WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Lauren Frayer

Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.

Before moving to India, Lauren was a regular freelance contributor to NPR for seven years, based in Madrid. During that time, she substituted for NPR bureau chiefs in Seoul, London, Istanbul, Islamabad, and Jerusalem. She also served as a guest host of Weekend Edition Sunday.

In Europe, Lauren chronicled the economic crisis in Spain & Portugal, where youth unemployment spiked above 50%. She profiled a Portuguese opera singer-turned protest leader, and a 90-year-old survivor of the Spanish Civil War, exhuming her father's remains from a 1930s-era mass grave. From Paris, Lauren reported live on NPR's Morning Edition, as French police moved in on the Charlie Hebdo terror suspects. In the fall of 2015, Lauren spent nearly two months covering the flow of migrants & refugees across Hungary & the Balkans – and profiled a Syrian rapper among them. She interviewed a Holocaust survivor who owed his life to one kind stranger, and managed to get a rare interview with the Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders – by sticking her microphone between his bodyguards in the Hague.

Farther afield, she introduced NPR listeners to a Pakistani TV evangelist, a Palestinian surfer girl in Gaza, and K-pop performers campaigning in South Korea's presidential election.

Lauren has also contributed to The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the BBC.

Her international career began in the Middle East, where she was an editor on the Associated Press' Middle East regional desk in Cairo, and covered the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war in Syria and southern Lebanon. In 2007, she spent a year embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, an assignment for which the AP nominated her and her colleagues for a Pulitzer Prize.

On a break from journalism, Lauren drove a Land Rover across Africa for a year, from Cairo to Cape Town, sleeping in a tent on the car's roof. She once made the front page of a Pakistani newspaper, simply for being a woman commuting to work in Islamabad on a bicycle.

Born and raised in a suburb of New York City, Lauren holds a bachelor's degree in philosophy from The College of William & Mary in Virginia. She speaks Spanish, Portuguese, rusty French and Arabic, and is now learning Hindi.

India has 1.3 billion people, and no equivalent of the Social Security number. About 4 in 10 births go unregistered. Less than 2 percent of the population pays income tax.

Many more are eligible for welfare benefits but may never have collected them, either because they can't figure out how or a middleman stole their share.

Updated at 11 p.m. ET

It took British artist Jason deCaires Taylor nine months to develop his latest work: a 20-foot-tall stainless steel cube decorated with life-size human statues and semi-submerged in a coral lagoon in crystal blue waters off the Maldives islands.

But it took the Maldivian police just a few hours to wreck it.

On India's west coast, revelers hoist up statues of an elephant-headed god, and parade them toward the Arabian Sea. They sing and chant, and hand out food to bystanders.

For 10 days, they perform pooja — Hindu prayers — at the statues' feet and then submerge them in bodies of water.

This is a tradition in Mumbai, India's biggest city, near the end of each year's monsoon rains: a festival honoring Ganesh, or Lord Ganesha, the Hindu god of wisdom and good luck. He has a human body and an elephant head.

For 35 years, O.S. Arun has been a professional singer of Carnatic music, a classical genre popular in South India. It's an embellished form of singing frequently backed by the tanpura, a long-necked, stringed instrument that emits a constant drone. He's recorded several dozen albums.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

India and the United States are the world's biggest democracies. They're both capitalist countries, nuclear powers and former British colonies. They should be natural allies.

But over the past year, the Trump administration twice postponed high-level talks with India, citing scheduling conflicts. That left some in New Delhi feeling like the U.S. was taking India for granted.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who presided over clandestine nuclear tests that confirmed India as a nuclear power but soured relations with rival Pakistan, died Thursday at the age of 93.

Editor's note: This story includes descriptions of sexual activity.

For 30 years, health counselor Arif Jafar has been handing out condoms at the sprawling Charbagh train station in his hometown of Lucknow, a midsize city in northern India.

Updated on Friday at 10:40 a.m.

Iram Sabah, mother of two, is terrified by messages her family has been receiving on their smartphones.

Her husband recently was forwarded a video that shows a child's mutilated body. It's unclear where or when the video is from, or whether it has been doctored. A voice implores people to forward it to others, and to stay vigilant — that kidnappers are on the loose.

Sabah, 27, doesn't know if the video is fake or real. But she's not taking any chances.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

From June to September, monsoon rains fall on Mumbai, India's largest city, delivering relief from stifling heat and vital nourishment to surrounding farmland. But they also bring an unwelcome visitor: Tons of garbage wash up on the city's shores.

When Mumbai floods, the water flushes waste out of city streets, storm drains and slums and sends it to the Arabian Sea. Then the tides ebb and blanket the beaches in that trash — most of it, plastic.

And now the government is taking action with a ban on plastics.

Editor's note: This story includes frank descriptions of sexual matters depicted in the movie.

Before moving to India, I thought Bollywood was all demure, G-rated eyelash-fluttering. Boy meets girl, their families don't approve, but they get over it in the end — and everyone breaks out into synchronized dance moves.

A statue of a merchant from the 17th century towers over the main square in Bristol, in southwest England. It's a tribute to Edward Colston, described on a small plaque as "one of the most virtuous and wise sons" of this city.

Around town, there are numerous reminders of Colston, Bristol's most famous philanthropist: Streets, schools, a concert hall and an office tower are all named after him. A big stained glass window in Bristol Cathedral is dedicated to him. Even a local delicacy bears his name — the Colston bun, a sort of fruit strudel.

When Erich McElroy takes the stage at comedy clubs in London, his routine includes a joke about the first time he went to see a doctor in Britain.

Originally from Seattle, McElroy, 45, has lived in London for almost 20 years. A stand-up comedian, he's made a career out of poking fun at the differences in the ways Americans versus Britons see the world — and one of the biggest differences is their outlook on health care.

At her home in Dublin, actress Tara Flynn recalls how, 12 years ago, she learned she was pregnant. It was not planned.

"I was 37. I was single. I wasn't working very much, and I didn't want to be a parent," Flynn says.

She didn't want to have a baby and give it up for adoption, either. But with abortion illegal in Ireland, her only option at the time was to leave the country to end her pregnancy.

When the new president of Sinn Fein took the podium at a recent political rally, she acknowledged she'll never fully replace her predecessor and mentor.

"The truth is, my friends, I won't fill Gerry's shoes," Mary Lou McDonald told a crowd in Belfast last month. "But the news is that I brought my own."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Four months after Catalonia's independence referendum triggered a cascade of political events, independentistas are once again rallying outside the Catalan parliament in Barcelona. Catalonia's deposed president is still on the run. And Spain's renegade northeast region may be heading for fresh elections — yet again.

When you hear the word quinceañera, the traditional rite of passage for 15-year-old Latina girls, you might think of poofy, pink dresses and big, boisterous family parties. A new HBO documentary series aims to add a little more depth to that perception.

15: A Quinceañera Story takes viewers inside the modern quinceañera. It profiles an East Los Angeles teen boxer, a transgender teen and two girls who perform in rodeo shows together.

It's 1992. Your hair is gelled up, you're sporting high-tops and maybe still listening to Run DMC on cassette.

That's the setting for Sam Graham-Felsen's Green, a new coming-of-age novel that's also a look at race in America. It follows a friendship between two adolescent boys in Boston — one black and one white.

For the third year in a row, Baltimore, Md., has had more than 300 murders, reaching a new record of murders per number of residents in 2017.

Some residents attribute the high murder rate to relaxed police patrols in the city following high-profile cases of police brutality. Officers have backed off in neighborhoods, like the one where Freddie Gray was arrested.

"Sing to me of the man, muse, the man of twists and turns." Remember reading those lines in high school? It's the Odyssey — and nearly three millennia after its creation there are hundreds of translations of Homer's epic. But only now do we have a translation into English done by a woman, University of Pennsylvania classical studies professor Emily Wilson.

Police in Byram, Miss. got a hot tip on a heist last week when 5-year-old TyLon Pittman called 911.

"I'm just trying to tell you something. Um, watch for the Grinch, 'cause the Grinch gonna steal Christmas, OK?" TyLon told the officer who called him back.

Yes, that's right. TyLon was trying to turn in the Grinch.

He'd been watching doctored YouTube videos of the classic Christmas tale, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and was getting pretty worried about it when Officer Lauren Develle heard about TyLon's call.

The Spanish government took control of the Catalan region a week ago. Separatist politicians were jailed in Madrid on Thursday, pending a trial. And Friday, a Spanish judge issued an arrest warrant for the deposed Catalan president.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

It was a strange day in the Spanish region of Catalonia. The separatist leader there was first expected to declare independence. Then he was expected to call fresh elections. But neither thing happened. Lauren Frayer reports.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Spain's prime minister says he'll fire the government officials of Catalonia and hold new elections there within six months. Spain's Senate will have to approve that plan next week.

Did he or didn't he declare independence? That is the question in Spain.

The answer has huge implications for what the Spanish government does next and how the country's relatively young democracy — indeed, possibly even the whole European Union — might stay intact.

Pages