Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, in an address marking his 86th birthday, called on his people to do their duty "for stability, security of our nation" in an apparent reference to ongoing anti-government protests.
While avoiding a direct reference to the sometimes violent demonstrations that have rocked the capital, Bangkok, in recent weeks, the world's longest-serving monarch, said "All Thais should ... behave and perform our duties accordingly, our duty for the sake of the public, for stability, security for our nation of Thailand."
The king's birthday ceremony took place at his seaside palace in Hua Hin, 120 miles south of Bangkok, where the ailing monarch and Queen Sirikit moved when he left the hospital in July.
As NPR's Krishnadev Calamur reported earlier this week, "The protests began Nov. 24 but turned violent ... when police clashed with demonstrators opposed to the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra."
The Bangkok Post says the king "spoke in a halting but determined voice with long pauses in between sentences. His message was clear and significant given the country's current political turmoil."
The anti-government demonstrations were placed on hold in respect for the king, but protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, who leads a faction that has adopted the royal color yellow as its symbol, has pledged to resume his fight against Yingluck's government again on Friday.
Earlier this year, Yingluck's ruling Pheu Thai party introduced an amnesty bill that would have allowed her billionaire brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, to return from self-imposed exile abroad. Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup, later fled the country amid charges of corruption against him.
King Bhumibol, although technically a figurehead, is revered as a unifying figure in a country that has become increasingly divided along class lines - with wealthier, middle-class Thais in the cities steadily losing political clout to the poorer, rice-growing regions of the north and northeast.
In April 1994, the world watched as millions of South Africans — most of them jubilant, but many wary — cast their ballots in that nation's first multiracial election. The outcome: Nelson Mandela became president of a new South Africa.
Mandela's journey from freedom fighter to president capped a dramatic half-century-long struggle against white rule and the institution of apartheid. This five-part series, originally produced in 2004, marked the 10th anniversary of South Africa's first free election.
Produced for NPR by Joe Richman of Radio Diaries and Sue Johnson, Mandela: An Audio History tells the story of the struggle against apartheid through rare sound recordings of Mandela himself, as well as those who fought with and against him.
The Birth Of Apartheid (1944-1960)
In the 1940s, Nelson Mandela was one of thousands of blacks who flocked to Johannesburg in search of work. At that time, a new political party came into power promoting a new idea: the separation of whites and blacks. Apartheid was born and along with it, a half-century-long struggle to achieve democracy in South Africa.
The Underground Movement (1960-1964)
In 1960, with the African National Congress banned, resistance to apartheid went underground. Faced with an intensified government crackdown, Mandela launched Umkhonto we Sizwe, or MK — a military wing of the ANC — and the armed struggle began. Two years later, Mandela was arrested for and convicted of high treason. He and eight others were sentenced to life in prison.
Robben Island (1964-1976)
As Mandela and other political leaders languished in prison, the government crackdown appeared to have crushed the resistance movement. But on June 16, 1976, a student uprising in Soweto sparked a new generation of activism.
State Of Emergency (1976-1990)
Guerrilla soldiers on the border, unrest in the townships, striking workers and a wave of international attention were making South Africa's system of apartheid untenable. Something had to give — and it did on Feb. 2, 1990, when South African President F.W. de Klerk announced he would lift a 30-year ban on the ANC and free Mandela after 27 years in prison.
On April 27, 1994, Mandela was elected South Africa's first black president. But that triumph didn't come easily. The four years between Mandela's release and the transition to democracy were some of the most volatile and painful in the country's history.
Stephen Sondheim has written quite a few classic musicals — Company, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods — but he's had just one hit song, "Send in the Clowns" from A Little Night Music. And as he tells an audience in Six by Sondheim, it was a tricky one to write because the star who had to sing it, Glynis Johns, wasn't a singer with a capital "s".
"She had a lovely, sweet, bell-like voice, which was breathy and short-winded," Sondheim says. "So it's written in short phrases ... it's not hard to sing."
Countless backstage stories, culled mostly from interviews and archival footage, are assembled in Six by Sondheim into the story of a life — and a life's work. You'll hear what the grand master of the American musical learned from his mentor Oscar Hammerstein, and what he learned on the job with West Side Story, where his first professional lyrics were seriously overshadowed by Leonard Bernstein's music — at least in the eyes of critics.
Live and learn. And learn you will watching Six by Sondheim — a biographical sketch as master class. It's running in select cities this weekend, and on HBO Monday night.
Tim's Vermeer also centers on a single artist, except he's not an artist. He's an inventor. As a pioneer of desktop video software, Tim Jenison knows visuals, but he'd never so much as held a paintbrush when he decided to try to paint the way the 17th-century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer did in some of the most exquisite oil paintings ever.
Jenison had read that the Renaissance masters probably used, in their work, some of the tools that would eventually lead, centuries later, to photography — lenses and mirrors. And that intrigued him.
Jenison tries the technique, using an old black-and-white photo as source material. As he dabs grey paint on masonite, blobs slowly become cheeks, and finally the camera pulls back and you see what he's painted. I've watched the film three times now, and all three times the audience has gasped. It is the black and white photo, in oil. Astonishing. And that's just the start.
Director Teller, best known as the silent half of the magic team Penn and Teller, whisks you through all kinds of complicated concepts, but his narrative is crystal clear as Jenison proceeds from this first test to building a copy of Vermeer's studio in a Texas warehouse. There, he'll reconstruct the room Vermeer painted in The Music Lesson — harpsichord, chair, stained glass windows. The process of putting those three-dimensional objects on canvas in natural light is so fascinating that no one's going to make jokes about watching paint dry — though at one point the film is literally about watching paint dry. And then applying varnish.
As with Six by Sondheim, Tim's Vermeer works at capturing on film how artists work their miracles. And it will have you, long after the credits fade, puzzling out questions of invention, creativity, science, talent, painstaking craft, and the magic that comes of putting all that together. (Recommended)
Many social media were dominated Thursday with remembrances of Nelson Mandela and statements about his life and legacy. Here are a few selections from our staff and our audience.
What impact did Mandela have on your life? You can tell us below.
I can't be sure, but it seems to me I first heard the words "Nelson Mandela" when I was in college, way back in the '70s. There was a lot of anti-apartheid activity, lots of demonstrations to encourage several universities to pull their investments out of South Africa. Somewhere in there came the story of a freedom fighter who'd been jailed on a barren island, in solitary confinement, for longer than many of us protesters had been alive.
A few years later, an infectious tune started seeping onto dance floors, the product of an integrated band that mixed politics with their pop:
Free Nelson Mandela!
Free, free, free Nelson Mandela!
Written by Jerry Dammers and performed by The Special AKA, the song told about Mandela's imprisonment in an infectiously catchy Afro-pop/ska beat, and educated a lot of people who wanted to know more about who this Nelson Mandela was.
21 years in captivity
Shoes too small to fit his feet
His body abused, but his mind is still free
Are you so blind that you cannot see, I said ...
Free Nelson Mandela ...
And, several years and a lot of international intercession after that, he was.
Feb. 11, 1990.
You remember the pictures: Nelson Mandela, walking, erect, out of Victor Verster, his last prison, flanked by his African National Congress colleagues and his then-wife, Winnie, as shutters clicked, cameras rolled, and his countrymen joyously did the toi-toi to celebrate his liberation. You could hear his Xhosa clan name being chanted: Ma-di-ba! Ma-di-ba!
He toured the world shortly after that, raising money for ANC programs. His last stop in the U.S. was Los Angeles. It had been a grueling trip — 27 years in some of the world's most infamous prisons had to have taken its toll. But everywhere he went, Madiba smiled, waved and urged people to look forward, not back, and to work together to achieve a common goal.
We black Americans, who had seen so many of our own heroes in the struggle cut down, were especially touched: Here was a man who had lived to reach his goal — or at least the beginnings of it. Unlike the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers (and Bobby Kennedy, whose portrait hung with his big brother's and Dr. King's in many a black household), here was a hero who'd survived.
Morgan Freeman, who usually played God, was chosen to portray him in Invictus. It seemed appropriate.
The sad stuff would come later — tales of corruption among ANC leaders, the distance and eventual divorce from Winnie, the eventual return of violence to too many parts of South Africa. He became the subject of a tug of war among feuding political heirs, and even real family, who fussed over the intentions of his philanthropic largesse.
Of course there will be a huge state ceremony and memorial services around the globe. The hymn-like beauty of "God Bless Africa," the South African national anthem, will float up, up, slow and graceful, toward the arches of grand cathedrals, from inside small whitewashed churches in the countryside. On playing fields after a moment of silence.
But I'll be thinking of another song, and remembering the generosity of the man who inspired it: Free Nelson Mandela ...
Freed now. Godspeed.