Andy Carvin

They have assembled in front of the hospital by the dozens: church groups, families, even a motorcycle club, their engines revving at full throttle. Mothers encouraged their shy children to squeeze through the crowd and place a bouquet of flowers at the base of a makeshift shrine. A member of the crowd conducted an impromptu choir, inviting others to join in and sing a hymn together.

For more than a month now, throngs of well-wishers have gathered outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria, South Africa, praying for the health of former President Nelson Mandela.

As protests against the Turkish government enter their third week, activists are taking increasingly creative measures to maintain their momentum.

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has shown no sympathy for the tens of thousands of protesters who've taken to the streets across the country. In fact, he seems to have energized the protesters by calling them capulcu, or "looters" in Turkish.

Demonstrators have gleefully embraced the label, spreading it far and wide on social media and turning a local protest into an event that has attracted international attention.

As news broke about the NSA collecting telephone records through Verizon, people took to Twitter to voice their opinions. As an experiment, NPR senior strategist Andy Carvin asked his followers to respond to the hashtag #CallsTheNSAKnowsAbout. Their responses ranged from the hilarious to the poignant.

The Arab world was aflame in March 2011. Longtime rulers in Tunisia and Egypt had been toppled. NATO was poised to attack Libyan government forces. The Syrian uprising was just beginning. And on the small island nation of Bahrain, the government was cracking down on pro-democracy protesters.

Across Bahrain, protest leaders were rounded up and some were quickly tried, convicted and sentenced to prison. The writing was on the wall for the leaders of the movement, including Ali Abdulemam.

(Andy Carvin, NPR's senior strategist for social media, sends us this dispatch about a Twitter account that may hold clues in understanding the surviving Boston bombing suspect.)

According to activists inside and outside Syria, the government's 27-day siege against the opposition stronghold of Baba Amr has now succeeded. Initial reports suggest that forces are entering this neighborhood in the city of Homs, but details are sketchy at best because most of the reporters and citizen journalists covering the story have either fled or died.

Our car pulled over along a deserted traffic circle in a small Jordanian village. An old man freshly covered in thick, wet sleet climbed into the back seat, his cold breath reeking of cigarettes.

"This is Khaled," my Syrian contact said. "He will show us to the border."

"I don't know why the traffic is like this," he said. "It's Friday just before prayers; where are all these people going?"

My friend Emad and I had been driving around the perimeter of Bab al-Azizia, Gadhafi's notorious compound just outside downtown Tripoli. It was here that NATO concentrated many of its bombing runs, as did President Reagan in the 1980s. Now the outer walls are a crumbling mess, covered with anti-Gadhafi graffiti.

We arrived nearly an hour late, our taxi drivers lost in the potholed, half-flooded streets of Tripoli. Our Libyan host, who would never have fathomed an on-time start anyway, invited us upstairs, where he had managed to arrange an impressive array of hors d'oeuvres and beverages on such short notice.

People arrived in groups of three or four at a time. Everyone knew almost everyone else. They hugged each other as if it could be their last time, struggled to hold back the tears, occasionally finding a way to evince a smile from each other.

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