The scene of a car bomb explosion near the headquarters of Syria's ruling Baath party, in the center of Damascus, on Feb. 21. While the city is not involved in the fighting on a daily basis, the war is edging closer to the capital.
Credit Courtesy of author
Members of the government security forces relax at a cafe. Daily life carries on in Damascus two years after the uprising began.
Credit Joseph Eid / AFP/Getty Images
Supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad stage a rally in central Damascus on Feb. 12.
Originally published on Sun March 17, 2013 9:59 am
Editor's Note: The author is a Syrian citizen living in Damascus and is not being further identified for safety concerns.
In Damascus, you can smell the scent of gunpowder that wafts in from shelling on the outskirts of the capital. You hear fighter jets buzzing above. Ambulance sirens wail throughout the day, and death notices are regularly plastered on city walls.
Damascus is not under direct bombardment, like many other places in Syria that have been ravaged by an uprising now two years old. But the war is creeping closer, and residents feel the heat.
Palestinian scholar Rashid Khalidi has closely watched the role of the United States as mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In his new book "Brokers of Deceit," he argues that U.S. involvement has made the goal of a lasting peace less attainable than ever. Rashid Khalidi is with us now from our studios in New York.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MARTIN: It was early 2003: Doctors reported the first known case of the SARS virus; the musical "Chicago" won the Oscar for Best Picture; and Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and President George W. Bush made their case for war.
DICK CHENEY: There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.
Originally published on Sun March 17, 2013 4:59 pm
Sunday is the final day of a week-long Russian festival that celebrates folk traditions, heroic eating and the distant promise of spring. NPR's Corey Flintoff reports on Maslenitsa, or "pancake week," the last culinary blow-out before the austerity of Lent.
Traffic drives through Tahrir Square in central Baghdad on Wednesday. Ten years after the start of the war, bullet holes still mark buildings, and towers wrecked by U.S. missiles and tank shells have not been fully rebuilt.
Credit Karim Kadim / AP
An Iraqi soldier stands at the scene of a car bomb attack on the Justice Ministry a day earlier, in Baghdad on Friday.
Ten years ago this Tuesday, the U.S. invaded Iraq, and by any count — and there have been many — the toll has been devastating.
So far, about 4,400 U.S. troops and more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed, and the combined costs of the war come to an astounding $2 trillion, including future commitments like veteran care.
So where do we stand today?
Stephen Hadley was the national security adviser under President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2009, and part of the White House team that helped sell the war to the public.
Originally published on Sun March 17, 2013 5:54 am
A Swiss woman cycling with her husband in India was allegedly beaten and gang-raped, police say. It's the latest high-profile sexual assault in a nation that's facing intense pressure to increase its protections for women.
The couple was on a cycling tour from Mumbai to New Delhi when they were attacked Friday night. The New York Times continues the story:
Aung San Suu Kyi (right) faced protesters when she traveled to a village in northern Myanmar on Thursday to discuss a Chinese-backed copper mine project. Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate and a member of Parliament, urged protesters to support the project, which was the scene of a violent crackdown last year. She said opposing the project would risk hurting the country's economy.
Originally published on Sat March 16, 2013 11:51 am
Last year, Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was greeted by adoring crowds during triumphant tours of Asia, the U.S. and Europe. She eclipsed President Thein Sein, who remained in Burma, as the country is also known, and managed a series of domestic crises.
The eyes of the world were fixed on St. Peter's Square this week as Roman Catholic cardinals elected a new pope. Host Scott Simon reflects on the rituals and the silence that followed Pope Francis's call for prayers.
Host Scott Simon talks to MIT professor of music and media Tod Machover about his work with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. He crowdsourced street sounds gathered by local Torontonians and blended them with traditional instruments to create an orchestra.
Ten years after the U.S. invaded Iraq, NPR is taking a look back, revisiting people and places first encountered during the war. In 2006, NPR aired a story about a 9-year-old girl who loved her father so much, she wrote him letters to take to work with him. Even after he died, in a carjacking that appeared to have a sectarian motive, she still wrote to him.
Iran's raucous political infighting shows no sign of calming down, despite the best efforts of the political leadership. With presidential elections slated for June, new competitors are applying to replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, while the president continues to lash out at the powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps and, indirectly, at supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Meanwhile, a riot among farmers in Isfahan recently suggests that public unhappiness with the economy will be an important issue in the campaign.
Pope Francis' status as the first Jesuit marks a momentous milestone in history. Relations between Jesuits and the Vatican have seen deep crises in the 479 years since the order was founded as humble missionaries. Their growing power and monopoly over education generated suspicion and hostility around Europe. In the 18th century, Jesuits were repressed by some of Europe's Catholic super-powers — Portugal, Spain, France. Emaciated, ragged Jesuit priests began roaming Europe, looking for refuge.
The 12th National People's Congress holds the election for its new president at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Thursday.
Credit Feng Li / Getty Images
China's new president, Xi Jinping, right, talks with Chairman of the National People's Congress Zhang Dejiang on Friday, March 15. Xi has vowed to deal with widespread corruption, an endemic problem in China.
China's new president, Xi Jinping, who was formally elected Thursday, is already engaged in his own anti-corruption campaign, threatening to go after the key players — the tigers as well as the flies.
Confronting the issue is a matter of political self-interest and survival for China's new leaders. The problem is how to root out corrupt officials when so many are quite literally invested in the system.
A van that had been left running and in gear crossed an active runway at Toronto's Pearson International Airport, seen here in a 2012 photo. The incident, which occurred late Monday, is under investigation.
Canadian officials are investigating an incident in which a driverless van traveled across the runway at Toronto's Pearson International Airport, at the same time an Air Canada flight was landing late Monday night. After the plane's pilots reportedly ignored commands to pull up, the jet "narrowly missed" the van, investigators say.
Originally published on Fri March 15, 2013 12:56 pm
A federal appeals court has rejected an effort by the CIA to deny it has any documents about a U.S. drone program that has killed terrorists overseas, ruling that the agency is stretching the law too far and asking judges "to give their imprimatur to a fiction of deniability that no reasonable person would regard as plausible."
Originally published on Fri March 15, 2013 9:33 am
What can you find underneath a British railroad or parking lot? These days it could be skeletons, and probably a lot of them. Last month, researchers announced the bones of a man discovered underneath a British parking lot were actually King Richard III. Today, a British rail project says some of its staff stumbled upon skeletons of people who may have died of the Black Death nearly 700 years ago, during an outbreak of bubonic plague.
Originally published on Mon March 18, 2013 7:00 am
"The meek shall inherit the earth" — that seems to be the latest message from the United Nations Development Program.
Their 2013 Human Development Report chronicles the recent, rapid expansion of the middle class in the developing world. It also predicts that over the next two decades growth in the so-called "Global South" will dramatically shift economic and political power away from Europe and North America.
Originally published on Fri March 15, 2013 10:43 am
Pope Francis, in his first audience with the cardinals since becoming head of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, praised his predecessor, Benedict XVI, and urged the evangelization of the church's message.
Francis said of Benedict, who served as pontiff for eight years before his historic resignation last month, that he "lit a flame in the depths of our hearts that will continue to burn because it is fueled by his prayers."
Originally published on Fri March 15, 2013 5:36 am
Putting a more specific estimate that he has in the past on the issue of how long it might take Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, President Obama has told Israel's Channel 2 TV that it could happen in "over a year or so" if efforts to dissuade Iran do not succeed.
The president also said that while he wants to resolve the issue diplomatically, he is keeping "all options on the table."
For its part, Iran has long said its nuclear program is only aimed a peaceful uses for that energy source.
Originally published on Fri March 15, 2013 4:44 am
First, Russian President Vladimir Putin granted citizenship to French actor Gerard Depardieu. Now, Putin is hobnobbing with the actor Steven Seagal. The star of Under Siege toured a new sports facility with Putin, who used the occasion to call for reviving a Soviet-era fitness program in which kids threw javelins, learned to ski and fired guns.
The new boom in natural gas from shale has changed the energy economy of the United States. But there's another giant reservoir of natural gas that lies under the ocean floor that, theoretically, could dwarf the shale boom.
No one had tapped this gas from the seabed until this week, when Japanese engineers pulled some up through a well from under the Pacific. The gas at issue here is called methane hydrate. Methane is natural gas; hydrate means there's water in it. In this case, the molecules of gas are trapped inside a sort of cage of water molecules.
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish.
Argentina's Dirty War in the late 1970s and early 1980s was a dark time for both the country and the Roman Catholic Church. Thousands were kidnapped or killed by the military junta in a campaign to crush leftist opposition to the government.
Italian marines Massimilian Latorre (left) and Salvatore Girone, who are at the center of a diplomatic row between India and Italy, return to Rome on Feb. 23. The two men have been charged in India with killing two fishermen, whom they mistook for pirates. India is demanding their return.
Melissa Block speaks with John Connaughton, a 36-year-old American seminarian studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, about what it's like to witness the transition of popes firsthand.
Saint Francis of Assisi is the namesake of the new pope, Francis. To learn about the life of Saint Francis and his legacy in the Catholic Church, Melissa Block talks with with Father Jeremy Harrington. He's guardian of the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America.