Following a circuitous route from Saudi Arabia up through Turkey or Jordan and then crossing a lawless border, hundreds of young Saudis are secretly making their way into Syria to join groups fighting against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, GlobalPost has learned.
With the tacit approval from the House of Saud and financial support from wealthy Saudi elites, the young men take up arms in what Saudi clerics have called a "jihad," or "holy war," against the Assad regime.
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As night fell over Rome, thick black smoke drifted from the chimney on top of the Sistine Chapel. That means no new pope yet. Clearly, no candidate secured enough votes in the first ballot. That smoke signal completed a day that, as NPR's Philip Reeves reports, was rich in ceremony.
PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: The process of electing a pope is officially now under way.
One big question for the conclave is whether the cardinals will choose a pope from outside of Europe, and Brazil is one country that gets mentioned. It's home to more than one in 10 of the world's Catholics. It was the first country that Pope Benedict visited outside of Europe when he was elected, and a Brazilian cardinal is among those mentioned as possible contenders to be the next pope.
He's the richest man you've never heard of: Amancio Ortega, founder of the Spanish clothing chain Zara. He's a notorious recluse who is rumored to wear the same plain shirt every day, but his Zara empire has come to define the concept of fast fashion.
It's no picnic being a kidney patient even in the best conditions. But coming in for dialysis in a place like the Gaza Strip calls for a special kind of patience.
Years of war have placed a constant stress on the health system there. Thanks to a host of factors, Gaza's main hospital, Shifa Hospital, regularly faces supply shortages of medications that kidney patients need to manage nausea and other symptoms.
Originally published on Tue March 12, 2013 1:28 pm
This story was written by a Syrian citizen in Damascus who is not being further identified out of safety concerns.
In a surprising religious decree, Syria's government-appointed grand mufti has issued a fatwa calling on Muslims to fight on the side of President Bashar Assad's regime against the rebels who have been waging an uprising for two years.
In a televised statement Sunday, Syria's Grand Mufti Ahmad Hassoun said: "I urge the sons of Syria to join the army and fight for the unity of this great country."
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, we will talk about the Reverend Al reboot - Reverend Al Sharpton, that is. For some people he's still just a loud-mouth provocateur, but for others he's become a trusted analyst, activist, and ally. NPR correspondent Corey Dade recently spent a very busy day with him and he'll tell us what he found out in just a few minutes.
A photo of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad holding the hand of the late Venezuelan President Hugo ChÃ¡vez's mother and appearing to brush his face against her cheek as they consoled each other last week has him "mired in a fresh controversy" in Iran, as the BBC writes:
"Conservative critics, already irked by Mr Ahmadinejad's effusive eulogy for the leftist leader, reminded him that he has not only committed a sin, but also behaved in a way inappropriate for the president of an Islamic state."
Black smoke just poured from the chimney above the Vatican. That means, as was expected, the cardinals did not choose a pope on the first vote of their conclave to name a successor to the now-retired Pope Benedict XVI. As the cardinals' ballots are burned, NPR's Sylvia Poggioli says, chemicals are added to a fire in a second stove to turn the smoke black if there's no pope elected and white if there is.
President Obama's administration plans extra aid to Syrian rebels. As we heard yesterday, some analysts see hints in the statements of Secretary of State John Kerry that the U.S. could take even stronger steps.
James Dobbins hopes the U.S. does. The former envoy to Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo argues U.S. policy is finally moving in the right direction.
The tall and imposing Nicolas Maduro stepped forward last week to be sworn in as Venezuela's interim leader following the death of President Hugo Chavez.
Before the country's packed congressional hall, he swore to complete Chavez's dream to transform the OPEC power into a socialist state, allied with Cuba and decidedly opposed to capitalism and U.S. interests in Latin America.
This is a big week at the Vatican. The cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church will enter the Sistine Chapel tomorrow for a conclave to elect the next pope. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli is in Rome and has been talking with the faithful.
SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: Small groups of people wander through St. Peter's Square. There's a sense of excitement, but also trepidation. These pilgrims came all the way from Brazil. Sister Paola Schneider is praying the cardinals will be inspired to make the right choice.
North Korean authorities cut off their "hotline" communication with South Korea on Monday as part of their announced withdrawal from the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War in 1953. The move came amid a flurry of bellicose North Korean threats, coinciding with the beginning today of joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises. The White House also vowed anew to protect U.S. forces and South Korean allies against any threats from the North. Analysts say it is among the most dangerous moments on the Korean peninsula in several years.
The NATO campaign is now in a new phase. After years of fighting the Taliban and bolstering anemic local governance, NATO troops are handing those responsibilities over to the Afghans. NPR's Sean Carberry recently embedded with U.S. troops in the southern province of Kandahar as they worked on this new mission.
The fertile Arghandab Valley in Kandahar province is considered one of Afghanistan's breadbaskets. For years it was also a valley of death for NATO troops.
Originally published on Mon March 11, 2013 11:57 am
Iran and Pakistan are moving closer to completion of a nearly 1,000-mile natural gas pipeline linking the two countries, despite U.S. objections that it could become a source of hard currency for Tehran in defiance of international sanctions.
Monday marks the beginning of construction on Pakistan's part of the pipeline, which will consist of a 485-mile run. Iran has already completed most of its 760 miles of the link, which will stretch from Assaluyeh along Iran's Persian Gulf coast to Nawabshah in Pakistan's Sindh province.
As NPR's Louisa Lim reported Monday on Morning Edition, a week of inflamed rhetoric from North Korea â€” including talk of a preemptive nuclear strike on the U.S. â€” is being followed by word that the North has carried through on its threat to annul the 1953 armistice that ended open warfare on the peninsula and has stopped answering calls on the telephone hotline to the South.
Originally published on Mon March 11, 2013 11:52 am
Authorities have pulled more than 2,800 dead pigs out of Shanghai's main source of tap water â€” the Huangpu River. And they're still counting, according to reports on Monday.
The discovery has raised fears of drinking water contamination in China's most populous city, although state media reports that officials have run tests and determined that so far there's nothing to fear.
In India, an investigation is under way into the death of the man who police say was the lead accused in the gruesome gang rape of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi last December. Authorities at the Tihar jail in Delhi say he was found early Monday morning hanging in his cell. For more, Steve Inskeep speaks with NPR's Julie McCarthy.
Two years ago today, an earthquake and tsunami triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Japan. Hundreds of thousands of people living near the plant were forced to flee. The World Health Organization recently predicted a very small rise in cancer risk from radioactive material that was released. For the nuclear refugees, though, anxiety and depression could be the more persistent hazard. Correspondent Geoff Brumfiel traveled to Fukushima prefecture and met victims of the accident to see how they are coping.
Originally published on Sun March 10, 2013 2:00 pm
Militants in Nigeria have killed seven hostages, including three Westerners, in an act the British foreign secretary called "pure, cold-blooded murder."
The seven hostages â€” four Lebanese and one British, one Greek and one Italian citizen â€“ worked for the Setrapo construction company. They were kidnapped Feb 16 from Jama'are, a town about 125 miles north of Bauchi, the capital of Bauchi state. Ansaru, a group that's an offshoot of Boko Haram, the militant Islamist movement, claimed responsibility for the killings.
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai claims the U.S. is holding talks outside Afghanistan with the Afghan Taliban.
The allegations come as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel continues his first visit to the nation as Pentagon Chief â€“ and after a deadly explosion in Kabul on Saturday that the Taliban called a message to the new defense secretary.
Karzai made his claims in a nationally broadcast address just hours before he was to meet with Hagel, reports NPR's David Welna, who is traveling with Hagel.
Originally published on Sun March 10, 2013 1:59 pm
With a stroke of her pen, Queen Elizabeth II is giving royal support to equal rights.
Her majesty is expected to sign a new charter for the Commonwealth on Monday. The charter declares the core values for the 54 member states, most of which were once under British rule. It's getting attention for statements on gender equality and what it may imply for gay rights.
Lucy is a stereotypically giddy black labradoodle. She's not what you picture when you think of a military dog serving on the front lines in Afghanistan. She wiggles around the room chasing her tennis ball and thinks my microphone cover is a chew toy.
But her handler, Spc. Heath Garcia, says when Lucy is on a mission, she's all business. She's highly trained to sniff out improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, which are the No. 1 killer of civilians and troops in Afghanistan.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is taking his first overseas trip since taking the top job at the Pentagon. He'll be visiting troops and key officials in Afghanistan. Host Rachel Martin speaks with NPR's David Welna, who is along on the trip.
Listen to the full story on Hugo Chavez's legacy on All Things Considered
Venezuela's elections commission announced Saturday that voters will go to the polls on April 14 to choose a successor to President Hugo Chavez, who died this week after a battle with cancer.
The nation's constitution mandated that an election be called within 30 days of Chavez's death on March 5, but the scheduled date falls outside of that window. Nicolas Maduro, Chavez's vice president, was sworn in as interim leader on Friday.
It was supposed to be the most modern election in African history. Biometric identification kits with electronic thumb pads, registration rolls on laptops at every polling station, and an SMS-relayed, real-time transmission of the results to the National Tallying Center in Nairobi.
Ambitious? Of course. Only 23 percent of the country has access to electricity.