From Syria to Afghanistan, to Russia and Ukraine, the United States finds itself confronting some major foreign policy challenges. There are old rivalries and new one testing the limits of the United States.
NPR social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam regularly joins us to talk about matters related to individual and organizational behavior, but today, he's found some new research that's relevant to the way we think about foreign conflicts and he's in our studios. Shankar, welcome back.
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath.
If you've been to Montreal, you may have been greeted in stores with the phrase bonjour hi. That friendly greeting could soon be illegal. The Parti Quebecois, which advocates for establishing Quebec as a sovereign state, is leading the polls for next month's provincial election. Saving French, Quebec's official language, and banishing English is a passionate concern for the PQ.
The United States and other world powers have said that Russia's actions in Ukraine are a clear violation of its international agreements. One of those agreements is known as the Budapest Memorandum signed in 1994.
Steven Pifer is a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. And he was part of the American team that negotiated the terms of the memorandum.
The White House announced Sunday that President Obama will host Ukraine's interim prime minister Wednesday. It is another diplomatic move to peacefully resolve the standoff with Russia over Crimea. NPR's Arun Rath talks with reporter Emily Harris about the situation.
NPR's Arun Rath speaks with Beijing correspondent Anthony Kuhn about the latest news on the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The plane had been carrying 239 people when it apparently vanished.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has made it a priority to eliminate corruption within the Chinese Communist Party.
"The [Communist Party] desperately wants the appearance of cracking down hard on corruption because they understand that rampant corruption is threatening the party's legitimacy," says Associated Press reporter Gillian Wong.
In a story published Sunday, Wong uncovers how that crackdown on corruption has led to another problem: abuse and torture of party officials.
Originally published on Tue March 11, 2014 11:53 am
Italy has more UNESCO world heritage sites than any other country in the world, and its art and cultural riches have drawn visitors for centuries.
It also prides itself on being a culinary mecca, where preparing, cooking and serving meals is a fine, even sacred, art. And now that the country is in the deepest and most protracted recession since World War II, why not cash in on its reputation as a paradise for visiting gourmets and gourmands?
A man holds a Soviet Union flag during a pro-Russia rally in Simferopol, Crimea's Lenin Square Sunday. In Kiev, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk vows not to give "an inch" of territory to Russia.
Originally published on Sun March 9, 2014 10:45 am
Pro-Russian groups used whips to attack pro-Ukrainian demonstrators in Sevastopol, the port city of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, according to the BBC. The news agency says its reporter at the scene is "describing the scenes as very ugly."
This post is being updated throughout the day Sunday.
After a second day of frantic searching failed to uncover the fate of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, ships and aircraft are combing over parts of the Gulf of Thailand and South China Sea where the jetliner is suspected of crashing with 239 people aboard more than 48 hours ago.
Vietnamese officials say search planes have spotted an object that could be debris from the jet — but darkness fell in Asia hours ago, complicating any attempts to verify or expand on that claim.
Military radar indicates that the missing Boeing 777 jet may have turned back, Malaysia's air force chief said Sunday as scores of ships and aircraft from across Asia resumed a hunt for the plane and its 239 passengers.
There was still no confirmed sighting of debris in the seas between Malaysia and Vietnam where it vanished from screens early Saturday morning en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. The weather was fine, the plane was already cruising and the pilots didn't send a distress signal — unusual circumstance for a modern jetliner to crash.
One of the options that the United States and the European Union are considering as a way to punish Russia is the use of sanctions. Here to discuss that with me is Matthew Rojansky. He's the director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center. Matthew, thanks for being with us.
Family members arrive at a hotel for loved ones of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines jet in Beijing Sunday. Search teams across Southeast Asia scrambled on Saturday to find a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 with 239 people on board that disappeared from air traffic control screens over waters between Malaysia and Vietnam.
Credit Vincent Thian / AP
The flight departed from Kuala Lumpur and was last reported over open waters between Malaysia and Vietnam.
An international search is underway for a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet that's been missing for more than 24 hours. Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 had 227 passengers and 12 crew members aboard when it took off from Kuala Lumpur early Saturday on a flight bound for Beijing.
A regular inspection of the missing Boeing 777-200 found no technical problems 10 days ago, reports China's state-run Xinhua news agency, citing a Malaysia Airlines spokesman.
Pro-Russian marchers (foreground) walk past pro-Ukrainian marchers gathered in Simferopol, capital of Ukraine's Crimea region, Saturday. Several hundred pro-Ukrainian protesters marched peacefully through the city center to a Ukrainian military base that's been blockaded by pro-Russian militants and soldiers.
Members of pro-Russian forces and Ukraine's military have engaged in several tense standoffs in the largely autonomous region of Crimea, but they have also avoided violence in what's widely seen as a dangerous and uncertain situation. Diplomats are still working to find a possible solution.
The crisis in Ukraine and Russia's action there has raised many questions about who wants what. We're joined now by Julia Ioffe, senior editor at The New Republic, formerly a correspondent for The New Yorker from Moscow. Thanks very much for being with us.
JULIA IOFFE: Thanks for having me.
SIMON: What do you see that's going on that's distinct from the way it's been cast in so many accounts as some people being pro-European in Ukraine, some people being pro-Russia?
On a sweltering August day in 2012, the mayor of a tiny Spanish town, fed up with the country's economic conditions, did something drastic. It was the height of the economic crisis and most Spanish politicians were away on summer vacation.
With dozens of supporters, Mayor Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo of Marinaleda marched into the local supermarket in a neighboring town.
To Ukraine now where tensions continue to rise between that country's new government and Russia. Yesterday, pro-Russian soldiers held a standoff at a Ukrainian military base and although it seemed to end without incident, it shows just how quickly the situation has become militarized. We're joined now by Steven Erlanger, reporter for the New York Times, who's in Kiev. Steven, thanks so much for being with us.
STEVEN ERLANGER: Happy to be here.
SIMON: What do we know about this standoff yesterday in Crimea?
A Ukrainian protester stands at a memorial for the people killed in clashes at Kiev's Independence Square, on March 1. The focus of Ukraine's crisis is now in Crimea, where Russian forces are effectively in control.
Credit Emilio Morenatti / AP
Cossacks stand guard at the entrance to the Crimean Parliament building on Friday in Simferopol, Ukraine. Russian Cossacks, some heavily armed, have taken up guard duties at road checkpoints, border crossings and other key facilities that were previously guarded by local, pro-Russian militants across Crimea in recent days.
Vietnamese military planes report seeing two oil slicks off the country's coast that could be a sign of a missing Malaysia Airlines passenger jet Saturday. Officials say the search for the jet continues and that ships are being sent to the location of the sighting.
Unidentified armed men in military uniforms block a Ukrainian military base in the village of Perevalnoye, outside Simferopol, Ukraine, on Thursday. Similar pro-Russian forces forced a brief standoff at the missile defense base in Sevastopol on Friday.
Andy Soule, a U.S. Army veteran, lost both his legs to a bomb in Afghanistan in 2005. Four years ago, he won America's first medal — Olympic or Paralympic — in the biathlon event.
Credit David Gilkey / NPR
Dan Cnossen led a Navy SEAL team before losing his legs to a bomb in Afghanistan in 2009. After his injury, he began running on prosthetic blades, then tried skiing — and he's now in Sochi.
Credit David Gilkey / NPR
Performance under stress is something Cnossen learned as a Navy SEAL. Now he's trying to use that skill as a biathlete, to ski his fastest right up to the target range and then quickly calm down enough to shoot with precision.
Biathlon may be the toughest endurance sport in the Olympics. After grueling circuits of Nordic skiing, athletes have to calm their breathing, steady their tired legs and shoot tiny targets with a rifle.
Andy Soule does it all with only his arms.
"It's a steep learning curve, learning to sit-ski," says Soule, a member of the U.S. Paralympic team. He's strapped into a seat attached to two fixed cross-country skis. He speeds along the course by hauling himself with ski poles.