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As U.S.-Russian relations sour, some observers fear the plan to eliminate Syria's chemical arsenal might stall.

This past week, the removal of chemicals from Syria reached the halfway mark. Without pressure from both superpowers, however, some believe Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will begin to drag his feet.

"I think what you're likely to see is that the Assad regime will comply just enough, at a slower pace, as it consolidates its hold over the country militarily," says Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert, at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

The plan to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons was hatched at a summit last fall in Geneva. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stood side-by-side and presented an ambitious plan to spirit dangerous chemicals out of the country in a matter of months.

"The United States and Russia are committed to the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons in the soonest and safest manner," Kerry said at the time.

"It's one of the unique instances where both Russia and the United States have come together in a very cooperative way to work on a common goal," says Paul Walker, a chemical weapons expert with the non-profit Green Cross International.

Walker says the Russians were instrumental in getting Assad to go along with the plan. Russia has strong ties with the Syrian regime, and supplies it with considerable military aid to fight its ongoing civil war.

"When the Russians say step up and join the chemical weapons convention, Bashar al-Assad pretty much salutes and says, 'Yes, Sir,'" Walker says.

Syria pledged to remove its most dangerous chemicals by the end of last year, but then it started to stall. Assad said security was the problem, but Western observers suspected he was dragging his feet — drawing out the process to keep America from interfering with the war.

Russia broke the impasse, says Amy Smithson with the Center for Non-Proliferation Studies. In December, it sent dozens of armored trucks to carry the chemicals out of Syria. The trucks addressed Assad's security concerns, but they also sent a message.

Middle East

Saudi Aid Boost To Syrian Rebels Puts Jordan At Risk

Leaders of high-tech companies, including Google and Facebook, descended on the White House Friday for a meeting with President Obama on the subject of privacy. The meeting itself was private. But aides say Obama wanted to hear from the CEOs about their concerns with the government's high-tech surveillance.

High-tech CEOs are not the obvious messengers to be delivering a privacy lecture to the government. After all, they make their money by scanning customers' emails and tracking their movements, all with the goal of serving up more targeted ads. Just a few years ago, Google's Eric Schmidt told an interviewer, "If you have something you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

But Marc Rotenberg, who directs the Electronic Privacy Information Center, says the titans of Silicon Valley have suddenly gotten religion.

"The Internet leaders who might have said a few years ago that privacy is a thing of the past, today they're at the White House telling the president we need to find a way to protect privacy. And that's a remarkable turn of events," he said.

What changed, of course, is the revelation by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden of just how widespread the government's snooping has been, often with the help, knowingly or unknowingly, of those same high-tech companies.

"Mr. Snowden has done more to raise the level of public awareness about privacy issues than probably anyone else I can think of," Rotenberg said.

And that has the potential to hurt the companies' bottom lines. Since the Snowden leaks began last summer, public opinion towards government surveillance has steadily soured. Fifty-three percent of Americans now disapprove of the NSA's spying. Pollster Carroll Doherty of the Pew Research Center says this is the rare issue that unites Tea Party Republicans and liberal Democrats.

"It's really an area on which you do find common ground between conservatives and liberals. Consistently across these polls, liberals and conservatives are expressing the most concern about it whereas people in the middle of the electorate are somewhat less concerned," he said.

Disapproval of government surveillance is strongest among people under the age of 30. While this generation shows little reluctance to document their every movement on electronic devices, Doherty says they don't like the government looking over their shoulder.

"They are concerned about privacy. They really are. And this issue has clicked a bit with young people," he said.

The White House meeting comes one week before the administration has to make some decisions about how to reform its collection of bulk telephone data.

President Obama has promised to make some adjustments — particularly to the program under which the NSA has been stockpiling telephone records. The legal authorization for that program expires next week and Obama wants to replace it with something different, though he hasn't said what. Obama insists that government workers who carry out survillance do take privacy concerns seriously.

"They have kids on Facebook and Instagram, and they know, more than most of us, the vulnerabilities to privacy that exist in a world where transactions are recorded, and emails and text and messages are stored, and even our movements can increasingly be tracked through the GPS on our phones," he said.

Privacy advocate Rotenberg says Internet companies could reduce the temptation for government spying if they simply stopped storing years' worth of personal data about their customers.

So far though, the companies haven't been willing to take that step.

Republicans seem to have all the momentum lately when it comes to the battle for control of the U.S. Senate.

GOP chances were already looking brighter because of the drag on Democrats from the Affordable Care Act and President Obama's low approval ratings. Then came two developments that suddenly expanded the playing field: Former GOP Sen. Scott Brown recently announced his intent to run against New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, and GOP Rep. Cory Gardner jumped in against Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall.

That makes 12 states with competitive races, according to the Cook Political Report's latest update.

Democratic incumbents currently hold 10 of those seats; three of them are retiring. Republicans need to win a net of just six seats to become the Senate majority.

While their chances of doing that are clearly rising, political consultant Steve McMahon of Purple Strategies cautions against underestimating the advantages of the Democratic incumbents who will be on the ballot in November.

"The states that they are running in are states they have run in before, that they understand well and have been elected to, some repeatedly," said McMahon. "They're the kind of Democrats that match the state well."

As incumbents, they can point to all they've done for their states and they usually can raise the money they need, McMahon said. And he gives Republicans credit for producing a solid field of candidates.

"They've done a great job of recruiting this year. They've run many of the nut jobs out," McMahon said. "But they still do have primaries and primaries weaken candidates."

The president's weakness in the polls, the Affordable Care Act and widespread anxieties about the economy aren't the only factors working in favor of the GOP. Republicans also have a big advantage on voter intensity.

"We always look at the question, how interested are you in the upcoming elections on a 1 to 10 scale, with a 9 to 10 being the most interested," said Neil Newhouse of Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican research firm, who pointed to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll his firm did with Hart Research Associates.

"In a presidential election, it doesn't mean as much because everybody votes. In a midterm election, where you're looking at 40 percent turnout, it does make a difference. ... Among voters who rate their interest a 9 or 10, Republicans have a 15-point advantage, 53 [percent] to 38 [percent]. So you have Republicans now gaining the same kind of intensity they had in 2010. It's like our guys are campaigning downhill as opposed to the Democrats."

2010, of course, was the year of the historic midterm landslide in which Republicans captured 63 seats — and House control. They gained six Senate seats that November. And that was after Brown won a January special election for the Massachusetts seat long occupied by Democrat Edward Kennedy.

If this year's Republican intensity results in a 2010-style wave, there could be some surprising races, Newhouse said. Virginia and Oregon, for example, might seem like real long shots for Republicans at the moment but they might be within reach in that kind of year, he said.

With an expanded playing field and the real prospect of a flip in Senate control, both parties and their outside-group allies are likely to spend a record amount during this year's midterms.

Independent expenditures for the 2014 election cycle through March 20 have already reached $39.2 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Amid all the of necessary analysis of what Russia's move into Crimea means geopolitically and strategically, it might also be good to remember Reshat Ametov.

Mr. Ametov was buried this week. He was 39 years old, married and the father of three young children.

He was last seen at a demonstration on March 3 in Simferopol, where he joined other Crimean Tatars held a silent protest before the pro-Russian armed men in unmarked uniforms who surrounded the cabinet ministers building.

Tatars make up more than 10 percent of Crimea's population. Many Tatars, who are primarily Sunni Muslim, were brutally deported by Joseph Stalin in the 1940s, and scattered over the deserts of central Asia and Siberia. As many as 200,000 Tatars died in that government removal. Some Tatar families began to come back after Ukraine became independent in the 1990s.

Video from ATR, a local Crimean television channel, shows two armed men in green uniforms, and one in a black uniform, surrounding Reshat Ametov, taking him by the arms, and leading him away.

"He was just standing there and they took him away," Ametov's mother, Refika Ametova, told the Kyiv Post, an independent newspaper. "He stood there for about an hour and a quarter, and I suppose they were waiting for him to leave. But he didn't."

His family called the police, who said they could find nothing. Two weeks later, people in a village about 28 miles away found a man's body in a nearby forest. Local media reports suggested there was clear tape wrapped around his head and hands, and signs of torture.

Reshat Ametov's wife identified the body as her husband's.

Human Rights Watch has called for an investigation into Reshat Ametov's disappearance and death, and they're concerned the crime is not isolated.

"For weeks, armed, masked men who refuse to identify themselves have harassed and intimidated people," says Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. And Crimean Tatars living in Brooklyn and Queens told the New York Daily News that relatives in Crimea report that X's have been slashed in paint on the doors of some Tatar families.

Enver Ablakimov was at Reshat Ametov's funeral. He is 21 years old and told the Kyiv Post, "There were always people here who didn't like us, but before, they hid it. Now with the appearance of the Russian army, they feel protected and understand that no one will do anything."

It's that past that may make Tatars in Crimea apprehensive about the future.


The U.S. and Europe need to stand together against Moscow in the wake of its incursion in Crimea, keeping the door open for Ukraine and other countries to join NATO, former White House officials tell NPR.

Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution and a former deputy secretary of state in the Clinton administration and Stephen Hadley, former National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush, spoke with All Things Considered , on Friday. The two agreed that the West's diplomatic efforts should be focused on dissuading Russian President Vladimir Putin from further aggressive moves.

How Should The West Respond To Crimea?

"The key thing" is for the U.S. and Europe to "maintain maximum solidarity so that this is not just a U.S. sanctions policy and it does not give the Russians a chance to split us," Talbott ATC tells host Robert Siegel.

Europe is "properly, I think, concentrating on the banking sector, because the banking sector, if it is pressed and pressured by these sanctions, may lead powerful people around Putin to begin questioning the wisdom of what he has done and perhaps putting brakes on bad things he might do," he says.

Asked whether Ukraine should be brought into NATO or remain a sort of neutral buffer state between Europe and Russia, Talbott thinks "neither."

"It would be counterproductive, which is a word we use here in Washington to mean 'stupid,' if we were to basically make a promise to Ukraine that we couldn't keep, such as to bring them into NATO as soon as possible," he says. "That would just be provocative and it would not make the lives of the Ukrainians any better.

"Nor should we say that they are going to be forever in a security limbo as a buffer state," he says. "We should keep the question of the future of NATO, the expansion of NATO on the agenda, but we should not talk about that now."

According to Hadley, military action, either now or in the future, is impractical.

"It's very difficult once the Russians start to move, just as a matter of geography, for us to respond," he says. "So, what you need is a set of policies that will make Russia decide that such a course of action is ill-advised. "

First, he says, we must "impose real costs for what [Putin] has done until he is no longer tempted to run this play again – we saw it first in Georgia in 2008, now in the Crimea with respect to Ukraine."

Second, he says, Europe "needs to make clear that the door is open for countries of central and Eastern Europe to come into the EU."

What is Putin Thinking?

Talbott warns that "changing Vladimir Putin's mind is a loser. He is in a 'make-my-day,' 'bring-it-on' [mode]. He called Putin's move in Crimea, which represents the first time Russia has moved beyond its post-Cold War borders, an "ultimate red line."

"He has a pretension for, in some sense, a new Russian empire and that is what he is trying to build," Hadley says. "A key element of that is Russians outside of Russia's borders."

Putin, says Hadley, holds a fundamentally different view of the post-Cold War order as does the West: "We thought that at the end of the Cold War, boundaries were going to be respected, sovereignty was [to be] respected, use of force explicitly or coercively was off the table, [and] that countries could choose their own alliances."

"That's not how he sees it," Hadley says.

Instead, Putin wants to a world "in which he brings into a Russian sphere of influence countries such as Kazakhstan and Belarus, [which] he already has, and particularly Ukraine.

"With Ukraine, [Russia] has real force, without Ukraine, it is much weaker," he says.

Hadley points to Putin's speech announcing the annexation of Crimea in which the Russian leader referred to the collapse of the Soviet Union when "overnight [Russians] were minorities in the former Soviet republics, and the Russian people became one of the biggest — if not the biggest — divided nations in the world."

(As we reported earlier this week, large ethnic Russian populations in former Soviet satellite countries have made for nervousness in those border regions since the Crimea incursion and the Russian invasion of Georgia's South Ossetia region in 2008)

That sentiment – that Russian minorities were essentially orphaned by the fall of the USSR, is what informs Putin's strategy, Hadley says.

By "taking a chunk" out of countries such as Georgia, Ukraine or Moldova, "he has frozen them in this neverland between Russia and the West because the western European countries are unwilling to take into the EU or NATO a country that has a territorial dispute with Russia.

"We have got to send a message to Putin that that ploy won't work," he says. "That is why sending messages [that] the EU and NATO are open to Ukraine and Moldova and Georgia is such a terribly important signal to send."

It's been 25 years since the Exxon Valdez ran aground off the coast of Alaska, spilling millions of gallons of oil into Prince William Sound.

The impact on wildlife was devastating. Cleanup crews poured into the nearby port town, also called Valdez, where an animal rescue center was set up.

"The chaos is incredibly difficult to describe or even imagine," says LJ Evans, a local resident who volunteered to help. "Somebody came back with the first bird — the reporters were so frantic, somebody got in a fight trying to take a picture of this poor little oiled bird."

"We were working 14-, 16-, 18-hour days there for the first month and a half," Suzanne Bishop, another rescue worker, tells LJ on a visit to StoryCorps in Fairbanks, Alaska. "We ran countless times a day from one room to the other with dog kennels stacked up high all the way down the hallway of otters."

"I had nightmares for years, because they screamed," LJ says. "I'd never heard a sound like that."

"I remember going home every night and sobbing, because it was not only terribly sad, it was very hard work," Suzanne adds.

"Then one joyous day, in this whole long stressful experience, we took all these birds that had been washed, and lined up all these kennels on the beach — 30 of them, 40 of them — each one with half a dozen birds," LJ recalls. "We opened all those crates, and they swarmed out into the water and made such an incredible noise. They either paddled or they flew, but they got the hell out of there.

"There was so much stress, so much tension for so many months," she adds. "At least for that moment, that little while, you could feel good about something that we had done."

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jud Esty-Kendall.


The photograph was taken in Yarmouk, Syria, showing thousands of desperate Palestinian refugees waiting to receive food aid. It was shared millions of times last month via social media, and on Thursday evening, it appears on a big screen in New York's Times Square in an effort to focus attention on a civil war that's now in its fourth year.

The image is epic. Thousands fill a gray canyon of rubble framed by shattered buildings. Yarmouk is a neighborhood made up of of Palestinian refugees who fled to Syria decades ago. For more than a year, Syrian government forces have held 20,000 people there under siege. The photograph documents a food distribution in January by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees.

The photo is "cinematic in its scope and grandeur, and yet, it's deeply personal," says Chris Gunness, the group's spokesman. "Etched on each small face is a very personal private story. And I think it's the combination of the epic and the miniature which partly explains it."

It's about timing, too, he says. He released the photograph as the U.N. Security Council debated a resolution last month urging Syria's government to open besieged areas for aid. The social media reaction was unexpected.

"It's been extraordinary. Within minutes of that iconic photograph being sent out, it went viral," he says.

When charges surfaced that the photograph was a fake, Gunness released a video from Yarmouk recorded at the same time.

The food distribution came after a fragile ceasefire between government forces and rebels inside Yarmouk. The video shows the magnitude of humanitarian crisis for civilians.

The Sinaloa Cartel, headquartered on Mexico's northern Pacific Coast, is constantly exploring new ways to launder its gargantuan profits. The State Department reports that Mexican trafficking organizations earn between $19 and $29 billion every year from selling marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines on the streets of American cities.

And Sinaloa is reportedly the richest, most powerful of them all, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. The capture last month of the Mexican druglord Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman has cast a spotlight on the smuggling empire he built.

One key to the Sinaloa Cartel's success has been to use the global banking system to launder all this cash.

"It's very important for them to get that money into the banking system and do so with as little scrutiny as possible," says Jim Hayes, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations for the New York office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. He was lead agent in the 2012 case that revealed how Sinaloa money men used HSBC, one of the world's largest banks, as their private vault.

ICE says in 2007 and 2008, the Sinaloa Cartel and a Colombian cartel wire-transferred $881 million in illegal drug proceeds into U.S. accounts.

Huge Daily Deposits

According to a subsequent investigation by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, cartel operatives would sometimes deposit hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash in a single day using boxes designed to fit the exact dimensions of the teller's window at HSBC branches in Mexico.

More In The Borderland Series


At The Border, The Drugs Go North And The Cash Goes South

Two of the most advanced maritime surveillance aircraft are being pressed into service to search for possible wreckage from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the middle of the Indian Ocean, bringing their sophisticated sub-hunting gear to bear in the search for debris.

Australia's U.S.-made P-3 Orions and U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidons, flying from bases near Perth, Australia are combing an area about 1,500 miles off the coast where a satellite image shot on March 16 showed a floating object about 80 feet long.

But weather and the sheer distance to the target area are already complicating efforts to answer the question of what, if anything, is out there. Because of ocean currents, the search area has also expanded since the satellite snapshot was taken. And, it possible that whatever was seen is by now thousands of feet deep on the bottom of a vast ocean.

But the fuzzy satellite photo is the first "credible lead" in days, according to a Malaysian official, in what has grown to become the largest search and rescue (SAR) mission in history, involving assets from more than two dozen countries.

As sophisticated as they are, the search planes still have a very daunting task.

How Far Can They Fly?

Both the P-3 and the P-8 have the range – but only just — to get to the general search area, spend a few hours looking, and return. The P-3 has a range of 1,500 miles with three hours on station and the P-8, a modified Boeing 737, can fly out about 1,400 miles and spend about four hours searching before having to turn back.

The P-8's AN/APY-10 radar, designed to locate enemy surface contacts such as submarine periscopes, and the Australian P-3's somewhat less sophisticated radar set, would likely be the first to pick up on any floating refuge, says Sam LaGrone, editor at U.S. Naval Institute (USNI) News and a former maritime reporter for Jane's Defence Weekly.

"It's not like looking out the window," he says.

How Would They Spot Any Wreckage?

Once a radar contact is made, typically from a fairly high altitude, the plane can dip down to get a closer look, switching on an EO/IR (electro-optical/infrared) ball housed under the aircraft. These are similar to the pods you might see hanging under a police helicopter, LaGrone says.

"Pretty much all military radar are built to filter out ocean spray, rain, clouds and all other manner of potential interference via different frequencies and different methods," he says.

The EO/IR unit, though, blends high-tech camera images with infrared input into a "very detailed convential video image" similar to what military reconnaissance and strike drones use. Darkness limits the effectiveness of the cameras and the debris, now nearly as cold as the surrounding ocean, also means limited infrared input.

"Maybe [the wreckage is] down on the bottom, maybe it's floated away," he says. "If it's on the surface, the radar would be able to detect it relatively easily."

What If The Debris Has Already Sunk?

LaGrone says both aircraft are capable of dropping sonobuoys, which are designed to detect submarines, but they might not be of much use for an object sitting on the bottom of the ocean. You can see a video of a P-3 dropping a sonobuoy here.

"If it's underwater, you might be able to detect that with sonar, but it really depends on the circumstances," he says.

"If you determined there was something there – either on the surface or on the bottom – that's when surface ships would arrive with more sophisticated sonar and underwater equipment to take a closer look," LaGrone says.

In a nine-hour search on Thursday of the area where the satellite spotted possible debris, a U.S. P-8 came back empty-handed after finding only a freighter and some dolphins, ABCNews says.

According to ABC:

"The plane worked back and forth through its search area in a lawn mowing pattern. ... The Poseidon had enough fuel to scan for three hours and cover 4,100 square miles before having to begin the three hour trip back to its base north of Perth, Australia. The crew was disappointed that it hadn't found anything."

Put on your leather jacket and get ready to playyy along as house musician Jonathan Coulton asks contestants to put a Fonzie (that's Arthur Fonzarelli of TV'sHappy Days) spin on some other words that end in the sound "ayyy," much like The Fonz's famous catchphrase.

Heard in Episode 312: Leggo My Lego

Satellite images showing objects floating in the Indian Ocean have focused the search for Malaysian Airlines flight 370 and the 239 people who were on board to an area about 1,500 miles southwest of Perth, Australia.

This is, in the words of acting Malaysian transport minister Hishammuddin Hussien, the first "credible lead" since the plane disappeared on March 8 while on what was supposed to be a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

The Mystery Of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

Take a drive around the perimeter of Colby Frey's farm in Nevada and it's clear you're kind of on an island — an oasis of green surrounded by a big, dusty desert.

Nearby, a neighbor's farm has recently gone under. And weeds have taken over an abandoned farmhouse in the next property over.

"It's just kind of sad, because it seems like it's kind of slowly creeping towards us," says Frey, a fifth-generation farmer trying to adapt to the current drought in California and in the far West.

The Salt

Drought Could Dry Up Nevada Dairy Farmers' Expansion Plans


A year-long review of the Boeing 787 "Dreamliner," which experienced problems such as fuel leaks and a battery fire, has concluded that the plane is safe.

The Federal Aviation Administration reported Wednesday that a review team believes "the aircraft was soundly designed, met its intended safety level, and that the manufacturer and the FAA had effective processes in place to identify and correct issues that emerged before and after certification."

Reuters recaps the jet's recent history and the reason it was given extra scrutiny:

"The review was initiated after a battery fire occurred aboard a 787 in January 2013 at Boston's Logan International Airport. The fire and another battery incident in Japan prompted regulators to ground the plane for 3 1/2 months last year. The plane has also suffered a series of mishaps with brakes, fuel lines, electrical panels, hydraulics, and other systems."

"One of the largest fines ever imposed on an auto maker" will be announced Wednesday morning, The Wall Street Journal writes.

Attorney Gen. Eric Holder and other federal officials are expected to say that Toyota Motor Corp. has agreed to pay about $1.2 billion to "end a criminal probe into its disclosure of safety issues," the Journal reports.

Holder, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara are due to hold a news conference at 9:30 a.m. ET.

As Bloomberg News says, the settlement will end "a U.S. criminal probe. ... Toyota recalled more than 10 million vehicles worldwide in 2009 and 2010 following complaints of sudden, unintended acceleration. ... The probe examined whether Toyota made false or incomplete disclosures to regulators about defects in its cars, and how it handled drivers' complaints."

This is not the first large payout related to the sudden acceleration issue that Toyota has agreed to make.

The Associated Press notes that:

"From 2010 through 2012, Toyota Motor Corp. paid fines totaling more than $66 million for delays in reporting unintended acceleration problems. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration never found defects in electronics or software in Toyota cars, which had been targeted as a possible cause by many, including some experts."

My colleagues and I drove 2,428 miles and remained in the same place.

We gathered a team, rented a car, checked the batteries in our recorders and cameras. We moved from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. We crossed deserts, plains and mountains. But all the while, we were living in Borderland — zigzagging across the frontier between Mexico and the United States.

i i

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

Author and late night TV staple Kevin Trudeau was sentenced to a decade in prison for violating a 2004 court order that barred him from making deceptive infomercials about his book, The Weight Loss Cure 'They' Don't Want You to Know About. At Monday's sentencing, U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Guzman called Trudeau" deceitful to the very core," and said that "since his 20s, he has steadfastly attempted to cheat others for his own gain." Over the years, Trudeau has hawked "free money," weight loss solutions and cures for cancer and other diseases. At the hearing, Trudeau claimed that he had undergone a "personal transformation" and said that if he does another infomercial, there will be "no embellishments, no puffery, no lies." Reuters reports that the courtroom was packed with Trudeau supporters. One of them, was 80-year-old Ed Foreman, a motivational speaker and former congressman for Texas and New Mexico, the news service says. It adds that Foreman "tried twice to make a statement in Trudeau's support during the hearing. When Foreman failed to respond to the judge's order to be quiet, he was lifted up by his arms and legs and carried out of the courtroom by federal marshals."

HarperCollins has bought the rights to J.R.R. Tolkien's translation of the Old English epic poem Beowulf, edited by his son, Christopher Tolkien. The Bookseller notes that the book will include a series of lectures that J.R.R. Tolkien gave at Oxford in the 1930s, of which Christopher Tolkien says: "From his creative attention to detail in these lectures there arises a sense of the immediacy and clarity of his vision. It is as if he entered into the imagined past: standing beside Beowulf and his men shaking out their mail-shirts as they beached their ship on the coast of Denmark, listening to the rising anger of Beowulf at the taunting of Unferth, or looking up in amazement at Grendel's terrible hand set under the roof of Heorot."

Novelist Zadie Smith writes an "Elegy for a Country's Seasons," about the small losses that come with climate change: "The weather has changed, is changing, and with it so many seemingly small things — quite apart from train tracks and houses, livelihoods and actual lives — are being lost. It was easy to assume, for example, that we would always be able to easily find a hedgehog in some corner of a London garden, pick it up in cupped hands, and unfurl it for our children — or go on a picnic and watch fat bumblebees crawling over the mouth of an open jam jar. Every country has its own version of this local sadness."

Poet Bill Knott, who once faked his own death, has died for the final time, according to The New Yorker: "When word came again, last week, that Knott had died, no one knew quite whether to believe it. Death makes deniers of us all, but in Knott's case we had good reason to trust our instinctive disbelief. This time, unfortunately, the facts were unrelenting: on Wednesday, Knott died of complications from heart surgery. He was seventy-four."

Twelve days into the mystery of what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and the 239 people on board, more clues seem to only raise more questions.

The latest news about the investigation and search for the plane includes:

— An NBC News report that sources familiar with the investigation say data from the plane's communications systems indicate someone manually programmed a turn into the Boeing 777's navigation system 12 minutes before a voice from the cockpit said "all right, good night," to Malaysian air traffic controllers.

If that is what happened, it could mean that whoever was at the controls had already planned a sharp turn to the west — well off the jet's planned Kuala Lumpur-to-Beijing route — before the seemingly routine sign-off.

That turn is why the search for the jet has extended thousands of miles south across the Indian Ocean and thousands of miles north into Central Asia.

Authorities have said they believe the voice heard saying good night was that of co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid.

Whether he, pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah or someone else programmed a course change into the navigation system is not known.

Accounts have varied as to exactly when, but also in the minutes around that good night message is when most of the plane's communications and tracking systems went dark. The lack of data from those systems is why the search area is so vast — authorities aren't sure which direction the plane went after it headed west.

— Word from Malaysian officials that some files were recently deleted — perhaps in early February — from a flight simulator in the home of Flight 370 pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah. Investigators are attempting to restore the files to see if they have any connection to the missing jet.

— A narrowing of the search by Australian authorities. According to The New York Times, "the initial search area that Australian officials announced Tuesday has been reduced by half, using new data analysis of the plane's likely fuel consumption, John Young, general manager for the agency's emergency response division, said Wednesday. The new area of focus in the Australian-led part of the search covers 89,000 square nautical miles, roughly 1,200 nautical miles southwest of Perth, Mr. Young said."

The Times says that search zone is roughly the size of Italy.

— Word from Thai officials that on March 8 their military's radar detected an unidentified plane that may have been Flight 370. Malaysian officials had earlier said that their military spotted a plane that might have been Flight 370 crossing the peninsula near the border with Thailand. So, as The Associated Press writes, "Thailand's failure to quickly share that information may not substantially change what Malaysian officials now know, but it raises questions about the degree to which some countries are sharing their defense data."

But like I said, the book isn't perfect. For one, it is MASSIVE. We're talking almost a thousand pages, which is seriously Bible-big and unwieldy and chunky like carrying around a paving stone.

I get it. This is necessary for a book stuffed with so many stories, which serves as a kind of overview of ten million years of time travel stories. But it makes the thing rough reading in small doses. It's the kind of book that makes you commit to reading it. And maybe wearing a back brace.

Second disappointment? In all of its 900-some pages, it didn't include my favorite time travel story ever, "The Albertine Notes" by Rick Moody. I know it's totally not fair to knock an anthology for the things it doesn't include, but I'm doing it anyway, and mostly to make a point, which is this:

In all of its 900-some pages, the only time travel story I love that didn't get included in The Time Traveler's Almanac is "The Albertine Notes." And that is truly remarkable. I mean, I'm no sci-fi dilettante. And I certainly know my way around a (fictional) time machine. I've been reading and nerding-out over this stuff for longer than is probably healthy, and the stories that truly moved me have burrowed in deep. They gunked up my brain with their time machines, dinosaurs and melancholy and all of them (save that one) are now all together, all in one place, just waiting to gunk up yours.

Read an excerpt of The Time Traveler's Almanac


The numbers look bad for Illinois Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.

Illinois has remained in lousy shape throughout Quinn's five years in office.

The state's jobless rate is the worst in the Midwest and among the highest in the country. Quinn pushed through a sizable tax increase early in his term, yet Illinois's finances remain among the shakiest in the nation, with its overall budget gap continuing to increase.

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The numbers look bad for Illinois Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.

Illinois has remained in lousy shape throughout Quinn's five years in office.

The state's jobless rate is the worst in the Midwest and among the highest in the country. Quinn pushed through a sizable tax increase early in his term, yet Illinois's finances remain among the shakiest in the nation, with its overall budget gap continuing to increase.

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Being the first to try something can be rewarding. Remember how amazing it was to have the first iPhone? But then, sometimes there's a downside, like using that early version of the iPhone map tool that led to some wrong turns.

Colorado is going through a version of this with the implementation of the health law. The state and 13 others aren't using HealthCare.gov. They built health insurance marketplaces of their own. They took on big financial risks and and the burden of all kinds of operational details — from insurance plan offerings to advertising and outreach.

Some states, such as Connecticut and California, are reaping the rewards, leading the country in signing up people for insurance. Minnesota, Maryland, Oregon and others have spent lots of money only to see their technology stumble and sign-ups lag.

Colorado's insurance exchange has had some technological troubles and enrollment still running behind.

Months before the Affordable Care Act even passed, a big, bipartisan health reform study group here had already concluded the state should create an exchange.

On Oct. 1, 2013, Colorado opened its exchange - and there were glitches. "We did run into some intermittent error messages as people were creating accounts, and we did temporarily suspend the account creation while we solved them," CEO Patty Fontneau said then.

Colorado was hardly alone. Other states and the federal government had even worse problems. And, enrollment success varies, says Avalere Health's Elizabeth Carpenter.

"State-based exchanges, a number of them have really performed, but to be honest a number of HealthCare.gov states have also exceeded in our analysis," she says. "So there's not at this point kind of a direct correlation between whether or not you're a HealthCare.gov state or you're a state-based exchange state when it comes to your enrollment success, or lack thereof."

Colorado has signed up 90,000 people as of March 10. It's among the best-performing states, but its enrollment numbers to date are still below expectations.

But Ben Price with the trade group of health insurance companies in Colorado says the state is definitely better off.

"Every day that we get further into this, we're seeing more and more reasons it was good for us to go our own way and have a state level exchange," he says.

The insurers have worked closely with government agencies and consumer advocacy groups on creating the marketplace. They've had the chance to influence everything from the options users get on the exchange website, to specific marketing plans for different audiences and parts of the state. And when problems pop up, everybody pitches in and they get solved pretty quickly.

Price says a lot fewer people in Colorado would have health insurance now if the state had just used HealthCare.gov.

"It's not perfect," he says. "We'd like to see higher numbers. It's going to take some time and we're working out the kinks. But I think we're in a lot better shape than a lot of other states that chose to sit back and wait and see if the Affordable Care Act was going to stand, or just say, well, bring in whatever the federal government brings in."

Some states ended up with HealthCare.gov because they thought the law would be thrown out by the Supreme Court, or repealed by a Mitt Romney White House. But in Colorado, even some hardcore conservative lawmakers never thought that was a good strategy.

Republican Amy Stephens represents one of the most conservative districts in the state, but she co-sponsored the bill that established Colorado's health insurance exchange. She says she wanted to preserve as much state control as possible.

"I did not see the federal option as an option that was a good option," Stephens says. "And to me, and to the business community, creating something here in Colorado with a state exchange close to home in a pro-market manner was the best solution for us."

Stephens continued fighting to get Obamacare repealed, but wanted Colorado to have a backstop.

"We don't want to have to call some federal government number for our own health care," she says. "We want to decide it here. I think we've done a very good job."

The federal government gave Colorado $187 million to build its exchange. State Republicans have had a hard time attacking it when it has support from the business community, including hospitals and health care providers.

That broad base of support should serve Colorado well going forward, says consultant Elizabeth Carpenter.

"This was not a kind of go/no-go 2014 decision. This was a decision that states made looking into the longer term."

The first shot at signing up millions for health insurance wraps up at the end of the month. The state's long-term goal is getting as many people health coverage as possible. And Colorado, by building its own exchange, has managed to get groups that often disagree to work together on that.

This story is part of a partnership between NPR and Kaiser Health News.

The first family must be crust fallen.

Bill Yosses, the White House pastry chef, is moving to New York in June.

"Though I am incredibly sad to see Bill Yosses go, I am also so grateful to him for his outstanding work," first lady Michelle Obama said in a statement. She credited Yosses as "a key partner helping us get the White House Kitchen garden off the ground and building a healthier future for our next generation."

The pastry chef, who joined the White House staff in 2007, told The New York Times he's been adjusting his own recipes to be leaner and more healthful. But he hasn't given up on traditional sweets.

Each Christmas, Yosses takes charge of building an elaborate replica of the White House from gingerbread. President Obama is so fond of Yosses' pie crust that last Thanksgiving, the first family had nine pies to choose from. (The options? Huckleberry, pecan, chocolate cream, sweet potato, peach, apple, banana cream, coconut cream and pumpkin.)

"I don't want to demonize cream, butter, sugar and eggs," Yosses told the Times — a quote that was taken completely out of context by the Daily Caller.

In an article on Yosses' departure, the conservative media outlet suggested that the first lady's push for more healthful eating had driven Yosses out of the White House kitchen.

But it turns out the "controversy" was as much a confection as one of Yosses' desserts. (Although not as sweet.) In fact, Yosses told the Times he wants to build on Mrs. Obama's efforts. His next project will involve teaching both children and adults how to eat better.

It's a bittersweet decision," Yosses told the Times of his move.

In New York, Yosses will join his husband, Charlie, whom he married in 2011.

Judaism, Schama suggests, has always been a faith of the people, rather than say, Christianity, which quickly became embroiled with the hierarchical structures of an imperial religion as its followers grew in numbers. The two religions weren't that distinct at first; during the second and third centuries, both groups lived cheek by jowl. There were even those who called themselves Jewish Christians.

But that brief harmony didn't last — the final schism came when Christianity became the state religion of imperial Rome in 380 A.D., and the myth of the beastly, Christ-killing Jew began to solidify. It was Saint Jerome who famously declared: "He that is not of Christ is anti-Christ." And so Jews continued to be a wandering tribe.

In 388 there was an epidemic mob of attacks against synagogues all over the eastern Empire and in Syria; in 1278-9 the Jews were expelled from England, accused of coin clipping; and in 1492, half a millennia of Sephardic Jewish culture in Spain was effectively ended in just a few weeks, when Jews were told to leave or face execution.

Reading Schama's heart-wrenching tales of suffering bought home an important point: the horrors of Nazism didn't spring up in isolation. It also made me think of Marx's observation that "history repeats itself, first time as tragedy, second time as farce."

This epic historical narrative is one that has already been widely covered in recent decades by writers such as Stan Mack and Paul Johnson. But Schama's prose has a melancholic music that you rarely find in historical writing. It's this ability to empathize with his narrative, rather than just coldly regurgitating the facts, that makes Schama one of the finest historians of his generation.

Those with even the slightest curiosity about history, culture, civilization, and the very human trait to survive and preserve at all costs will devour this book with the enthusiasm and fascination it rightly deserves.

Read an excerpt of The Story of the Jews

Many plans sold on the health insurance marketplaces offer a tradeoff: lower premiums in exchange for limited choices of doctors and hospitals. But consumers who opt for these plans with the idea that they'll go out of network when necessary may be taking a big financial risk.

The health law generally limits how much consumers can be required to pay out of pocket for medical care (not including premiums). In 2014, the limit for an individual plan is $6,350 and for a family plan, $12,700.

But those limits apply only to care provided by doctors and hospitals in a plan's approved network. There may be a separate out-of-pocket maximum for services provided out of the network in marketplace plans, or no cap at all, says Margaret Nowak, research director at Breakaway Policy Strategies, a research and consulting firm.

Shots - Health News

Can A Doctor Really Demand An Extra $75 Upfront?

The marriage ends as modern marriages do, with a Complaint for Divorce and a notice from Family Court. Then comes the heart of the matter: the long back and forth between the attorneys on both sides of the case with their clients and with the court. In a brilliantly constructed series of asides and the digressions, Rieger uses notes and letters to conjure up Sophie's past as well as her client's in a neatly presented counterpoint. Mia Durkheim stands on the verge of putting her married life behind her. Sophie Diehl, her attorney, tries, with the help of an actress friend, to figure out how to handle the presence of a new man in her life.

Stories within stories add to the complication of the novel. There's the little narrative about the flirtation between Sophie's novelist mother and the managing partner of her law firm. There's the story of Sophie's actress friend and her burgeoning career. There's the bitter rivalry between Sophie and a more experienced divorce lawyer at her firm. Moreover, we get a brief course in the use of legal precedent in matters of divorce and a dramatic intertwining of the law and human feelings.

The "woe that is in marriage" remains a great subject. Working it out in what the novelist calls "Epistolary 2.0" only adds to its pleasures.

And so you sipped and examined, and appreciated the glaze of the jug those Chinese had just slapped onto their clay — how it moved across the surface, and created the occasional blob or blip. And you schmoozed about the beauty of it all. Tea, then, was far more than a drink.

"Tea becomes a place where these people of different social strata could get together and talk," Watsky says. They could "be together not to talk about war, not to talk about business, but to engage in their shared interest in this aesthetic pursuit."

And then some of them went home and wrote about it in their diaries — the date, the place, time of day, who was there, objects used, all described in great detail.

Toward the end of the 17th century Japan got tea pots, and little leaf-stuffed balls that were dunked in hot water. Tea-drinking became more widespread, and then along came teabags.

Today, the ancient rituals are still taught and observed by some. But today's Japanese are crazy for coffee, and a cult of coffee preparation has developed that's at least as complicated as the 16th century tea ceremonies.


"Just to recognize one type of outlet in different lighting conditions was a very difficult problem," Wise says.

Roboticists approach problems like this by feeding their machines reams of data. They show the robots thousands of pictures of different electrical outlets in different lighting conditions and create software to help the machines recognize the patterns.

It turns out this is also how Google teaches its search engine to anticipate your needs and offer you results before you've finished typing. It is exactly this kind of data-driven statistical analysis that is one of Google's core strengths.

And this skill set may well be why Google is suddenly feeling so much love for so many robots. If so, Wise understands. "I feel affectionate toward all robots," she says. "There is this growing series of pictures of me basically spazzing out and hugging robots."

Apparently, Google executives seem to know the feeling.

On how women and men adapt differently to a spouse dying

Looking round my several women friends who are widows, [they] have all adapted very well. One has a new partner, a couple of other close friends who are widows don't. The only friend/acquaintance men I know who have been widowed found new partners with almost disconcerting rapidity. It really did seem as though they couldn't stand to be alone, and you learned with surprise that within six months or so they had set up with someone else and you wondered slightly if this was just simply that they felt they wouldn't possibly be able to adapt to life on their own.

On not wanting to purchase new things in old age

I think the lack of acquisitiveness is, interestingly, a sort of old age thing. I have a houseful of possessions; I don't want any more things. But when you were younger, you often wanted new things, yes indeed. You coveted a lovely new rug or you coveted something new for the kitchen. I don't do that now because in a sense I've — I was going to say, "I've got it all," but no, you can always have something that's even better than what you've already got. But I seem to have lost that feeling of, "Ooh, I really just must have that," whatever it was. It goes, which is something of a relief.

Book Reviews

'Dancing Fish,' 'Ammonites' And A Literary Life Well-Lived

A team of Navy SEALs boarded and took control of an oil tanker carrying Libyan oil, southeast of Cyprus, at the request of the Libyan and Cypriot governments, the Defense Department said in a statement Monday.

Rear Adm. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said the SEALs boarded the Morning Glory on Sunday night local time in international waters; the vessel was seized earlier this month by three armed Libyans.

"The SEAL team embarked and operated from the guided missile destroyer USS Roosevelt," Kirby said in the statement.

NPR's Leila Fadel reported on the operation for our Newscast unit. She said:

"Anti-government rebels who control three vital ports in the east had sold and loaded the crude oil onto the tanker bypassing the central government's authority. The rebel group wants their share of Libya's oil wealth and more autonomy in the east. The move embarrassed an already weak central government."

Sunday's vote in Crimea has been followed, as expected, by steps within that region of Ukraine to split and join the Russian Federation and promises from the U.S. and its European allies that they will impose economic and other sanctions on Russia and those Crimeans who have spearheaded the region's breakaway attempt.

As we reported, Crimean officials say more than 95 percent of those who voted in Sunday's referendum endorsed the idea of joining the Russian Federation.

There were, however, complaints about the vote and some signs of intimidation.

From Crimea, NPR's Gregory Warner tells our Newscast Desk that "many pro-Ukranian Crimeans boycotted the referendum, saying the ballot gave them no option to vote to maintain the status quo of Crimea as part of Ukraine."

He also reports that "activists complained of irregularities — including voting by children and some people voting multiple times. Also, Russian biker gangs and armed self-defense units patrolled polling stations."

From the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports that the interim government there has rejected the vote, saying it is illegal under their nation's constitution.

Now, as The Associated Press writes, "the U.S. and its allies in Europe are expected to announce sanctions against Russia, including visa bans and potential asset freezes."

President Obama and many Western leaders say Russia has illegally interfered in Ukraine by sending troops into that nation's Crimean region following the ouster last month of Ukraine's pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych. Obama reportedly told Russian President Vladimir Putin again on Sunday that the U.S. will never recognize Sunday's vote.

For his part, Putin says he is moving to protect the ethnic Russians in Crimea from reprisals by Ukrainian nationalists — though there has been little, if any, evidence of any such moves by Ukrainians.

Meanwhile, steps toward Crimea's split from Ukraine continue. Monday, the BBC reports, Crimea's parliament "formally declared independence from Ukraine and asked to join the Russian Federation."

And from Moscow, Russia's Interfax news agency reports that "the independence of Crimea will be recognized by Russia in an inter-state agreement, State Duma Chairman Sergei Naryshkin said." The parliament leader added that Russia will act "swiftly and responsibly" and that he sees no problem with the Crimean officials' request to become part of the federation.

How did the crisis reach this point? Here's a quick recap and some additional background:

As we've previously said, Crimea has been the focus of attention as the ripple effects of the protests that led to last month's ouster of Yanukovych have spread.

Summing up the history and importance of Crimea to Russia and Ukraine isn't possible in just a few sentences, of course. The Parallels blog, though, has published several posts that contain considerable context:

— Crimea: 3 Things To Know About Ukraine's Latest Hot Spot

— Crimea: A Gift To Ukraine Becomes A Political Flash Point

— Why Ukraine Is Such A Big Deal For Russia

We've recapped what set off months of protest in Kiev and ultimately led to Yanukovych's dismissal by his nation's parliament last month this way:

"The protests were sparked in part by the president's rejection of a pending trade treaty with the European Union and his embrace of more aid from Russia. Protesters were also drawn into the streets to demonstrate against government corruption."

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