Scott Neuman

"Anthropause" is a word scientists have coined to describe the scaling back of human activity since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. While it's probably safe to say most people have found it uncomfortably restrictive, a new study published Wednesday suggests the pandemic has allowed many bird species to stretch their wings.

Afghanistan's reclusive new leaders, the Taliban, are asking for a chance to address the United Nations General Assembly, but they are unlikely to get their wish — at least not in the current session.

All evidence points to the fact that Mars once had flowing water, but numerous flybys, orbiters, landers and rovers have confirmed one undeniable fact — any liquid water that was once on its surface is now long gone.

A study out of Washington University in St. Louis might have found the reason: Mars, which is about half the size of Earth, and just over one-tenth the mass of our own watery world, might just be too small.

Updated September 22, 2021 at 7:38 AM ET

The European Court of Human Rights has found the Kremlin responsible for the 2006 assassination by radiation poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian intelligence official who defected to the West.

Meanwhile, British police said Tuesday that they have identified a third suspect in a Russian-linked nerve agent attack on a former Russian double agent in southern England.

As the Biden administration moves quickly to expel migrants camped under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, its plan depends on a controversial Trump-era policy put in place in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to speed up removals.

A massive volcanic eruption over the weekend on La Palma that has forced the evacuation of thousands of people hasn't dissuaded Spain's tourism minister from promoting travel to the island.

The eruption of Cumbre Vieja in the Canary Islands, the first eruption in 50 years in the seismically active Spanish archipelago, sent lava hundreds of feet into the sky and spewing down the volcano's face, destroying nearby houses and forests and forcing about 5,000 people, including some 500 tourists, to flee.

There were no immediate reports of fatalities.

Updated September 20, 2021 at 7:57 AM ET

At least eight people are dead and two dozen injured at a university in Russia after a gunman opened fire, and some students jumped out of second-story windows in an apparent effort to escape the attack.

Down at the local pub, die-hard Brexiters will be raising a pint to news that the United Kingdom is eyeing the end of a European Union-inspired ban on selling products in only pounds and ounces. But many others view the move away from the world-standard metric system as pure rubbish.

Since becoming prime minister, Boris Johnson has pledged to usher in an era of "tolerance towards traditional measurements." On Thursday, Brexit minister David Frost clarified what that means — giving shops and supermarkets the option to sell items labeled only in imperial units.

As a group, American children and teenagers have seen a significant increase in weight gain since the COVID-19 pandemic began, with the biggest jumps occurring in younger school-aged children and those who were already prone to obesity, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

France's health minister has said that thousands of health care workers across the country have been suspended without pay for failing to get a required COVID-19 vaccine.

"Some 3,000 suspensions were notified yesterday to employees at health centers and clinics who have not yet been vaccinated," Olivier Véran, the health minister, told France's RTL radio on Thursday, according to a France 24 translation.

The United Nations' human rights chief has called on member states to put a moratorium on the sale and use of artificial intelligence systems until the "negative, even catastrophic" risks they pose can be addressed.

The remarks by U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet were in reference to a new report on the subject released in Geneva.

California's Gavin Newsom can now count himself among a select group of political survivors — he's just one of two governors ever to face a recall vote and win.

Then again, most recall campaigns flounder before the voters go to the polls.

The unsuccessful vote against Newsom, who angered many in the state by dining at an upscale Napa Valley restaurant in contravention of his own guidance on pandemic gatherings, follows the 2012 effort to recall then-Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who narrowly turned back an effort by the state's Democrats to oust him.

National Guard troops are used to being activated during times of natural disaster or civil unrest — but in Massachusetts, they're being called out to drive students to school.

The office of Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday that as many as 250 Guard members would be made available "to address staffing shortages in certain districts," according to a news release. It said that 90 would be training immediately for service in Chelsea, Lawrence, Lowell and Lynn.

Updated September 15, 2021 at 6:24 AM ET

Using recovered DNA to "genetically resurrect" an extinct species — the central idea behind the Jurassic Park films — may be moving closer to reality with the creation this week of a new company that aims to bring back woolly mammoths thousands of years after the last of the giants disappeared from the Arctic tundra.

Updated September 14, 2021 at 3:19 PM ET

Ray DeMonia, 73, was born and raised in Cullman, Ala., but he died on Sept. 1, some 200 miles away in an intensive care unit in Meridian, Miss.

Last month, DeMonia, who spent 40 years in the antiques and auctions business, suffered a cardiac emergency. But it was because hospitals are full due to the coronavirus — and not his heart — that he was forced to spend his last days so far from home, according to his family.

The daughter of Fikile Ntshangase says that last October, three armed men entered her mother's home and shot her dead.

Ntshangase had publicly questioned a local coal mine that she thought was — quite literally — undermining the small South African town where she lived, located about 360 miles east of Johannesburg.

Updated September 11, 2021 at 5:34 PM ET

Twenty years to the day after a pair of hijacked airliners destroyed the World Trade Center towers and another plane punched a gaping hole in the Pentagon and a fourth passenger jet crashed in a Pennsylvania field after passengers sought to regain control from hijackers, Americans nationwide reflected on the events that forever changed their country.

A band of Afghan resistance fighters holed up in Afghanistan's rugged Panjshir province northeast of Kabul has repelled repeated attacks by Taliban fighters in recent days, a representative for the group tells NPR.

Lawyers for Remington Arms, the now-bankrupt gun-maker being sued by nine families of those killed in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., have subpoenaed the academic, attendance and disciplinary records for five slain students.

Updated September 2, 2021 at 1:58 PM ET

The Tom Cruise Top Gun character 'Maverick' might "feel the need for speed," but Paramount is once again putting the brakes on the sequel to the 1986 film.

If you're not vaccinated, you shouldn't travel over the long Labor Day weekend.

That's the bottom line, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

"First and foremost, if you are unvaccinated, we would recommend not traveling," Walensky said at a White House COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday.

In Afghanistan, history has a way of repeating itself: Today, much like when the Taliban last seized power in 1996, the rugged Panjshir province is the final redoubt standing in the way of their complete domination of the country — and once again, the name of the leader opposing them is Massoud.

Updated August 31, 2021 at 10:21 AM ET

On Tuesday, for the first time in nearly two decades, Afghans awoke to a country absent U.S. forces, after the last American soldier boarded the last military transport to leave the country just before a Aug. 31 deadline.

Updated August 30, 2021 at 8:45 PM ET

Latest updates at a glance:

  • Pentagon officials have announced the last U.S. military plane has left Afghanistan, marking the end of America's longest war.
  • President Biden praised the military for "their execution of the dangerous retrograde from Afghanistan as scheduled."

The Tokyo Paralympic Games are going to be more visible and have more participants than ever before, even in the face of the pandemic.

Here's a look at the records and other "firsts" happening in this year's Games, which officially opened on Tuesday and run through Sept. 5.

Journalist Hollie McKay was in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif when Afghan security forces fled ahead of advancing Taliban fighters last weekend. In the aftermath, the road out of town was littered with U.S.-made armored vehicles that the Afghan military had left behind.

Updated August 19, 2021 at 7:29 AM ET

The biographies of top Taliban leaders are vague for a reason: secrecy has often been the key to survival.

Take the one-eyed cleric who founded the movement, Mullah Mohammad Omar. After a U.S.-led invasion toppled his government, he was on the run for years, hunted relentlessly by American forces. Omar reportedly died in 2013 in either Afghanistan or in neighboring Pakistan, but his death was not even publicly confirmed for another two years.

Updated August 18, 2021 at 3:27 PM ET

COVID-19 booster shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are set to become available for all U.S. adults beginning next month, the country's top health officials announced Wednesday.

"Kabul was a bit better compared to yesterday," said a journalist based in Afghanistan's capital city who sent a message to NPR on Tuesday.

For the person's protection, we are not naming the journalist, who said there were signs suggesting a gradual return to some semblance of normalcy two days after the Taliban launched a lightning assault on Kabul, forcing out the U.S.-backed Afghan government.

Updated August 16, 2021 at 5:08 PM ET

Search and rescue teams are pulling people from collapsed buildings in Haiti as international aid efforts ramped up in the hardest hit areas in the Caribbean nation's southwest after a devastating earthquake.

As of late Monday afternoon, officials said the death toll had risen to 1,419 and some 6,000 reportedly are injured. The magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck early Saturday is the deadliest one to hit the country, the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, since January 2010.

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