Scott Neuman

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Wednesday that the U.S. is using surveillance drones to try to locate more than 270 kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria.

"We are now providing unmanned reconnaissance intelligence over Nigeria and we'll continue to do that," Hagel told reporters in Saudi Arabia at a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

This post was updated at 11:45 p.m. ET.

Thousands of residents in Southern California were fleeing their homes after being told by authorities to evacuate as nine wind-swept wildfires raged in the region.

In a news conference Wednesday night, officials said they were particularly concerned about the San Marcos fire, where more than 9,000 acres had burned.

Tropical storms are migrating out of the tropics, reaching their peak intensity in higher latitudes, where larger populations are concentrated, a new NOAA-led study published in the journal Nature says.

Mobs in southern Vietnam — angered by China's placement of an oil rig in disputed Southeast Asian waters — have torched scores of foreign-owned factories. Meanwhile, Beijing has reportedly begun construction on an airstrip in an island chain also claimed by the Philippines.

Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul, who won an Oscar last year for his 2012 documentary Searching for Sugar Man, has been found dead in Stockholm at age 36, police and family members confirm.

Reuters reports:

"Stockholm police declined to provide any further details about Bendjelloul's death."

"'What I can say is that there are no suspicions any crime was involved,' Stockholm police duty officer Pia Glenvik said.

Update: 3:30 a.m. EDT Wednesday:

Fire officials say winds have died down and that the threat from two blazes has eased. In and around San Diego, evacuation orders for more than 20,000 residents were lifted. In Santa Barbara County, people have not been allowed to return to a small number of the 1,200 homes and business ordered evacuated.

Original Post:

A wildfire swept up by gusty winds has burned through hundreds of acres in northern San Diego county, causing officials to call for the evacuation of 20,000 homes in the area.

President Obama has issued an executive order authorizing sanctions against five people in the Central African Republican in connection with the country's sectarian conflict.

In a statement, the White House cited "[escalating] violence and human rights abuses," and noted that "[communities] that have lived together peacefully for generations are being torn apart along sectarian lines."

Rep. John Conyers of Detroit, who's served in the U.S. House for nearly five decades, has failed to collect enough valid signatures to appear on the Aug. 5 Democratic primary ballot, a local election official says.

Quinn Klinefelter of member station WDET reports:

"Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett found that some campaign workers who gathered petition signatures to place Conyers on the primary ballot were not registered voters.

Some of you might remember the music video rendition of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" that Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield shot aboard the International Space Station. That was a year ago, and the YouTube video he made, which is now approaching 23 million views, is set to come down Tuesday as the licensing agreement on the iconic song expires.

In a tit-for-tat sanctions dispute over the situation in Ukraine, a top Russian official said Tuesday that Moscow would stop supplying the U.S. with rocket engines used in military satellite launches and suspend operation of GPS ground stations in Russian territory.

The moves come after Washington banned some high-tech equipment sales to Russia as part of sanctions in response to the annexation of Crimea.

Australia's conservative government says it wants to effect radical spending cuts and tax increases aimed at nearly halving the fiscal deficit by 2016.

In a speech to Parliament, Treasurer Joe Hockney said Tuesday that "the age of entitlement is over."

Scientists have long worried about climate change-induced melting of the huge West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Now they say that not only is the disintegration of the ice already underway, but that it's likely unstoppable.

That means that in the coming centuries, global sea levels will rise by anywhere from 4 to 12 feet. As NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reports, that's a larger increase than the United Nations expert panel noted last year. But it would occur over a longer time frame — centuries instead of decades.

A boat carrying migrants from North Africa sank off the coast of Libya on Monday, killing at least 14 people a day after dozens were drowned in a similar incident.

The sinkings are just the latest in a long series of such accidents amid an exodus of would-be illegal immigrants from North Africa trying to reach EU shores.

Monday's accident occurred about 100 miles south of the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, a common destination for migrants trying to enter the European Union illegally because of its relative nearness to the African coast.

A heated discussion between two pundit-journalists about the civil war in Syria turned into a uncivil exchange in the studio of Jordan's "Seven Stars" satellite channel.

Shaker al-Johari and Mohammad al-Jayousi were appearing on a news discussion program, when, according to The Associated Press, "the debate fell apart as al-Jayousi accused al-Johari of supporting the Syrian rebels. Al-Johari then accused al-Jayousi of taking money for supporting Assad."

The next inmate in Oklahoma who is scheduled to die by lethal injection will get a six-month stay after the drug protocol in an execution last week went wrong.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals agreed Thursday to delay the execution of Charles Warner until an investigation of the botched lethal injection procedure on Clayton Lockett is completed. Warner is now slated to die on Nov. 13.

The House voted on Thursday to establish a new investigative committee to look into circumstances surrounding the attack two years ago on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the ambassador and three others.

Republicans accuse the White House of misleading the public about the nature of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack and stonewalling efforts by Congress to investigate. Democrats see the creation of the new investigative committee as an election-year political ploy to raise money and motivate the party's base.

Vietnam's coast guard has released a video it says shows one of its vessels being deliberately rammed by a Chinese patrol craft near the disputed Paracel Islands. It comes on the same day that Beijing reiterated its right to drill for oil in the region of the South China Sea also claimed by Hanoi.

A House committee on Thursday voted to issue a subpoena to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki over allegations of delays at VA hospitals that may have caused as many as 40 deaths of patients waiting for care.

In addition to calling Shinseki to testify, lawmakers also subpoenaed records from a Phoenix VA hospital that allegedly maintained an alternate wait list showing that patients waited only a few weeks for treatment when in fact some waited more than a year.

Mobile messaging service Snapchat has agreed to a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over allegations that it deceived customers by collecting their user information without permission.

Snapchat's mobile app promises users that video and photos will "disappear forever" soon after they're sent, thus insuring privacy and safeguarding against data collection.

House Republicans on Wednesday voted to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for repeatedly refusing to answer questions about her alleged involvement in targeting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.

The vote was 231 to 187, with all Republicans voting in favor of the measure and all but a few Democrats voting against it.

Chinese ships trying to deploy an oil rig in disputed waters of the South China Sea have reportedly rammed Vietnamese vessels in recent days, as the Philippines says it's seized a Chinese fishing boat and its crew of 11 for poaching endangered sea turtles.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki tells NPR that he's determined to get to the bottom of allegations that veterans may have died at a Phoenix VA hospital while waiting for care.

The accusations of extended delays in providing health care at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system surfaced last month. The facility reportedly kept two lists of veterans waiting for care, one it shared with Washington and another, secret list of wait times that sometimes lasted more than a year.

Farley Mowat, the Canadian author of the nature classic Never Cry Wolf, has died at age 92, Canadian media report.

The Star quotes Mowat's brother, John, as saying the acclaimed writer and environmentalist died Tuesday, just a few days shy of his 93rd birthday.

A week after the NBA banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the league for life for racist remarks he made, the league announced that the team's president is taking an indefinite leave of absence.

Andy Roeser's leave is effective immediately and will "provide an opportunity for a new CEO to begin on a clean slate and for the team to stabilize under difficult circumstances," league spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement.

Four acrobats injured during a circus performance over the weekend in Rhode Island are listed in serious condition, the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey says. Four others are in good condition, and one has already been released from the hospital.

The diminutive Galapagos finches had a problem: The larvae of a parasitic nest fly were killing off their hatchlings.

A scientist, with the help of crowdfunding, had a solution: offer the birds insecticide-laced nest-building material.

It worked.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the number of earthquakes in Oklahoma has gone up dramatically in recent months and that the surge in seismic activity has increased the danger of a damaging quake in the central part of the state.

The USGS and Oklahoma Geological Survey issued a joint statement on Friday, citing a dramatic spike in magnitude-3.0 temblors, especially since October 2013.

A United Nations committee on Monday grilled a Vatican representative about priest sex abuse and compared the impact of the scandal to torture.

But Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See's top envoy in Geneva, said the Vatican leadership had improved its handling of abuse in the decade since the scandal exploded.

The failure of a 5-inch steel D-ring known as a carabiner may have been the cause of an accident over the weekend that injured nine members of a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey acrobatic troop.

"It was a single piece of equipment that failed," Providence, R.I., fire investigator Paul Doughty told reporters.

At least 22 people, including four children, are dead after two small boats carrying illegal migrants capsized off the Greek coast in the eastern Aegean Sea.

Joanna Kakissis, reporting for NPR from Athens, says survivors told the Hellenic coast guard that as many as 65 people were on the two smuggling boats — a 30-foot yacht and a 6-foot dinghy.

Rescue teams managed to save 36 people after the boats started sinking early Monday and were still searching for the seven others thought to be missing.

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