National and World News from NPR

Cory Booker's victory Wednesday in New Jersey's special Senate election didn't surprise anyone.

From the moment he captured the Democratic nomination in the reliably blue state, the Newark mayor was the heavy favorite to defeat Republican Steve Lonegan.

Two hundred years ago today, in a small northern Italian village, a couple named Verdi — tavern owners by trade — welcomed the birth of a baby boy who would later change the face of opera forever. And, whether we recognize it or not, on the bicentennial of his birth, Giuseppe Verdi is still vital.

Remember how that fight over the budget was all about Obamacare?

Seems like ancient history now, but House Republicans ostensibly shut down the government 17 days ago, demanding first a defunding, and, when that failed, a year's delay in the health law.

Talk to economists about the government shutdown's impact on their forecasts and you'll hear this phrase again and again:

Flying blind.

For economists and investors, "at this moment, we are flying blind," said Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve and now president of Greenspan Associates LLC, a consulting firm.

Greenspan is not alone in feeling a little lost without the compass of government reports.

Basing its reporting on documents obtained by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, The Washington Post moved a story last night that details a close collaboration between the spy agency and the Central Intelligence Agency, when it conducts drone attacks against suspected terrorists.

Nearly 30 million people live in slavery worldwide, with most of them in Asia and Africa, according to a report released Thursday.

The Walk Free Foundation's ranking incorporates factors that include the traditional definition of slavery — owning another person — as well as things such as child marriage and human trafficking.

Here are the highlights of the report:

If the ugliness in Washington left a bad taste in your mouth, we have the perfect palate cleanser.

The panda cam at the Smithsonian's National Zoo, which was shutdown along with the federal government, is back online. It means you can once again ogle the now eight-week-old cub and her mother, Mei Xiang.

The zoo writes:

Houston, We Have Dengue Fever

Oct 17, 2013

Dengue fever is in Houston. And it turns out the mosquito-borne illness isn't exactly a stranger there.

Dengue has been roaming around the city since 2003, according to a study published Wednesday. "There was dengue circulating, and we had no idea that it was here because we just weren't looking," says the study's lead author Dr. Kristy Murray of the Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital.

One of my most enjoyable parts of being a critic is steering people toward something so good, but so relatively obscure, that they might never have checked it out unless they'd been nudged in that direction. My personal best example of that, ever, was the imported BBC miniseries The Singing Detective, by Dennis Potter, about 25 years ago.

Billy Crystal isn't happy about turning 65, but at least he's finding a way to laugh about it. His new memoir — Still Foolin' 'Em: Where I've Been, Where I'm Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys? — is on the best-seller list, and he'll be back on Broadway in November.