KASU

Merrit Kennedy

People around the world use more than a trillion plastic bags every year. They're made of a notoriously resilient kind of plastic called polyethylene that can take decades to break down.

But a humble worm may hold the key to biodegrading them.

It was an accidental discovery. Scientist and beekeeper Federica Bertocchini was frustrated to find that her beehives were infested with the larvae of Galleria mellonella, commonly known as a wax worm.

North Korea marked Tuesday's anniversary of the founding of its military with artillery drills, celebrations that took place as a U.S. guided missile submarine docked in South Korea and U.S. Navy ships conducted exercises with South Korea and Japan.

Meanwhile, envoys from the U.S., South Korea and Japan met in Tokyo to discuss the rising tensions with the rogue nation and "map out further punishment if the North goes ahead with more nuclear or missile tests," NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports.

After years of legal wrangling and intimidation, New Orleans has begun the process of dismantling four monuments of the Confederate and Jim Crow eras.

The first monument, which honors members of a white supremacist paramilitary group who fought against the city's racially integrated, Reconstruction-era police force in 1874, was dismantled and removed before the sun rose Monday.

Following death threats, the contractors wore flak jackets and helmets as they broke down the Battle of Liberty Place monument, as WWNO's Tegan Wendland reports.

Afghanistan's defense minister and its army chief of staff stepped down in the wake of a Taliban-claimed attack Friday in which at least 100 Afghan soldiers died. It was one of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan since 2001.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced the high-level resignations Monday, on the same day that U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis arrived in the country on an unannounced visit, as the Trump administration reviews its Afghanistan policy.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has declared a state of emergency over the state's rapidly eroding coastline.

It's an effort to bring nationwide attention to the issue and speed up the federal permitting process for coastal restoration projects.

"Decades of saltwater intrusion, subsidence and rising sea levels have made the Louisiana coast the nation's most rapidly deteriorating shoreline," WWNO's Travis Lux tells our Newscast unit. "It loses the equivalent of one football field of land every hour."

Updated at 2 a.m. ET

Arkansas has carried out its first execution since 2005, just minutes before the expiration of the inmate's death warrant.

Ledell Lee was executed by lethal injection minutes before midnight Friday Central time in Grady, Ark. at the Cummins Unit facility, shortly before the warrant was set to expire.

Lee was pronounced dead at 11:56 p.m. Thursday, NPR member station KUAR Public Radio reports.

It was one of the most incendiary episodes in India's modern history.

Now, the country's Supreme Court has decided to revive criminal conspiracy charges against four veteran ruling party politicians over the destruction of a mosque 25 years ago.

"The destruction of the Babri Masjid by a Hindu mob in 1992 ignited the worst communal rioting across India in decades," NPR's Julie McCarthy reports from New Delhi. "More than 2,000 people were killed."

Three years after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared from radar with 239 people on board, Malaysia's national carrier says it will begin using satellites to track its planes at all times. The airline says it will be the first to do so.

In general, planes are tracked using radar and a ground-based system called ADS-B, with gaps in coverage over some ocean areas and other remote places.

Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was found hanged in his prison cell early Wednesday.

"Mr. Hernandez hanged himself utilizing a bed sheet that he attached to his cell window," Christopher M. Fallon of the Massachusetts Department of Corrections said in a statement obtained by NPR member station WBUR. "Mr. Hernandez also attempted to block his door from the inside by jamming the door with various items."

Updated at 2:15 p.m. ET

A nationwide manhunt for a suspect who allegedly shot an elderly man dead in Cleveland and then uploaded it to Facebook has ended with the man shooting and killing himself in Pennsylvania's Erie County.

"Steve Stephens was spotted this morning by [Pennsylvania State Police] members in Erie County," the state police said on its Twitter account. "After a brief pursuit, Stephens shot and killed himself."

British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that she is calling for an early election on June 8, describing it as the "only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead" as the U.K. prepares to negotiate its exit from the European Union.

The decision was immediately welcomed by the head of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. He called it a "chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first."

A day after he declared a narrow victory in a referendum vote that radically expands presidential powers, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is criticizing elections observers and their concerns about the fairness of the vote.

Decrying a "crusader mentality," Erdogan told a crowd of his supporters that the international monitors should "know their place," according to Reuters. Erdogan added that Turkey did not "see, hear or acknowledge" the reports of irregularities from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Vice President Pence said on a visit to South Korea on Monday that the U.S. "era of strategic patience is over" regarding North Korea and its nuclear and ballistic missile program.

Palestinian prisoners and detainees are staging a mass open-ended hunger strike to protest their conditions in Israeli prisons.

Israeli authorities say approximately 1,100 of them are participating in the strike in eight prisons, NPR's Daniel Estrin in Tel Aviv reports, of the approximately 6,200 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Thousands of people are evacuating four besieged Syrian towns on Friday after rebels and the Syrian government reached a population swap agreement.

"In northern Syria, residents of Shia minority villages, long besieged by rebels, are leaving," NPR's Alison Meuse reports from Beirut. "Hundreds of miles away, two towns besieged by Syrian troops and their allies are also evacuating."

The Trump administration says it will not make public the names of those visiting the White House, reversing the Obama administration's policy.

White House communications director Michael Dubke said in a statement that the decision was due to the "the grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually," NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

A Michigan emergency room doctor has been charged with performing female genital mutilation on multiple girls of about the age of seven.

After a series of "mishaps," the Navy says it will no longer allow sailors to bring electronic cigarettes onto its ships, submarines, aircraft, boats, craft and heavy equipment.

"The prohibition applies to Sailors, Marines, Military Sealift Command civilians and any personnel working on or visiting those units," according to a statement obtained by NPR's Sarah McCammon, issued by the commanders of the U.S. Fleet Forces and the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Could there be life under the icy surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus?

Scientists have found a promising sign.

NASA announced on Thursday that its Cassini spacecraft mission to Saturn has gathered new evidence that there's a chemical reaction taking place under the moon's icy surface that could provide conditions for life. They described their findings in the journal Science.

Canada has taken a major step toward legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government introduced legislation that would allow adults to possess, share and purchase marijuana, while also strengthening penalties for those who give or sell the products to youth.

This law has been hotly anticipated, with pot producers and the medical community watching closely.

Boko Haram militants have used 27 children to carry out suicide bombing attacks in the first three months of this year in Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon, according to a new report from UNICEF.

This marks a major increase — 30 children were used in bombings for all of 2016 in those four countries, where Boko Haram is active.

UNICEF says 117 children have been used in suicide attacks since 2014. Eighty percent of them were girls.

Wondering how many kinds of trees there are? There's now a database that can answer that.

Scientists from the U.K.-based Botanic Gardens Conservation International say they have compiled the first-ever comprehensive list of all known tree species, totaling 60,065 different kinds.

Updated at 6:00 p.m. ET

Three explosions went off near the bus of Germany's Borussia Dortmund soccer team on Tuesday evening in the city of Dortmund, local police say.

The team said on Twitter that one of its players, defender Marc Bartra, suffered a broken wrist and is being treated in a hospital. The injury required surgery.

Amnesty International says there were fewer executions worldwide last year than the year before — but the number of death sentences handed down is the highest it has ever recorded.

In its annual report, Amnesty estimates that China carried out more executions than all the other countries put together. The human rights group says China put thousands of people to death. The exact figure is classified as a state secret and is not included in Amnesty's worldwide total.

North Korea is threatening "tough counteraction" after a U.S. Navy strike group was routed toward the Korean Peninsula following the rogue nation's continued ballistic missile and nuclear testing.

"We never beg for peace but we will take the toughest counteraction against the provocateurs in order to defend ourselves by powerful force of arms and keep to the road chosen by ourselves," the official Korean Central News Agency reported in English, quoting a Foreign Ministry official.

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