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.

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.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

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."

Sweden is the first country in the world to get a remote-controlled airport. That means flights are guided by operators sitting miles away.

This piece originally aired on Morning Edition on Feb. 1, 2015.

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