World

In 1970, archaeologists excavating the site of an ancient synagogue in Israel dug up a cylindrical lump of charcoal that looked like the remains of a scroll.

The animal-skin document was badly burned and battered. It was so delicate, just touching its surface sent pieces flaking off. To attempt to read it by unwrapping the layers would be to destroy the artifact forever. For curious scholars hoping to know what was written inside, the so-called En-Gedi scroll was a hopeless enigma.

Until now.

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Chinese officials are under fire after a local government tried to repair a section of the Great Wall by apparently just paving it over. Now, a centuries-old stretch of the wall looks more like a gray sidewalk than a global treasure.

"The five-mile stretch of wall in northeast Liaoning province is known as a particularly scenic part of the 'wild wall,' " NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Beijing. "Its towers and parapets are partially crumbled by seven centuries of wind and rain."

In an interview with The Associated Press, Syrian President Bashar Assad blamed the U.S. for the collapse of a fragile cease-fire earlier this week and denied carrying out well-documented human rights abuses, such as besieging civilians or using chemical weapons against them.

The breathtaking sadness of seeing a boy suffering amid Syria's civil war has prompted a breathtaking offer of hospitality and kindness.

The sight of shell-shocked 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh, who was wounded in an airstrike in Aleppo, left many people speechless last month. It also prompted a New York boy named Alex to write to President Obama with a simple request: "Can you please go get him" so Omran can become part of Alex's family?

Less than a year after China suspended its one-child policy, officials in the central Chinese city of Yichang are asking public servants to have two children.

The request came in a public memo from municipal officials posted to the city government website. After more than 35 years, China relaxed one-child restrictions in January, allowing couples nationwide to have a second child if they want to.

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Historical. A possible turning point.

These are the words health researchers are using to describe a declaration passed Wednesday by the U.N. General Assembly aiming to slow down the spread of superbugs — bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics.

"I think the declaration will have very strong implications," says the World Health Organization's Dr. Keiji Fukuda. "What it will convey is that there's recognition that we have a big problem and there's a commitment to do something about it."

The U.S. Treasury Department has granted permission to Boeing and Airbus to export commercial planes to Iran, a Treasury spokesperson told NPR. The government has approved a deal — not yet finalized — for Boeing to sell IranAir 80 commercial passenger aircraft.

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