The conflict that the world is witnessing in the streets of Kiev has deep roots and potentially very wide repercussions. Ukraine is a country of 45 million people and at issue these days is how it aligns itself and how it defines its future. Columbia University Professor Stephen Sestanovich is a former U.S. ambassador at large to the former Soviet Union. Welcome to the program once again.
The world's largest oyster is nearly 14 inches long and resides in Denmark, according to the folks at Guinness World Records. And it's still alive and growing, according to Christine Ditlefsen, the biologist at the Wadden Sea Centre whose world record was recently certified.
The oyster was found in October in Wadden Sea National Park, a shallow area off of the North Sea on Denmark's southwestern coast. Its size and shape could be said to resemble a huge plaintain. But when they found it, the Wadden staff compared the oyster to a large and sturdy shoe.
Originally published on Sat February 22, 2014 2:08 pm
This post has been updated to reflect Friday's agreement reached between the government and the opposition.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and leaders of the anti-government opposition reached an agreement on a deal to hold new elections, form a unity government and restore a constitution drafted in 2004. The deal could lead to an end to the violence that has killed more than 70 people since it erupted earlier this week.
Originally published on Wed February 19, 2014 1:09 pm
The Soviet Union collapsed more than 20 years ago, yet genuine democracy is still a stranger in most of the 15 former republics. Ukraine, where at least 25 people were killed on Tuesday, is just the latest bloody example.
From President Vladimir Putin's hard-line rule in Russia to the 20-year reign of Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus to the assorted strongmen of Central Asia, many post-Soviet rulers consistently display a fondness for the old days, when opposition was something to be squashed, not tolerated.
Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban, has become a powerful advocate for children's education. She toured a refugee camp in Jordan along the border with Syria. Malala and Shiza Shahid, the CEO of the Malala fund, spoke with Renee Montagne about the desperate need for more schools and educational opportunities for children of Syrian refugees.
In Sochi, balmy weather has bedeviled some snowboarders and skiers. The snow is sometimes, well, slush. But inside the Winter Olympics' arenas, the ice is universally praised, though it's taking some work to keep things cool.
It's not the heat, it's the humidity that's leading ice makers to work overtime at the games.
That's paid off, because athletes in Sochi have been gushing about the ice.
As Ukrainian riot police tried to clear thousands of demonstrators camped out behind barricades on the capital's Independence Square, protesters responded with rocks and Molotov cocktails. It was the deadliest day since pro-Western demonstrators took to the streets last fall to protest the pro-Russian president's decision not to sign a trade deal with the European Union.For more, Renee Montagne talks to the BBC' David Stern.
Originally published on Wed February 19, 2014 7:03 am
The countries that send large contingents to the Olympics love to watch the "medal count" tally. But as of late Tuesday at the Sochi Winter Games, the countries with the most medals didn't have the most gold medals. That's why by some counts, Germany and Norway were leading the way, while the Netherlands, U.S. and Russia all trailed.
Originally published on Tue February 18, 2014 10:01 pm
This post was updated at 8:52 p.m. ET
Riot police stormed the main anti-government camp in central Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, on Tuesday. They fought with demonstrators armed with clubs and wearing helmets fought back. More than a dozen people were killed, including five policemen, according to AP and the BBC.
Opposition leaders met late in the day with President Viktor Yanukovych, but left without an agreement.
Switching gears now to a form of employment that has become increasingly dangerous in many places around the world. We hope you don't mind if we talk for a few minutes about our field - journalism. In Egypt, several Al Jazeera journalists are facing trial after weeks behind bars. They're accused of working with a terrorist group, among other things. In Iraq, there has been a spike in the number of journalists killed in recent months.
The drive into Prague is like a journey into the past. As you approach, grand castles and cathedrals appear on the horizon and pull you into an old-world city that could be the setting for a fairy tale.
Three years ago, Norm Eisen made this journey in a motorcade. It was his first day as U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic. He was returning to the land where his mother, Frieda, had been born almost 90 years ago.
Originally published on Tue February 18, 2014 2:38 pm
The two most prominent members of the Russian punk protest band Pussy Riot say they were taken into custody Tuesday by police in Sochi, site of the Winter Olympics. Later in the day, there were reports that the women and other activists who were with them had been released.
We occasionally get postcards from our international correspondents who report and live in various spots around the world. NPR's Philip Reeves is based in Pakistan where violence has killed tens of thousands of people in recent years. Philips says some in the capital, Islamabad, to find ways to escape the pressure.
PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: Islamabad can sometimes seem surprisingly tranquil. My house is a short drive from Parliament and the Supreme Court. The foothills of the Himalayas aren't so far away.
There is one sport in the Winter Olympics you can do with your eyes closed. To be precise, you have to do a few seconds of work, after which you can close your eyes and hope for a gold. I am referring to the brakeman in bobsled. That's the athlete who pushes the sled. Tonight, the woman's two-person bobsled starts in Sochi.
NPR's Robert Smith introduces us to the team.
ROBERT SMITH, BYLINE: Let's get this out of the way. The women call themselves brakemen. Not brake women or brake person.
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And I'm David Greene. Good morning. For years we've been hearing horror stories from North Korea about mass starvation, torture, slavery, political killings. It's a long list that is hard for many of us to imagine. Well, now a new report from the United Nations Human Rights Commission presents almost 400 pages of eyewitness testimony from victims and also at least one perpetrator.
Rio de Janeiro is set to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games and there are two starkly different visions of what that will mean for the "marvelous city," as it is known.
"I would love to be born in Rio in 2020. The babies that are born here in 2020 will be born in a marvelous city ... because of the games," says Leonardo Gryner, the chief operating officer of Rio's Olympic Organizing Committee.
The film's protagonist is Heinrich Himmler, the merciless Nazi leader and a key architect of the Final Solution. The film's director is Vanessa Lapa, the grandchild of Holocaust survivors. Her family recently came into possession of long-lost private letters, diaries and photographs belonging to Himmler.
If you can barely swing a hammer, you can still build your own home.
Builders at the Maker Faire in New York City proved this point last fall, with something akin to an old-fashioned barn-raising.
The event celebrates the do-it-yourself aesthetic, particularly when it comes to digital fabrication and open-source construction plans. Using wooden mallets cut from plywood, a crew of eight banged together the slotted frame of a WikiHouse without a single nail.
Originally published on Mon February 17, 2014 10:45 am
After hearing that the 22 men who have made it to safety so far were all arrested, an unknown number of other South Africans are refusing to leave the illegal gold mine where they were briefly trapped over the weekend.
Originally published on Mon February 17, 2014 1:14 pm
"Systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed" by the leaders of North Korea against their own people, the U.N.'s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights declared Monday in a report that goes on to accuse that nation's communist regime of "crimes against humanity."