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.

The world is full of family-run businesses that get passed down through generations. A family business in northern England, near the border with Scotland, will carry you back in time 2,000 years.

For the last couple of millennia, Vindolanda was hidden underground. This ancient Roman fort was buried beneath trees, then fields where oblivious farmers planted crops and grazed their sheep for centuries. Under the farmer's plow, the ruined city sat undisturbed — mostly.

Ireland could make history this week. Same-sex marriage is legal in about 17 countries around the world. In all of those countries, the decision was made by the legislature or the courts. Ireland appears poised to become the first country to legalize same-sex marriage through a national popular vote set for Friday.

In Dublin, it is impossible to miss the debate. Nearly every lamppost carries a big poster, or several.

"YES: Equality for everybody," reads one showing a diverse group of smiling people.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Nearly every country in the world has its major hub city, often the capital, with smaller cities feeding into it. The United Kingdom takes this structure to a whole new level. London is one of the richest cities in the world, and its population is the size of the next six British cities combined.

A global hub, London completely dominates the political, cultural and economic life of the U.K. to an extent rarely seen elsewhere. The U.K. has struggled with this imbalance for decades. This Thursday's election is highlighting the divide.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This next story will test the ability of the British to keep calm and carry on.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

London is the home of a new work of art. It is part of a competition.

INSKEEP: It's outdoors.

A lawsuit in the Netherlands is taking an unusual approach to climate change. So unusual, in fact, that experts around the world are watching it closely, wondering whether it might spark a major shift in environmentalists' efforts to limit carbon emissions.

If that happens, it won't be the first time that Marjam Minnesma has turned the status quo on its head.

She's founder and director of a Dutch environmental organization called Urgenda, an abbreviation for "urgent agenda."

Political life is full of comeback stories, but few are quite as dramatic as the boomerang that Scottish nationalists have experienced over the last six months.

Last September, the Scottish National Party lost a vote on whether to break away from the United Kingdom.

Now, membership in the SNP has quadrupled, and that unexpected turn of events means that this party, dismissed as a loser last fall, could determine who becomes the next prime minister after British elections in a few weeks.

One of the most important U.S. military bases in the world sits in the middle of the Indian Ocean on an atoll called Diego Garcia. It's the largest of the Chagos Islands, a British territory far from any mainland that is spread out across hundreds of miles. Thousands of people, called Chagossians, used to live on Diego Garcia.

The U.S. military moved in in the 1970s only after the British government forced the entire Chagossian population to leave.

For more than 40 years, the islanders have been fighting to return. Now, it seems they have a growing chance.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The British Library is now showing original manuscripts of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, the first time they've come to the United Kingdom.

But those documents are not the main event at this exhibition. It's the Magna Carta, issued by King John in 1215 — more than 500 years before the American documents, as library curator Julian Harrison notes.

In war and in diplomacy, Great Britain has always been a global leader. Next to the United States, it had the largest footprint in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade.

But now, something has changed. The United Kingdom is pulling back from the world stage.

Take recent meetings of European leaders, for example. This may be the most unstable time in Europe since the end of the Cold War, as Russia has seized Crimea and is supporting a war in Eastern Ukraine.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

This Sunday, HBO is airing the documentary Going Clear, about the Church of Scientology, to strong reviews. The nonfiction book on which the film is based was short-listed for the National Book Award.

Yet there have been serious challenges to releasing the film and the book in the U.K. That's because Britain does not have the same free speech protections as the United States.

One year ago, the U.S. and Europe started imposing sanctions against Russia to punish it for seizing part of Ukraine. At the time, many British analysts feared the sanctions would hurt London, because of England's close economic ties to Russia.

A year later, with Russia's economy in recession, London is thriving. And this may not be despite the crisis in Russia; London may be doing well partly because of Moscow's economic turmoil.

Walk into a row of greenhouses in rural Britain, and a late English-winter day transforms to a swampy, humid tropical afternoon. You could be in Latin America or sub-Saharan Africa, which is exactly how cocoa plants like it.

"It's all right this time of year. It gets a bit hot later on in the summer," says greenhouse technician Heather Lake as she fiddles with a tray of seedlings — a platter of delicate, spindly, baby cocoa plants.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Every day new details emerge about Mohammed Emwazi, believed to be the masked man with a British accent known as "Jihadi John" who appears in execution videos by the self-declared Islamic State. At the center of Emwazi's story is a divisive London-based organization called Cage.

Inayat Omarji vividly remembers the worried reaction when he first looked into renovating the abandoned church in his neighborhood: "There's a bearded young Muslim chap involved in a church! Whoops! He's gonna turn it into a mosque!"

At the time, Omarji was head of the local council of mosques, but there already were three or four in his neighborhood in Bolton, England.

"What it needed is a place where people could meet, people can come to, people can socialize," he says.

A map of the northern Iraqi city of Erbil looks like a dart board: circles, radiating outward from a central core. The bull's-eye sits high on a hill, crowned by ancient walls.

The Erbil Citadel has stood here for at least 6,000 years. It's one of the oldest — and possibly the oldest — continuously inhabited sites on Earth.

The stories coming from this region these days are primarily ones of destruction and war. But here, in the Citadel, there's a different narrative, that of a plan to rebuild, restore and revitalize this ancient site.

At a camp for displaced people in northern Iraq, you pass rows of tents to reach the clinic run by the International Medical Corps. They have medicines to treat all kinds of problems: diabetes shots, vaccines, heart pills.

But it's harder to cure what's afflicting one woman in particular.

"The pain inside of me is so deep," she says. "I just cry every day."

Militants from the group that calls itself the Islamic State kidnapped the woman's adult son in June, and she doesn't know his fate.

Her husband expresses the loss in more destructive ways.

For people living in a new country, a taste of home can be a powerful emotional experience.

All the more so when you've left your country because of war.

Iraq has taken in about a quarter-million people fleeing Syria's civil war. In the northern Iraqi city of Irbil, one of Syria's most famous restaurants is re-creating the tastes of Damascus.

American military officials announced that they are planning an operation in April or May to free Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul, from the group that calls itself the Islamic State, or ISIS. The extremist group has controlled the city since June, and the Pentagon says up to 25,000 Iraqi troops will take part in an offensive to reclaim the city.

Imagine standing on top of a mountain, looking down at your home in the valley below, and being unable to go there — even for a visit.

That's the situation for some Iraqi Kurds from the city of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city. The group that calls itself the Islamic State, or ISIS, controls Mosul, flying its flags over the outskirts of the strategic northern Iraqi town.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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."

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