A former star dancer with Russia's Bolshoi ballet was sentenced today to six years in a penal colony for ordering an attack on the ballet's artistic director Sergei Filin, an attack that left him nearly blind. Also sentenced were the man who admitted he threw sulfuric acid on Filin and the accused driver of the getaway car. It's a story that's exposed a deeply troubling side of the legendary ballet company. Andrew Roth is following the story for the New York Times. He joins me now from Moscow. Andrew, welcome to the program.
Americans see U.S. power in the world declining. That is the key finding of a survey by the Pew Research Center. It also finds that most Americans think the U.S. should be engaged in the global economy, but ought to concentrate on solving domestic problems. Michael Dimock is here to talk about this poll. He's the director of the Pew Research Center. Good to see you again.
MICHAEL DIMOCK: Hi, Robert.
SIEGEL: And first, how many Americans say the U.S. role is declining and how significant a number is that?
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And I'm Melissa Block. Vice President Joe Biden is in Tokyo today. He's there to reemphasize American support for Japan as it tangles with China over contested air space. China unnerved its neighbors late last month by declaring an air identification defense zone. The zone covers disputed islands in the East China Sea. NPR's Frank Langfitt has more from Shanghai on what's behind China's latest move.
An uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has reportedly been dismissed from a key post as the vice chairman of the country's National Defense Commission, an assessment by South Korea's intelligence service says.
In addition, two close aides of Jang Song Thaek were reportedly executed for corruption.
Jang, who is married to the sister of late leader Kim Jong Il, is said to have been fired last month. But, according to The Associated Press, purges against Jang have been reported in the past only to find him later back in power, apparently rehabilitated.
The fifth century Byzantine Stoudios monastery in Istanbul housed a church and was later turned into a mosque and then a museum before falling into disrepair.
Credit Peter Kenyon / NPR
The grass- and weed-strewn interior of the Church of St. John the Baptist — housed inside the Stoudios monastery — has gone to seed. An ambitious restoration project is due to begin next year, when it will open to the public as a mosque, according to the government.
Credit David Cannon / Getty Images
Recent remarks by a Turkish official have rekindled talk that the Hagia Sophia may be reconverted into a mosque. The most famous Byzantine structure in Istanbul, it was built as a Greek Orthodox church in the fifth century, became a mosque in the 15th century, and has been a museum since 1935. Other Christian sites are already being converted into mosques.
A historically significant but now-crumbling fifth century Byzantine monastery in Istanbul is finally slated for restoration. But for Turkey's dwindling Greek community, the bad news is that the government wants to turn the Stoudios monastery into a mosque.
It's just one of several such conversions of historically Christian sites that the government is considering. And there's even talk that the Hagia Sophia, the most famous Byzantine structure in modern Istanbul, will be reconverted into a mosque.
Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood run from tear gas during clashes with riot police near Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya square on Nov. 22.
Credit Twitter via Al Arabiya News
Egypt's Mohamed Yousef won a gold medal at the kung fu championships in Russia in October. He then put on a yellow T-shirt with a four-finger salute to express solidarity with protesters opposing Egypt's military-backed government. Egyptian sports officials have suspended him and barred him from tournaments for a year.
Mohamed Yousef is a tall, handsome practitioner of kung fu. In fact, he's an Egyptian champion who recently won an international competition.
But a month ago, when he collected his gold medal at the championship in Russia, he posed for a picture after putting on a yellow T-shirt with a hand holding up four fingers.
That's the symbol of Rabaa al-Adawiya, the Cairo square where Egyptian security forces opened fire in August on supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. Hundreds were killed, including seven of Yousef's friends.
A young Afghan balloon seller runs toward a customer in Kabul on April 2. Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia are the most-corrupt countries, according to the annual Corruption Perception Index released Tuesday.
Originally published on Tue December 3, 2013 10:12 am
Anti-government protesters in Thailand are claiming a symbolic victory Tuesday after police allowed them to swarm into the prime minister's compound and shout slogans.
The protests began Nov. 24 but turned violent two days ago when police clashed with demonstrators opposed to the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Four people were killed and more than 250 others wounded in the past three days, according to The Associated Press.
Pavel Dmitrichenko, a former leading dancer in Russia's Bolshoi ballet, stands inside the defendant's cage in a Moscow court Tuesday. He was sentenced to six years in prison for ordering an acid attack on the Bolshoi's artistic director, Sergei Filin.
Let's turn to a country in the region that's been racked by violent protest in recent days. And now the capital, Thailand, is suddenly calm. Riot police have taken down barricades and left their defensive positions around Government House, which is the symbolic seat of power there. Protesters are now inside, moving about freely.
To get a better idea of what this all means in a country of nearly 70 million people, where the big industry is tourism, we turn to reporter Michael Sullivan in Bangkok. Good morning.
The World Health Organization has declared a polio emergency in Syria.
After being free of the crippling disease for more than a decade, Syria recorded 10 confirmed cases of polio in October. Now the outbreak has grown to 17 confirmed cases, the WHO said last week. And the virus has spread to four cities, including a war-torn suburb near the capital of Damascus.
A former Amazon executive who helped Jeff Bezos turn shopping into a digital experience has set out to end illiteracy. David Risher is now the head of Worldreader, a nonprofit organization that brings e-books to kids in developing countries through Kindles and cellphones.
Risher was traveling around the world with his family when he got the idea for Worldreader. They were doing volunteer work at an orphanage in Ecuador when he saw a building with a big padlock on the door. He asked a woman who worked there what was inside, and she said, "It's the library."
Originally published on Tue December 3, 2013 7:39 am
The holidays mean many things, among them: travel. Combine that with wild weather patterns and you often get some unexpected downtime in the world's weirdest corners. We're talking layovers and delays and canceled flights and the like.
But what if that wasn't all bad news? What if there were an airport that you actually looked forward to being stuck in? Is it possible? According to this list of favorites, it may be.
There are more than 4,000 garment factories in Bangladesh. One way or another, most of them trace their lineage to Abdul Majid Chowdhury, Noorul Quader and the 128 Bangladeshis who traveled to Korea 30 years ago.
This is the guy who did the original deal with Daewoo, to start a major garment factory in Chittagong with Korean characteristics. Back then, Daewoo was a big T-shirt maker out of South Korea. The garment industry owners in Bangladesh are grateful to this man.
Bangladesh was created out of chaos in the early 1970s, at a moment when millions in the country were dying from a combination of war and famine. The future looked exceedingly bleak.
Abdul Majid Chowdhury and Noorul Quader were Bangladeshi businessmen who wanted to help their country. "We asked ourselves, 'What the hell do we want?' " Chowdhury recalls. The answer he and his friends arrived at: "We need employment. We need dollars."
Their solution involved Richard Nixon, an obscure but hugely influential trade deal, and a cultural struggle over kimchi.
Originally published on Mon December 2, 2013 1:05 pm
There's no easy way to track all of the world's crops. What's missing, among other things, is an accurate map showing where they are.
But the people behind Geo-Wiki are hoping to fix that, with a game called Cropland Capture. They're turning people like you and me into data gatherers, or citizen scientists, to help identify cropland.
Originally published on Mon December 2, 2013 1:22 pm
We've been following the story of the helicopter that crashed into a pub in Glasgow, Scotland, last week. There's more news Monday on the deadly crash: A ninth body has been pulled from the wreckage of The Clutha Bar.
Demonstrations, often violent, are happening across Ukraine after its president refused to sign a trade agreement with the European Union. His decision came under heavy pressure from Russia, which in the past has cut off critical gas supplies to Ukraine to show its dissatisfaction. For more, Renee Montagne talks to journalist David Stern in the Ukrainian capital Kiev.
In just a couple of months, the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi will host the Winter Olympics. Russia is reportedly spending nearly $50 billion on those games, which would be an Olympic record. To finance venues and housing, one of Russia's state-owned banks lent about $7.5 billion to an elite group of industrialists who are helping bankroll the games. Now, those investors are getting a little nervous.
It sounds unthinkable, but there are times, according to the rules of war, when it's morally acceptable to shoot a child.
A 12-year-old can, of course, fire an AK-47, but the more gut-wrenching decisions revolve around ambiguous situations. Could a child with a cell phone be a lookout for insurgents or send a detonation signal to an IED bomb?
These were the types of scenarios our soldiers had to face in Iraq. Countless soldiers have returned haunted by civilians they killed because the civilians panicked and ran through a checkpoint or reached for something too quickly.
Each week, Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin brings listeners an unexpected side of the news by talking with someone personally affected by the stories making headlines.
The U.S. Congress doesn't usually weigh in on domestic politics in other countries, but a resolution recently introduced in Congress by Rep. Keith Ellison is designed to put pressure on Narendra Modi, the front-runner to be India's next prime minister.
Palestinian refugee Lawahez Burghal stuffs tripe with rice and garbanzo beans for her family in their home in the Amari refugee camp in the West Bank. Many refugees still depend on the United Nations for food, health care and education.
Credit Emily Harris / NPR
Cousins play in the courtyard of their family compound. The Abu Isba family moved out of Qalandiya camp 35 years ago and has done well in construction. Four brothers live here with their wives and children, yet are still eligible for refugee services like basic health care and education.
Arinafe Makwiti, 13, says her parents forced her to drop out of school and get married to an older man last year to help with the family finances. Makwiti has divorced her husband, but now has a 9-month-old daughter.
Credit Jennifer Ludden / NPR
Christina Asima says she had no choice but to marry last year at age 12 to help care for younger siblings after her mother abandoned the family. But she says her husband was abusive, so she left him, and now must look after her 8-month-old son, Praise, alone.
NPR's Jennifer Ludden recently traveled to the African nation of Malawi, one of many countries in the developing world where child marriage remains prevalent. She found girls like Christina Asima, who was married at 12 and became a mother at 13. She is now divorced and caring for her infant son on her own. You can read Jennifer's full report here. Below are a few more things she learned while reporting on child marriage.