World

Parallels
11:51 am
Wed December 24, 2014

China's Fierce Anti-Corruption Crackdown: An Insider's View

China's President Xi Jinping, shown speaking in Bruges, Belgium, back in April, has made fighting corruption one of his top priorities. Many Chinese bureaucrats are angry, saying a loss of bribes has greatly reduced their incomes.
Yves Logghe AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 25, 2014 10:45 am

A government job in China used to be a gravy train: easy hours, little scrutiny and — usually — a chance to make good money through perks and corruption. This year, though, the 1.4 million candidates who signed up to take China's civil service exam marked a drop of more than 100,000 from the previous year.

Most people think the reason is the government's fierce anti-corruption drive, which has taken a lot of the profit out of public service. Recently, a low-level Shanghai official vented to NPR about life under China's toughest crackdown in modern memory.

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The Two-Way
10:23 am
Wed December 24, 2014

Contractor Freed By Cuba Will Get $3.2M From U.S.

Alan Gross pauses during a news conference at his lawyer's office in Washington on Dec. 17. The federal government will pay him $3.2 million as part of a settlement with the company that employed Gross when he was arrested in Cuba in 2009.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 11:18 am

Alan Gross, the former USAID subcontractor who spent five years in a Cuban prison before his release last week, will get $3.2 million from the federal government, part of a settlement with the Maryland-based company for which he worked at the time of his arrest.

The U.S. Agency for International Development, in a statement, said it had finalized a settlement, agreed to in principle in November, with Development Alternatives, Inc.

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Parallels
8:44 am
Wed December 24, 2014

25 Years After Death, A Dictator Still Casts A Shadow In Romania

Romanians burn a portrait of Nicolae Ceausescu in Denta on Dec. 22, 1989, as residents take to the streets to celebrate the downfall of the dictator.
Joel Robine AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 4:09 pm

Twenty-five years ago, the Communist leaders of Eastern Europe were falling like dominoes. And on Christmas Day in 1989, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, were executed by firing squad. The deaths of the despised couple ended a quarter-century of iron-fisted rule that translated into oppression and misery for most Romanians.

Yet many in that country — including some of their opponents — question the summary nature of the Ceausescus' trial and sentence.

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Parallels
8:23 am
Wed December 24, 2014

Turkey's President And His 1,100-Room 'White Palace'

Turkey's new presidential palace in the capital, Ankara, has an official price tag of $615 million and more than 1,000 rooms. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Ak Saray, or the White Palace, is not his palace, but that of Turkey. But not everyone is so sure.
Aykut Unlupinar Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 4:09 pm

On the outskirts of the Turkish capital, a new landmark looms over what was once Ankara forestland. It's a new presidential palace complex, with at least 1,100 rooms and an official price tag of $615 million — although critics suggest both figures are probably higher.

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The Two-Way
7:06 am
Wed December 24, 2014

Jordanian Plane Goes Down Over Syria; Islamic State Captures Pilot

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 1:52 pm

Update at 2:32 p.m.

Jordan's military says one of its pilots has been captured by militants of the Islamic State after his plane crashed in northern Syria.

In a statement, the Jordanian military said the Islamic State "bears responsibility" for the safety of the pilot, identified as Flight Lt. Moaz Youssef al-Kasasbeh.

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The Salt
5:33 am
Wed December 24, 2014

Guyanese Christmas Gives A Whole New Meaning To Slow Food

Pepperpot, a traditional Guyanese Christmas dish, is basically a stew of aromatics and tough meat parts like shanks, trotters and tails that benefit from a long cooking.
Courtesy of Cynthia Nelson Photography

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 9:00 am

There are some Christmas foods you make far in advance that just get better and better with age and anticipation. Like British fruitcakes that age into their boozy ripeness, and German gingerbread cookies called lebkuchen that get softer and spicier as they mature.

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Europe
4:02 am
Wed December 24, 2014

Lower Oil Prices Drain Value Of Russians' Money

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 7:02 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Goats and Soda
2:23 am
Wed December 24, 2014

Christmas In Liberia: Ebola Fears, No Snow, Holiday Spirit

A man peddles plastic Christmas trees and lights in downtown Monrovia.
John W. Poole NPR

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 7:43 am

Ebola has cast a shadow over Liberia, but it can't stop Christmas.

Despite the trauma of the past year, Liberians are trying to have a happy holiday season. Carols are playing on the radio and there's lots of decorating — and painting — going on.

"At a certain time of the year we want our homes to look good," says journalist Siatta Scott Johnson. "It's like a competition in Liberia when it comes to the festive season."

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Parallels
2:22 am
Wed December 24, 2014

For Syria's President, The Year Ends Better Than It Began

Syrian President Bashar Assad, shown here in July, appeared to be in a tough position at the beginning of the year. But many analysts say his hold on power grew stronger over the course of 2014, due in part to the U.S. bombing campaign against the Islamic State.
SANA AP

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 8:12 am

At the beginning of 2014, Syrian President Bashar Assad had agreed to send his ministers to take part in negotiations in Switzerland, and his future as Syria's ruler was not looking very bright.

He was accused of killing tens of thousands of his own people in a civil war that was nearly three years old. The opposition was demanding Assad's ouster. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in Switzerland and called loudly for a political transition in Syria. He was clear about who would not be involved.

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Religion
4:09 pm
Tue December 23, 2014

Pope To Vatican Leaders: In-Fighting Must Stop

Originally published on Tue December 23, 2014 5:26 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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