National & International News

We follow stories about America and the world, with help from NPR.

Update at 12:45 p.m. ET. One Measure Approved So Far:

"The Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation Thursday making gun trafficking a federal crime as lawmakers cast the first vote in Congress to curb firearms since December's horrific shootings at a Connecticut elementary school," The Associated Press writes.

As we await Friday's much-anticipated report about the February unemployment rate and how many jobs were added to employers' payrolls last month, there are these new bits of economic data to chew over:

-- The Employment and Training Administration says there were 340,000 first-time claims for unemployment insurance last week. That's down from 7,000 the previous week. Claims continue at a pace that's the lowest since first-quarter 2008.

Four days after a hit-and-run in Brooklyn that killed a young couple riding in a cab, suspect Julio Acevedo surrendered to police at a convenience store parking lot in Bethlehem, Pa.

The New York Times says:

After nearly 13 hours during which he had only a few short breaks while sympathetic senators took over the talking, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky ended his filibuster of John Brennan's CIA nomination early Thursday.

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

Penn State Sues Insurer Over Sandusky Coverage

Mar 6, 2013

Penn State says in a new lawsuit that its insurance carrier isn't honoring its legal obligation to cover it for claims related to sexual misconduct by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

The 18-page complaint filed by the university in Bellefonte Tuesday said it has been sued or contacted by 29 claimants but the Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Insurance Company isn't providing coverage.

The lawsuit alleges breach of contract and bad faith, saying Penn State is entitled to damages and costs.

Grand Jury Indicts 2 W. PA Postal Employees

Mar 6, 2013

A federal grand jury has indicted two western Pennsylvania post office employees on charges of stealing mail.

Court documents unsealed Wednesday allege that 39-year-old Christopher L. Demorest of Greensburg stole one greeting card and $25, and two other greeting cards on another occasion. They also allege that 32-year-old Shaun G. Westfall of Baden stole two packages. Both communities are in the Pittsburgh area.

No attorney was listed in court documents for either man. There was no answer at a number listed for Westfall, and Demorest couldn't be reached for comment.

A Pittsburgh business has auctioned a vandal's brick for more than a thousand dollars.

Dan Rugh says a vandal threw the brick through the window of his printing shop sometime Monday, so he launched a one-day auction Tuesday to pay for the unexpected repairs.

The brick was the prize.

Rugh says the original idea came from frustration, but then numerous people and businesses joined in to ease the pain of the damage.

One woman offered tickets to a Pittsburgh Penguins hockey game, a brewery offered a free tour, and restaurants donated gift certificates.

9 Jurors Chosen for Philly Abortion Clinic Case

Mar 6, 2013

Nine jurors have been chosen this week for the capital murder trial of a Philadelphia abortion provider.

Twelve jurors and six alternates will be seated for Dr. Kermit Gosnell's trial. He is charged in the overdose death of a patient and the deaths of seven babies allegedly born alive.

Potential jurors are being asked if they oppose abortion or the death penalty. Both supporters and opponents of abortion rights can serve as long as they pledge to be fair to both sides.

The trial is expected to last six to eight weeks.

A western Pennsylvania man who had been treated at a methadone clinic shortly before a crash that killed an elderly couple has been sentenced to five to 12 years in prison.

Forty-two-year-old Michael Sherwood of Northern Cambria pleaded guilty in Cambria County last month to homicide by vehicle, homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence and aggravated assault in the September 2010 crash that killed 76-year-old Richard Davis and 69-year-old Lois Davis.

When President Obama signs an updated version of the Violence Against Women Act on Thursday afternoon, the law will include new requirements for how colleges and universities handle allegations of sexual assault.

Laura Dunn, who's been invited by the White House to attend, plans to be there.

The House has approved a bill to fund the federal government through the end of September. The $982 billion continuing resolution introduced by Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY), who heads the Appropriations Committee, would avoid a potential government shutdown on March 27.

A decade and $60 billion later what does the U.S. have to show for the reconstruction efforts in Iraq? That's the question being answered by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction in his final report to Congress.

The report by Stuart Bowen was based upon audits and inspections, as well as interviews with Iraqi and U.S. officials and politicians. Here's the crux of what happened to that money, according to the report:

Camels belong in the desert. That's what we've learned since grade school.

Today, NPR's Melissa Block talked to Natalia Rybczynski, a paleobiologist at the Canadian Museum of Nature, who tells Melissa that fossils she has unearthed tell a different story.

The fossils, found on a frigid ridge in Canada's High Arctic, show that modern camels actually come from giant relatives that roamed the forests of Ellesmere Island 3.5 million years ago.

I first encountered Hugo Chavez in Caracas, starring in his own television show, Hello, Mr. President. I couldn't take my eyes of the program, which began at 11 a.m. and ended after 7 p.m.

It was an endurance test for even the most die-hard sycophants and terrific entertainment for a first-time viewer. While the camera would pan droopy-eyed Cabinet members seated in the front row, El Presidente showed no signs of flagging.

At the seven-hour mark, he chirped, "Bueno!" and declared, "It's early! Let's keep talking."

Arkansas has approved a law banning most abortions after 12 weeks of gestation, as both houses of the state's legislature vote to override a veto by Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe. The Republican-backed Human Heartbeat Protection Act will become the nation's most restrictive law.

In vetoing the Senate version of the bill Monday, Beebe said that it "would impose a ban on a woman's right to choose an elective, nontherapeutic abortion well before viability."

Sen. Rand Paul has been talking for hours on the floor of the Senate today in an effort to delay the nomination of John Brennan for CIA chief.

More than three decades ago, Soviet soldier Bakhretdin Khakimov went missing in Afghanistan after he was wounded in battle with Afghan mujahedeen forces.

His whereabouts remained unknown until two weeks ago, when he was tracked down by a team from the Warriors-Internationalists Affairs Committee, a Moscow-based nonprofit that looks for Soviet MIAs in Afghanistan.

There was "modest to moderate" economic growth across the nation as the year began, the Federal Reserve says in its latest "beige book" review of conditions around the nation.

According to the central bank, five of its 12 districts "reported that economic growth was moderate in January and early February." Those five: Dallas, New York, Minneapolis, Richmond and St. Louis.

Mississippi is poised to make home brewing legal, after its Legislature approved a beer-brewing measure Wednesday. The bill now heads to Gov. Phil Bryant, who last year approved a move to raise the state's maximum alcohol limits on beer — something the current bill's supporters point to with optimism. The governor's office has not indicated whether he intends to sign the bill.

A coffin holding the body of Hugo Chávez moved through the streets of Caracas, today.

The 58-year-old leader died yesterday after a battle with cancer. The flag-draped casket was moved from the military hospital where Chávez died to a military academy, where he will lie in state. The whole way there, his casket was flanked by thousands of adoring supporters dressed in red and waving the tri-colored Venezuelan flag.

Guitarist Alvin Lee, whose incendiary performance with the British band Ten Years After was one of the highlights of the 1969 Woodstock festival, has died.

He was 68. Lee's website says he "passed away early this morning [Wednesday] after unforeseen complications following a routine surgical procedure." An assistant to his daughter also confirmed the news to NPR.

His band's biggest hit — "I'd Love to Change the World" — came a couple years after Woodstock. We'll embed a clip from that.

In Kenya, colorblindness may be contributing to more than just questionable sartorial combinations. Some observers say it may have something to do with the hundreds of thousands of spoiled ballots — a term for disqualified or invalidated votes — in Monday's presidential election, adding new delays to declaring a winner and raising the possibility of a costly and contentious runoff election in April.

A Portland, Ore., resident was arrested Tuesday on charges of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. The FBI alleges that Reaz Qadir Khan, 48, gave money and advice to a man involved in a deadly 2009 suicide bomb attack on the headquarters of Pakistan's intelligence service in Lahore.

The attack resulted in an estimated 30 deaths and 300 injuries. Khan, a naturalized U.S. citizen, could face a maximum sentence of life in prison if he is found guilty. FBI agents arrested him at his home Tuesday morning.

Here's a quote we found awe-inspiring:

"If you could go swim down in the ocean of Europa and taste it, it would just taste like normal old salt."

That's California Institute of Technology (Caltech) astronomer Mike Brown talking about Jupiter's moon Europa. Brown and his colleague Kevin Hand from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory believe that if you could drill your way through the moon's frozen exterior, the ocean beneath it would taste a lot like our own sea water.

Some sloppy coding on an update to Microsoft's Windows 7 two years ago has cost the computer giant a $731 million fine to the European Commission.

Microsoft said Wednesday it would not contest the fine, imposed for what the commission said was the company's abuse of its market dominance to stifle competitors' Web browsers.

The activity at Sicily's Mount Etna, as we've said, can be seen from space.

William Moody, who as the pro wrestling character Paul Bearer embodied a sense of theater that was equal parts morbid and absurd, has died at age 58. A portly man known for his wild-eyed stare and habit of carrying a brass urn under his arm, Paul Bearer was most notably the manager of The Undertaker and Kane.

On occasion my job requires me to sneak into a Chinese village as I did earlier this week to report a story on a rural uprising. This does not come naturally. I'm 6-foot-2 with gray hair and blue eyes and don't look remotely like a Chinese farmer.

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