Jackie Northam

Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, politics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.

Northam spent more than a dozen years as an international correspondent living in London, Budapest, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, and Nairobi. She charted the collapse of communism, covered the first Gulf War from Saudi Arabia, counter-terrorism efforts in Pakistan, and reported from Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Her work has taken her to conflict zones around the world. Northam covered the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, arriving in the country just four days after Hutu extremists began slaughtering ethnic Tutsis. In Afghanistan, she accompanied Green Berets on a precarious mission to take a Taliban base. In Cambodia, she reported from Khmer Rouge strongholds.

Throughout her career, Northam has put a human face on her reporting, whether it be the courage of villagers walking miles to cast their vote in an Afghan election despite death threats from militants, or the face of a rescue worker as he desperately listens for any sound of life beneath the rubble of a collapsed elementary school in Haiti.

Northam joined NPR in 2000 as National Security Correspondent, covering US defense and intelligence policies. She led the network's coverage of the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal and the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Her present beat focuses on the complex relationship between international business and geopolitics, including how the lifting of nuclear sanctions has opened Iran for business, the impact of China's efforts to buy up businesses and real estate around the world, and whether President Trump's overseas business interests are affecting US policy.

Northam has received multiple journalism awards during her career, including Associated Press awards and regional Edward R. Murrow awards, and was part of an NPR team of journalists who won an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for "The DNA Files," a series about the science of genetics.

A native of Canada, Northam spends her time off crewing in the summer, on the ski hills in the winter, and on long walks year-round with her beloved beagle, Tara.

The Algerian government gave no advance notice that it was planning to launch a military operation to rescue hostages at the remote In Amenas natural gas field, despite offers of support and advice by many nations, including the U.S.

The anger and disappointment in Washington is muted, however, because the U.S. sees Algeria as a critical ally in the fight against terrorism.

Logistical Dependence

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is in Washington this week for meetings with President Obama and other senior administration officials. The talks are expected to help set the framework for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan after the bulk of American and NATO forces leave at the end of 2014. One of the key issues to be discussed is the number of American troops to remain in Afghanistan after that date.

High on a hill overlooking Pakistan's scenic Swat Valley sits a recently excavated cemetery. Italian archaeologist Luca Maria Olivieri walks across the site and lays a sun-beaten hand on a clay slab jutting out from a high, dun-colored wall. It's an ancient grave.

Olivieri says the remains still have to be carbon-tested, but archaeologists believe the graves contain members of a Dardic community, which dominated this part of Pakistan 3,000 years ago.

It's believed Alexander the Great fought one of his battles here, in the village of Udegram.

On Oct. 9, in Mingora, Pakistan, in the country's picturesque Swat Valley, Kainat Riaz left her high school and climbed into the back of a small van. The bright-eyed 16-year-old sat near another schoolgirl, Malala Yousafzai.

At just 15, Malala, an outspoken critic of the Taliban, had already earned a name in her country — and internationally — for her courage. Kainat says there was a lot of chatter in the six-seat van as it shuttled the girls home.

Then, in the middle of a busy road, the van suddenly stopped, and a masked gunman got into the vehicle.

There has been a small but potentially important breakthrough in the faltering Afghan peace process. In what is considered a good-faith gesture, Pakistan last week released at least nine Afghan Taliban prisoners. The move is seen as part of an emerging new strategy by Pakistan as it eyes the looming drawdown of U.S. and Western troops in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has had 27 blasphemy cases filed so far this year, a figure that alarms human rights groups, who say the law is frequently used to persecute religious minorities.

In a case that has drawn international attention, a judge on Tuesday dismissed blasphemy charges against a Christian girl, Rimsha Masih, ending a three-month order for her and her family.

Pakistan is one of the remaining corners of the world where polio still lingers. Last year, the government declared a national emergency, and with the help of international institutions, embarked on an aggressive vaccination campaign.

So far, the results have been promising. The number of new polio cases is about a third of last year's total of 198.

But the new campaign, like previous efforts, hasn't been able to overcome one critical problem: getting into parts of Pakistan's lawless tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan to vaccinate the children there.

If you want to gain a good insight into Pakistan's economic situation, just look at a few of the country's newspaper headlines on any given day. The language says it all: prices soar, stocks plunge, budget deficit swells, foreign investment evaporates — and the list goes on.

Now, analysts are increasingly worried that the faltering economy could join Pakistan's pervasive insurgency and repeated political upheavals as another serious threat to the country's stability.

Despite international condemnation, Pakistan's railways minister says he isn't backing down from his $100,000 bounty offer to anyone who kills the maker of the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims.

Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, the slight, silver-haired minister, says he was angry when he saw the video and that he's a man of great faith, passionately devoted to the Prophet Muhammad.

The man known as the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, Abdul Qadeer Kahn, is a national hero in Pakistan — and a villain in much of the West.

Now, the controversial scientist is trying his hand at politics at the age of 76.

In the U.S., Khan is best known for selling nuclear technology to nations such as North Korea and Iran. In 2004, at the urging of the U.S., Pakistan placed Khan under house arrest. But in 2009, he was freed.

Grindstone Island's lone public dock is just three miles north of the U.S. mainland, a straight shot by powerboat across the St. Lawrence River from Clayton, N.Y. Part of the Thousand Islands, Grindstone Island sits in a waterway shared by the U.S. and Canada.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now to Japan, which is still recovering from last year's devastating earthquake and tsunami. It triggered a meltdown at a nuclear power plant, and high levels of radiation forced at least 100,000 people to evacuate; many of them living in temporary housing since.

At 6 p.m. every Friday — with the kind of precision timing the Japanese live by — the protests in downtown Tokyo begin.

Thousands of Japanese — young, old, in wheelchairs and on skateboards — shout anti-nuclear slogans from behind police barricades that snake around the office of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. Over the past four months, the protests have swelled; at least 75,000 people turned out at a recent demonstration.

Nobuyuki Miyazaki, an office worker, says this is the first time he's ever been to a demonstration.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

How bad are U.S. relations with Pakistan?

Even as ties grew strained over the past few years, U.S. government and military officials generally used diplomatic language when talking about differences with Pakistan. But nowadays the Americans aren't even bothering to disguise their displeasure with their longtime ally.

Several recent events have shown just how blunt the Americans have become.

Without question, drones have become the U.S. weapon of choice in the fight against terrorism. Counterterrorism officials say they've come to rely on the pilotless aircraft for their surveillance capability and what officials say is precision targeting. That reliance has led to greater use in the past couple of years, especially in Pakistan and Yemen.

John Bellinger, a State Department legal adviser during the George W. Bush administration, says there are increasing concerns about the frequency of drone attacks.

The U.S. is withdrawing millions of dollars in funding for the Pakistani version of Sesame Street. Officials say the decision stems from serious allegations of fraud directed at the Pakistani theater company that's producing the children's TV program.

Sim Sim Hamara, the Pakistani version of Sesame Street, is set in a mock-up of a typical Pakistani town. There's a school, the ubiquitous Banyan tree, a restaurant and a colorful cast of characters centered on a 6-year-old girl named Rani who loves the sport of cricket.

Pages