Mali's popular Festival of the Desert, held each year near Timbuktu, attracts both local and international music stars. The festival took place in January, but the Islamists who have taken control of the area have since banned all entertainment.
Credit Serge Daniel / AFP/Getty Images
A Tuareg band from Mali, Tinariwen, performs in Nice, France, in July. The band has developed an international reputation and won a Grammy this year. <a href="http://www.npr.org/event/music/144431409/tinariwen-tiny-desk-concert">See them perform at NPR headquarters.</a><strong></strong>
Credit Valery Hache / AFP/Getty Images
This video still shows Islamist militants destroying an ancient shrine in Timbuktu on July 1. The International Criminal Court warned their campaign of destruction was a war crime.
Mali is a country rich in culture, both old and new.
The banging of hammers on silver echos through the main crafts market in Bamako, Mali's capital. It's usually teeming in a place where you can buy anything, from silver earrings to batik fabric, all of it handmade.
And despite its remote location, Mali has enhanced its cultural reputation in recent years with an annual international music and arts festival in the Sahara Desert near Timbuktu, drawing both African and Western artists.
No one's entirely sure where the Southern treat called the Goo Goo Cluster got its name.
The iconic candy from Nashville, Tenn., celebrates its 100th birthday this year. The confection of marshmallow, peanuts and caramel wrapped in milk chocolate may owe its longevity in part to another Nashville icon: the Grand Ole Opry.
Goo Goo Cluster sponsored the venue's radio broadcasts from 1966 until 2006. In one popular advertisement, stage performers crooned, "Go get a Goo Goo ... it's gooooooood!"
This week, the world's largest democracy experienced the world's largest power outage. Nearly 700 million — that's more than half a billion — Indians were said to have been without power Tuesday. No air conditioning. No traffic lights. No metro system.
Most of the power is back now, but the outage had resonance for me from the long-ago years when I lived in New Delhi and experienced power failures almost as regularly as I did steaming cups of dark, sweet Indian tea.
The Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet, left to right: Ginny Carr, alto; Robert McBride, tenor; Holly Shockey, soprano; and Andre Enceneat, bass. The group's new album, <em>Hustlin' for a Gig</em>, came out in May.
The Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet has been serenading audiences in its native Washington, D.C., across the country and even as far as France for more than two decades. But its members are finding ways to bring something new to their performances. Bandleader and co-founder Ginny Carr says she wrote the words and music to all 10 songs on the quartet's new album, Hustlin' for a Gig — a relative rarity in a jazz world defined by time-tested standards.
Mitt Romney is set to depart from London Saturday, after three days of photo ops and closed meetings. But his assessment of London's handling of the games drew a rebuke from Prime Minister David Cameron. Host Scott Simon chats with Financial Times columnist Gideon Rachman about the visit and the perceptions formed by Romney's hosts.
Throughout this week, NPR's Kelly McEvers has been bringing us stories from parts of Syria controlled by the rebels who are fighting to oust the regime of Bashar Assad. She talks with host Scott Simon about her reporting.
Our marathon man of trivia is A.J. Jacobs, who once read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica to learn more and get a book contract. Why didn't he just write 50 Shades of Knowledge? A.J. joins us now to talk about Olympic facts, some of which may actually be true.
A.J., thanks for being with us.
A.J. JACOBS: And thank you for having me.
SIMON: Let's start with the marathon, A.J. Apparently, one of your favorite athletes in history was Spiridon Louis, who was the winner of the first modern marathon back in 1896.
The 2012 Olympic Games opened Friday, with a ceremony that included James Bond and Queen Elizabeth parachuting into the stadium, flyovers, rippling Union Jacks, Shakespeare, sheep and fireworks. Host Scott Simon talks to Simon Hoggart, political sketch writer for The Guardian about the opening ceremony.