National & International News

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Florida's lieutenant governor abruptly stepped down on Wednesday, two days after Florida law enforcement officials questioned her involvement with a non-profit under investigation.

Mine on Pa.-W.Va. Border Still Closed Due to Smoke

Mar 13, 2013

A Consol Energy mine on the West Virginia-Pennsylvania line remains closed while officials check for a suspected underground fire that prompted the mine's evacuation.

Consol officials say elevated carbon monoxide levels in the Blacksville No. 2 mine shaft "suggest that we have smoldering or the possibility of a fire in the mine."

More than 120 day-shift workers were safely evacuated when the smoke was first spotted Tuesday afternoon.

Following up last month's news about reports that tie hackings of American defense contractors' websites to operations run — or at least encouraged — by the Chinese government, the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday told the tale of a Shanghai man who used to blog about his work in a People's Liberation Army

Retail sales rose an estimated 1.1 percent in February from January and were up 4.6 percent from February 2012, the Census Bureau says.

Kathy Bostjancic director of macroeconomic analysis at the The Conference Board research group, says in an analysis sent to reporters that the report's a sign that "consumer spending remains relatively robust." And since consumers buy about 70 percent of all goods and services, their willingness to spend is a key economic driver.

Puppy Lemon Law Updates Moves in PA House

Mar 13, 2013

A bill designed to help more puppy buyers get their money back after buying a sick or diseased dog is on its way to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

A bill passed the Senate unanimously Tuesday to strengthen Pennsylvania's 1997 Puppy Lemon Law in several ways.

Under the bill, the buyer could seek reimbursement for the treatment of incurable conditions, such as hip dysplasia. Currently, buyers may only get their money back for the treatment of curable conditions.

The case has already been "tried" in the social media, as The New York Times writes.

But Wednesday in Steubenville, Ohio, a real court will be the setting as two high school football players in a town that's obsessed with high school football go on trial for the alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl last summer.

"Mitch Seavey scored one for the AARP-eligible crowd Tuesday night by becoming the oldest champion in Iditarod history," the Anchorage Daily News writes this morning.

According to Alaska Public Telecommunications, the 53-year-old Seavey crossed the finish line at 10:39 p.m. local time on Tuesday — 2:39 a.m. ET Wednesday. It has "checkpoint to checkpoint" coverage of the race posted here.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

Update at 6:41 a.m. ET. The Smoke Is Black:

Smoke just started pouring from a special chimney above the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City — and its dark color means the 115 cardinals meeting inside the chapel have not yet agreed on a successor to Pope Benedict XVI.

If all has gone as planned inside the chapel, where the cardinals are meeting in secret, they have now cast three ballots and no one name has been written on at last two-thirds of the slips of paper. It takes two-thirds — 77 votes — to become leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles has agreed to pay $9.9 million to four men who allege they were abused by former priest Michael Baker, the men's attorney tells the AP.

The National Labor Relations Board says it will ask the Supreme Court to review a lower court decision that invalidated three of President Obama's recess appointments, casting a legal cloud over more than 1,000 board actions over the past year.

Ewald-Heinrich Von Kleist, the last survivor of a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, has died, the Associated Press reports quoting his wife.

Von Kleist, a former German army lieutenant, first volunteered to wear a suicide vest in 1944. He was scheduled to meet Hitler to model a new uniform and that's when he would detonate.

According to the AP, Von Kleist told his father, an early opponent of Hitler, about the suicide plot.

Although he's been a public figure for three decades, the Rev. Al Sharpton is more visible these days than ever, often in ways even he wouldn't have dreamed when he was leading protests on the streets of New York in the 1980s.

If you watched the inauguration ceremony for President Barack Obama, you probably saw the dais behind him filled with the usual lot of past presidents, members of Congress and so on. You also may have caught sight of a new, and improbable, addition: Sharpton.

The Justice Department's voting rights unit suffers from "deep ideological polarization" and a "disappointing lack of professionalism" including leaks of sensitive case information, harassment and mistreatment among colleagues who have political differences, department watchdogs concluded Tuesday.

Update at 5 p.m., March 13: The new pope's name will be Francis — one that hasn't been used before.

Our original post, written before Pope Francis was chosen:

It's not required, but it's almost surely going to happen:

This story was written by a Syrian citizen in Damascus who is not being further identified out of safety concerns.

In a surprising religious decree, Syria's government-appointed grand mufti has issued a fatwa calling on Muslims to fight on the side of President Bashar Assad's regime against the rebels who have been waging an uprising for two years.

In a televised statement Sunday, Syria's Grand Mufti Ahmad Hassoun said: "I urge the sons of Syria to join the army and fight for the unity of this great country."

The group of scientists working with NASA's Curiosity rover made a big announcement during a press conference today: "We have found a habitable environment that is so benign" if there was water there, "you be able to drink it," John P. Grotzinger, professor of geology at Caltech, said summing up the rover's latest findings.

That is, at one point Mars had the right conditions to support living microbes.

Google has agreed to pay a $7 million fine to settle claims from 37 states and the District of Columbia that the search giant improperly collected data from unsecured wireless networks across the United States using its "Street View" vehicles.

It became the iconic photograph of Israel's military strikes in Gaza last November:

It showed Jihad Misharawi, a BBC Arabic journalist, carrying the body of his 11-month-old son, Ahmad. Misharawi is wailing, asking "What did my son do to die like this?"

An easy inference to make from the photograph was that the boy died because of an Israeli airstrike.

After his attorneys said they need more time to prepare to respond to the 166 counts of murder, attempted murder and other crimes he faces, a Colorado judge on Tuesday entered a not guilty plea on behalf of accused movie theater gunman James Holmes.

An Air Force general's decision to dismiss the charges against a lieutenant colonel who was convicted of sexual assault has outraged many members of Congress and led new Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to say he's ordered a review of the case.

Reports from Mali indicate few, if any radio broadcasts went out today in Bamako, the capital of Mali. Newspapers didn't publish morning editions either - journalists are angry over last week's arrest of Boukary Daou, the publisher of The Republican newspaper.

A photo of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad holding the hand of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's mother and appearing to brush his face against her cheek as they consoled each other last week has him "mired in a fresh controversy" in Iran, as the BBC writes:

"Conservative critics, already irked by Mr Ahmadinejad's effusive eulogy for the leftist leader, reminded him that he has not only committed a sin, but also behaved in a way inappropriate for the president of an Islamic state."

Update at 11:15 a.m. ET: Senate Passes Measure:

The Associated Press reports that the committee cast a 10-8 party-line vote, with all Republicans opposed, on the measure to expand a requirement of background checks for gun sales between private parties.

The Associated Press reports:

"The bill's sponsor, New York Democrat Sen. Charles Schumer, said the measure will reduce gun crimes, and said he hopes he can strike a compromise on the measure with Republicans, which would enhance the measure's chances of passing in the full Senate.

(Note at 11:20 a.m. ET: Scroll down to see the GOP plan, which has now been released; new comments from Rep. Ryan; and White House reaction.)

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, unveiled his latest budget plan Tuesday morning — and as NPR's Tamara Keith told our Newscast Desk, he says it would bring the federal budget in balance by 2023.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

Update at 2:43 p.m. ET. No Pope Today:

Black smoke just poured from the chimney above the Vatican. That means, as was expected, the cardinals did not choose a pope on the first vote of their conclave to name a successor to the now-retired Pope Benedict XVI. As the cardinals' ballots are burned, NPR's Sylvia Poggioli says, chemicals are added to a fire in a second stove to turn the smoke black if there's no pope elected and white if there is.

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