National & International News

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Syrian President Bashar Assad, in apparent response to Secretary of State John Kerry's remarks last week in support of opposition forces in Syria, says only the Syrian people can tell him to step down.

"Only Syrian people can tell the president stay or leave, come or go. No one else," he said in an interview to Britain's Sunday Times.

It was a rare TV interview for the Syrian president, whose regime has battled rebels as well as calls to step down for nearly two years.

Al-Qaida Leader Reportedly Killed In Mali

Mar 2, 2013

A senior commander for al-Qaida's wing in North Africa has been killed, Chad's military reported on Chadian state television Saturday. NPR could not independently verify the report.

The military said troops attacked an Islamist rebel base in the mountains of northern Mali, killing several militants, including Mokhtar Belmokhtar.

Update at 6:53 p.m. ET Rescuers End Search:

Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill says efforts to find Jeffrey Bush, who disappeared in a sinkhole, have been discontinued. He says that the conditions at Bush's home have become too dangerous for rescue workers.

"At this point it's really not possible to recover the body," Merrill said at a news conference on Saturday.

He says workers will begin efforts to demolish the home on Sunday.

Our Original Post Continues:

An estimated 100 million sharks are killed every year, "largely due to their inherent vulnerability, and an increasing demand, particularly for their fins, in the Asian market," a new report finds.

Tunisia took the lead in the Arab Spring back in 2011. Its revolution was swift and largely peaceful. Within months, an assembly was elected to write a new constitution.

As other Arab countries grew more violent and chaotic, Tunisia seemed to be showing the way for an orderly transition away from authoritarian rule.

President Obama, who has issued few pardons during his time in office, announced on Friday that he had pardoned 17 people convicted of mostly minor offenses.

The AP reports:

"No one well-known was on the list released by the White House. Some of the crimes drew light penalties in the first place — such as a North Carolina woman sentenced to two years' probation and 100 hours of community service for distributing satellite cable decryption devices.

The judge overseeing the Apple/Samsung patent case decided to throw out about half of the $1 billion in damages awarded by the jury in a trial last August.

All Things D explains:

"Judge Lucy Koh ordered a new trial to determine damages for certain of the products in the case, a move that affects $450 million of the jury's $1.05 billion award.

Strange as it may seem, a pierced, tattooed and occasionally cross-dressing former basketball star is now one of the West's leading experts on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman, following his improbable visit to Pyongyang this week, has become the only Westerner to have had a one-on-one with the reclusive Kim, who by all accounts enjoys basketball at least as much as testing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Update at 4:08 p.m. ET. Report Released:

The State Department, which is ultimately charged with approving or denying TransCanada's plans to build a 1,700 mile pipeline from Canada and through the U.S., has released a draft report that details the potential environmental impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline.

An experiment that used rats to create a "brain-to-brain interface" shows that instructions can be transferred between animals via electronic signals and the Internet, according to scientists who studied how rats can use brain implants to share problem-solving information.

He can't do "a Jedi mind meld" with Republicans and get them to see his way about taxes and spending, President Obama said Friday.

About which CBS News' Mark Knoller immediately tweeted:

"Pres Obama Mixed Metaphor of the Day: The 'mind meld' is not a Jedi tool from Star Wars, but a Vulcan ability from Star Trek."

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski says his agency will investigate whether a federal ban on unlocking cellphones is "harmful to economic competitiveness."

Genachowski made the comments during a event hosted by the technology site TechCrunch.

The question of whodunit remains unanswered in the case of a Chicago lottery winner who died last July with a lethal amount of cyanide in his blood.

Cook County Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Cina said Friday that tests on the remains of Urooj Khan did not detect cyanide in tissues or what remains of his digestive system.

A wave of violence has rocked Bangladesh after a special war crimes tribunal Thursday imposed the death penalty on an Islamist leader for his role in the country's 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.

Demonstrators for and against the convicted leader clashed with security forces, leaving dozens of people dead, including police.

The violence demonstrates the deep sensitivities that remain over the war of independence that played out more than 40 years ago.

Saying it was a "sad day," Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder declared a financial emergency in the city of Detroit. He said that while it would not be appropriate to appoint an emergency manager, now, he would think about doing so after March 12. That's the day set aside for a hearing, if the city appeals his decision.

"I do have a top candidate," Snyder said during a press conference.

The Detroit Free Press explains:

"Washington sure isn't making it easy" for the American people and the American economy, President Obama told reporters late Friday morning as he and other lawmakers failed to reach a deal to avert $85 billion worth of automatic "sequester" spending cuts due to start at the end of the day.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has restored the voting rights of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

If you remember Libby was former Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff. As the AP explains, "he was convicted in 2007 of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements in a case involving leaked information that compromised the covert identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Libby's 2½-year prison sentence was commuted by then-President George W. Bush."

Kim Dotcom, founder of the file-sharing website Megaupload, says he will take his fight against extradition to the United States to New Zealand's highest court, after an appeals court ruled in the U.S. government's favor Friday.

At issue is the amount of evidence Dotcom's defense team is entitled to see at the extradition hearing. An appeals court overruled a lower court's decision that the U.S. government had to provide more than a summary of its case against the Internet entrepreneur.

Update at 8:10 p.m. ET: Problem Fixed, Arrival Delayed

SpaceX says the problem with its unmanned craft carrying supplies for the International Space Station has been fixed.

In a country where executions are so commonplace as to barely rate a mention on the evening news, the death by lethal injection of a drug lord and three accomplices in China on Friday got its own two-hour special on state television.

Will there be any clues in coming days and weeks about which cardinal will replace the now-departed Pope Benedict XVI?

On a day when we're in the final countdown for sequestration, Washington is still abuzz over whether or not White House economic adviser Gene Sperling threatened journalist Bob Woodward.

Shakes on a plane aren't all that funny to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Colorado College's ultimate frisbee team last month convinced the crew aboard a Frontier Airlines fight to let them do the "Harlem Shake."

Update at 2:30 p.m. ET. Rescue Hopes Dim Further:

"Hopes for the rescue of a man sucked into a sinkhole were dimming Friday as authorities tried to determine whether the ground nearby was stable enough for a rescue operation," the Tampa Bay Times writes.

The Times also has a harrowing account from Jeremy Bush, who survived, of his brother Jeffrey's disappearance into the sinkhole:

Update at 11:55 a.m. ET. As Expected, No Deal:

President Obama and Congressional leaders met at the White House Friday morning and, just as pundits predicted, they could not reach a deal to avert the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts set to begin at the end of the day. We've posted on that news:

Decrying 'Dumb, Arbitrary Cuts,' Obama Says 'We Will Get Through This'

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

Hear Laura Sydell's report for Morning Edition by clicking the audio link.

Groupon co-founder Andrew Mason has been fired as the daily-deal company's CEO, one day after Groupon posted financial results that showed it lost $67.4 million during 2012. Board chairmen Eric Lefkofsky and Ted Leonsis will jointly fill the CEO post on an interim basis.

File this one under Sisyphean tasks: The government of Iceland is drafting plans to ban pornography both online and in print.

Supporters of the ban, proposed by Interior Minister Ogmundur Jonasson, says it will shield children from harm.

Writing in the Guardian, Halla Gunnarsdottir, political adviser to Jonasson, said:

Update at 6:44 p.m. ET. Limited Gay Marriage Right:

The Obama administration is asking the Supreme Court to end a ban on gay marriage in California.

But NPR's Nina Totenberg tells our Newscast unit that the government is arguing for limited gay marriage rights.

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