign powers, including the United States, over control of the strategic waterway.

"All the Chinese people have now stood up!" says Ma, 66, quoting the famous words of Chairman Mao Zedong when he announced the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

"When all is said and done, everybody knows who these islands belong to," Ma continues, polishing off a dinner of meatballs, rice and greens in Shanghai. "They belong to China."

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When Britons vote this summer on whether to exit the European Union, one of the key battlegrounds in what's being called the 'Brexit' will be Gibraltar.

The 2.6-square-mile peninsula at Spain's southern tip is geographically part of the European continent, but has been British territory for more than 300 years. That means its citizens, United Kingdom passport holders, have the right to vote on June 23.

This week, Gibraltar hosted rival rallies by advocates for and against continued EU membership.

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Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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