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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

When U.S. troops were ambushed in Niger on Oct. 4, the widespread reaction was surprise. The U.S. has military forces in Niger? What are they doing there?

Yet in many ways, the Niger operation typifies U.S. military missions underway in roughly 20 African countries, mostly in the northern third of the continent. They tend to be small, they are carried out largely below the radar, and most are focused on a specific aim: rolling back Islamist extremism.

Japanese voters have just days left to decide who they will support in a snap general election set for Sunday.

Japanese politics are usually tame. But this time around, the charismatic governor of Tokyo is adding unexpected elements to the race.

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The world is incredibly close to wiping out polio. This year the number of polio cases has shrunk to fewer than a dozen. And those cases are in just two countries — Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Exposure to polluted air, water and soil caused nine million premature deaths in 2015, according to a report published Thursday in The Lancet.

The causes of death vary — cancer, lung disease, heart disease. The report links them to pollution, drawing upon previous studies that show how pollution is tied to a wider range of diseases than previously thought.

Taliban militants wiped out almost an entire Afghan Army base in Afghanistan's Kandahar province, leaving just two Afghan soldiers there uninjured. This brings the week's toll to more than 120 people killed by the militant group.

The attack, which started late Wednesday, killed at least 43 Afghan soldiers and wounded nine, reporter Jennifer Glasse in Kabul tells our Newscast unit.

Canada has Justin Trudeau. France has Emmanuel Macron. But in terms of youth and charisma, New Zealand's next prime minister may have them beat.

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