Thursday, April 24, 2014


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Audio Podcast: The Best Of 'The Blender' 1st Anniversary Show!

On this week's edition of The Blender, a look back at the best of the past year, as RFE/RL's only weekly English-language podcast celebrates its first anniversary.

We asked each of our four regular hosts -- Grant Podelco, Daisy Sindelar, Bruce Jacobs, and Pavel Butorin -- to choose some of the best moments from the previous 52 episodes -- the top news, features, interviews, and music since the first Blender was uploaded to iTunes on January 14, 2011. Ahh, they were so young then.

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We gathered them all in Studio P-10, asked faithful Blender editor Tanya Kancheva to assume her usual place in the control booth, opened a bottle of Champagne (OK, it was actually Czech sekt, The Blender entertainment budget not being what it used to be) and then we hit the record button.

What resulted is, I think you'll agree, an informative, entertaining, and often funny look back at some of the important -- and not so important -- stories from the past year.

We hope you enjoy it.
The Best of The Blender Anniversary Show (Episode 53)
The Best of The Blender Anniversary Show (Episode 53)i
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Listen to or download Episode 53 of The Blender above, or subscribe to The Blender on iTunes. For the complete Blender archives, click here.

Got a question or comment about The Blender? We'd love to hear from you. Click here to send us your feedback or leave a comment below.

Audio Podcast: Uzbekistan’s Wrongs On Rights, And A Tale Of Torture In Afghanistan

Steve Swerdlow of Human Rights Watch discusses Uzbekistan at RFE/RL's headquarters in Prague.

On Episode 52 of The Blender, we take an up-close-and-personal look at the situation in Uzbekistan.

Human Rights Watch released a report last month stating that the Central Asian nation has failed to provide its citizens with basic legal rights. The New York-based watchdog was also critical of Western governments, including the United States, for seeking closer ties with the authoritarian regime in Tashkent, despite its many abuses.
 
The Uzbek government expelled HRW’s Uzbekistan researcher Steve Swerdlow from the country last year. Swerdlow sat down for an interview in Prague with RFE/RL correspondent Bruce Pannier, a veteran Central Asia reporter.

They talk about Swerdlow’s personal experiences and observations and the many human rights violations that still occur in Uzbekistan.
 
Sahar Gul in a Kabul hospital on December 31Sahar Gul in a Kabul hospital on December 31
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Sahar Gul in a Kabul hospital on December 31
Sahar Gul in a Kabul hospital on December 31
We also have the story of the brutal torture  a 15-year-old newlywed girl in Afghanistan says she was subjected to.

Sahar Gul says she suffered terrible injuries at the hands of her husband’s family before being rescued by police. The case shocked the country and its president, Hamid Karzai, who vowed to take action against the perpetrators.

We have a report produced by Radio Free Afghanistan correspondents Bashir Ghazali and Hameed Mohmand in Baghlan and Kabul.
 
This week's host is Bruce Jacobs.
Uzbekistan’s Wrongs On Rights & An Afghan Tale Of Torture (Episode 52)
Uzbekistan’s Wrongs On Rights & An Afghan Tale Of Torture (Episode 52)i
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Listen to or download Episode 52 of The Blender above, or subscribe to The Blender on iTunes. For the complete Blender archives, click here.

Got a question or comment about The Blender? We'd love to hear from you. Click here to send us your feedback or leave a comment below.

Audio Podcast: The First Blender Mind Bender News Quiz!

Unwitting Blender News Quiz contestants Kathleen Moore (left), Brian Whitmore, and Andy Heil in The Blender studio

So you think you know a lot about world events? Of course you do. You’re reading this website, after all.
 
But are you willing to put yourself to the test? More specifically, our test?
 
In Episode 51 of The Blender, we present our first-ever Blender Mind Bender News Quiz, hosted by Grant Podelco. The questions cover events that took place in 2011 and are mostly related to RFE/RL’s broadcast region.
 
Host Grant PodelcoHost Grant Podelco
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Host Grant Podelco
Host Grant Podelco
Three members of our highly informed staff accepted the challenge. The contestants are:
 
-- Central Newsroom editor Brian Whitmore. He specializes in our European areas of coverage and is the author of The Power Vertical blog and podcast aimed at Russia wonks and Kremlin watchers. He also has an extraordinarily deep knowledge of Apple products and U.S. politics.
 
-- Central Newsroom Deputy Director Kathleen Moore. With her well-honed knowledge of events, current and otherwise, she usually knows the answer to a question before you realize you're even going to ask one. She speaks Russian, Czech, and Scottish and is always available to translate any of those into English upon request.
 
-- English language website editor Andy Heil. He is known for sharp-eyed copy corrections, his environmentally-oriented tweets, and his quick-witted quips. His stance on over-hyphenation was unknown at the time of this writing.

We laughed. We cried. The host said "excellent" about 20 too many times.
 
Who will win the first-ever Blender Mind Bender News Quiz? Listen in and play along.
The Blender News Quiz -- 12/30/11 (Episode 51)
The Blender News Quiz -- 12/30/11 (Episode 51)i
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Listen to or download Episode 51 of The Blender above, or subscribe to The Blender on iTunes. For the complete Blender archives, click here.

Got a question or comment about The Blender? We'd love to hear from you. Click here to send us your feedback or leave a comment below.

Audio Podcast: The Blender Year-Ender

German soldiers of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) approach locals during a patrol in the village of Isa Khel in the Chahar Dara district.

It's a Blender year-ender with a look at three hot spots in our coverage area as we talk with RFE/RL service directors about the major developments of 2011.
 
In Afghanistan, U.S.-led forces are set to hand over security responsibility in 2014 to Afghan forces. Some of the transition has gone smoothly, but militants continue to cross the border from Pakistan, brutal attacks by the Taliban have continued, and reconciliation efforts appear to have collapsed. Correspondent Ron Synovitz sat down to talk about the year's with Akbar Ayazi, a regional director of broadcasting for RFE/RL responsible for Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq. 
 
In Belarus, former presidential candidates faced political trials, the economy was thrown into crisis, driving the country closer to Russia, and anti-government protesters came under intense pressure. Belarus service director Alexander Lukashuk covered these issues and more about troubling turns of 2011. 
Akbar AyaziAkbar Ayazi
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Akbar Ayazi
Akbar Ayazi
And in Azerbaijan, practicing journalism remained a dangerous business this year. Journalists faced prison, threats, and even murder. RFE/RL editor Brian Whitmore spoke with Azerbaijani service director Kenan Aliyev about the poor state of media freedom in the country.
 
This week’s host is Bruce Jacobs.
It's A Blender Year-Ender -- 12/23/11 (Episode 50)
It's A Blender Year-Ender -- 12/23/11 (Episode 50)i
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Got a question or comment about The Blender? We'd love to hear from you. Click here to send us your feedback or leave a comment below.
 
Listen to or download Episode 50 of The Blender above, or subscribe to The Blender on iTunes. For the complete Blender archives, click here.

Audio Podcast: If Life Hands You Proverbs, Play Proverb Games!

Playing The Blender Proverb Quiz are (clockwise from left) Salome Asatiani, Margot Buff, Grant Podelco, Pavel Butorin, and host Daisy Sindelar.

This week, we at The Blender found ourselves thinking about words. Proverbs, specifically.

In a company with 28 broadcast languages, it's a constant source of amazement to see how maxims and other traditional sayings can vary from language to language, even as the sentiments behind them remain more or less universal. (Look up "When pigs fly Uzbek" on the Internet, and you'll see what we mean.)

So in a very special Episode 49 of The Blender, we explore the world of proverbs.

Daisy SindelarDaisy Sindelar
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Daisy Sindelar
Daisy Sindelar
We begin in Pakistan, where Khudainoor Nasar, the author of "Proverbs and Us," a popular program for RFE's Pashto-language service Radio Mashaal, looks at a proverb that's weaved its way into ordinary conversation and poetry alike: "Karwan ba teregee spee ba ghapegee," or "Dogs bark, but the caravan rolls on."

And since there's only one step from the sublime to the ridiculous, we move directly on to the first-ever Blender Proverb Quiz!

Blender regulars Salome Asatiani, Pavel Butorin, Grant Podelco, as well as a podcast newcomer, RFE multimedia producer Margot Buff, join us in Studio P10 for what turns out to be a very silly -- and by that we mean highly illuminating -- inaugural round.

Play along! Trust us -- your answers couldn't be any worse than ours.

This week's host is Daisy Sindelar.
The First Annual Blender Proverb Quiz! -- 12/16/11 (Episode 49)
The First Annual Blender Proverb Quiz! -- 12/16/11 (Episode 49)i
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Music used in this week's podcast includes "Piggies" by The Beatles, "Boys Don't Cry" by The Cure, and "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball," by The Killers.

Got a question or comment about The Blender? We'd love to hear from you. Click here to send us your feedback or leave a comment below.

Listen to or download Episode 49 of The Blender above, or subscribe to The Blender on iTunes. For the complete Blender archives, click here.

Audio Podcast: Eyewitnesses Recall U.S.S.R.'s Dying Days, Plus St. Petersburg Surf Rock

Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk (left), Belarusian leader Stanislau Shushkevich (center), and Russian President Boris Yeltsin after signing the Belavezha Accords, which formally dissolved the Soviet Union, on December 8, 1991.

December 8 marked the 20th anniversary of the Belavezha Accords, the document signed in a Belarusian forest in 1991 by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, which declared an end to the U.S.S.R.

Between March 1990 and the end of 1991, all 15 Soviet republics had declared their independence. The Cold War had ended, for all intents and purposes.

Oleg Gitarkin and Zombierella of Messer ChupsOleg Gitarkin and Zombierella of Messer Chups
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Oleg Gitarkin and Zombierella of Messer Chups
Oleg Gitarkin and Zombierella of Messer Chups
On Episode 48 of The Blender, we look back at those momentous days through the eyewitness accounts of some of our colleagues here at RFE/RL who lived through or reported on those events.

The reminiscences are taken from a special report at rfel.org called The Fall: 20 Years After The Collapse Of The U.S.S.R.

Elsewhere in the podcast, correspondent Kristin Deasy tells us about the Afghan debut of "Sesame Street," the beloved American children's TV show. Big Bird is now King of the Birds, and the only letters used are those shared by Afghanistan's two main languages, Dari and Pashto. But the message of the show hasn't changed a bit.

Grant PodelcoGrant Podelco
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Grant Podelco
Grant Podelco
And finally, surf rock from St. Petersburg. And Jimi Hendrix, Belarus, and drum 'n' bass. Romanian journalist Lucian Stefanescu hosts a rather surreal edition of our regular "Ear to the Ground" music segment.

This week's host is Grant Podelco.

Music used in this week's podcast includes the Soviet "March of the Motherland" and "I Want Change" performed by Viktor Tsoi and the band Kino.
Eyewitnesses Recall U.S.S.R.'s Dying Days -- 12/9/11 (Episode 48)
Eyewitnesses Recall U.S.S.R.'s Dying Days -- 12/9/11 (Episode 48)i
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Got a question or comment about The Blender? We'd love to hear from you. Click here to send us your feedback or leave a comment below.

Listen to or download Episode 48 of The Blender above, or subscribe to The Blender on iTunes. For the complete Blender archives, click here.

Audio Podcast: British-Iranian Blowup, Hijras Of Pakistan, And Conquest Of The Caucasus

Protesters break into the British Embassy in Tehran on November 29.

The storming of the British Embassy by students in Tehran was one of the biggest stories of the week. Iran’s parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, said the attack was the result of longstanding animosity and tension between the two countries.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said it was difficult to believe the Iranian government was not involved. The action followed shortly after Britain cut off banking ties with Iran over its suspect nuclear program.

Golnaz EsfandiariGolnaz Esfandiari
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Golnaz Esfandiari
Golnaz Esfandiari
In Episode 47 of The Blender, we talk to correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari about what’s behind the diplomatic blowup and the longstanding U.K.-Iranian tensions.

We also report on at the challenges facing the "hijras" of Pakistan. They are transgender men who adopt the appearance of women. For decades, the hijras have struggled for equal rights, and sometimes for their very survival. But there has been progress in the last two years, and Pakistan’s Supreme Court has now granted them the right to vote. Correspondent Frud Bezhan has the story.

And we have a fascinating discussion with scholar Susan Layton, the author of the 2005 book "Russian Literature and Empire: Conquest of the Caucasus From Pushkin to Tolstoy." She examines the role of literature in empire-building with correspondent Salome Asatiani of RFE/RL’s Georgian Service.
British-Iranian Blowup And The Hijras Of Pakistan
British-Iranian Blowup And The Hijras Of Pakistan i
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This week's host is Bruce Jacobs.

Got a question or comment about The Blender? We'd love to hear from you. Click here to send us your feedback or leave a comment below.

Listen to or download Episode 47 of The Blender above, or subscribe to The Blender on iTunes. For the complete Blender archives, click here.

Tags:embassy, Britain, Iran, Pakistan, transgender, caucasus

About This Podcast

Brian Whitmore
Welcome to "The Blender," the weekly podcast from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. "The Blender" presents the best of RFE/RL -- features from our far-flung bureaus, interviews with newsmakers and correspondents, reports on language, music, and culture, even a little humor now and again. A new episode is posted every Friday. Download the latest episode at left or subscribe on iTunes. Your feedback is welcome, either in the comments section or write to podcast@rferl.org.