Every 12 years in India, tens of millions of pilgrims and Hindu holy leaders travel to the Kumbh Mela, a temporary city erected on a flood plain where the sacred Yamuna and Ganges rivers merge. The enormous crowds that gather for ritual bathing are a hallmark of the world’s largest religious gathering -- and a challenge for organizers who say as many as 20,000 people can get lost in a single day. Rebecca Byerly reports for VOA from Allahabad.
International writers travelled to Rangoon in recent days for Burma’s first international literature festival. The three-day Irrawaddy Literary Festival marked the first open exchange of ideas between local and foreign writers in Burma after decades of publishing restrictions and government censorship. VOA has more.
In the past month, France has sent aircraft and boosted its ground troops in Mali to around 3,500 soldiers who have helped drive out al-Qaida-linked Islamist militants in the north. Saturday, visiting French President Francois Hollande said French troops would not leave Mali until the situation is stabilized and a regional African force is ready to fight alongside the Malian army. VOA's Anne Look reports from Sevare, Mali, that may be easier said than done.
Two iconic filmmakers, Steven Spielberg and Ang Lee, are competing for the most coveted Oscars this year: Best Director and Best Picture. Spielberg’s drama Lincoln has received 12 Oscar nominations, and Ang Lee’s Life of Pi is trailing with 11. It’s unclear who, among the five nominees for Best Director, will win but both Spielberg and Lee have left their mark on contemporary American cinema. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
French and Malian troops are consolidating their gains after driving Islamic militants from key population centers in the northern part of the country. And the U.S. has reached a military agreement with the neighboring country of Niger that could lead to a base for drones to gather intelligence on al-Qaida-linked groups in western Africa. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel has details from Washington.
French forces pushing Islamist militants out of their last strongholds in northern Mali have been met with cheers and gratitude. Only there may not be time for much celebration. French officials are already hinting their forces may leave as soon as possible. And, as VOA's Jeff Seldin reports, the threat to Mali and all of northern Africa and the Sahel is far from over.
The Nairobi slum of Mathare is home to more than half a million people, but it has only three government schools. Low-cost community schools attempt to fill the gap. But most of these educators are inadequately trained -- so one organization is now teaching the teachers. Jill Craig has more for VOA from Nairobi.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who steps down as America's top diplomat Friday, has repeatedly been seen by the public as the world's most admired woman, according to surveys by the Gallup organization. Scott Stearns reports.