Two high-profile cabinet nominations go before the Senate soon. Senator John Kerry is expected to face little opposition to become the next secretary of state. Former Senator Chuck Hagel may have more problems. But as mentioned earlier, his nomination as secretary of defense is also expected to win approval.
As President Obama prepares to start another term next week, Morning Edition has asked NPR's international correspondents to gauge worldwide expectations for the president's next four years. We begin in Mexico, where Mexicans hope to change the conversation between the two countries from drugs and violence to economics and prosperity.
Originally published on Wed January 16, 2013 4:27 am
As the Middle East faces one of its harshest winters in decades, Syrian refugees are facing a humanitarian disaster. In the Zaatari refugee camp on the Jordanian border, heavy snow and rain flooded hundreds of tents last week.
We are also following a story in Japan that strikes a blow at one of the world's great aircraft makers. Japan has grounded its entire fleet of 787 Dreamliners. This move came after an electrical problem forced an All Nippon Airlines 787 to make an emergency landing. Here's NPR's Wendy Kaufman.
The situation for Syrian refugees is getting dire. Much has been reported about the worsening conditions for hundreds of thousands of Syrians taking up shelter just outside the country's borders, but inside Syria, the numbers are even higher. The United Nations says some 2 million people have been displaced from their homes in Syria, and most of them end up squatting in mosques and schools. NPR's Kelly McEvers spent a night in one of those schools, in Syria's largest city, Aleppo, and sent this report.
The French defense minister says France is preparing for a possible land assault in Mali, so it plans to increase its troop levels to 2,500. Back home in France, authorities are girding for possible terrorist attacks in response to their intervention. Eleanor Beardsley has that story from Paris.
The government of Turkey is vowing to push ahead with efforts to end its long-running conflict with Kurdish militants. That's despite the killings last week of three female Kurdish activists that were shot in Paris. The murders are seen as an effort to derail the peace talks before they gain traction.
As NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from Istanbul, Turkey, Turkey has pushed for peace before. But many wonder if the lessons from past failures have been absorbed.
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Celeste Headlee in Washington. The anxious eyes of world leaders are now focused on three areas. In Mali the French continue their airstrikes in the northern part of the country in hopes of stopping the advance of armed Islamist rebels. In Syria, the death toll rises, and the conflicts between the government and opposition enter what the International Rescue Committee calls a staggering humanitarian crisis.
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, if saving money is one of your new year's resolutions, then our next guest will probably interest you. He says saving is not just about what you buy, but when you buy. He's written a book called "Buy Shoes on Wednesday and Tweet at 4:00" - and we'll hear from him in just a few minutes.
The ancient city of Aleppo in northern Syria has been the scene of heavy fighting. Many homes that have survived have inscriptions above the doorways that note the owner has made the pilgrimage of Islam's holiest site, Mecca.
Credit Kelly McEvers / NPR
The black stone structure, or Kaaba, at the center of the Sacred Mosque in Mecca is often represented in the drawings.
Credit Kelly McEvers / NPR
A pilgrim's doorway in Aleppo.
Credit Kelly McEvers / NPR
Aleppo is Syria's largest city and dates back centuries.
Originally published on Tue January 15, 2013 10:37 am
Aleppo's storied old city, which dates to the 12th century, has suffered much in the fighting between Syrian government forces and rebels over the past few months. But parts of the city remain intact, as I saw on a recent walk through the winding, stone alleys on the way to the front line.
Centuries ago, it took Muslims from this area months in a caravan to make the pilgrimage, or hajj, to Mecca, the holiest site in Islam, which is now part of Saudi Arabia.
Originally published on Tue January 15, 2013 5:03 am
The French military continues its bombing raids in Northern Mali, where extremists, including an al-Qaida affiliate, have taken over. The French have pummeled rebel positions from the air, backing up Mali's beleaguered army on the ground.
French President Francois Hollande talks about the situation in Mali on Saturday at the presidential palace in Paris. Backed by French air power, Malian troops Friday unleashed an offensive against Islamist rebels.
Credit Jerome Delay / AP
French troops gather in a hangar at Mali's Bamako airport. French forces led an all-night aerial bombing campaign against armed Islamist extremists Tuesday.
Credit Thibault Camus / AP
A boy holds a poster reading "Do not touch the civil marriage" during a demonstration in Paris on Sunday as thousands of protesters mobilized against the French president's plan to legalize gay marriage.
Since last weekend, France has been fighting Islamist radicals across Africa. In the west, it's sending troops to help overthrow rebels in its former colony, Mali; in the east, French special forces staged an unsuccessful but bold operation to free a French hostage in Somalia. While the fighting is far from over, French President Francois Hollande's show of force is producing some collateral benefits for him back home.
Originally published on Tue January 15, 2013 5:07 am
France has intervened in the conflict in the West African nation of Mali, but why does that conflict affect the United States? Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has offered the most basic take on America's interest in Maili: al-Qida is there.
Originally published on Tue January 15, 2013 4:43 am
After careening from back-to-back crises — recalls and the tsunami — Toyota is No. 1 in worldwide sales again. Toyota says it sold at least 9.7 million vehicles in 2012. General Motors reports it sold 9.3 million. Both companies say it doesn't really matter which one is in the top spot.
The U.S. is mulling over ways to help France, as the French military continues its bombing raids in Northern Mali. The State Department says it shares the French goal of restoring order in part of that African country which is now overrun by extremists, including an al-Qaida affiliate. But the U.S. has long argued that the solution needs to be African-led, so the Obama administration — while offering France some "limited logistical support" — is also trying to speed up efforts to train an African intervention force for Mali.
A town in central Mali has been taken over by Islamist insurgents, after France intervened to prevent further advancement by local rebels. Audie Cornish speaks with Adam Nossiter, West and Central African bureau chief for The New York Times.
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, shown last November, has appointed women for the first time to a top advisory body. But in a country where the sexes are strictly segregated, the women will meet in a separate room from the men.
Credit Fayez Nureldine / AFP/Getty Images
Saudi women leave a shopping mall in the capital, Riyadh, on Saturday. King Abdullah has introduced a number of reforms for women during his rule, but they still face many restrictions.
Originally published on Mon January 14, 2013 11:45 am
King Abdullah kept a promise to Saudi Arabia's women last week, when he appointed 30 of them to four-year terms in the new Consultative Assembly, the pseudo-legislature that advises the monarch on laws and regulations.
As usual with such developments in Saudi Arabia, there is a catch: The women will have to meet in a room separate from the men.
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, the ladies of Delta Sigma Theta sorority just celebrated their 100th year. We'll find out just how and why an organization founded by 22 young women on a single college campus a century ago now has a presence around the world.
This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin.
Coming up, we'll talk about why the Peace Corps is stepping up its efforts to recruit doctors and nurses to its ranks of people serving in developing countries. That's ahead.
But first, President Barack Obama is just about a week away from being sworn into his second term in office. So we have been looking at some of the unresolved issues from his first four years. Last week, we talk about housing, particularly the foreclosure crisis.
On this fourth day of French military operations aimed at routing Islamist militants in Mali, the al-Qaida-linked rebels are "vowing to drag France into a long and brutal ground war," Reuters reports.
"France has opened the gates of hell for all the French. She has fallen into a trap which is much more dangerous than Iraq, Afghanistan or Somalia," a spokesman for the MUJWA Islamist group told Europe 1 radio, the wire service writes.
Some six months after Syria's rebels tried to storm the country's largest city, they can claim the eastern part of Aleppo and perhaps 60 percent overall. In the west, the government army has the remaining 40 percent of the city.
The line dividing these two areas is supposedly the front line in Aleppo's war. But lately the front has gone cold, as people here say in Arabic.
A woman helps adjust a mask for her friend outside an amusement park on a hazy day in Beijing on Saturday.
Credit Alexander F. Yuan / AP
A woman wears a mask while walking in a park near the China Central Television Tower, background, on a hazy day in Beijing. The elderly, children and those suffering from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases are being advised to stay indoors to reduce exposure to polluted air.
Credit Mark Ralston / AFP/Getty Images
Air pollution hangs over the skyline as the sun rises over the central business district in Beijing on Monday. Dense smog has shrouded the city with pollution at hazardous levels for days, and residents were advised to stay indoors.
Credit Liu Changlong / Xinhua /Landov
Students take an indoor physical education class at Shoushuihe Elementary School in Beijing, as outdoor sports activities for primary and middle schools were halted due to heavy air pollution. Heavy smog has caused highway closures and flight delays in several provinces.
Credit Ed Jones / AFP/Getty Images
This combination of photos shows (left) the Beijing skyline during severe pollution Monday, and the same view (right) taken during clear weather on Feb. 4, 2012.
Credit AFP/Getty Images
Beijing hospitals saw a spike in respiratory cases Monday following a weekend of off-the-charts pollution. Here, a row of intravenous drips is seen as parents take their kids to hospital for flu treatment Sunday.
Credit Alexander F. Yuan / AP
A woman wears a mask while walking in a park near the China Central Television Tower, background, on a hazy day in Beijing. The elderly, children and those suffering from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases are advised to stay indoors to reduce exposure to polluted air.
Credit Louisa Lim / NPR
About 9,000 children per day consult doctors in Beijing's children's hospital, around a third of them suffering from respiratory disorders.
In China's capital, they're calling it the "airpocalypse," with air pollution that's literally off the charts. The air has been classified as hazardous to human health for a fifth consecutive day, at its worst hitting pollution levels 25 times that considered safe in the U.S. The entire city is blanketed in a thick grey smog that smells of coal and stings the eyes, leading to official warnings to stay inside.