At the conclusion Friday of the first round of talks between representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition, the United Nations mediator reported that he "observed a little bit of common ground, perhaps more than the two sides themselves realize or recognize."
Diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi told reporters in Geneva that "there have been moments when one side has even acknowledged the concerns and difficulties of the other side," the BBC reports.
People in China rang in the Year of the Horse overnight with the traditional barrage of fireworks, but Lunar New Year's celebrations in some cities were quieter than usual. After severe pollution choked much of eastern China last year, many people swore off the ancient tradition so they could protect their lungs and the environment.
An intense debate is underway in Pakistan over what to do about a surge of deadly Taliban attacks. The city's chief counterterrosim officer was killed a few weeks ago. Superintendent Chaudhry Aslam Khan was and remains a legendary figure.
The Mexican government has a new plan to control heavily armed vigilante groups fighting back against drug cartels. The government announced this week it is making the militias a legitimate part of the country's security forces and will allow them to help police the countryside.
Friday is New Year's for the millions of people around the world who celebrate the Lunar New Year. This year is the Year of the Horse.
On Morning Edition, Ying Compestine, a cookbook and children's book author, talks about her favorite dish for the holiday: steamed dumplings infused with green tea. They appear in her most recent book, Cooking with an Asian Accent.
The New Year holidays of Compestine's youth were very austere. She came to the U.S. as a grad student in the 1980s, but she grew up in Maoist China.
Originally published on Mon February 3, 2014 5:48 am
Vodka is our enemy, the Russian proverb goes, so we'll utterly consume it. This embrace of the enemy has a lot to do with the country's abysmal life expectancy rates, with one quarter of Russian men dying before age 55. But when the drinkers start cutting back, death rates drop almost immediately, a study finds.
"High mortality absolutely is caused by hazardous alcohol consumption," says Dr. David Zaridze of the Russian Cancer Research Center of Moscow, who with his colleagues tracked Russian drinking habits for a decade.
The first round of the Syria peace talks is set to adjourn tomorrow. The opposition delegation is expecting to leave Geneva without progress toward its top goal: a transitional government that ends the tenure of President Bashar al-Assad. The opposition began these talks with a reputation as a fractious and ineffective group.
And NPR's Peter Kenyon reports the delegates have been surprised and pleased to see messages of support beginning to come from inside Syria.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I'm Robert Siegel. In this part of the program, we're going to address a question that keeps bubbling up in news stories and commentary from the Middle East. It's a question President Obama addressed indirectly in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: In a world of complex threats, our security, our leadership, depends on all elements of our power, including strong and principled diplomacy.
Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 3:58 pm
As the Syrian government and opposition forces try to make peace in Geneva, the group Human Rights Watch has issued a new report that accuses the regime of demolishing entire neighborhoods that were considered opposition strongholds.
For fans of world music, South Africa's Ladysmith Black Mambazo needs no introduction.
The group has been singing a capella together for 50 years, brought together by Joseph Shabalala, a young farmhand turned factory worker from the town of Ladysmith. He had a dream of tight vocal harmonies and messages of peace.
That dream developed, and the band came to the attention of Paul Simon, who had it record "Homeless" on his album Graceland. It introduced the group to the world.
Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 11:05 am
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel says the U.S. is "concerned" that Syria is behind schedule in removing its chemical stockpiles.
Hagel, speaking during a visit to Poland, says Syria "is behind in delivering these chemical weapons precursor materials on time with the schedule that was agreed to."
White House spokesman Jay Carney, speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, added: "It is the Assad regime's responsibility to transport those chemicals to facilitate removal. We expect them to meet their obligation to do so."
This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Today, we want to focus on events in Egypt, which as you probably know, has seen some of the region's most dramatic change since the beginning of the Arab Spring when longtime President Hosni Mubarak agreed to relinquish power.
President Obama's State of the Union speech acknowledged the obvious about Afghanistan. The U.S. wants to keep troops in the country after this year but says it won't do that unless President Hamid Karzai signs a new security agreement, so Americans made themselves dependent on Karzai, who has repeatedly put off signing as he prepares to leave office. This week, President Obama said only that the U.S. could still keep troops there if someone signs.
The effort to restore peace in South Sudan included the person we'll hear from next. She's a White House official just returned from peace talks. The problem here involves a feud between the two top politicians in South Sudan. An estimated 10,000 people have died in vicious fighting that broke out six weeks ago. The carnage is all the more shocking, given that the country celebrated its independence in 2011. The United States played a big role in the creation of South Sudan, and has just helped to broker a ceasefire.
It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep, with Renee Montagne.
Ukraine's parliament tried last night to defuse the country's protests. The parliament offered amnesty for demonstrators who are in jail, but only if the demonstrators who are still free agree to leave buildings they're occupying. Opposition leaders said no. They want unconditional amnesty for those arrested. More important, they want the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych. His government is accused of using both arrests and brutality.
In Sochi, Russia, Hubertus Von Hohenlohe will compete in his sixth Winter Olympics. The 55-year-old downhill skier and German prince won't be skiing under the flag of his royal heritage, however. He'll be with the team of his birthplace, Mexico.
In honor of his Querido Mexico (beloved homeland), Hohenlohe says he will race down the Russian slopes decked out in a state-of-the-art mariachi ski suit.
Twenty people were referred to criminal court in Egypt today, among them three Al-Jazeera English journalists who have been in prison since Dec. 29. The charges are chilling.
Egyptian authorities say Canadian-Egyptian journalist Mohamed Fadel Fahmy was running a terrorist cell out of a swank hotel in the upscale district of Zamalek. He was aided by four foreigners, according to the charges.
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish.
The ongoing Syrian peace talks in Geneva have raised hopes for humanitarian relief in cities, towns, and villages across the country that are under siege by government or rebel forces. And no place is more in need than the central city of Homs, whose residents were among the first to rise up against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
It took four years in a prison cell for Palestinian Abdel Hamid el-Rajoub to decide to work as an Israeli informant. Not that he ever planned it that way. Rajoub is in his 60s now. He grew up in a Palestinian village near Hebron, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. He says he was 19, an emotional young man, when he got involved in fighting Israel.
"It was my right," he says, "to fight Israel and the occupation."
Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 8:46 am
Saying Edward Snowden has "contributed to a more stable and peaceful world order" by exposing U.S. surveillance practices and forcing a new debate over security and privacy, two Norwegian politicians nominated the former intelligence contractor for the Nobel Peace Prize on Wednesday.
If he were to win the award, Snowden, who gave a trove of classified documents to media outlets last summer, would join the ranks of popular Nobel Peace laureates such as Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa.
Neanderthals died out long ago, but their genes live on in us. Scientists studying human chromosomes say they've discovered a surprising amount of Neanderthal DNA in our genes. And these aren't just random fragments; they help shape what we look like today, including our hair and skin.
These genes crept into our DNA tens of thousands of years ago, during occasional sexual encounters between Neanderthals and human ancestors who lived in Europe at the time. They show up today in their descendants, people of European and Asian descent.
Originally published on Wed January 29, 2014 2:32 pm
I bought Francisco Lima his first taste of freedom in decades.
It was 2004, and Brazil was starting to confront one of its most distressing problems: slavery. I was in northern Pará state, in the Amazon, observing a special police unit that raided slaveholding farms and firms and liberated workers like the 74-year-old Lima.
Originally published on Wed January 29, 2014 9:58 am
A Hong Kong real estate tycoon made headlines two years ago when he offered a $65 million bounty to the man who could win his daughter's heart and marry her. In an open letter today, the daughter says she hopes he can accept that she is indeed a lesbian.
Originally published on Fri January 31, 2014 9:10 am
You think 21st century foodies will go to great lengths for a culinary thrill? (Lion meat, anyone?) Turns out, they've got nothing on 18th century English royals.
Frogs, puffins, boar's head and larks and other songbirds were all fair game for the dinner table of England's King George II, judging by a chronicle of daily meals served to his majesty and his wife, Queen Caroline.