World

Soda is at the crossroads.

The U.S. is still a world leader in taking the pause that refreshes (and causes weight gain).

But soda drinking is flat or declining in the West. The reasons are many: Health consciousness. Bottled water. Energy drinks.

So the Big Soda companies are spending money to develop new markets in low- and middle-income countries. In some of these places, people are earning a bit more than a few years before, so they have more money for soda.

Would you drink fewer cans of soda if a national tax jacked up the price?

When it comes to schemes to counter the staggering rates of obesity and diabetes around the world, there's a growing consensus that taxes that force consumers to reckon, via their pocketbooks, with their food and drink habits might be the way to go.

But since so few countries — or cities — have dared to try a "sin" tax on soda or junk food, no one really knows if they'd actually work.

The Man v. Horse Marathon starts out like a typical cross-country race. Hundreds of runners stream past the starting line, through the town of Llanwrtyd Wells and then up into the Welsh hills.

But 15 minutes later, a second set of competitors takes off. Fifty horses and their riders chase the runners up and down ridges, across streams, and past hundreds of bewildered sheep.

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Ebola has dug in its heels.

Despite dramatic drops in the overall numbers of reported cases, Sierra Leone and Guinea are still struggling to stop the deadly disease.

Case tallies in both countries have dipped towards zero in the past few months, only to bounce back up. Sierra Leone reported 14 new cases this week and Guinea counted 10.

Police in Brazil have arrested the leaders of the nation's two largest engineering and construction companies. Marcelo Odebrecht, head of Odebrecht SA, and Otavio Marques Azevedo, head of Andrade Gutierrez, were taken into custody in Friday morning raids linked to a scandal involving Brazil's state-run oil company Petrobras.

As NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports for Newscast:

Shahjahan Selim was a supervisor at a garment factory in Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh. On April 24, 2013, he remembers a huge crash when the ceiling collapsed. Dead colleagues sprawled next to him. Selim got up uninjured, then heard people calling for help.

For two weeks the 37-year-old father wrested people from the mangled wreckage of concrete and steel. Selim rescued 37 people and recovered 28 bodies from the site of the world's deadliest garment factory disaster. More than 1,100 people died when the eight-story building collapsed.

Julie Hamp — Toyota Motor Corp.'s first senior female executive who was appointed head of public relations just weeks ago — has been arrested in Japan for allegedly importing the prescription painkiller oxycodone in violation of the country's narcotics laws.

A total of 57 pills were discovered by Japanese customs officials on June 11 inside a package that Hamp mailed to herself from Kentucky, declaring the contents to be a necklace, according to Japanese news reports.

Oxycodone is legal in the U.S. with a prescription.

The massive wave of people fleeing the Middle East and Africa face dangerous conditions to make the trip across the Mediterranean Sea, crowded onto rickety boats and overloaded ships. An estimated 2,000 migrants have died so far this year alone.

But, despite the danger, the burgeoning business of smuggling migrants has taken on some retail features.

Smugglers sending desperate migrants from Egypt to Europe are looking to make money — but they do offer discounts. Small children can go for free; migrants who organize a group can go free, as a sort of referral bonus.

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The demand for ivory around the world is leading to the slaughter of tens of thousands of elephants every year. To fight the poachers, wildlife biologists are trying to pin down where the worst poaching is, and they've found a new way to do that: with DNA.

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Dakota Midday: A Year After Fall Of Mosul

Jun 18, 2015
STR AP

The fall of Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, to the militant group ISIS a year ago startled the world. Scenes of thousands of Iraqi army troops fleeing as the jihadists seized the city brought renewed attention to Iraq after the U.S. withdrawal in late 2011.

Legislators in Hong Kong rejected China' plan to hand-pick the slate of candidates for the territory's next leader, but Beijing quickly announced that the vote would change nothing because it didn't reflect the will of the people.

Moments before the vote, pro-Beijing lawmakers walked out of the legislative chamber.

"Such a result is a departure from the mainstream public opinion of Hong Kong," a spokesman for the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. "It is also not what the central government likes to see."

In the waiting room of a courthouse in the West Bank city of Ramallah last week, a clerk called defendants to pick up their files while loudspeaker announcements blared courtroom assignments.

A skinny young man in jeans and a blue T-shirt waited to hear his name. Ayman Mahareeq, who just turned 24, faced charges of insulting officials based on comments he'd posted on Facebook.

"One of my posts was about how Palestinian security forces act whenever Israeli forces enter the West Bank," Mahareeq says. "They withdraw and hide."

It's a lot of money.

A big chunk of it comes from the U.S.

And it's not enough.

Those are three things you'll learn from the sixth annual report on how much money has been spent to improve health in developing countries.

The total in 2014 was $35.9 billion. As impressive as that number sounds, it's a 1.6 percent drop from 2013.

The U.S. contribution: $12.4 billion. Of course, many other countries chipped in, along with public and private organizations.

Pope Francis today issued a sweeping 184-page papal letter, writing that climate change is a global problem with far reaching environmental and social consequences — especially for the poor. He blamed apathy and greed and called on developing countries to limit the use of nonrenewable energy and to assist poorer nations.

On the bicentennial of the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon Bonaparte's most celebrated statement about food and warfare — "An army marches on its stomach" — is worth recalling.

Except there is no record of him saying it. Just as there is no record of Marie Antoinette saying, "Let them eat cake."

If he did say it, the words would have been as hollow as the stomachs of his soldiers. Though one of the greatest military generals of all time, Napoleon was surprisingly negligent about feeding his army.

In Afghanistan's rough and ragged reconstruction, one of the most frequently cited bright spots has been the surge in Afghan kids going to school.

When the Taliban were ousted in 2001, fewer than 1 million Afghans were in the classroom, and a minuscule number were girls. In recent years, the figure topped 8 million, with both sexes well represented, according to the Afghan government.

Now the extent of that success story is being thrown into doubt.

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After four years of war, Syrians are everywhere in Istanbul — on street corners, squatting in abandoned buildings. But a new venture run by Syrian and Turkish book lovers aims to be a cultural oasis for Arabic readers, and, along the way, give Turks a fuller picture of the Syrians, Iraqis and Libyans increasingly filling the city.

In a painstakingly restored old wooden house in a working class neighborhood, Syrians, Iraqis and Turks mingled recently amid the shelves of the Pages bookstore.

Pages