Jackie Northam

Jackie Northam is Foreign Affairs correspondent for NPR news. The veteran journalist has more than two decades of experience covering the world's hot spots and reporting on a broad tapestry of international and foreign policy issues.

Based in Washington, D.C., Northam is assigned to the leading stories of the day, traveling regularly overseas to report the news - from Afghanistan and Pakistan, to earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

Northam just completed a five year stint as NPR's National Security Correspondent, covering US defense and intelligence policies. She led the network's coverage of the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, traveling regularly to the controversial base to report on conditions there, and on US efforts to prosecute detainees.

Northam spent more than a decade as a foreign correspondent. She reported from Beirut during the war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006, from Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein, and from Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War. She lived in and reported extensively from Southeast Asia, Indochina, and Eastern Europe, where she charted the fall of communism.

While based in Nairobi, Kenya, Northam covered the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. She managed to enter the country just days after the slaughter of ethnic Tutsis began by hitching a ride with a French priest who was helping Rwandans escape to neighboring Burundi.

A native of Canada, Northam's first overseas reporting post was London, where she spent seven years covering stories on Margaret Thatcher's Britain and efforts to create the European Union.

Northam has received multiple journalism awards during her career, including Associated Press awards, regional Edward R. Murrow awards, and was part of an NPR team journalists that won an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award.

The Algerian government gave no advance notice that it was planning to launch a military operation to rescue hostages at the remote In Amenas natural gas field, despite offers of support and advice by many nations, including the U.S.

The anger and disappointment in Washington is muted, however, because the U.S. sees Algeria as a critical ally in the fight against terrorism.

Logistical Dependence

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is in Washington this week for meetings with President Obama and other senior administration officials. The talks are expected to help set the framework for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan after the bulk of American and NATO forces leave at the end of 2014. One of the key issues to be discussed is the number of American troops to remain in Afghanistan after that date.

High on a hill overlooking Pakistan's scenic Swat Valley sits a recently excavated cemetery. Italian archaeologist Luca Maria Olivieri walks across the site and lays a sun-beaten hand on a clay slab jutting out from a high, dun-colored wall. It's an ancient grave.

Olivieri says the remains still have to be carbon-tested, but archaeologists believe the graves contain members of a Dardic community, which dominated this part of Pakistan 3,000 years ago.

It's believed Alexander the Great fought one of his battles here, in the village of Udegram.

On Oct. 9, in Mingora, Pakistan, in the country's picturesque Swat Valley, Kainat Riaz left her high school and climbed into the back of a small van. The bright-eyed 16-year-old sat near another schoolgirl, Malala Yousafzai.

At just 15, Malala, an outspoken critic of the Taliban, had already earned a name in her country — and internationally — for her courage. Kainat says there was a lot of chatter in the six-seat van as it shuttled the girls home.

Then, in the middle of a busy road, the van suddenly stopped, and a masked gunman got into the vehicle.

There has been a small but potentially important breakthrough in the faltering Afghan peace process. In what is considered a good-faith gesture, Pakistan last week released at least nine Afghan Taliban prisoners. The move is seen as part of an emerging new strategy by Pakistan as it eyes the looming drawdown of U.S. and Western troops in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has had 27 blasphemy cases filed so far this year, a figure that alarms human rights groups, who say the law is frequently used to persecute religious minorities.

In a case that has drawn international attention, a judge on Tuesday dismissed blasphemy charges against a Christian girl, Rimsha Masih, ending a three-month order for her and her family.

Pakistan is one of the remaining corners of the world where polio still lingers. Last year, the government declared a national emergency, and with the help of international institutions, embarked on an aggressive vaccination campaign.

So far, the results have been promising. The number of new polio cases is about a third of last year's total of 198.

But the new campaign, like previous efforts, hasn't been able to overcome one critical problem: getting into parts of Pakistan's lawless tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan to vaccinate the children there.

If you want to gain a good insight into Pakistan's economic situation, just look at a few of the country's newspaper headlines on any given day. The language says it all: prices soar, stocks plunge, budget deficit swells, foreign investment evaporates — and the list goes on.

Now, analysts are increasingly worried that the faltering economy could join Pakistan's pervasive insurgency and repeated political upheavals as another serious threat to the country's stability.

Despite international condemnation, Pakistan's railways minister says he isn't backing down from his $100,000 bounty offer to anyone who kills the maker of the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims.

Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, the slight, silver-haired minister, says he was angry when he saw the video and that he's a man of great faith, passionately devoted to the Prophet Muhammad.

The man known as the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, Abdul Qadeer Kahn, is a national hero in Pakistan — and a villain in much of the West.

Now, the controversial scientist is trying his hand at politics at the age of 76.

In the U.S., Khan is best known for selling nuclear technology to nations such as North Korea and Iran. In 2004, at the urging of the U.S., Pakistan placed Khan under house arrest. But in 2009, he was freed.

Grindstone Island's lone public dock is just three miles north of the U.S. mainland, a straight shot by powerboat across the St. Lawrence River from Clayton, N.Y. Part of the Thousand Islands, Grindstone Island sits in a waterway shared by the U.S. and Canada.

At 6 p.m. every Friday — with the kind of precision timing the Japanese live by — the protests in downtown Tokyo begin.

Thousands of Japanese — young, old, in wheelchairs and on skateboards — shout anti-nuclear slogans from behind police barricades that snake around the office of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. Over the past four months, the protests have swelled; at least 75,000 people turned out at a recent demonstration.

Nobuyuki Miyazaki, an office worker, says this is the first time he's ever been to a demonstration.


JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: I'm Jackie Northam in Washington. Today at the U.N., Russia and China vetoed a Western-backed draft resolution that warned of sanctions against the Syrian regime unless it complies with a peace plan.

This is the third time those two countries have used their veto power to block a resolution on Syria. Britain's U.N. ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, called the decision by Russia and China appalling, and said it would lead to further bloodshed in Syria.



How bad are U.S. relations with Pakistan?

Even as ties grew strained over the past few years, U.S. government and military officials generally used diplomatic language when talking about differences with Pakistan. But nowadays the Americans aren't even bothering to disguise their displeasure with their longtime ally.

Several recent events have shown just how blunt the Americans have become.