A Malaysian customs official examines elephant tusks at a port in Kalang. Malaysia has become an ivory transit hub, with African elephant tusks bound for China. Worldwide, authorities seized more than 5,000 smuggled tusks.
Credit Frank Langfitt / NPR
The price for raw elephant tusks in China has tripled in the past year because of growing demand, according to Grace Gabriel, the Asia regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
Credit Frank Langfitt / NPR
An investigation of this Beijing antique mall in November found more than 20 shops selling illegal ivory.
Armed with tips from animal welfare activists, I recently went on an ivory hunt with my Chinese assistant, Yang, in an antiques market in Beijing.
Activists say China's growing purchasing power is driving global demand for products from vulnerable animals, everything from elephant ivory to rhino horn.
Two huge stone lions stood sentinel outside the four-story market nestled among a forest of buildings off one of Beijing's beltways. In China, vendors usually accost shoppers and try to lure them into stores.
One clear threat once menaced civilization: nuclear war with the Soviet Union. The Cold War is over, but decades later, some of the fortifications built to fight that war still dot the American landscape.
Four years ago, Larry Hall bought a nuclear missile silo out on the open rolling land north of Salina, Kan. Hall paid $300,000 and spent much more to clean out all the scrap metal and stagnant water.
Budget cuts approved by Congress in the past two years are trickling down to local communities, and officials there are not happy. They say that reductions in community development block grants will hurt the nation's most vulnerable neighborhoods.
Two years ago, the federal government gave out about $4 billion in such grants to low- and moderate-income communities. This year, the figure is $3 billion — a 25 percent cut. And as that pie has shrunk, those whose slices have shrunk even more are hungry for answers.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin delivers a campaign speech during a rally of his supporters in Moscow, Feb. 23. Putin is mounting a vigorous campaign in the face of growing opposition but is expected to win Sunday's presidential elections.
Credit Kirill Kudryavtsev / AFP/Getty Images
Russian presidential candidate and Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov addresses his supporters while campaigning in Moscow, Feb. 29. He is a three-time loser in the presidential race who is seen as a hidebound traditionalist.
Credit Ivan Sekretarev / AP
Russian billionaire and presidential candidate Mikhail Prokhorov speaks with Russian voters at the Russian Academy of Science in Moscow, Feb. 25. The 46-year-old commands the support of anti-Putin protesters and is running American-style campaign events around Russia.
When Russians go to the polls Sunday, they will have several choices for president. But none is a serious threat to Vladimir Putin, who has been the most powerful figure in Russia for the past 12 years.
Boris Makarenko, a longtime observer of Russian politics, says the candidates arrayed against Putin are all more or less part of what Kremlin leaders call "the systemic opposition."
In other words, he says, they are "the tolerable opposition ... which can never even hope of replacing them in the Kremlin."