Hannah Bloch

The 2018 Winter Olympics ended Sunday evening in Pyeongchang, South Korea, with a closing ceremony featuring fireworks, K-pop performances, the reappearance of Tongan cross-country skier Pita Taufatofua sans shirt, and a dance party that brought athletes onstage, eager to let loose and celebrate their games.

The Pyeongchang Winter Olympics concluded Sunday evening in South Korea. The closing ceremony saw fewer athletes than the opening event 17 days ago — some Olympians have already gone home — but didn't skimp on pageantry, K-pop and expressions of hope for peace between the two Koreas.

Ivanka Trump, daughter of the U.S. president, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in sat near a visiting North Korean general, Kim Yong Chol, believed to be a former spy chief, whose delegation had earlier been met with a sit-in by conservative South Korean lawmakers near the border crossing.

By the time the first week wrapped up at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, the powerful, icy winds that earlier disrupted or delayed competition had largely calmed. Norway's team led in medals, with 19, and Germany won more gold — nine medals — in the first week than any other country.

The U.S., meanwhile, earned eight medals by Friday, including five gold. Snowboarder Redmond "Red" Gerard, a 17-year-old who overslept on the day of his event and had to borrow a too-big jacket after he couldn't find his own, clinched Team USA's first gold medal last Sunday.

Beginning with fireworks and ending with the lighting of the Olympic cauldron, Pyeongchang's Winter Olympics opening ceremony, called "Peace in Motion," took place Friday evening amid gusts of wind and frigid temperatures.

Watching inside the Olympic stadium was a crowd of more than 30,000 — including South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who shook hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo Jong. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Vice President Pence sat nearby.

"Not everything in Saudi Arabia is black and white," says photographer Dina Alhamrani, one of 11 Saudi artists whose work is featured in an exhibition this week at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C. The exhibition, called "Women's Point of View," features the creations of students and recent graduates in visual communications from Jeddah's all-female Dar al-Hekma University.

As 2017 draws to a close, we take a look at powerful photos from around the world that tell some of the year's most important stories.

Even with unprecedented national developments crowding our news feeds all year, the NPR Parallels blog readers have kept a keen eye on dramatic events unfolding worldwide — and the U.S. role in the world. North Korea's nukes, the aftermath of President Trump's first military strike in Yemen, Russia's kompromat tactics and South Korea's ongoing efforts to seek justice for comfort women were some of the stories you were most interested in.

Three years ago, we published a story about a small start-up in Kigali, Rwanda's capital, that was seeking to make homes more sanitary by replacing dirt floors with sealed earthen floors, which are up to 80 percent cheaper than concrete.

Nawaz Sharif, who served until Friday as the 18th prime minister of Pakistan, is no stranger to his country's courts. In three tumultuous go-rounds as premier over the past 27 years, he's been embroiled repeatedly in judicial cases on charges ranging from corruption and contempt to terrorism and treason.

On an overcast late-spring afternoon, a group of bird lovers from the Earth Conservation Corps are in a boat on Washington, D.C.'s Anacostia River, and point out an osprey circling overhead. "This is like their summer vacation spot and where they have their young," says Bob Nixon, in the boat. "Then they spend most of their lives in the Amazon."

Amid deep strains in the U.S. relationship with Mexico, a country that's been a favorite target of President Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security chief John Kelly took part in talks in Mexico City on Thursday that were aimed at smoothing out tensions.

"That's going to be a tough trip," the president said Thursday morning at the White House. Some of the key issues between the two countries: immigration, border security, trade and U.S. aid to Mexico.

As Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th U.S. president, protests, demonstrations — and a few celebrations — were underway in cities around the world.

In London, demonstrators holding anti-Trump signs gathered outside the U.S. Embassy on Friday evening. Earlier in the day, huge banners saying "Build Bridges Not Walls" were hung across the city's bridges, part of a U.K. campaign that that began after Trump was elected in November.

It hasn't been easy for journalists covering the 2016 presidential race. While doing their jobs, they've had to confront unprecedented threats, abuse, bans and accusations of conspiracy and bias.

Back in January 2010, Patrick Meier, a Ph.D. student in international relations at Tufts University, was checking email at home, with CNN on in the background, when he was jolted by a breaking news alert. An earthquake had struck Haiti, and tens of thousands were feared dead.

"I froze," he says. "Just paralyzed."

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

For many of us, Sept. 11, 2001, is one of those touchstone dates — we remember exactly where we were when we heard that the planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I was in Afghanistan.

I'd arrived in Kabul on Sept. 9 to cover the trial of eight foreign aid workers who had been arrested by the Taliban regime, which accused them of preaching Christianity to Afghans. Proselytizing was a death penalty crime, and two Americans were among the accused.

Andrew Mack, a former strategic planning director at the United Nations and now a fellow at the One Earth Future Foundation in Broomfield, Colorado, coined the term "asymmetric conflict" back in 1975.

Abdul Sattar Edhi, Pakistan's best known humanitarian, died in Karachi on Friday night.

From his base in Karachi's inner city, Edhi, who was 88, created a network of social services for his country, including a fleet of 1,500 ambulances, 24-hour emergency services, homeless shelters, orphanages, blood banks and homes for unwanted and abandoned infants. Even during years of agonizing gang violence in Karachi, Edhi frequently drove his own ambulance and showed up personally to transport and care for the injured or wash the dead.

Amid all the macro-level questions about the effects of Britain's decision to leave the European Union — its broad economic and political repercussions — the Brexit will be felt in small, practical, everyday terms as well. Although it's impossible to predict exactly how things will play out, here are a few of the possible ways Britons may experience repercussions of the Brexit:

Mobile phone usage

As global markets lurched following Great Britain's vote to withdraw from the European Union, political leaders from around the world weighed in, expressing worry and solidarity with the EU and acknowledging the need to rethink the EU's future. Some opposition leaders cheered Britain's example. A sampling:

When Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan on May 21, many wondered whether his death might help open a window to peace in Afghanistan.

"A new opportunity presents itself to those Taliban who are willing to end war and bloodshed," Afghan President Ashraf Ghani tweeted a day after Mansour's death.

Dubbed by Newsweek a decade ago as "the most dangerous man in Iraq," Muqtada al-Sadr, the figure at the center of Iraq's current political storm, isn't the man many might recall from the past. A firebrand Shiite cleric who at first derived legitimacy from the prominence of his own father — a populist religious leader assassinated by Saddam Hussein's forces in 1999 — Sadr became best known after the 2003 U.S.

In the wake of North Korea's nuclear weapons test last month and its long-range missile test in early February, the U.S. and China have agreed on a draft U.N. resolution imposing new sanctions on Pyongyang. North Korea is already under a raft of international sanctions, but the new proposal would tighten them and impose new bans.

#NPRreads is a weekly feature on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers from our newsroom share the pieces that have kept them reading, using the #NPRreads hashtag. Each weekend, we highlight some of the best stories.

The rate of deforestation in Brazil has increased by 16 percent over the past year, the country's Environment Ministry announced.

Brazil has often declared progress in reducing the rate of deforestation in the Amazon, but the government's own figures, released Thursday, show the challenges still facing the country.

The Islamic State's activities in Iraq and Syria are well-known, but the group is gaining a toehold elsewhere in the world as well. In a chilling new documentary, a long-haired fighter claims that an ISIS-run "school" teaches all local children from the age of 3 in Afghanistan's Kunar province.

Editor's Note: The photos in this story may be distressing to some viewers. The original version has been updated to include additional details.

The numbers associated with today's migration crisis are huge: 4 million Syrians fleeing their country; 3 million Iraqis displaced. But it was the image of a solitary child — a toddler in a red T-shirt, blue shorts and Velcro sneakers, found face-down on a Turkish beach — that shocked and haunted the world this week.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Amid the horrors of war in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, it's become easy to overlook Afghanistan. Remember Afghanistan? Back in the mid-2000s, it was known as the "forgotten war," eclipsed by the bloodshed in Iraq. Now it's overshadowed all over again. But there's plenty of reason to pay attention.

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