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Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia (center) welcomes Vice President Joe Biden after landing at Kiev's airport Boryspil, Ukraine, on Monday. (EPA/Landov)

Biden Visits Ukraine To Offer Energy, Economic Aid

Apr 21, 2014

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The situation in eastern Ukraine remains on edge Monday, after a weekend of violence that reportedly left up to five pro-Russian separatists dead at the hands of Ukraine nationalists. Moscow has used the killings to press its case that Ukraine's Russian speakers are threatened and to accuse Kiev of not living up to last week's agreement to resolve the situation. Vice President Joe Biden arrives in the Ukraine capital on Monday.

— Biden, during an official visit to Ukraine on Monday, was expected to offer energy and economic aid. Reuters says: "Briefing reporters on board Biden's plane, [a senior administration] official said the assistance was made up primarily of technical know-how to help boost energy efficiency as well as production in Ukrainian natural gas fields and extraction of 'unconventional' gas resources."

— The Washington Post reports that the fiscal situation in Ukraine is so dire that the Ministry of Defense has been forced to appeal to the public for help. "People across the country have responded by pulling together for the Support the Ukrainian army fundraising drive, trying to repair the damage done by years of thieving governments."

— The New York Times that in the eastern city of Slovyansk, police pulled two bodies from the Donetsk River. The man appointed by as the "people's mayor" says the two dead were pro-Russian separatists. The reports came a day after at least three people were killed in a shootout at a checkpoint outside the city.

— Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has accused authorities in Ukraine of breaking last week's agreement to resolve the ongoing crisis. "Extremists are calling the tune," Lavrov said of Ukraine nationalists in reference to the fatal shooting near Slovyansk, the BBC reports.

Time magazine reports that in the eastern Ukraine city of Donetsk, despite its occupation by pro-Russian separatists, life goes on more or less as usual for residents. "For a city whose government buildings have been taken over by masked gunmen, whose police force has essentially stopped functioning, and whose streets could soon be overrun by the Russian tanks poised to invade from across the nearby border, Donetsk is incredibly calm," the magazine concludes.

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Declan O'Rourke is one of Ireland's most respected singer-songwriters. (Mountain Stage)

Declan O'Rourke On Mountain Stage

Apr 21, 2014

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O'Rourke's songs have been praised and recorded by artists ranging from Snow Patrol to Josh Groban. Paul Weller calls O'Rourke's "Galileo" one of the best songs written in the past 30 years. O'Rourke has shared the stage with Alison Krauss, Damien Rice, Bob Geldof and Bono. Declan O'Rourke.

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Declan O'Rourke makes his first appearance on Mountain Stage, recorded live at the Culture Center Theater in Charleston, W.Va.

One of Ireland's most respected singer-songwriters, O'Rourke has amassed a resume that musicians twice his age would envy. His songs have been praised and recorded by artists like Josh Groban, Eddi Reader, Snow Patrol, Kate Rusby and The Celtic Tenors. Paul Weller, long a U.K. tastemaker, has said that O'Rourke's song "Galileo" "is possibly the greatest song written in the last 30 years." Recently, O'Rourke has shared the stage with Alison Krauss, Jerry Douglas, Damien Rice, Bob Geldof and Bono.

He appears on Mountain Stage backed by his friends Rob Calder on bass and Doug Yowell on drums and percussion.

Set List

  • "Time Machine"
  • "Slieve Bloom"
  • "Langley's Requiem"
  • "Galileo"
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Mount Everest straddles the border of Nepal and Tibet. This is a view of the Nepalese side. (AP)

After Tragedy, Nepalese Sherpas May Refuse To Climb Everest

Apr 21, 2014

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O'Rourke's songs have been praised and recorded by artists ranging from Snow Patrol to Josh Groban. Paul Weller calls O'Rourke's "Galileo" one of the best songs written in the past 30 years. O'Rourke has shared the stage with Alison Krauss, Damien Rice, Bob Geldof and Bono. Declan O'Rourke.

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Last Friday's tragedy on Mount Everest in which at least 13 Sherpa guides were killed in an avalanche has led others among that group of Nepalese who lead foreigners up the world's tallest mountain to issue some demands — and threaten to boycott the soon-to-start climbing season if their requests aren't granted.

Time reports that:

"Sunday's call to action comes as the Nepalese government mulls calling off the 2014 climbing season on the world's highest peak. According to the Himalayan Times, a total of 334 mountaineers have been issued permits to attempt to climb Everest this season. If the trips are canceled the Nepalese government is required to reimburse the permits, which cost approximately $10,000 each."

According to the BBC, "in a statement, the Sherpas demanded compensation [to families] higher than the $400 offered by the government, as well as higher insurance payments." They've given the government seven days to respond.

Time writes that "among the demands sent to Nepal's Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, the group called on the state to provide 10 million Nepalese rupee ($103,600) each to families of the deceased and critically injured, along with initiatives to increase the overall support infrastructure for local guides working in the Himalayas."

The mean annual per capita household income in Nepal was about $430 in 2010-2011, according to the Nepalese government's latest data.

Sherpas who lead or assist expeditions on Everest, according to the BBC, earn on average about $5,000 per year — more than 10 times the mean per capita. "Sherpas often make 20-25 round trips to carry kit and supplies to advanced camps, exposing them to greater risk," the BBC adds.

The risks are indeed considerable. All Things Considered spoke Friday with Grayson Schaffer, a senior editor and writer for Outside magazine who last year wrote a piece headlined "The Disposable Man: A Western History of Sherpas on Everest."

He reported then that:

"According to the Himalayan Database, which keeps track of such things, 174 climbing Sherpas have died while working in the mountains in Nepal — 15 in the past decade on Everest alone. ... During that time, at least as many Sherpas were disabled by rockfall, frostbite, and altitude-related illnesses like stroke and edema. A Sherpa working above Base Camp on Everest is nearly 10 times more likely to die than a commercial fisherman — the profession the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rates as the most dangerous nonmilitary job in the U.S. — and more than three and a half times as likely to perish than an infantryman during the first four years of the Iraq war. As a dice roll for someone paying to reach the summit, the dangers of climbing can perhaps be rationalized. But as a workplace safety statistic, 1.2 percent mortality is outrageous. There's no other service industry in the world that so frequently kills and maims its workers for the benefit of paying clients."

The Atlantic has looked at "who dies on Everest — and where, and why," and reports that:

"The Himalayan Database counts 608 'member' deaths and 224 'hired' deaths on mountains in Nepal, including Everest, between 1950 and 2009. Almost 50 percent of hired deaths were due to avalanches, while nearly 40 percent of member deaths were attributed to falls.

"These patterns have a lot to do with who does what, and where, on mountains like Everest. Sherpas spend much of their time establishing and supplying camps in avalanche-prone zones. Paying expedition members move through those zones as quickly and efficiently as possible to save their energy for summit bids, where the risk of avalanches is lower but the air is thin and falls are more likely to occur."

The Sherpas who died Friday — in what is the single deadliest day ever on Everest — were setting up ropes and making other preparations near a base camp around 20,000 feet above sea level. As of Monday, three other Sherpas were still missing and presumed dead.

Everest's peak is an estimated 29,035 feet above sea level.

Related. Discovery Channel Cancels Plan For "Everest Jump Live":

Extreme sport enthusiast Joby Ogwyn had planned to climb to the top and then jump from the summit in a wing-suit.

In a statement, Discovery said it was canceling the jump "in light of the overwhelming tragedy at Mount Everest and out of respect for the families of the fallen."

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Win Tin, pictured at his Yangon home in 2013, was a prominent journalist who became Myanmar's longest-serving political prisoner after challenging military rule. (AP)

Win Tin, Myanmar's Longest-Serving Political Prisoner, Dies

by Krishnadev Calamur
Apr 21, 2014

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O'Rourke's songs have been praised and recorded by artists ranging from Snow Patrol to Josh Groban. Paul Weller calls O'Rourke's "Galileo" one of the best songs written in the past 30 years. O'Rourke has shared the stage with Alison Krauss, Damien Rice, Bob Geldof and Bono. Declan O'Rourke.

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Win Tin, a former newspaper editor who became Myanmar's longest-serving political prisoner for his pro-democracy activism, has died. News reports gave his age as 84 or 85.

The Associated Press reports that he'd been hospitalized since March 12 in Yangon with respiratory problems. The cause of death was organ failure.

Win Tin founded the National League for Democracy in 1988 along with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. They were both arrested the following year. Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest. Win Tin was sent to prison. His sentence, which was extended twice, totaled 21 years, of which he served 19. Much of his time in prison was under harsh conditions. The Los Angeles Times reports:

"Win Tin was jailed in 1989 and harshly treated — tortured, denied medical treatment and kept in solitary confinement. He would later recount in a memoir how his jailers refused him pen and paper, so he ground up bits of brick into a paste that he used to write poetry on the walls of his cell."

A spokesman for the NLD called him a "great pillar of strength."

Win Tin was freed in 2008, along with hundreds of other prisoners, as part of a general amnesty by Myanmar's ruling junta. Still, he continued to wear his blue prison shirt as a mark of solidarity with other political prisoners in the country. He also continued working with the NLD until Myanmar transitioned to an elected government in 2011 (though as the AP notes, the government is still dominated by the army).

Win Tin was a close ally of Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, but was critical of her in recent years for what he saw as he as her conciliatory relationship with Myanmar's military leaders. As Reuters reports, "He publicly disagreed over her decision to run in April 2012 by-elections that took the NLD into parliament, arguing that the party's participation lent authority to a government packed with former generals." Still, he praised Suu Kyi's commitment to democracy.

He told Reuters in 2010 that he "was cut out to be a journalist rather than a politician." The news agency said a funeral is to be held Wednesday.

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The Pixies new album, Indie Cindy, comes out April 29. (Courtesy of the artist)

First Listen: Pixies, 'Indie Cindy'

Apr 21, 2014

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O'Rourke's songs have been praised and recorded by artists ranging from Snow Patrol to Josh Groban. Paul Weller calls O'Rourke's "Galileo" one of the best songs written in the past 30 years. O'Rourke has shared the stage with Alison Krauss, Damien Rice, Bob Geldof and Bono. Declan O'Rourke.

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Last year, My Bloody Valentine released its first album since 1991, and the result sounded as if not a minute had passed in the intervening 22 years. Every bleary, bended note of m b v sounded immaculately crafted, as if Kevin Shields and company had been toiling away in pursuit of perfection since the release of Loveless and merely lost track of time.

Now, it's Pixies' turn to follow such an impossibly long delay — the band's last album, Trompe Le Monde, also came out in '91 — but the rollouts of Indie Cindy and m b v perfectly mirror the many differences between the groups themselves. My Bloody Valentine maintained complete control over its own resurrection: The existence of m b v was kept a closely guarded secret, unspoiled until the band announced with a few days' notice that fans could buy it online. Everything about its unveiling was as precise as the music itself.

Indie Cindy, on the other hand, is the product of blurts and bite-size doses and false starts: the release of a single that no one saw coming, the early departure of Kim Deal that everyone saw coming, the steady trickle of songs and EPs that would eventually congeal into an album fans started receiving piece by piece back in June 2013. Taken in its entirety, in this order, Indie Cindy functions as a surprisingly coherent album, with disarming beauty nestled against dissonant snarls. Songs like "Bagboy," the caustic track fans first heard when Pixies' rebirth was announced last summer, were not delayed for years because they took so long to refine. But Indie Cindy still captures the band's alchemic mixture of abrasion, muscle and grace, even when the edges are left ragged or sanded down more than usual.

None of the three bassists most prominently employed by the band in the past year — Kim Deal, Kim Shattuck and Paz Lenchantin — perform on Indie Cindy, leaving singer Frank Black, guitarist Joey Santiago, drummer David Lovering and longtime producer Gil Norton to work with bassist Simon "Dingo" Archer. Deal's absence, in particular, has already helped make Indie Cindy polarizing to Pixies fans. (See also: that title.) But as it's assembled here, the album is a worthwhile, frequently terrific document of a band forever in transition, even in middle age. It's music born out of chaos, same as it ever was.

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