Laura Wagner

Updated on Tuesday, Oct. 27, at 3 a.m. ET.

The USS Lassen has sailed within 12 nautical miles of the contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. The Pentagon says the guided missile destroyer passed by the Subi Reef on Tuesday morning local time, NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports.

The move, which the Obama administration has billed as exercising the right to freely navigate international waters, is being characterized as a challenge to China's claim of control over the area.

Signaling its intent to compete with Amazon and other companies in using drones to fill and deliver online orders, Wal-Mart has applied for permission to test drones for home deliveries and curbside pickup.

NPR's Laura Sydell reports for our Newscast unit that Wal-Mart has already been testing drones inside:

On Monday, FBI director James Comey reiterated that the rise of violent crime in certain cities may be a result of less aggressive policing due to increased scrutiny of officers in the wake of recent high-profile police killings of black men.

The U.S. Department of Justice said Friday that it did not find evidence to warrant criminal charges over the Internal Revenue Service's improper targeting of the Tea Party and other conservative groups in 2010 through 2013.

Hurricane Patricia Makes Landfall In Mexico

Oct 23, 2015

Updated at 6:05 a.m.

Hurricane Patricia has calmed to a Category 1 storm overnight, with maximum wind speeds of 75 mph. Still no fatalities or significant damage has been reported.

As The Associated Press reports, Patricia is "expected to dissipate over Mexico's inland mountains, becoming a tropical storm later in the day. Its center was about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Zacatecas."

The AP adds:

Weeks after hundreds of thousands of RushCard customers were unable to access their money due to what the company called a technical glitch, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has stepped in to "ensure a comprehensive response" to the situation.

What's better than parachuting beavers?

Video of parachuting beavers.

Boise State Public Radio, KBSU, has the story:

According to a Gallup survey released Thursday, 58 percent of Americans view the National Rifle Association favorably, despite a mass shooting in Oregon this month that prompted criticism of the gun lobby and strong words from the president.

Updated 5:08 p.m. ET

Nearly one year after Kaci Hickox was quarantined in New Jersey upon her return from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, she is suing Gov. Chris Christie and state health department officials. She says they unlawfully detained her.

Represented by the ACLU of New Jersey and two New York law firms, Hickox claims that she was held against her will for three days, even after she tested negative for Ebola.

The Chicago Cubs have not appeared in a World Series since 1945, when, legend has it, tavern owner Billy Sianis placed a curse on the team in retaliation for refusing stadium entry to his goat.

Going into Wednesday night's potentially decisive Game 4 of the National League Championship Series trailing the New York Mets 3-0, it seems the Cubs' "curse" is as strong as ever.

According to the Billy Goat Tavern's website, which is now owned by Sianis' nephew Sam, the tale goes as follows:

In a message to employees that was posted online, ESPN CEO John Skipper announced that the company would be making "organizational changes" that include the "elimination of a number of positions, impacting friends and colleagues across the organization."

A source at ESPN confirmed to NPR that the number of eliminated positions would be around 300, approximately 4 percent of the channel's 8,000-person workforce.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has told House Republicans he will "gladly serve" as House speaker under several conditions, one of which is that the divided party must unite behind his candidacy.

He said his party has until Friday to let him know whether they will support him.

Earlier this month, a self-described former escort named Katina Powell published a book, Breaking Cardinal Rules, that alleges a former University of Louisville assistant coach, Andre McGee, paid her to provide strippers at dorm room parties for basketball players and recruits from 2010-2014. Though the allegations generated enough buzz to trigger an internal investigation at Louisville, they were largely uncorroborated.

New research about sunscreen's damaging effects on coral reefs suggests that you might want to think twice before slathering it on.

South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius has been released from prison nearly a year after he was jailed for killing his girlfriend in 2013.

He will spend the remainder of his five-year sentence under house arrest.

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports for the Newscast unit:

"Oscar Pistorius's release on parole a day earlier than expected, under cover of darkness, means he's now under what South Africa calls correctional supervision – at his uncle's house in Pretoria, South Africa.

Few images can put life's trivialities into perspective quite like the sight of our planet in the interminable blackness of space.

And at the very least, it's a cool view.

On Monday, NASA announced that this view will be available every day on a new website dedicated to publishing images from a satellite camera 1 million miles away from Earth.

Updated 3:45 p.m. ET:

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the main parts of gun control laws passed in New York and Connecticut after the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

The laws ban certain semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo praised the decision in a statement:

The U.S. government is backing away from Arctic offshore oil and gas drilling on two fronts.

On Friday, the Department of the Interior announced the cancellation of two potential lease sales off the Alaskan coast in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement also denied lease extension requests from two companies, Shell and Statoil, that were exploring the seas for fossil fuels.

Joining Texas and Virginia, Maryland will phase out the sale of license plates featuring the Confederate battle flag, following a ruling by a federal judge.

Reuters reports that "U.S. District Judge Marvin Garbis issued the order on Thursday, lifting a 1997 injunction at Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh's request." It adds that the order will go into effect on Nov. 17.

Catching a touchdown pass is impressive.

"Homeland is racist."

"There is no Homeland."

"Homeland is not a series."

For the observant Arabic speakers watching last Sunday's episode of Homeland, these are some of the messages they may have noticed scrawled on the walls behind main character Carrie Mathison. For the rest of the TV audience, well, they didn't have to wait long to find out.

On Thursday, the three artists hired to design the set of a Syrian refugee camp with Arabic graffiti blogged about "hacking" the show with subversive messages.

Nevada regulators have ordered daily fantasy sports sites like FanDuel and DraftKings to shut down, saying the businesses can't operate in the state without a gambling license.

The sites, which claim they operate under a skill-based wagering model — not chance-based — and therefore should not be subject to gambling regulations, have soared in popularity over the last year, the Associated Press reports. But recently, increased scrutiny by regulators have dampened some of the excitement surrounding the sites.

Ken Taylor, the Canadian ambassador to Iran who concealed a group of Americans at his home during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, died Thursday. He was 81. Taylor's wife, Pat, told The Associated Press that he had colon cancer.

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper noted Taylor's death.

On Thursday, German authorities issued a mandatory recall of all Volkswagen diesel cars outfitted with emissions-cheating software.

Shortly after the German Federal Motor Transport Authority ordered the recall of 2.4 million diesel cars in Germany, Volkswagen announced it would be recalling 8.5 million cars across Europe.

Overturning a 136-year-old ban, the Los Angeles City Council voted on Wednesday to legalize urban beekeeping.

Once the ordinance is signed by the mayor, Los Angeles will join cities including New York, San Francisco and Washington in allowing beekeeping. There is even a beehive on the White House grounds.

Less than a month after an emissions cheating scandal rocked Volkswagen, the German car company is dealing with fresh scrutiny regarding its diesel emissions software.

After a 15-month probe, investigators with the Dutch Safety Board have concluded that a Russian Buk missile took down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine last year.

The crash in July 2014 killed all 298 people on board, most of whom were from the Netherlands.

Iran's Parliament voted Tuesday to support the implementation of the nuclear deal struck by world powers in Vienna in July.

After rejecting a number of earlier offers, British-based beer company SABMiller accepted in principle a 69 billion British pound ($106 billion) offer from Budweiser brewer Anheuser Busch InBev.

If Tuesday's agreement is finalized, the new beer company will be the largest in the world and control two top U.S. brands in Budweiser and Miller Genuine Draft, according to The Associated Press.

On Monday, 15 supporters of the Confederate battle flag were indicted on terrorism charges in Douglas County, a suburb of Atlanta.

The 15 accused are charged with making terroristic threats and violating an anti-street gang ordinance during a July 25 incident in which a group of white men in Confederate and American flag-adorned pickup trucks clashed with a group of black people attending an outdoor party.