Telo Tulku Rinpoche, left, prays with Buddhist monks in front of inmates in a prison colony in Kalmykia, Russia, on Sept. 7, 2010. After renouncing his monkhood, Telo Rinpoche can no longer wear traditional robes, but still serves as the region's Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader.
In Philadelphia in 1972, an immigrant couple of Kalmyk origin gave birth to a boy they named Erdne. A few years later, the Dalai Lama renamed him Telo Tulku Rinpoche and identified him as one in a long line of reincarnations of an ancient Buddhist saint. The boy was then taken to a monastery in the mountains of southern India to learn the teachings of the Buddha.
Telo Rinpoche was one of the first of his kind: someone from the West learning thousand-year-old traditions a world away from his family.
A woman tries to salvage items from a burnt out Sufi shrine outside the Tunisian capital, Tunis, last October. Hard-line Islamists, known as Salafists, have attacked many Sufi shrines in Tunisia recently.
Credit Fethi Belaid / AFP/Getty Images
A Sufi man sits during his visit to a shrine in Tunis. Tunisia's government has promised emergency measures to protect Sufi Muslim mausoleums, which have been targeted by radical Islamist groups.
The author, a Syrian citizen living in Damascus, is not being identified by NPR for security reasons. Many Syrians interviewed for this piece asked that their full names not be used, for their safety.
In most every Arab country where there's been an uprising in the past couple of years, Islamists have gained influence or come to power. Is the same thing destined to happen in Syria if President Bashar Assad's secular government is ousted?
Syrians may not know the answer, but they certainly are talking about it.
A number of luxury retailers are rolling out tactics this year to mark the beginning of the Lunar New Year. For Bloomingdale's in New York City, though, reaching out to Asian shoppers during the cultural celebration is a decades-long tradition.
The upscale department store's marketing strategy traces back to 1971, the year President Nixon lifted the U.S. trade embargo with the People's Republic of China. Immediately, Marvin Traub, then-president of Bloomingdale's, decided he wanted to sell Chinese goods in his flagship store on the Upper East Side.
Pilgrims and tourists visiting the Vatican received a special treat Saturday, when some 4,000 members of the Knights of Malta marched in procession to the tomb of St. Peter.
The last of the great chivalrous orders is celebrating the 900th anniversary of its official recognition by Pope Paschal II. On Saturday, the Knights attended Mass in St. Peter's Basilica and received an audience with Pope Benedict XVI.
Afghan police and officials visit the site of a suicide attack in Kabul in September. A suicide bomber blew himself up alongside a minivan carrying foreigners on a major highway leading to the international airport in the Afghan capital, police said, killing at least 10 people, including nine foreigners.
The Muhammad Mustafa mosque sits in a fairly well-off part of Kabul where government employees and some high-ranking officials live. Muhammad Ehsan Saiqal, a moderate, 54-year-old Muslim who welcomes girls into his Quran classes, is the imam.The slight, gray-bearded cleric preaches against suicide bombings.
"Islam doesn't permit suicide attacks," he says. "If someone kills any Muslim without any cause, under Shariah law [Islamic law] it means that he kills the whole Muslim world."
Iran's unpredictable president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is nearing the end of his final term in office and he has apparently decided to go out with a bang. The president has dragged a long-simmering feud with one of Iran's most powerful political families out into the open. It features hidden camera videos and allegations of corruption and it has prompted an urgent call for calm from the country's Supreme Leader. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from Istanbul on what looks to be an unexpectedly lively campaign season in Iran.
Tens of thousands of Tunisians gathered for the funeral of Chokri Belaid on Friday. The secular political leader was murdered by unknown assailants on Wednesday. His killing set off riots and clashes between protesters and the police in several parts of the country.
A European police agency this week made what should've been a startling announcement that hundreds of professional soccer matches around the world may have been rigged by gamblers in recent years. But the news was greeted inside the sport less as a shock than as confirmation of a rampant problem. Sportswriter Stefan Fatsis joins us now as he does most Fridays. Hi, Stefan.
STEFAN FATSIS, BYLINE: Hey, Robert.
SIEGEL: And first, tell us about this investigation.
An unmanned drone armed with Hellfire missiles is shown over southern Afghanistan. A Hellfire missile fired from a drone was used in 2011 to kill an American in Yemen who the Obama administration says was an al-Qaida leader. Another American died in that attack, and a 16-year-old American was killed in a separate drone strike.
Credit Dorothea Lange / Getty Images
Members of the Japanese-American Mochida family await relocation to an internment camp, in Hayward, Calif., during World War II. In 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt used an executive order to authorize the internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry. In 1988, the U.S. government formally apologized.
Originally published on Fri February 8, 2013 12:00 pm
The controversy over President Obama's targeted-killings-by-drone policy is a reminder that the default position of presidents in times of crisis is generally to side with national security over civil liberties.
We want to go live now to the nation of Tunisia, where tens of thousands of people turned out today for the funeral of an assassinated opposition leader. Political tensions turned violent as young men clashed with police. The scene was a reminder of the precariousness of the situation in Tunisia - two years after the Arab Spring revolution began there. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley was at the funeral and joins me on the line. And Eleanor, what was the scene at this funeral? What did you see?
"Police and mourners clashed at the mass funeral on Friday of secular opposition leader Chokri Belaid, whose assassination has plunged Tunisia deeper into political crisis," Reuters writes.
According to the wire service, "braving chilly rain, at least 50,000 people turned out to honor Belaid in his home district of Jebel al-Jaloud in the capital, chanting anti-Islamist and anti-government slogans."
As the Africa Cup of Nations reaches fever pitch, allegations of unfair officiating are drowning out the trumpet-like vuvuzelas blasting in South Africa. Host Michel Martin speaks with Nigerian soccer journalist Osasu Obayiuwana for a look ahead to the final between Nigeria's Super Eagles and Burkina Faso's Stallions.
Originally published on Mon February 11, 2013 2:37 pm
About 3,000 years ago, give or take a couple of decades, the Chinese people began celebrating the beginning of their calendar year with a joyful festival they called Lunar New Year. They cleaned their homes, welcomed relatives, bought or made new clothes and set off firecrackers. And there was feasting and special offerings made to the Kitchen God for about two weeks.
Roopa, the pseudonym for a gang rape victim in rural India, is shown at her home in the state of Haryana. Police were reluctant to investigate initially and the community has ostracized her. But her family has stood by her as she presses the case.
Credit Julie McCarthy / NPR
Savita Berwal, who heads a women's group in the Indian state of Haryana, says gang rape is common and is becoming more violent in the area.
Credit Julie McCarthy / NPR
Shishpal Beniwal, who heads one of the unelected all-male councils in Haryana state that set social mores, says that in cases of gang rape, "we usually find that both sides are to blame. It's never one-sided."
It began as an innocent Sunday outing to see the movie The Life of Pi. By the time the night was over, it had become a grisly gang rape that shocked the world.
Five men went on trial this week, charged with the rape and killing of a 23-year-old woman who died of the injuries she suffered when she was attacked on a bus as it moved through the streets of Delhi — an assault that ignited public outrage over the violence against women in the Indian capital.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta testified before a Senate committee Thursday about the September attack in Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans. Panetta was questioned about whether the U.S. response was fast enough and about why the U.S. military had not been better prepared for the possibility of an attack.
There was another U.S. drone strike in northwest Pakistan on Wednesday. At least three people were killed when missiles struck a compound in North Waziristan, near the border with Afghanistan. The strike comes as Washington debates the use of drones and not long after Ambassador Sherry Rehman said the use of drones was a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and international law. Throughout Pakistan, popular reaction to the drone strikes continues to be vociferously negative. Robert Siegel talks to Jackie Northam.
In a tiny village in Brittany, France, the mayor is also the local Catholic priest. As a mayor, Elie Geffray will soon be officiating over same-sex unions even though the Catholic Church opposes gay marriage and adoption. He notes that France is a secular democracy and that allows Muslims, Catholics, Protestants and atheists to live together. And says he believes the Catholic Church made a mistake by getting involved in the gay marriage debate.
Movies are big business in China, and 2012 was another record year: Theaters raked in about $2.7 billion, pushing China past Japan to become the world's second-largest market.
Those blistering sales were expected; China's ultimate box-office champ, however, was not.
Hollywood blockbusters usually do well in China. And last year, competition was stiff, including a new installment of Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible franchise, as well as Skyfall, the latest James Bond flick.
Lee, the American wife of "Crazy English" founder Li Yang, leaves court after a session for her divorce trial in Beijing last March. Earlier this month, she was granted a divorce, as well as a restraining order against Li.
Credit Courtesy of Kim Lee
This was one of the photos American Kim Lee posted online after her Chinese husband, a famous English teacher, beat her. Her decision to go public marks a milestone in the fight against domestic abuse in China.
Li Yang teaches English to several thousand students attending a class at a stadium in Guangzhou, China, in 2004. His "Crazy English" technique — based on learning through shouting — draws huge crowds. In interviews, he has admitted physically attacking his wife.
The faces of American Kim Lee and her Chinese husband, Li Yang, both in their 40s, once graced the covers of books that sold in the millions. He was China's most famous English teacher, the "Crazy English" guru of China, who pioneered his own style of English teaching: pedagogy through shouted language, yelling to halls of thousands of students.
His methods were given official recognition after he was employed by the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee to teach Olympic volunteers.
Originally published on Thu February 7, 2013 8:16 pm
Germany was the world's most future-oriented country in 2012, followed by Switzerland and Japan, according to the "Future Orientation Index." Researchers found that in Germany and 10 nations last year, more people used Google to search for "2013" than for "2011."
The 11 countries represent a gain over 2011, when only seven countries had as many searches for the upcoming year as for the prior one.
Let's get a glimpse of the troops now fighting Islamist insurgents in Somalia. Forces from multiple African nations have been battling a group called al-Shabaab for years. They're being closely watched now because the international community is considering how to intervene in future months and years against an insurgency in Mali. NPR's Gregory Warner is traveling with a force in Somalia. Gregory, welcome back to the program.
GREGORY WARNER, BYLINE: Thanks, Steve.
INSKEEP: So where are you, and what have you been doing?
In exchange for multibillion-euro bailouts, Greece was required to sell state-owned assets. But the sweeping privatization process is behind schedule. In addition, European governments are nervous that Chinese, Russian and Arab companies are lining up to take advantage of the Greek fire sale.
John Brennan, President Obama's nominee to be the next CIA director, worked closely with Saudi Arabia to set up a secret U.S. drone base there, The New York Times reported. Brennan's confirmation hearing is Thursday.
Originally published on Thu February 7, 2013 4:50 am
The Obama administration says lethal airstrikes, delivered stealthily by drones, have been a major success in its counterterrorism efforts. But the administration has been much less successful in keeping secret the details of the often controversial drone program.