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.
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.
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.
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.
The U.S. and other countries have hesitated to help arm the rebel groups in Syria, mainly arguing that they don't want those weapons falling into the wrong hands. After nearly two years of fighting in Syria, the number of rebel groups has spiraled into the hundreds. Now, France and Britain are calling for an emergency European Union meeting to end the arms embargo from allied nations to Syria's rebel groups.
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.
An Islamist rebel group in Aleppo called "the Authority for the Promotion of Virtue and Supporting the Oppressed" reviews applications for aid on Feb. 25. In addition to handing out aid, the Islamist group says it is carrying out civilian administration in parts of Aleppo.
Credit Hamid Khatib / Reuters/Landov
A member of an Islamist group holds a flag in Raqqa province, eastern Syria, on Tuesday. Recently, militants there posted leaflets announcing that anyone who supports democracy is an infidel — a serious offense under Shariah law.
In rebel-held parts of Syria, a clash of ideologies is playing out. Powerful Islamist brigades are competing with pro-democracy civilians to shape Syria's future.
One battlefront is in the courts. In many areas in northern Syria, Islamists have set up religious courts that deliver rulings under Shariah, or Islamic law — a fundamental change in Syria's civil legal system.
This is evident on a recent day in a courtroom in the northern Syrian city of Azaz.
Once known as the most beautiful avenue in the world, the Champs Elysees is changing. Some Parisians fear it's starting to look like any American shopping mall as high rents and global chains steadily alter its appearance.
"We just try to keep a sort of diversity on the Champs Elysees, with the cinemas, with restaurants, with cafes and shops," says Deputy Mayor Lynn Cohen-Solal. "We don't think the laws of the natural market, the free market, make for a good Champs Elysees."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for a meeting in Israel's parliament, the Knesset, on Thursday. Netanyahu has reached agreement with other factions to form a coalition government following an election in January.
Originally published on Thu March 14, 2013 1:24 pm
As the sun rose over Latin America this morning, we're getting a clearer picture of how Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio — now Pope Francis — was viewed in his home of Argentina and what the first pope from the New World could mean for the continent.
We've read through dozens of news outlets from the region to bring you highlights:
Following celebrations for the historic election of Argentine Pope Francis, it's time to look at the business of leading the world's 1.2 billion Catholics — bureaucracy and all. Host Michel Martin discusses the Pope's future agenda with Reverend Jose Hoyos, of the Diocese of Arlington, and religion professor Anthea Butler.
Originally published on Thu March 14, 2013 12:18 pm
The 266th pope, and the first ever from Latin America, has one lung, rides the subway, reads Dostoevsky and has been described as both a moral compass and a silent accomplice to Argentina's former Dirty War leaders.
A man dressed as a skomorokh, a medieval East Slavic harlequin, distributes bliny in St. Petersburg, Russia, during the last day of Maslenitsa, March 1, 2009.
Credit Dmitry Lovetsky / AP
A man dressed as a medieval East Slavic harlequin distributes blini in St. Petersburg, Russia, during the last day of Maslenitsa in 2009. The festival originated in pagan times as a way to mark the end of winter and beginning of spring. Pancakes known as blinis abound: Their round shape and warmth were meant to symbolize the sun.
Credit Mikhail Metzel / AP
Street vendors in the ancient Russian city of Suzdal, some 124 miles east of Moscow, prepare the traditional foods that mark the Maslenitsa holiday in 2010.
Credit Misha Japaridze / AP
People stick coins to an ice sculpture of Lady Maslenitsa in front of St. Basil's Cathedral just outside the Kremlin on Feb. 14, 2010, during the last day of Maslenitsa celebrations.
Credit Marat Gubaidullin / AP
Residents of the Russian town of Yalutorovsk attempted to make a record-breaking pancake during 2011 celebrations of Maslenitsa. For several years, Yalutorovsk's residents have made a huge pancake for Maslenitsa to apply for entry into the Guinness Book of World Records, but they've failed to turn it over.
Credit Dmitry Lovetsky / AP
A man tries to burn a small effigy of Lady Maslenitsa during the final evening of festivities in 2011 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The torching marks the end of the holiday — a fiery goodbye to "lady winter." A larger straw effigy burns in the distance.
Credit Sergei Grits / AP
Belarusian woman drink vodka and sample more traditionally sized blinis.
Credit Misha Japaridze / AP
A vendor sells blini at a booth camp just outside the Kremlin in Moscow during Maslenitsa, February 2009. Each day of the week calls for prescribed activities. For example, on Sunday, the final day of the event, people are supposed to seek forgiveness from friends and strangers.
Credit Ivan Sekretarev / AP
Smiling Russians at the Aksyonovo village celebrations of Maslenitsa in 2012.
Credit Misha Japaridze / AP
People view straw effigies for sale at a booth just outside the Kremlin in 2009. Often referred to as "Lady Maslenitsa," the straw figures are meant to symbolize winter (the word for winter in Russian is feminine).
Credit Viktor Drachev / AFP/Getty Images
Belarusian women in festive costumes welcome the coming of spring with stacks of blinis during the 2010 Maslenitsa celebrations. The holiday is celebrated in Slavic Orthodox European countries.
Originally published on Sun March 17, 2013 11:36 am
Nothing says party like pancakes and butter. At least, not if you happen to be in Russia this week.
The country is in the midst of celebrating Maslenitsa, an Eastern Slavic folk holiday that takes place the week before the start of Russian Orthodox Lent (this year, it starts March 18). Though now tied to the Christian calendar, Maslenitsa has roots in ancient Slavic sun worshippers — it originally marked the end of winter and advent of spring. And, like Mardi Gras, it involves a whole lot of feasting before the Lenten fast — with blinis, a Russian pancake, as the food of choice.
The death of Ieng Sary, co-founder of the Khmer Rouge that ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979 and killed an estimated 1.7 million of that nation's people in the process, has dashed the hopes "among survivors and court prosecutors that he would ever be punished for his alleged war crimes," The Associated Press writes.