Ari Shapiro

Ari Shapiro is an NPR international correspondent based in London. An award-winning journalist, his reporting covers a wide range of topics and can be heard on all of NPR's national news programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

Prior to his current post, Shapiro reported from the NPR Washington Desk as White House Correspondent during President Barack Obama's first and second terms, as Justice Correspondent during the George W. Bush administration and as a regular guest host on NPR's newsmagazines. He is also a frequent analyst on CNN, PBS, NBC and other television news outlets.

Shapiro's reporting has consistently won national accolades. The Columbia Journalism Review recognized him with a laurel for his investigation into disability benefits for injured American veterans. The American Bar Association awarded him the Silver Gavel for exposing the failures of Louisiana's detention system after Hurricane Katrina. He was the first recipient of the American Judges' Association American gavel Award, recognizing a body of work on U.S. courts and the American justice system. And at age 25, Shapiro won the Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize for an investigation of methamphetamine use and HIV transmission.

An occasional singer, Shapiro makes guest appearances with the "little orchestra" Pink Martini, whose recent albums feature several of his contributions. Since his debut at the Hollywood Bowl in 2009, Shapiro has performed live at many of the world's most storied venues, including Carnegie Hall in New York, L'Olympia in Paris, and Mount Lycabettus in Athens.

Shapiro graduated from Yale University magna cum laude and began his journalism career in the office of NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg.

This is the latest story from the NPR Cities Project.

In an abandoned building near Spain's Mediterranean coast, someone softly strums a guitar. Chord progressions echo through empty halls.

The graffiti in Snuny — an Iraqi city at the base of Mount Sinjar that Kurdish peshmerga fighters recently regained control of — provides a kind of shorthand for its recent history.

There's black graffiti on some buildings, proclaiming "This is the Islamic State." It's been scribbled out.

Over it, there's green or red graffiti, which proclaims "This is now the property of the Kurdish peshmerga."

In Kurdistan today, every fighter knows the name Qasim Shesho. He's been fighting with the Kurdish peshmerga forces in northern Iraq since the 1970s.

Shesho is a Yazidi — an ethnic and religious minority in Iraq — and the protagonist in a tale that could have come from literature, or Hollywood, or the Bible. It is a universal story, about a vastly outnumbered group of men defending sacred ground against an onslaught.

As you drive through northern Iraq near the border with Syria, you pass checkpoints every few miles or so. Manning these roadblocks are Kurdish fighters, wearing camouflage and body armor, carrying big guns.

Sometimes there are piles of dirt in the road to slow down traffic.

These Kurdish peshmerga fighters are beginning to reclaim some land from the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS, and people are beginning to return to their homes.

But the homecoming has proved harrowing for many.

Nearly every country has a national flag, a national anthem, a national bird. Not many countries have a national typeface.

Sweden recently commissioned a team of designers to come up with a font to represent the country on its websites, press releases, tourism brochures and more.

The offices of Soderhavet look exactly the way you would expect a Scandinavian design firm to look: clean, sleek and warm, with tasteful bursts of color sprinkled among the minimalistic furniture.

In the 1990s, the face of immigration to Sweden was someone like Robert Acker. His family emigrated from Bosnia when he was 6 years old.

"I got along with the Swedes early on," he says in American-accented English from his years playing basketball in Kentucky and New York. "But now, I believe it's a totally different thing."

Acker lives in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, an industrial center that has become the power base for the far-right Sweden Democrats.

"They want us out," says Acker. "They just want Swedes here."

Sweden is the first country in the world to get a remote-controlled airport. That means flights are guided by operators sitting miles away.

This piece originally aired on Morning Edition on Feb. 1, 2015.

Peter Fredell carries an unusual wallet. It feels a bit like leather, but the material is pale and thin. He pulls it out on a street corner in Stockholm.

"I actually made it myself," he says. "It's an eel that I fished up. And I used the skin and stitched it together."

This eelskin wallet carries personal significance — but it does not carry cash.

Around the world, cash is fading. Electronic transactions are becoming a bigger part of the economy every year. And one of the leaders in this trend is Sweden, where more than 95 percent of transactions are digital.

As our plane touches down in Sundsvall, Sweden, the horizon is all snow and ice. A small air traffic control tower sticks out above the white horizon.

But this airport actually has two air traffic control centers. The second one is just a short walk from the airport runway.

Inside a ground-floor, windowless room, there's a display that looks exactly like what you'd see out of an air traffic control tower. You can see the snowy runway, you can see the trees, you can even see a car pulling into the airport parking lot.

More than a decade ago, NPR's Ari Shapiro attempted to eat a fermented Swedish herring called surströmming, one of the most pungent foods in the world. It did not go well. Twelve years later, on a reporting trip to Sweden, Ari decided it was time to face his fears and try the fish again.

This year marks 25 years of the original Ice Hotel, carved from snow and ice bricks in far northern Sweden. This story originally aired on All Things Considered on Jan. 29, 2015.

On a recent winter's day in the village of Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, it's 22 degrees below zero — or -30 Celsius. Whatever you call it, it's way below freezing.

Sculptor Jens Thoms Ivarsson stands over a block of ice with a razor-sharp chisel, turning a bare room into an ornate Spanish mosque made entirely of ice.

Here, 120 miles above the Arctic Circle, sits a frozen institution: Icehotel, the original.

Every city that has public transportation struggles with fare jumpers — people who sneak onto the subway or the bus without buying a ticket. In Sweden, fare-dodging is a brazen movement in which the group's members don't try to hide what they're doing.

An international cat-and-mouse game played out in the waters of Stockholm a few months ago.

The "mouse" was a foreign submarine — Russia is the main suspect — that got away.

And as Russia's military becomes more aggressive, European leaders fear they do not have the military power to deal with this new threat.

Take Sweden, for instance. Its days of military might are long gone.

The numbers tell the story, says Karlis Neretnieks, who used to run Sweden's National Defense College and has had a long career in the military.

In the United Kingdom, British Gas employs 30,000 workers. Five of them could be said to carry a torch that has been burning for two centuries. They are the lamplighters, tending to gas lamps that still line the streets in some of London's oldest neighborhoods and parks.

As these lamplighters set out on their nightly rounds, they don't actually carry torches and don't wear top hats and waistcoats. In their blue and gray jackets with the British Gas logo, they look like 21st-century utility workers.

Lots of theater companies use animation and video projection. None uses it quite like the British troupe called 1927. The company has combined vintage style with sophisticated technology to carve out a unique niche in the theater.

1927's newest play, Golem, has just opened in London to rave reviews.

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A century ago, young men in Europe were killing each other by the tens of thousands. World War I, which had erupted just a few months earlier, was raging. Yet on a frozen Christmas Eve, the guns briefly fell silent.

The Christmas Truce of 1914 has become the stuff of legend, portrayed in films, television ads, and songs. On this 100th anniversary of the cease-fire, it is possible to reconstruct the events of that day from letters, diaries, and even the recorded spoken words of the men who experienced the truce.

The United Kingdom is struggling with a situation that may sound familiar to Americans. The economy is expanding, unemployment is dropping, yet growing numbers of people don't have enough food to eat.

Six months ago, Peter Brogan was among those Britons going hungry. He'd lived a comfortable middle-class existence for the first 50 years of his life, with a house, a job and a relationship. Then the relationship fell apart, and so did his life. Between alcoholism and depression, he couldn't keep his head above water.

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Here's a fact that might surprise you: All of the top 10 U.S. companies that were born on the Internet — including Google, Amazon and eBay — have overseas corporate headquarters in Ireland.

The American tech sector is huge in Ireland. It's growing rapidly — and having a huge impact on life there.

But the tax system that's fueling the growth is also infuriating some people in the U.S. and Europe — and has Ireland reconsidering its tax code.

A City, And Country, Transformed

Sixteen years ago, the Good Friday peace agreement ended the violent conflict in Northern Ireland by creating a power-sharing government. Around the world, people point to the agreement as a model for how to resolve ethnic conflicts.

And yet, political leaders in Northern Ireland are still struggling to bring Protestant and Catholic groups together. The fact that this is even an issue might surprise many people.

When I visited Belfast, I found a city still profoundly divided.

In Scotland, some long-time whisky makers are switching over to gin. In Germany, people who distill traditional brandies are doing the same. The world is in the middle of a gin distillery boom, and it is coming to America.

One place to find the roots of this boom is London, where 250 distilleries once existed in the city limits alone.

For Charles Maxwell, this story is personal. "My great-great-grandfather was apprenticed in the city of London in the 1680s to learn how to make gin," Maxwell says. "And from that day to this, we've distilled gin in London."

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For more than a century, the Royal Shakespeare Company in England has hired composers to write original music for its productions. That sheet music has sat in a vault for decades — until now.

The company has started releasing albums that combine music from its contemporary productions with much older works.

Bruce O'Neill, head of music for the Royal Shakespeare Company, describes the archive as "a bit like a bank vault."

In Washington Thursday, a group of experts from across the government will hold its first meeting to address the practice known as female genital mutilation. This is one issue where the U.K. is far ahead of the United States.

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It's lunchtime at Drummond Community High School in Edinburgh. The kids are all wearing the uniform of a smart black blazer, white shirt and blue tie. Some 16- and 17-year-olds are here with their cheese sandwiches and their baked potatoes.

They get to cast ballots Thursday in what looks to be a close vote on whether Scotland will become independent or remain part of the United Kingdom.

Here's what some of them are saying:

"Scotland will be a richer country if there's a 'yes' vote" for independence, says Calum Preston. "It's just a fact."

It's pouring in Edinburgh, and the fog is so thick you can barely see to the end of the block.

People walking through the city center duck out of the rain into a little stone alcove to talk about the subject on everyone's mind — Thursday's big vote on whether Scotland will become an independent country.

The latest polls show the race is extremely tight.

In the Edinburgh rain, a striking number of voters have recently changed their minds. Michael Constantine says he and his parents all switched sides.

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