Our perspectives on personal space — the distance we keep between the person in front of us at an ATM, the way we subdivide the area of an elevator — are often heavily influenced by the norms of the places we inhabit.
Jerry Seinfeld once focused an episode of his sitcom on the concept of personal space, giving us a new term: the "close talker."
President Obama traveled to Central America this weekend, to Mexico and then to Costa Rica, where he met with other leaders from the region. Host Rachel Martin speaks with Eric Olson of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, who attended the meeting.
Who has the most to lose if the fighting in Syria continues and the country becomes a failed state? Host Rachel Martin poses the question to Rami Khouri, a columnist and director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University in Beirut.
An image taken from video obtained from the Ugarit News, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows an airstrike hitting the area around Damascus, Syria, early Sunday.
Israeli warplanes attacked a military research center near Damascus early Sunday, according to intelligence reports and Syrian state media. The attack prompted Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al Mekdad to deem it a "declaration of war" by Israel, CNN reports.
The Obama administration says it's considering providing arms to rebels fighting to bring down Syrian President Bashar Assad if the U.S. can confirm his forces did in fact use the debilitating nerve gas sarin in recent attacks. Coupled with news that Israel reportedly launched an airstrike at a target in Syria to prevent a shipment of missiles from reaching Hezbollah, these events could represent a game changer in the conflict-ravaged nation.
The wedding party poses at the Sun City resort in South Africa, on Wednesday. South Africa's government announced the suspension of a slew of officials and military personnel on Friday as it tried to limit the political and diplomatic fallout from the lavish Indian wedding.
Credit Gupta Family via AFP/Getty Images
Vela Gupta is the niece of South Africa's influential Gupta brothers. Her wedding this week to Aaskash Jahajgarhia has the South African government scrambling to hold officials accountable for alleged security breaches and other special treatment for the wedding party
It's been dubbed Guptagate. The real-life story reads like a Hollywood — or Bollywood — script, and it's dominating the national conversation in South Africa.
It starts with a high-society wedding in South Africa, organized by three wealthy, well-connected and influential brothers named Gupta from India. Then the scandal begins: A private jet flies in 200 guests — including Bollywood stars — from India, landing at a restricted air force security base in Pretoria, allegedly without the appropriate clearance.
Protesters demonstrate against plans for a factory to produce paraxylene, a toxic chemical used to make fabrics, in China's Yunnan province on Saturday. In nearby Chengdu, planned protests were thwarted.
Credit STR / AFP/Getty Images
Police in Chengdu, China, announced a "virtual combat exercise" over the weekend, which coincides with a planned protest authorities hope to thwart.
How do you prevent protests in China? Move the weekend.
That's the Orwellian step taken by local authorities in the southwestern city of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province. May 4 is a sensitive date commemorating an influential student movement in 1919. It's especially potent in Chengdu, where it marks the fifth anniversary of a protest against the construction of a $6 billion crude oil refinery and petrochemical facility in Pengzhou, 25 miles away.
A roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan killed five members of the U.S. Army Saturday, according to military officials. The International Security Assistance Force says an improvised explosive device was used in the attack.
Update at 5:15 p.m. EDT. Another Deadly Attack:
An Afghan National Army soldier "turned his weapon on coalition troops in the west, killing two in the most recent of so-called insider attacks, the AP reports. NPR has confirmed that both victims of that attack are American.
It's been 70 years since the letters of John Pryor were understood in their full meaning. That's because as a British prisoner of war in Nazi Germany, Pryor's letters home to his family also included intricate codes that were recently deciphered for the first time since the 1940s.
Pryor's letters served their purpose in World War II, as Britain's MI9 agents decoded the messages hidden within them — requests for supplies, notes about German activities — before sending them along to Pryor's family in Cornwall.
Employees scoop ice cream, which is topped with pistachios, at Bakdash's opening in Amman, Jordan, this week. Bakdash has been a landmark in Damascus, Syria, since 1895. But the war there has made it hard to get supplies, so the owners have set up a new shop in Amman.
Bakdash is a landmark in the Syrian capital, serving the Arab world's most famous ice cream since 1895. Manually churned with wooden paddles, loaded with milk, sugar and a generous coating of pistachios, Bakdash ice cream is memorable treat for any visitor to Damascus.
But, when a branch opened this week in Amman, Jordan, it was seen as another casualty of the Syrian war.
"It means there is no sense of security and safety in Damascus," says journalist Fahd al Kheytaan, "which forced the company to move some of its operation to Jordan."
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. President Obama is in Costa Rica today. He's talking with leaders of Central American nations about security and economic trade. Yesterday, the president wrapped up a two-day visit in Mexico, where he tried to steer the focus away from contentious issues like immigration and drug violence. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports from Mexico City.
CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: During their quick visit, Presidents Obama and Pena Nieto stuck to their focus: the economy.
In many ways, the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico is complicated and conditioned by the long and the bloody war on drugs. It's difficult to say exactly how many people have been killed in that war, but Mexican media have estimated that around 70,000 people have died since 2006; many thousands more have been disappeared. The United States has been closely involved, providing money, technology and intelligence to the Mexican government.
Several thousand young Afghans are attending a music and arts festival of their own this week in Kabul. NPR's Sean Carberry sent this postcard from the third annual Sound Central Alternative Music and Arts Festival.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Chanting in foreign language)
SEAN CARBERRY, BYLINE: While this is going on outside the French Cultural Center in Kabul...
Expanding trade abroad is a high priority for President Obama. This week, he nominated a trusted adviser named Michael Froman to become the next U.S. trade representative. Froman is currently deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs. NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports on the challenges he would face as trade representative.
The 2013 U.S. and Women's Chess Championships are under way in St. Louis, Missouri. Host Michel Martin speaks with two of the competition's youngest players. Kayden Troff is the current under-14 World Youth Chess Champion, and at 15, Sarah Chiang is the youngest woman competing in the Women's Chess Championships.
The trial in Munich of an alleged neo-Nazi woman accused as an accomplice in a string of murders of mostly ethnic Turks is, as The Associated Press writes, "forcing Germans to confront painful truths about racism and the broader treatment of immigrants in society."
The Walt Disney Co.'s decision to end its apparel production in Bangladesh after more than 500 people died in the collapse of a garment factory complex has sparked fears of a mass exodus of Western retailers.
It's Friday and it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.
We are learning more this morning about an outbreak of targeted violence in Pakistan. The special prosecutor investigating the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was shot dead today. He was sprayed with gunfire by two assailants on a motorbike as he left his home in Islamabad. Earlier this week, the prosecutor had said there was evidence to implicate former military ruler Pervez Mosharraf in the politically charged case.
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene. President Obama says it is time to focus on the strong economic relationship between the United States and Mexico and not get bogged down on more contentious issues like cooperation on the war on the drugs.
Obama made his comments yesterday as he began a two-day visit to Mexico. He flies on to Costa Rica later today. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.
The late Jimmy Savile is not the only U.K. TV personality whose name has emerged in a sexual abuse investigation. A wide-ranging British inquiry has revealed many other household names who are suspected of committing sexual offenses decades ago.
The collapse of the garment factory in Bangladesh is seen as a gross violation of safety and workers rights. There are international organizations which try to guide and encourage companies and governments towards better codes of conduct, but the groups have no legal recourse.
Jordan's fastest-growing city lies in the middle of the desert, where the sand is so white that from a distance it looks like snow. There's little running water and not much electricity.
The name of this place? The Zaatari refugee camp, home to more than 100,000 Syrian refugees.
"This is a city — not one that anybody would want to create if they had a choice," says Caroline Gluck of Oxfam, one of the aid agencies working in the Zaatari camp. "It's certainly not urban planning at its best."
The government of Kazakhstan says it's cooperating with U.S. officials in the investigation of the Boston Marathon bombings, a day after two men from the Central Asian country were charged in connection with the blasts that killed three people and wounded more than 250.