National News

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell arrives at federal court in Richmond, Va., on Thursday.

The Most Bizarre Bits To Come Out Of The Trial Of Virginia's Ex-Governor

The trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife went into closing arguments today. At issue are serious allegations of corruption, but the trial has also unveiled seriously strange details about the McDonnells' personal life.

A Malaysia Airlines crew member inspects an airplane at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Thursday. The carrier announced it was laying off a third of its workforce amid steep financial losses.

Malaysia Airlines Cuts A Third Of Its Workforce After Steep Losses

For Malaysia Airlines, the tragic loss of two of its aircraft with all passengers and crew in recent months has hardly been the extent of its problems: On Thursday, the carrier announced a steep quarterly loss, and today came word that it is cutting nearly a third of its workforce.

The orchids that produce vanilla beans have no natural pollinators in Madagascar; the plant must be pollinated by hand — a labor-intensive process with little margin for error.

A Peace Corps Stint In Madagascar Gave Him A Vision Of Vanilla

Madagascar-grown orchids produce most of the world's vanilla beans, but vanilla extract isn't manufactured in country. Former Peace Corps volunteers-turned-entrepreneurs Tim McCollum and Brett Beach, co-founders of the Brooklyn-based Madécasse brand, aim to change that. They want to produce the world's first "bean to bottle" extract, made entirely in Madagascar by local people using all-local materials — right down to the packaging.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron speaks at a news conference in London on Friday after the U.K. raised its terror alert level.

Britain Raises Terror Alert Level, But Cites No Specific Threat

British Prime Minister David Cameron is warning that the threat to the U.K. from international terrorism is "greater and deeper" than ever before, as London raised its terror warning level in response to what it said were plans by the Islamic State and other extremist groups to attack the West.

California state Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) urges lawmakers to approve his measure aimed at curbing sexual assault on campuses on Thursday in Sacramento.

California Lawmakers Pass 'Affirmative Consent' Sexual Assault Bill

California is one step closer to becoming the first state to require colleges and universities "to adopt a standard of unambiguous consent among students engaging in sexual activity," The Los Angeles Times reports.

The California Senate gave the bill unanimous approval on Thursday, and it is now headed to the governor's office.

The Times adds:

An Iraqi child walks next an empty house of a Christian family in Mosul on Aug. 8. The Arabic writing on the wall reads "Real Estate of the Islamic State." The extremist group took control of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, in June.

Life Under The Islamic State: Sharia Law And Few Services

Ever since the Islamic State seized Mosul more than two months ago, it's been difficult to get a detailed picture of life inside Iraq's second largest city.

Smoke billows from Mount Tavurvur after an eruption in Kokopo, east New Britain, Papua New Guinea, on Friday. The eruption has caused some nearby residents to be evacuated and some flights to be rerouted.

Volcanoes In Iceland, Papua New Guinea Keep Residents On Edge

Two volcanoes half a world apart are causing havoc today: Several flights have been diverted around an eruption in Papua New Guinea, and authorities in Iceland briefly put aviation on highest alert (again) owing to a temperamental Mount Bardarbunga, which has been rumbling for the past week.

The Rev. Willis Johnson (left), pastor of Wellspring Church in Ferguson, speaks to the Rev. Michele Shumake-Keller after the panel discussion in Ferguson, Mo., on Thursday. Johnson said he hoped the event would be a step to healing a "community in trauma."

Plea To Ferguson's Leaders: To Help Heal, Acknowledge Our Hurt

(Editor's Note: NPR's Michel Martin was invited by St. Louis Public Radio to moderate a community conversation on Thursday around race, police tactics and leadership following the shooting death of Michael Brown. The following story is based on what happened at the event.)

A Syrian refugee child eats food which her mother collected from rubbish in the Eminonu disctrict of Istanbul.

U.N.: Syrian Refugee Crisis Is 'Biggest Humanitarian Emergency Of Our Era'

The Syrian civil war has sparked "the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era."

That's according to António Guterres, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, who added that while the world's response to the crisis has been "generous," it hasn't met the needs of refugees.

The U.N. agency released new numbers on Friday and the picture they paint is exceedingly grim. A few data points from the report:

A pro-Russian rebel walks in a passage at a local market damaged by shelling in Petrovskiy district in the eastern Ukrainian town of Donetsk.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Says Government Will Seek NATO Membership

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk says his government has sent parliament a bill that allows Ukraine to open a path toward membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

"The main and only goal of Ukraine's foreign policy is to join the European Union," Yatsenyuk said in a statement.

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