Syrian army defectors wave the Syrian revolution flag Thursday, shortly after they defected to join the anti-regime protesters.
Credit STR / AP
A woman throws rice as a Syrian soldier carries the coffin of a comrade during a funeral at the military hospital in Homs, Syria, this week. The soldiers were killed by gunmen, a Syrian government official said.
One thing that's certain about the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad is that there is nothing romantic about it.
Unlike Egypt, there's no Tahrir Square filled with hundreds of thousands of people calling for democracy. Unlike Libya, there's no Mad Max warriors in the desert fighting a dictator with guns they've welded to the backs of their pickup trucks.
Instead, grim news seeps out piecemeal from unofficial sources. Most of the reports are little more than body counts, with most of the fatalities blamed on the Syrian security forces.
Originally published on Thu January 26, 2012 1:18 pm
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the the Pentagon will propose a $33 billion cut in the military's budget, for the 2013 fiscal year.
The AP reports that will be achieved by reducing ground forces by 100,000 and by eliminating older aircraft.
The AP reports:
"Defense Secretary Leon Panetta tells a Pentagon news conference the administration will request a 2013 budget of $525 billion, plus another $88 billion for operations in Afghanistan. Combined, those totals are about $33 billion less than the Pentagon is spending this year.
It's official: Gardeners and farmers can count on warmer weather. If that's you, it might be a good time to rethink those flower and vegetable beds for this year's growing season.
That's the word from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which released a new version of its "Plant Hardiness Zone Map" this week, the first update since 1990. The color-coded zones on this map of the United States are widely used as a guide for what perennial flowers will survive in a particular area, or when to plant your vegetables.
Originally published on Thu January 26, 2012 11:38 am
It was so clear for a moment: Mitt Romney was in the lead in the presidential nomination race. Newt Gingrich was a distant second. Rick Santorum — the youthful candidate — was appealing to the socially conservative voters. And Ron Paul was hanging on.
More than 4.2 million Latinos live in the Sunshine State, and that population is in the spotlight as Republican presidential candidates battle to win Florida's upcoming primary. Host Michel Martin discusses this crucial voting bloc with Gary Segura of Latino Decisions, and the Associated Press's Hispanic Affairs reporter Laura Wides-Munoz.
Chinese New Year celebrations kicked off earlier this week to herald the Year of the Dragon. Like many Americans raising children adopted from China, David Youtz and his wife like to use the holiday to instill in their children the importance of their ethnic heritage.
"We want them to feel a lot of pride in where they came from," Youtz says. "I think that's especially important when you're an adopted person."
The Mandarin speaker is the father of four Chinese daughters, three of whom are 7-year-old triplets.
President Obama has called on small, elite military units to carry out several risky operations in the past year, like the hostage rescue this week in Somalia. Here, Navy SEALs are shown during a training exercise at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
Credit John Scorza / U.S. Navy
With first lady Michelle Obama looking on, President Obama speaks Tuesday with the father of Jessica Buchanan. She is the American aid worker who was rescued from Somali pirates after being held for three months.
Originally published on Thu January 26, 2012 12:51 pm
President Obama has authorized several risky military missions in the past year and can claim major successes: the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan; the airstrike that killed terrorism suspect Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen; and the ongoing drone strikes in Pakistan.
The latest operation, a hostage rescue in Somalia carried out by Navy SEALs, is part of a pattern established by a commander in chief who has shown a clear preference for limited, small-scale military action.
Money Well Spent?: The Truth Behind the Trillion-Dollar Stimulus, the Biggest Economic Recovery Plan in History
As an investigative journalist for <em>ProPublica</em>, Michael Grabell has reported on the Lance Armstrong doping allegations, the Federal Air Marshal Service and the Transportation Security Administration's controversial body scanners.
No issue will be more important in the upcoming presidential election than President Obama's handling of the nation's economy. Critical to that debate is an assessment of the Obama administration's economic stimulus program. Republicans claim it was a costly failure. Supporters maintain it saved the U.S. from a depression.
Originally published on Fri January 27, 2012 9:30 am
A Texas man whose conviction for sexually assaulting a 6-month-old girl raised questions about the science behind determining how children die has won a key legal battle. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday threw out the conviction of Ernie Lopez, ruling that the Amarillo man's original attorneys failed him by not calling potentially important medical experts as witnesses.
Now the Amarillo district attorney must decide whether to retry Lopez, who has been in prison for nine years. Lopez is serving a 60-year sentence.
2011 was the worst year on record for sales of new homes. The dismal year was capped by a drop in home sales in December.
The AP reports:
"The Commerce Department said Thursday new-home sales fell last month to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 307,000. The pace is less than half the 700,000 that economists say must be sold in a healthy economy.
"About 302,000 homes were sold last year. That's less than the 323,000 sold in 2010, making 2011 the worst year on records dating back to 1963.
The new food safety recall for salt really got our attention. How could salt be contaminated with salmonella?
If your blog's named The Salt, you've just got to find out. So we dug into the story, and found that it's a collision of two distressing trends: contamination of herbs and spices, and safety issues with organic products.
Over the past week, 21,000 more Americans claimed unemployment benefits, the Labor Department reports. Like most economic news, that's the bad news. The good news, reports the AP, is the that the four-week average is down 2,500, which "still signals a healthier job market."
The Commerce Department also has some good news on the economy: Orders for durable goods rose 3 percent, last month.
The AP reports that this marks a gain for the second straight month. The AP adds:
As the Republican presidential hopefuls head into their final televised confrontation Thursday night at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville (at 8 p.m. ET on CNN), NPR's Ari Shapiro reports that the debate could sway the outcome of the close race.
Usually, there is lots of formality and protocol when a president steps off Airforce One and walks onto a tarmac. But, yesterday, when President Obama landed at the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, he was greeted by Gov. Jan Brewer and very quickly the welcome turned into a serious and tense discussion.
Standard issue military eyeglasses are considered so unflattering, service members have an acronym for them: BCGs or Birth Control Glasses. For the first time in more than 20 years, the military is updating its look. Instead of those thick brown plastic frames, recruits can get sleeker black plastic specs.
Fans of Uggie in the silent movie The Artist were outraged when the dog didn't get an Oscar nomination. Now Uggie's owner tells a magazine that movie was the Jack Russell terrier's last. He's retiring the 10-year-old animal. Uggie wants to relax.
Originally published on Thu January 26, 2012 6:23 am
President Obama will flesh out the energy goals he laid out during his State of the Union address today. He'll start talking about natural gas in a UPS Facility in Nevada and continue on to the Buckley Air Force base in Aurora, Colo., where the Air Force is installing a one-megawatt solar array.
Reuters reports that in Las Vegas, Obama will propose a tax credit that helps offset the upfront costs of buying natural gas trucks.
They say two things are certain: death and taxes. But Amazon is still hoping to avoid at least one of those things. The online retailer is reportedly promising Florida lawmakers it will create up to 3,000 jobs in the state and build new distribution centers in Florida, if lawmakers give Amazon a two-year break from collecting state sales tax.
And let's go next to my home state of Indiana, where state lawmakers now look certain to pass controversial right-to-work legislation.
Democrats have been trying to block that bill. But yesterday it passed the state's Republican-controlled House. And so Indiana is poised to become the first state to approve this kind of legislation in a decade.
We have more from Brandon Smith of Indiana Public Broadcasting.
And our last word in business today comes from Alaska Airlines. The carrier has been putting prayer cards on the meal trays it serves passengers since the 1980s. Flying can be nerve-wracking and the airline figured people might find comfort in a psalm from the Old Testament, along with the soothing image of a beach or the mountains.
It was also a marketing strategy so the airline could differentiate itself from competitors. Many passengers didn't mind.
It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
And I'm Steve Inskeep.
Take a map of the United States and stick pins in every state President Obama visits this week, and you would have a partial picture of how he hopes to win re-election. The president is visiting states he hopes to win this fall.
Cuban-Americans are an important part of the Republican presidential electorate in Florida. Both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have reached out to these voters in Spanish-language TV and radio ads. Romney, in particular, has racked up many endorsements from prominent Cuban-American political figures.
Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are scrambling to tie up votes in Florida, which holds its winner-take-all primary next Tuesday. Steve Inskeep talks to conservative writer David Frum about the state of the GOP race.