The World | KERA News

The World

Weekdays at 2 p.m. on KERA 90.1 FM
  • Hosted by Marco Werman

The World is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. It airs at 2 p.m. weekdays on KERA 90.1 FM. 

Scroll down to read and listen to stories featured on The World.

Halina Litman Yasharoff Peabody remembers the events of her life during the Holocaust in remarkable detail.

She was only 6 when Russians invaded her Polish town, arrested her father and sent him to a prison camp in Siberia. The Germans arrived in 1941, setting off a string of horrors for Peabody, her mother and her baby sister: the hiding, the ghetto, the mass graves, the escape by train and the bomb that took two of her fingers.

At a café near Williams College in the Berkshires, in western Massachusetts, students crammed for final exams. Sitting in the back, junior Tyler Tsay, an American studies major, had something else on his mind as well.

“It's very necessary to have an Asian American studies program, if only to complete the American Studies program that already exists on campus,” Tsay said.

Germany's Jewish population is small, somewhere around 200,000. Yet in German schoolyards, the word “Jew” is heard regularly, and not in a good way.

“'Jew' is an insult here,” says Berlin resident Gemma Michalski. “If you want to insult somebody, whether they're Jewish or not, it doesn't matter, but it's the thing you throw at them: 'Ah he's a real Jew,' or 'You're a Jew.' That's a sort of go-to insult.”

Pa’lante, meaning “onwards” or “forward,” was the title of a newspaper published by the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican leftist group advocating for social change in the '70s. Now the newspaper and Pedro Pietri’s poem, "Puerto Rican Obituary," are leading inspirations for a new song by the band Hurray for the Riff Raff — and also for a new music video that captures life in post-storm Puerto Rico.

In 1942, there were 44 people living on Attu Island, nearly all Alaska Natives. They were taken as captives to Japan, where half of them died. And after the war, the federal government forbade them from returning.

But in August, a group of 11 descendants finally visited their ancestral home for the first time.

Related: Seventy-five years after the Battle of Attu, veterans reflect on the cost of reclaiming US soil

A note to listeners and readers: A person in this story uses an offensive word for Japanese people.

Seventy-five years ago, Japan and the United States were locked in one of the bloodiest battles fought on American soil: the Battle of Attu.

Army veteran Allan Serroll served on Attu Island, which sits at the westernmost end of the Aleutian Islands — closer to Japan than Seattle.

Serroll is now 102. But he’s still haunted by the experience of staring down young men like himself.

Julia’s young daughters run around looking for a plug to recharge the battery for her ankle bracelet. The first one doesn’t work, or the second. What if mom’s monitor goes off? Arany’s face tenses up as she darts toward another wall socket at the far end of the immigration clinic.

“I feel detained. It’s so humiliating,” says Julia, 31, in her native Spanish. Like others who are facing deportation, she preferred we not use her last name.

Delivering food is now a dangerous job in Venezuela

May 29, 2018

After 10 hours on the road from the central Venezuelan plains, Gregorio Pinanco reaches the capital, Caracas. It’s 6 a.m., but Pinanco says it’s already been a terrible day. The road was blocked and people tried to loot his truck. He rubs the fatigue from his eyes and starts unloading his precious cargo — 6,000 pounds of white Guayanés cheese.

It wasn’t even close. 

Right up until the day of the vote last Friday, most observers thought the outcome of Ireland’s national referendum on abortion was too close to call. In the end, the "yes" side — voting to repeal Ireland’s Eighth Amendment, which declared the equal right to life for both the mother and the unborn — won by a landslide. 

“A historic day for Ireland,” is how Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar characterized the results, which began to be clear on Friday night, even before the official count was announced. 

Two years ago, during Ramadan, Saagar Shaikh and Shaan Baig were in a car hanging with friends when they went down the rabbit hole of revisiting all of their favorite ‘90s Bollywood songs. It started with “Oh Oh Jane Jaana,” the 1998 classic from the film "Pyar Kiya Toh Darna Kya," which Shaikh credits with getting him into Bollywood in the first place.

Then they moved onto Baig’s favorites, all the old-school Shah Rukh Khan hits. Soon, they were reminiscing about how they used to try to memorize the dance moves when they watched the movies.

Sweden's new law on affirmative consent is hailed, but questions remain

May 26, 2018

As Sweden joins 10 other western European countries with a new consent law, there’s still much to figure out about what happens next.

The new law was passed Wednesday by an overwhelming majority (257 to 38, with 54 absentees) in the country’s parliament. Still, the two biggest opposition parties, The Moderate Party and the Sweden Democrats, are skeptical.

For a group of women's rights activists in Saudi Arabia, the first few days of the holy month of Ramadan have not brought forgiveness and compassion. On the contrary, they have been a time of silencing and intimidation.

The activists were taken away from their homes and placed in detention for campaigning against the driving ban and demanding an end to the male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia — the system that requires the consent of a male relative for major decisions such as getting a passport or traveling outside the Kingdom.

After years of wrangling, Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan have agreed to a controversial hydroelectric dam, Africa's biggest, being built on a major branch of the Nile River.

Under the deal, Ethiopia will give Egypt a share of the electricity from the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project. Ethiopia also has promised the project will “not damage the interests of the other states” involved.

It’s a breakthrough in a region that has a history of tension among the countries that share on of the world’s great watersheds.

Even for a country used to flooding, this has been something beyond pretty much anyone's experience.

Roughly 175,000 people displaced, widespread destruction of staple crops like maize, and a looming public health crisis following what observers say is the worst flooding in Malawi in half a century.

You could say the people living along the banks of the Thondwe River in southern Malawi were lucky. At least they’d been warned of the flash flood in early January that would burst through an earthen dike, wash away their homes and crops, and leave more than 4,000 of them homeless.

Amazingly, no one in the dense cluster of villages called Makawa died in the flood. But they’ve been living in pretty desperate conditions here since.

Imagine a Hawaiian island rising up out of a huge lake and you’ve got something like Nicaragua’s Ometepe. It’s the largest island in Central America’s largest lake, Lake Nicaragua. It’s where Luvys and Dayton Guzman grow plantains in the dark soil nutured by the volcano Concepción and water their cows on a black sand beach.

It’s a pretty sleepy place, which is why Luvys Guzman was surprised when a team of surveyors showed up a few months ago.

“They measured everything,” she says, “including our water tanks, laundry, houses and sheds.”

After days of growing uncertainty, President Donald Trump on Thursday canceled a much-hyped summit with North Korea, writing in a letter to its leader, Kim Jong-un, that the world “has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace.”

But in televised remarks shortly afterward, Trump said “it’s possible” the meeting, which was scheduled to take place June 12 in Singapore, “could take place, or a summit at some later date."

“Nobody should be anxious,” he added. “We have to get it right.”

Cypress Creek Renewables builds and manages large-scale solar farms across the US, which supply power to utilities. The company’s CEO Matt McGovern said “it’s very difficult, if not impossible” to find all of the solar equipment it needs from US manufacturers.

So, McGovern says he has to turn to Asia to import equipment: “Malaysia, Vietnam, South Korea, some out of China.”

It’s never been a tough question for her.

Irish podcaster Ciara O’Connor Walsh, 37, says she has always been a supporter of abortion rights. But as she was parking her car one day, O’Connor Walsh was suddenly confronted by one of her own prejudices.

There was a bumper sticker on the car next to hers with a picture of a smiling fetus on it saying, “When I grow up, I’m going to play for Ireland.” The sticker also said, “Love both,” a motto used by anti-abortion activists in Ireland.

Rollin Virgile walks through his store amid dozens of weddings dresses, white floral crowns, men’s tuxedo vests and baptism gowns. He greets customers in Creole: "Bonswa, koman nou ye?" (Good afternoon, how are you all?) Virgile has been in the same location, at Northeast 82nd street and Second Avenue — the heart of Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood — for 32 years. His store, Virgile's Tuxedo & Formal Wear, is a go-to for Miami's Haitian community, where customers can rent a tuxedo, robe bridesmaids or find first communion accoutrements.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg left some European Parliament lawmakers and observers feeling displeased Tuesday after he failed to answer several questions during a Brussels meeting called in the wake of a user data privacy scandal involving his company and British data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica.

This month is the holy month of Ramadan and for many Muslims, that means fasting between sunrise and sunset. If you are a Muslim living with an eating disorder, however, Ramadan can pose a whole set of challenges. Adeline Hocine wrote about her experience with battling the illness during the holy month for Teen Vogue.

Mohammed al-Khatib was just was 6 months old when his parents carried him across the border to Lebanon. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians like them were fleeing their homes and villages, taking only what they could carry.

On May 14, 1948, Israel declared its independence. The next day, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Syria declared war on Israel. Many Palestinians fled, believing they would return within days or week.

Most still haven't returned, 70 years later.

The date is set for June 12. And there’s already an advance team on the ground in Singapore making final preparations for a historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. That is, if the meeting actually takes place. The World spoke on Monday with Victor Cha, a former top adviser on North Korea to President George W. Bush, about some of the difficulties ahead of next month’s planned summit. 

It was the middle of April when they showed up at the border, covered in mud. Ana, eight months pregnant, accompanied by her 4-year-old daughter, had just crossed the Rio Grande into Texas.

“We didn’t have shoes on, we stood there in our socks,” she says.

There are 28 other monarchies in the world

May 18, 2018

The world has been consumed by royal wedding fever, as is customary when the British royals do, well, anything. Prince Harry, sixth in line to the throne, is set to marry American actress Meghan Markle on Saturday in a lavish ceremony at Windsor Castle. 

With so much attention on them, one could be forgiven for not realizing there are actually many other royal families around the world. They’re in charge of 28 monarchies overseeing 29 countries, from absolute monarchies, such as Vatican City and Brunei, to constitutional democracies like those in most of Europe.  

Is the e-bike revolution ready to come to America?

May 17, 2018

I bike to work ... sometimes. I have a series of big hills — in each direction — that just kill me. So when I heard about a new, shiny red wheel born in the labs of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I was intrigued.

“Everything is contained within the red hub: the battery, the motor, all the sensors,” says Megan Morrow, with the company Superpedestrian in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the maker of the “Copenhagen Wheel.”

The wheel is named for a challenge by the mayor of the Danish capital to get more people biking.

During their historic summit last month inside the demilitarized zone, Korean leaders Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in grasped hands over the demarcation line that divides their countries.

Inspired by this gesture and the promise of long-awaited peace with their northern neighbor, some South Koreans are now reenacting that handshake at a replica of the Joint Security Area (JSA).

When an anti-LGBTQ candidate won the first round of presidential elections in Costa Rica, Vincenzo Bruno took to Facebook to denounce him.

“We are completely against Fabricio Alvarado, He doesn’t represent us, he doesn’t represent anyone in the LGBTQ community,” Bruno told his followers in Spanish. “No! No more abuse, no more hate, we reject him!”

Curly hair is beautiful. That may not sound like an especially revolutionary or bold statement but it is for many women in Egypt. That's because they've been told all their lives to straighten their naturally curly hair, sometimes by perfect strangers. But that societal stigma against curly hair seems to be easing up now. The World's host, Marco Werman, caught up with the BBC's Dina Aboughazala, who is Egyptian and curly-haired herself.

Marco Werman: Why have Egyptian women been pressured for so long to straighten their hair? 

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