Secretary of State John Kerry met with political leaders in Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank this week in his effort to try to restart direct peace talks between the two parties. NPR's Emily Harris is in Jerusalem. Emily, thanks for being with us.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: My pleasure, Scott.

SIMON: So if not a concrete plan, is somebody pouring the concrete?


In India, some of the most entertaining reading on a Sunday afternoon is found in the classified ads. Page after page, the matrimonial section trumpets the finer qualities of India's sons and daughters.

Parents looking to marry off their children often place ads such as this one: "Wanted: Well-settled, educated groom for fair, beautiful Bengali girl, 22, 5'3"."

The matrimonial ads are a hallowed tradition in the quest to find a life partner — part of the institution of matchmaking that is as old as the country itself.

Will teaching in English at France's universities undermine the French language? That's up for debate in the country now, and the argument is heated.

The lower house of parliament approved a measure Thursday that would allow courses to be taught in English, something that is currently against the law.

Those in favor of the proposal say it will attract more international students and improve English language skills of French students. But opponents say the move will only impoverish and marginalize the country's tongue.

Gnomes marched their way into one of England's most prestigious gardening events this year. The 100th annual Chelsea Flower Show, which ends Saturday, opened its gates to the flower-friendly creatures for the first time.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says he doesn't smoke crack cocaine and isn't an addict, in response to a video that surfaced recently purporting to show him using the illegal drug.

Last week Ford called the cellphone video obtained by The Toronto Star "ridiculous" and blamed the newspaper for "going after me."

Friday's comments from Ford were more emphatic.



This remarkable statement today from the mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford.


MAYOR ROB FORD: I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine.



Print media are struggling in the U.S. and Europe, but in many Asian countries, including China and India, newspapers are thriving. Another example is Myanmar, also known as Burma. There, only 1 percent of people have access to the Internet and private daily newspapers are rushing into print after decades of being banned. NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports on how Burmese journalists are exercising newfound freedoms.


In Libya, guns are still everywhere and the elected leadership is struggling to rule as militias use guns and intimidation when they don't get their way. Most recently they surrounded two ministries and state television to force through a political isolation law that bars former members of Moammar Gaddafi's regime from government posts.

Former Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo has been extradited to the United States, where he faces charges of laundering tens of millions of dollars through U.S. banks.

Portillo, who served as president from 2000 to 2004, was snatched from a hospital bed in Guatemala City, where he was recovering from liver surgery. He was placed on an airplane bound for New York, according to his lawyer, Mauricio Berreondo.

Irish banking officials should have known there were problems with the controversial 10-euro coin commemorating James Joyce, according to Ireland's RTE News. The coin misquotes the author's Ulysses, and bears an image of Joyce that his estate did not approve.

Two men were arrested and removed from a Pakistan International Airlines passenger jet Friday. It had been on its way from Lahore, Pakistan, to Manchester, England, when something that happened aboard led authorities to scramble Royal Air Force fighter jets and divert the passenger plane to London Stansted Airport.

In an emotional statement Friday, the stepfather of the young British soldier who was hacked to death this week on a busy south London street said his son was "our hero."

(We most recently updated the top of this post at 6:45 p.m. ET.)

An explosion followed by gunfire in Kabul on Friday claimed the lives of at least two attackers and wounded a small number of civilians. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which appeared to have been aimed at offices of the International Organization for Migration and stretched over several hours as Afghan security forces tried to hunt down those responsible.

As night fell in Kabul, it was unclear whether the incident was over or not.

Representatives of President Bashar Assad's regime have agreed "in principle" to attend an international peace conference aimed at ending more than two years of brutal warfare in Syria, Russia's foreign ministry said Friday.

Germany's Beer Makers Come Against Fracking

May 24, 2013



Good morning, I'm Renee Montagne.

Fracking may have met its match in Germany, where beer makers have lined up against it. Fracking, of course, is a way of bringing up natural gas by pumping water and chemicals into the ground. Germany's powerful beer industry is concerned fracking would pollute groundwater.

Half of Germany's 1,300 brewers have their own wells, and say the pure water is the essence of their famous beers. And if there's one thing Germans take seriously, it's beer.