Peter Kenyon

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Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula leaves Ukraine with control of only one major port on the Black Sea. It's the city of Odessa which, like Crimea, has a large Russian-speaking population and deep historic ties to its huge neighbor.

After a winter of lightning-fast changes – a president ousted and a peninsula apparently lost to Russia — Ukrainians are beginning to look ahead to elections on May 25 to replace Viktor Yanukovych.

The opposition leader who seemed to have the inside track a few weeks ago, ex-world champion heavyweight Vitali Klitschko, has taken himself out of the running. Klitschko will stand for mayor of Kiev and throw his support behind billionaire Petro Poroshenko, who made his fortune in the candy business.

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Iran's economy may be struggling, but that doesn't mean everyone is suffering.

In a downtown Tehran restaurant, a well-dressed young man who asks to be identified only as Ahmad sits with a friend enjoying a water pipe of flavored tobacco.

Ahmad is a bit vague about what he does — first he says he's in the petrochemical business, then describes himself as an independent trader. He shares the general consensus that President Hassan Rouhani has brought a better atmosphere to the country but no real economic changes.

Iran on Tuesday marked the 35th anniversary of its Islamic revolution, a day when the country's religious conservatives and military hard-liners take center stage, and calls of "Death to America" echo across the country.

In Tehran's Azadi Square, one man waving an orange "Down with the USA" flag condemned the U.S. and Israel, and then, perhaps not sure of the nationality of the reporter standing nearby, threw in England and France for good measure.

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As Iran prepares to mark the 35th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, it's not hard to find evidence of its much analyzed devotion to martyrdom, especially around this holiday.

It's also not hard to find chants of "Death to America." Just drop by the massive Mosalla Imam Khomeini mosque for Friday prayers.

Istanbul has long been a city of historical layers and sharp contrasts: ancient monuments share the skyline none too comfortably with modern skyscrapers, and charming cobbled streets run alongside massive highway traffic snarls.

Those contrasts have multiplied under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his love of giant building projects hasn't abated after more than a decade in power.

A historically significant but now-crumbling fifth century Byzantine monastery in Istanbul is finally slated for restoration. But for Turkey's dwindling Greek community, the bad news is that the government wants to turn the Stoudios monastery into a mosque.

It's just one of several such conversions of historically Christian sites that the government is considering. And there's even talk that the Hagia Sophia, the most famous Byzantine structure in modern Istanbul, will be reconverted into a mosque.

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At 42, Ahmet Muhsin Tuzer has a modest post as imam in a small mosque in the village of Pinarbasi, near Turkey's Mediterranean coast, where he serves about 15 Sunni Muslim families. It's not the kind of place where you'd expect to find an imam attracting attention across Turkey and beyond.

But Tuzer is quietly — well, not so quietly, actually — pushing back against Turkey's religious establishment. He's attracting a following among younger Turks for his inclusive religious message, and especially for his work outside the mosque, fronting a rock 'n' roll band.

The Marmaray Project, Turkey's new underwater rail link between the European and Asian sides of Istanbul, is open for business. It's the first of its kind, a modern feat of engineering that realizes the 150-year-old dream of an Ottoman sultan.

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The U.S. and its Western allies have not been able to win the nuclear concessions they have sought from Iran. But they have been able to inflict considerable economic pain through sanctions.

But now, Iran's call for a nuclear agreement and an end to sanctions has raised hopes among Iranians that better economic times may be ahead. The Iranian currency has stabilized somewhat since the election of President Hassan Rouhani, although inflation and unemployment remain high.

Saturday in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the International Olympic Committee will announce the host of the 2020 Summer Games. The committee is choosing from among Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo. The contenders all have strong selling points, but each also has serious issues clouding its bid.

Violent Crackdown Hangs Over Turkey's Bid

Syria's state-run media depict President Obama as weak and indecisive after his decision to wait for a congressional vote on the use of force. Officials in Damascus remain defiant, even as the Arab League blamed the Syrian government for the use of chemical weapons.

Syria's pro-government Al-Thawra newspaper called it a "historic American retreat," and supporters of President Bashar Assad said they were teaching the world a lesson in strong leadership.

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Each morning as dawn breaks over the Bosphorus Strait in Turkey, a small drama repeats itself: Massive oil tankers and cargo ships slide past tiny fishing boats bobbing on the surface like bathtub toys.

These intrepid fishermen are out in all weather, in all seasons. In the winter, they catch the rich, oily anchovies, bluefish and mackerel. With spring come the turbot and sea bream, and by summer, sea bass and red mullet are being hawked by the fishmongers.

Iran's President-elect Hasan Rowhani has already called for less filtering of the Internet, saying Iran must maintain its principles, but also needs to engage with the wider world.

"We should rectify our relations with the world," Rowhani said in remarks carried by Iran's Press TV. "Gone are the days when a wall could be built around the country.... Today there are no more walls."

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The ongoing anti-government protests in Turkey are about a lot of things — including a recent law to restrict the advertising and sale of alcohol. The limits aren't any more onerous than those in some other Western countries, but secular Turks see them as another step in a push by the ruling party to impose conservative social values on the population

Iranians choose a new president next month, and one thing Iran's leaders are intent on avoiding is a repeat of the massive street protests that followed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's controversial re-election in 2009.

The sponsors of those protests, known as the Green Movement, have been effectively silenced inside Iran, but not online. The heroine of a graphic novel about the violent suppression of dissent in 2009 is now launching a virtual campaign of her own.

Nearly 700 presidential hopefuls have thrown their names into the ring for Iran's June 14 presidential elections. But two last-minute entrants have altered the shape of the already-chaotic race: a former president once dismissed as a has-been and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator.

Though the thought of horse meat in British lasagna or Ikea meatballs may be stomach-churning to some people, in some cultures the practice of eating horse meat is not just acceptable, it's a treat. NPR's Peter Kenyon just returned from the Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan and checked out the meat market at the Green Bazaar in Almaty.

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