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President-elect Trump held a phone conversation yesterday with Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, breaking nearly four decades of diplomatic practice. NPR's Rob Schmitz joins us from Shanghai. Rob, thanks so much for being with us.

ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

Europeans are anxiously watching Italy where a Sunday referendum on constitutional amendments could bring down the government and make it the latest casualty of the anti-establishment wave sweeping the West.

Italians are being asked to vote "yes" or "no" to constitutional changes aimed at bringing the Italian political system more in line with the European norm.

The changes involve sharply reducing the size of one of the chambers of parliament, the Senate, shifting its powers to the executive, and eliminating the Senate's power to bring down government coalitions.

On Nov. 23, a morning talk show on Morocco's state television aired a segment on using makeup to conceal bruises from domestic violence. It was part of a promotional effort for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, coming up two days later.

The reaction was swift and negative. The TV station apologized.

President-elect Donald Trump has been speaking on the phone with numerous world leaders since his election, but a call Friday has the potential to cause diplomatic waves. The Trump transition office confirms Trump spoke with the president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen.

The call has raised eyebrows because the U.S. broke off diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979, when it recognized mainland China. And it's believed to be the first time a U.S. president or president-elect has spoken with a Taiwanese leader since then.

In mid-November, a former professional soccer player told a British newspaper that as a child, he had been sexually abused for years by a well-respected youth coach. The player said he knew other players had experienced the same thing — and that a culture of silence kept the abusers out of the spotlight.

But he wasn't keeping the secret anymore.

In the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, tens of thousands of people have fled a brutal, Russian-backed regime offensive against rebel-held parts of the city. Many have fled deeper into the tightening siege, which started over the summer. Others have sought safety on the government-held side.

My conversation with a woman who recently fled the siege begins with her asking how I am. She's safe now, but is still afraid to give her name. She fears for her son — still fighting with the rebels — and for other male relatives who've been detained by the regime for questioning.

Each year, a glowing mass of clouds forms over the South Pole, high in the atmosphere, trapped between Earth and space.

From the ground they look wispy and shimmery, like a blue-white aurora borealis. From space, they look like an electric-blue gossamer haze.

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"I lost more than 80 percent of my university friends," recalls Jagannath Lamichhane.

After silently struggling with depression for two decades, Lamichhane published an essay in Nepal Times about his mental illness. "I could have hid my problem — like millions of people around the world," he says, but "if we hide our mental health, it may remain a problem forever."

This is a story about love and transformation. But first, it starts with resistance.

At 75, Chanjae Lee absolutely hated the idea of learning this bizarre thing called Instagram. He had never used the Internet before, never once owned an email account, and never understood the concepts behind Google or Facebook. Why did he have to learn Instagram?

It was because he missed his grandchildren, dearly.

In a shocking upset, election officials say an opposition candidate has defeated Gambia's longtime leader in the country's presidential vote. This sets the stage for what could be the small West African country's first-ever peaceful transfer of power since it gained independence from the U.K. in 1965.

A shipbuilder in China has started work on a full-scale replica of the Titanic, the doomed ship that hit an iceberg and sunk on its maiden voyage in 1912.

Construction on the project began Wednesday, Reuters reports. When it's finished, the tourist attraction will offer simulations of the infamous disaster, which killed more than 1,500 people.

There's no danger of real icebergs, though. The Titanic replica will be permanently docked at a reservoir in Daying County, in the landlocked Sichuan province.

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Gambians have cast ballots for a new president, in what marks the most serious risk yet to the decades-long rule of President Yahya Jammeh.

The voting happened amid a blackout on Internet and international phone calls, as NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton tells our Newscast unit. She reports the current president of the small West African country "is warning his rivals not to challenge the outcome of the vote." Here's more from Ofeibea:

President-elect Donald Trump spoke by phone with Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in one of the many routine, get-acquainted chats he'll have before entering the White House.

These talks rarely if ever make news, but Wednesday's conversation raised eyebrows because Trump lavished praise on Sharif and Pakistan despite years of tension between the two countries.

Here's part of the read-out of their conversation, as released by Pakistan's Press Information Department:

Each year, the United States gives $5 billion to $6 billion to fight HIV/AIDS around the world, with particular emphasis on sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for two-thirds of the nearly 2 million new infections each year.

For World AIDS Day, we sat down with the U.S. Global AIDS coordinator, Deborah Birx, to talk about the state of the epidemic and the work of PEPFAR, set up by President George W. Bush in 2003 with the intention of saving the lives of people suffering from AIDS around the world.

France's embattled president, Francois Hollande, has announced that he will not seek a second term.

The surprise announcement from the socialist leader marks the "first time in 60 years that a sitting French president has not run for re-election," as NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports from Paris. "Terrorist attacks and a sagging economy beset Hollande and made him one of the most unpopular presidents ever."

Hollande made the announcement in a televised address, where he spoke for about 10 minutes and defended his record since taking office in 2012, Eleanor adds.

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