World News

Maybe El Niño isn't as bad as its reputation.

El Niño is an ocean-warming phenomenon in the Pacific that crops up every few years and alters world weather patterns. And the world is in the middle of a big El Niño that roughly began in May 2015 and will continue for at least several more months this year.

This El Niño has already been linked to a series of weather-related disasters: Massive flooding in Paraguay. Drought in Ethiopia. Another looming food crisis in Madagascar and Zimbabwe.

UPDATE January 26, 11:52 a.m.: This live Q&A has ended. Watch a recorded version in the player above.

Britain says the circumstantial evidence points to Russian President Vladimir Putin's involvement in the poisoning death of an ex-Russian security agent who died after drinking polonium-laced tea at a London hotel.

So what's Britain going to do about it?

Not very much. And that's largely in keeping with the West's response to Putin's many controversial actions throughout his 16 years in power.

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Well, now for Russian reaction to the report. We turn to NPR's Corey Flintoff in Moscow. And Corey, how has this been covered by Russian news media?

Here at Goats and Soda headquarters, we were discussing the huge snowstorm expected to hit D.C. this weekend when we remembered the one thing you won't find in much of the developing world (or the "Global South," as some call it): snow.

The Obama administration is implementing changes — voted into law by Congress late last year — that tighten the visa waiver program, specifically targeting Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria. But the administration is reserving the right to make exceptions on a case-by-case basis.

Five-year-old Batoul has large cheeks and saucer-sized eyes that dart from side to side while she and the other Syrian children perform songs in Arabic and English.

She's learning from caregivers while living in an orphanage known as Bayti ("home" in Arabic) in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli, where the Syrian refugee population has topped tens of thousands in the past few years.

Cementing a deal that has been hinted at for months, China is moving forward to build what's believed to be its first overseas military facility, in the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti. The outpost is meant to bolster the Chinese navy's efforts to prevent piracy.

At least three other countries — the U.S., France and Japan — have military bases in Djibouti, drawn to the country's strategic location and stability. The presence of military ships from those countries and China has been credited with reducing piracy in the region.

German ire about illegal immigration is focused on North African asylum seekers these days, as police investigate dozens of suspects from that region in mass incidents of groping and theft and several cases of rape that occurred on New Year's Eve in Cologne and other cities.

Members of Germany's ruling coalition have vowed to speed up the review of North Africans' asylum applications, especially since the number of migrants from that region is rising.

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What is it like to starve to death?

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A 2014 report by the United Nations estimates that tens of millions of people in the world are currently enslaved. Most of them are in the developing world, where they work in mines, quarries or shrimp farms for no money and without hope of escape.

"Slavery is the complete control of one person by another, and violence is used to maintain that control in all forms of slavery," author Kevin Bales explains to Fresh Air's Dave Davies. "The adults in that situation know that if they attempt to leave, they may be killed."

New satellite images of St. Elijah's Monastery, located in the ISIS-held city of Mosul, no longer show a neatly chiseled, square parcel of land, complete with walls and buildings built into a hill.

All that can be seen of the Christian monastery, parts of which are 1,400 years old, is a dusty field of rubble. It was apparently razed by ISIS in its quest to destroy religious or historical artifacts deemed heretical.

Some 700 American troops on a long-running deployment could be in danger of an attack by extremists affiliated with the Islamic State, the Pentagon worries, but it may not be able to get them out anytime soon.

U.S. military commanders fear the soldiers deployed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, and charged with keeping the peace between Egypt and Israel, are becoming an irresistible target for Islamist fighters concentrating nearby.

A fire that engulfed a 63-story hotel in Dubai on New Year's Eve was started by an electrical short-circuit, police forensic experts say. The blaze turned The Address Downtown Dubai hotel, in the United Arab Emirates, into a spectacle that rivaled the city's fireworks display.

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Security forces are now in control of a university in Pakistan, hours after militants stormed the campus firing on students and teachers. Officials are still tallying the casualties; so far, at least 20 people are reported dead.

The four attackers died in the gun battle that followed the attack, according to local reports. No clear claim of responsibility has been made; an initial claim that attributed the violence to Pakistan's Taliban has been cast into doubt.

NPR's Philip Reeves reports:

Former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson showed up at the French Parliament Tuesday to speak out for animal rights. A French congresswoman is trying to put an end to what critics call a cruel practice to animals. It also happens to be central to one of France's most cherished culinary delicacies: foie gras.

Anderson said she was following the example of Brigitte Bardot, another sex-symbol-turned-animal-rights-activist. As a young girl, Anderson said, she was inspired when Bardot visited Canada in the '70s to condemn the slaughter-by-clubbing of baby seals.

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Tuesday was an important holiday in the Russian Orthodox Church: Epiphany, which celebrates the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan.

Russian believers mark the event by re-enacting that baptism in ponds and rivers, and since Russia is far north of the Jordan, that means plunging into freezing water through holes cut in the ice.

Big cities like Moscow often set up elaborate stations where people can take the plunge, but people in other cities go for the do-it-yourself approach.

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The Chinese today reported that economic growth for 2015 was 6.9 percent. That is the slowest pace of growth in 25 years.

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