Lauren Frayer | KUER 90.1

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.

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.

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.

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.

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."

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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.

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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Inside a Barcelona film studio, a technician cues up a scene from the movie Prisoners, showing Jake Gyllenhaal's latest car chase.

Then a local actor — albeit one who's slightly older, balder and plumper than Gyllenhaal — delivers the Hollywood actor's lines in Catalan.

In Spain's northeast region of Catalonia, that's the official language, along with Spanish. Movies, television programs — even Netflix series — are all dubbed into Catalan. Dubbing is especially popular in children's programming for youngsters who don't yet know how to read subtitles.

Over the summer, Turkey's Twitter-sphere went abuzz after the appearance of a cryptic tweet: "The bird has flown away."

It was posted July 14 on the account of Sevan Nisanyan, a famous jailed intellectual, announcing he'd escaped from a Turkish prison. He had been behind bars since January 2014 and wasn't eligible for parole for another 10 years.

Teenagers chain-smoke in the village square in Ripoll, a tidy Catalan town in the foothills of the Pyrenees in northeast Spain. They're trying to process what happened over summer vacation.

Theirs is one of those towns, population about 10,000, where everyone seems to know everyone. There's a Benedictine monastery, window boxes bursting with geraniums and almost zero crime.

"No tinc por!" — I am not afraid — mourners have been chanting in the local Catalan language at vigils and marches across Barcelona, since ISIS killed 16 people in and around the city on Aug. 17 and 18.

But when Spain's king broke royal protocol and joined marchers last weekend in solidarity with the terrorism victims, the tone changed: Residents booed and yelled at him to "get out!" and go home to Madrid.

Catalans are using the "No tinc por" slogan — and hashtag — to express defiance not only against terrorists but also against the Spanish state.

When children in Turkey head back to school this fall, something will be missing from their textbooks: any mention of evolution.

The Turkish government is phasing in what it calls a values-based curriculum. Critics accuse Turkey's president of pushing a more conservative, religious ideology — at the expense of young people's education.

At a playground in an upscale, secular area of Istanbul, parents and grandparents express concern over the new policy.

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