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The World

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The World brings you award-winning coverage of breaking news, in-depth features, hard-hitting commentaries, and thought-provoking interviews found nowhere else in US news coverage.

Last year when I was walking around Ritsona refugee camp in Greece I heard wisps of music floating up from the dense sea of military tents. As I followed the sound I met a young woman with intense green eyes who invited me to sit with her.

Suham Noh was 23, and before she fled the conflict in her native Iraq, she had been studying Shakespeare at a university in Dohuk. The music came from one of her brothers strumming a long-necked saz as he sang a mournful tune in Kurdish.

A fading Missouri monastery finds new life — in Vietnam

Dec 26, 2017

Assumption Abbey’s halls were once full of monks in simple robes.

Now its cemetery is full of simple crosses.

“We just lost two from deaths within three and a half weeks,” said the Rev. Cyprian Harrison, 85, in the library of Assumption Abbey, a Roman Catholic monastery tucked away in the rolling hills of southern Missouri’s Ozark Mountains. “It’s kind of a spiritual harvest time for our community.”

In countries near the Arctic Circle, it’s cold and dark for much of the year.

That, as you may have guessed, leads to some pretty specific drinking habits.

Peru’s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski pardoned former autocrat Alberto Fujimori Sunday night. Fujimori was serving a 25-year prison sentence for corruption and human rights abuses.

Days earlier, Kuczynski himself narrowly defeated a bid by Congress to get him impeached.

And behind it all could be the Fujimori children, who are also politicians.

“So what people are now speculating — it’s the obvious theory — is that there was some kind of deal or quid pro quo [between] Kuczynski and the Fujimorista members of Congress,” says reporter Simeon Tegel in Lima.

The president of Guatemala announced Christmas Eve that the Central American country will move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

President Jimmy Morales announced on Facebook that, after speaking with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday, he has instructed the chancellor to begin the process of moving the embassy.

Just over a year ago, I was scrolling through Instagram when I saw a picture of  a billboard in Haiti advertising Manischewitz wine. The kosher wine has been a constant in Jewish homes for Passover seders and sacramental occasions.

In Jewish circles, Manischewitz has a certain nostalgic value, but it’s not exactly considered a fine wine. 

Tracking some of the world's biggest killers, via cellphone

Dec 25, 2017

Over the last few years, Haripriya Mukundarajan has gotten intimately acquainted with the world’s most efficient serial killers.

“This is Anopheles gambiae, the most dangerous animal in the world,” she says, pulling up a recording of one flying around.

There’s nothing overtly religious about the giant Christmas tree at Faneuil Hall Marketplace in downtown Boston. It’s got lots of lights and generic holiday ornaments. 

But don’t call it a “holiday tree.”

Back in 2005, the city did just that. The intention was to remove any potentially offensive religious connotations contained in the name “Christmas tree.”

People got annoyed. And the generic name “holiday tree” never stuck.

What I learned by getting my very first Christmas tree

Dec 22, 2017

I've never had a Christmas tree.

Never bought one. Never decorated one.

I grew up in a Muslim family in Iran and moved to the US about a decade ago. Every Christmas, I watch as my non-Christian friends get in their cars, drive to a Christmas tree lot and pick out their favorite tree. And I wonder why.

When I ask them, they say it's because they want to get into the holiday spirit. Or, that it's pretty and smells good. If they have kids, the answer usually is "the kids love it."

If you happen to be traveling out of the country through certain US airports during this holiday season, you may have to go through yet another security check at the airport: a facial scan.

In fact, you may already have already been scanned and didn't even know it. That's what happened to Tanvi Misra before she boarded a flight to India from Washington Dulles International Airport.

After more than four years in immigration detention in the middle of the South Pacific, the Iranian cartoonist known as "Eaten Fish" has a new view: the fjords of Norway.

The Kenya-born Harvard scholar Calestous Juma saw innovations and opportunities bubbling up in African economies where others saw only poverty and despair. 

When it comes to art, the term “Old Master” is with us for a reason: For centuries it’s been the male artists who have attracted the interest of art historians. Great collectors and museums have paid scant attention to the existence of talented women artists from periods such as the Italian Renaissance.

Some neighborhoods on Chicago’s south side, as with other of the most low-income parts of the US, have an alarmingly high infant mortality rate. It’s a persistent and complex problem that doctors are trying to tackle. But resources can be scarce, so they are thinking creatively, which has led them to look to an unlikely role model: Cuba.

Christmas trees are beloved in Puerto Rico. Their glowing lights and decorations have long been central to celebrations on the island this time of year. 

But in the wake of Hurricane Maria, the price of imported trees has tripled to about $150  — out of reach for many middle-class residents. 

"They're scarce and the prices are very high," says blogger and marketing executive Edmaris Carazo. "It doesn't feel right to invest $200 on a tree when so many people don't have electricity." 

How Britain's cinemas are becoming dementia friendly

Dec 21, 2017

Picture the scene: the front row of a cozy cinema a few weeks before Christmas, the credits for "White Christmas" rolling and festive snacks being served in the aisles.

Twenty-eight years isn't very long for a democracy to take root. And you could say, Poland is having growing pains.

The country shed communism in favor of democracy in 1989, but today, critics say that democracy is in trouble. The European Union is among the critics. Poland is a member of the EU, but the union is sanctioning the country and threatening to suspend its voting rights.

How will the GOP tax bill affect Puerto Rico?

Dec 21, 2017

A "big, beautiful Christmas present." That's how President Donald Trump described the tax overhaul that's sitting on his desk, awaiting his signature.

But the GOP tax bill could be devastating for some Americans: those living in Puerto Rico.

Arizona needs Mexico. Unlike the United States as a whole, Arizona actually has a trade surplus with its southern neighbor.

At CAID Industries’ factory in Tucson, welders build massive tanks and steel silos used by mining and oil and gas companies. Setting up shop here, just 70 miles from the border, wasn’t by chance.   

“Mexico is naturally a resource-rich country and we support a lot of mining companies. And so, by being in Arizona, we have a close proximity to those customers,” says Rob Assenmacher, president of CAID Industries.

Yared Portillo, a Philadelphia community activist, has four of them: One she built from scratch; two others were secured from renowned artisans; the final one — received broken and in pieces from a friend — she carefully repaired and made whole again.

The repaired instrument isn’t a bad metaphor for the role the jarana has played in the US immigration protest movement for the past two decades. It's a small, eight-string instrument from Veracruz, Mexico, patterned after a 16th century baroque Spanish guitar that is often confused with a ukulele.

Yemeni culture has become increasingly divided by civil war. But it retains qualities that hold the promise of reconciliation, if only the war were to stop.

On March 26, 2015, a coalition of Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia, with support from the United States and Great Britain, began a bombing campaign in Yemen. It was meant to stop the rebel movement taking over the country.

The art made by Guantánamo Bay detainees

Dec 20, 2017

I first saw the ship a year ago, in an abandoned prison cell. 

“Giant” is an intricately detailed model galleon, something that, at a casual glance, you might expect to see in a museum. It's also a dramatic contrast to its surroundings — a decrepit, high-security isolation cell in Guantánamo’s Camp 5. The prisoners were being slowly moved to Camp 6, where the dwindling number of low-security detainees were being consolidated.

The former British Prime Minister David Cameron will chair a $1 billion Chinese fund to help implement the One Belt, One Road, initiative, a global infrastructure project Chinese Communist Party Secretary Xi Jinping has championed.

Decades. More than six decades to be exact. That's how long Petula Clark has been performing. 

Clark got her start during World War II at the age of 9. She appeared on the BBC and performed a song to cheer up troops who were fighting overseas.

Then, of course, in the 1960s, she rode the wave of British musical hits and topped the charts in the US with her hit "Downtown." 

When Mosidi Modise was growing up in South Africa in the 80s and 90s, she remembers worshipping the African National Congress.  "We grew up in a house where we ate and we slept ANC!" recalls the 31-year-old business analyst. Modise's mother managed finances for the party during the Thabo Mbeki administration, just after Nelson Mandela stepped down. In those days, Modise says "there was a lot of hope, there was a lot of commitment and (the party) was very inclusive, whether you're black or white."

But times have changed.

The dramatic fall from grace of Cardinal Bernard Law, formerly one of America’s most prominent Catholic leaders, was glaringly evident once again on the front page of the newspaper that precipitated his demise.

“Cardinal Law, disgraced leader, dies.”

That was the headline in Wednesday’s edition of the Boston Globe.

As the value of the cryptocurrency bitcoin has shot up in the past several months, so too has its environmental footprint.

One bitcoin, which was worth about $800 a year ago, is worth more than 20 times that today. Estimates of how much energy is used to maintain the bitcoin network follows a similar trajectory.

In the past few weeks, the energy used by servers running bitcoin software has been compared to Ireland and Denmark’s energy consumption, and has been called a threat to the future of clean energy.

At the Chabad of Puerto Rico, a thin crowd sang along with Rabbi Mendel Zarchi as he lit the candles on the first night of Hanukkah. Usually, the rabbi does the rites for hundreds of Jewish tourists on the island, but this year, following the damage from Hurricane Maria, only a few dozen people showed up, including a health insurance executive and a man overseeing oil spill cleanup for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Algodón Egipcio’s “La Estrella Irregular” is an electronic-pop lullaby that explores a medley of dreamy, bright and chopping tropical sounds. But for some, the song also gives a poetic and experienced perspective on the ongoing crisis in Venezuela.

On the grounds of the Bristol County Jail in Dartmouth, Sheriff Thomas Hodgson took me on a tour of the immigration detention center built on his watch. 

I was escorted into one of the wards for potential deportees, a low-security facility. Next door is another ward for higher security detainees.

“[In the higher security unit] are predominantly people who either have committed a crime or have had removal orders and didn't comply with the removal order,” Hodgson said.

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