Originally published on Wed March 13, 2013 4:53 pm
As news spread that the chimney atop the Sistine Chapel was billowing white smoke to signal the election of Pope Francis, anticipation built for the new pontiff's first appearance on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica.
Cardinals at the Vatican chose Argentine cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new pope. He will take the papal name Francis and is the first pope from South America. NPR's Neal Conan talks with guests about the significance of the event around the world.
North Korea scrapped the 1953 armistice agreement that ended the Korean War, escalating fears of a preemptive nuclear attack on the U.S. Tuft University Korean studies professor Sung-Yoon Lee discusses this precarious moment for North Korea, its neighbors and the international community.
European bison, or wisents, keep a safe distance from human visitors to their enclosure on the property of Prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg in Germany's densely populated state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Credit Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson / NPR
Prince Richard (left) and his son, Prince Gustav, stand in front of their palace in Bad Berleburg. The elder prince decided to reintroduce wisents into the wild in Germany a decade ago, but opponents and red tape hampered his efforts until recently.
Credit Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson / NPR
The prince owns about 30,000 acres of vast forestland, home to the wisents.
A small herd of European bison will soon be released in Germany's most densely populated state, the first time in nearly three centuries that these bison — known as wisents — will roam freely in Western Europe.
The project is the brainchild of Prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg. He owns more than 30,000 acres, much of it covered in Norwegian spruce and beech trees in North Rhine-Westphalia.
For the 78-year-old logging magnate, the planned April release of the bull, five cows and two calves will fulfill a decade-old dream.
Grammy-winning singer Angelique Kidjo is considered Africa's greatest living diva. She says music is her outlet for pleasure and activism. Kidjo shares some of the songs that have inspired her over the years.
Originally published on Wed March 13, 2013 10:07 am
Update at 6:41 a.m. ET. The Smoke Is Black:
Smoke just started pouring from a special chimney above the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City — and its dark color means the 115 cardinals meeting inside the chapel have not yet agreed on a successor to Pope Benedict XVI.
If all has gone as planned inside the chapel, where the cardinals are meeting in secret, they have now cast three ballots and no one name has been written on at last two-thirds of the slips of paper. It takes two-thirds — 77 votes — to become leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
Ahmad "Harvester" Heidar is a computer software engineer whose work for the Syrian rebels includes sweeping the hard drives of detained anti-government activists, and trying to develop a robot that will help extract sniper victims in Syria. Turkish officials have given Heidar the green light to develop a prototype of his robot, which he calls Tina.
The Internet is a battleground in Syria, a place where President Bashar Assad's regime has mounted a sophisticated surveillance campaign that includes monitoring and arresting activists by tracking their Facebook pages.
Mohammad al-Qahtani, a human rights and democracy activist, speaks at his home in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 2011.
Credit David Enders / MCT/Landov
A Syrian rebel in the city of Kfar Nbouda holds a grenade launcher in February, part of a recent weapons shipment to the rebels by the Saudi government. Arms are not the only thing flowing from Saudi Arabia to Syria. Young Saudis are joining Islamist rebels in a "holy war" against President Bashar Assad.
Following a circuitous route from Saudi Arabia up through Turkey or Jordan and then crossing a lawless border, hundreds of young Saudis are secretly making their way into Syria to join groups fighting against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, GlobalPost has learned.
With the tacit approval from the House of Saud and financial support from wealthy Saudi elites, the young men take up arms in what Saudi clerics have called a "jihad," or "holy war," against the Assad regime.
One big question for the conclave is whether the cardinals will choose a pope from outside of Europe, and Brazil is one country that gets mentioned. It's home to more than one in 10 of the world's Catholics. It was the first country that Pope Benedict visited outside of Europe when he was elected, and a Brazilian cardinal is among those mentioned as possible contenders to be the next pope.
He's the richest man you've never heard of: Amancio Ortega, founder of the Spanish clothing chain Zara. He's a notorious recluse who is rumored to wear the same plain shirt every day, but his Zara empire has come to define the concept of fast fashion.
It's no picnic being a kidney patient even in the best conditions. But coming in for dialysis in a place like the Gaza Strip calls for a special kind of patience.
Years of war have placed a constant stress on the health system there. Thanks to a host of factors, Gaza's main hospital, Shifa Hospital, regularly faces supply shortages of medications that kidney patients need to manage nausea and other symptoms.
Syria's Grand Mufti Ahmad Hassoun (right) prays with President Bashar Assad in Damascus on Feb. 5, 2012. The grand mufti has called on Syrians to join the army and fight for the government, his most partisan statement since the country's uprising began two years ago.
Originally published on Tue March 12, 2013 1:28 pm
This story was written by a Syrian citizen in Damascus who is not being further identified out of safety concerns.
In a surprising religious decree, Syria's government-appointed grand mufti has issued a fatwa calling on Muslims to fight on the side of President Bashar Assad's regime against the rebels who have been waging an uprising for two years.
In a televised statement Sunday, Syria's Grand Mufti Ahmad Hassoun said: "I urge the sons of Syria to join the army and fight for the unity of this great country."
A candidate has finally been declared the winner in Kenya's presidential election. But the votes were close and the main opponent says he'll fight the results in court. Could the election become Kenya's version of the Bush-Gore battle from 2000?
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad offered his condolences to Elena Frias, mother of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chávez, last week. This image was provided to news services by the Miraflores Palace — the office of the Venezuelan president.
A photo of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad holding the hand of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's mother and appearing to brush his face against her cheek as they consoled each other last week has him "mired in a fresh controversy" in Iran, as the BBC writes:
"Conservative critics, already irked by Mr Ahmadinejad's effusive eulogy for the leftist leader, reminded him that he has not only committed a sin, but also behaved in a way inappropriate for the president of an Islamic state."
Originally published on Tue March 12, 2013 1:25 pm
Update at 2:43 p.m. ET. No Pope Today:
Black smoke just poured from the chimney above the Vatican. That means, as was expected, the cardinals did not choose a pope on the first vote of their conclave to name a successor to the now-retired Pope Benedict XVI. As the cardinals' ballots are burned, NPR's Sylvia Poggioli says, chemicals are added to a fire in a second stove to turn the smoke black if there's no pope elected and white if there is.
President Obama's administration plans extra aid to Syrian rebels. As we heard yesterday, some analysts see hints in the statements of Secretary of State John Kerry that the U.S. could take even stronger steps.
James Dobbins hopes the U.S. does. The former envoy to Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo argues U.S. policy is finally moving in the right direction.
An image of late President Hugo Chavez hangs behind acting President Nicolas Maduro, as he speaks to supporters after registering his candidacy outside the national electoral council in Caracas, Venezuela, on Monday.
Credit Rodrigo Abd / AP
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles accused Maduro of using Chavez's funeral to campaign for the presidency.
The tall and imposing Nicolas Maduro stepped forward last week to be sworn in as Venezuela's interim leader following the death of President Hugo Chavez.
Before the country's packed congressional hall, he swore to complete Chavez's dream to transform the OPEC power into a socialist state, allied with Cuba and decidedly opposed to capitalism and U.S. interests in Latin America.
This is a big week at the Vatican. The cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church will enter the Sistine Chapel tomorrow for a conclave to elect the next pope. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli is in Rome and has been talking with the faithful.
SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: Small groups of people wander through St. Peter's Square. There's a sense of excitement, but also trepidation. These pilgrims came all the way from Brazil. Sister Paola Schneider is praying the cardinals will be inspired to make the right choice.
North Korean authorities cut off their "hotline" communication with South Korea on Monday as part of their announced withdrawal from the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War in 1953. The move came amid a flurry of bellicose North Korean threats, coinciding with the beginning today of joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises. The White House also vowed anew to protect U.S. forces and South Korean allies against any threats from the North. Analysts say it is among the most dangerous moments on the Korean peninsula in several years.
An Afghan policeman stands guard near the scene of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 27
Credit Sean Carberry / NPR
The U.S. military is increasingly focused on helping the Afghan government and security forces become self-sufficient. Here, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Phillip Baki visits with an Afghan police officer, Abdul Karim, at a checkpoint overlooking the Dahla Dam in the southern province of Kandahar.
Credit Sean Carberry / NPR
District government officials in Kandahar province meet to discuss security and governance challenges as NATO troops draw down.
The NATO campaign is now in a new phase. After years of fighting the Taliban and bolstering anemic local governance, NATO troops are handing those responsibilities over to the Afghans. NPR's Sean Carberry recently embedded with U.S. troops in the southern province of Kandahar as they worked on this new mission.
The fertile Arghandab Valley in Kandahar province is considered one of Afghanistan's breadbaskets. For years it was also a valley of death for NATO troops.
Originally published on Mon March 11, 2013 11:57 am
Iran and Pakistan are moving closer to completion of a nearly 1,000-mile natural gas pipeline linking the two countries, despite U.S. objections that it could become a source of hard currency for Tehran in defiance of international sanctions.
Monday marks the beginning of construction on Pakistan's part of the pipeline, which will consist of a 485-mile run. Iran has already completed most of its 760 miles of the link, which will stretch from Assaluyeh along Iran's Persian Gulf coast to Nawabshah in Pakistan's Sindh province.
As NPR's Louisa Lim reported Monday on Morning Edition, a week of inflamed rhetoric from North Korea — including talk of a preemptive nuclear strike on the U.S. — is being followed by word that the North has carried through on its threat to annul the 1953 armistice that ended open warfare on the peninsula and has stopped answering calls on the telephone hotline to the South.
Originally published on Mon March 11, 2013 11:52 am
Authorities have pulled more than 2,800 dead pigs out of Shanghai's main source of tap water — the Huangpu River. And they're still counting, according to reports on Monday.
The discovery has raised fears of drinking water contamination in China's most populous city, although state media reports that officials have run tests and determined that so far there's nothing to fear.
In India, an investigation is under way into the death of the man who police say was the lead accused in the gruesome gang rape of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi last December. Authorities at the Tihar jail in Delhi say he was found early Monday morning hanging in his cell. For more, Steve Inskeep speaks with NPR's Julie McCarthy.
Two years ago today, an earthquake and tsunami triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Japan. Hundreds of thousands of people living near the plant were forced to flee. The World Health Organization recently predicted a very small rise in cancer risk from radioactive material that was released. For the nuclear refugees, though, anxiety and depression could be the more persistent hazard. Correspondent Geoff Brumfiel traveled to Fukushima prefecture and met victims of the accident to see how they are coping.
Originally published on Sun March 10, 2013 2:00 pm
Militants in Nigeria have killed seven hostages, including three Westerners, in an act the British foreign secretary called "pure, cold-blooded murder."
The seven hostages — four Lebanese and one British, one Greek and one Italian citizen – worked for the Setrapo construction company. They were kidnapped Feb 16 from Jama'are, a town about 125 miles north of Bauchi, the capital of Bauchi state. Ansaru, a group that's an offshoot of Boko Haram, the militant Islamist movement, claimed responsibility for the killings.