National & International News

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

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.

South Korea upped the ante Wednesday after Pyongyang threatened to scrap the armistice that ended a brutal war between the rival neighbors in 1953, promising retaliation for any North Korean attack.

"If North Korea carries out provocations that threaten the lives and safety of South Koreans, our military will carry out strong and resolute retaliations," South Korea's Gen. Kim Yong-hyun told reporters in Seoul.

As Roman Catholic cardinals now gathered in Rome continue to make preparations for their conclave that will choose a new pope, NPR's Sylvia Poggioli tells our Newscast Desk that "advocates for victims of clerical sex abuse across the world are stepping up demands that three cardinals withdraw" from that process.

According to Sylvia:

The Egyptian Administrative Court has put off planned national elections, the first round of which were to be held in mid-April. In a brief dispatch, Aswat Masriya news of Egypt reports the matter was referred to Egypt's High Constitutional Court.

Saying that she doesn't think about dying, she thinks "of being here now," actress Valerie Harper has revealed to People magazine that she has terminal brain cancer.

Secretary of State John Kerry says he believes that arms are reaching the rebels in Syria and that the U.S. supports international efforts to put weapons in the hands of the opposition to step up pressure on President Bashar Assad.

At a news conference in Doha with Qatar's Prime Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani, Kerry said Tuesday that "there are greater guarantees that weapons are being transferred to moderates and directly to the Syrian opposition."

There were 198,000 jobs added to private employers' payrolls in February, according to the latest ADP National Employment Report — a privately produced snapshot of the employment picture that's sometimes a signal of what the Bureau of Labor Statistics will say when it releases its data from the same month.

Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro "controls the purse strings" and his opponents have been looking weak, NPR's Juan Forero said earlier today on Morning Edition.

The winter storm that has dumped several inches of snow from the Dakotas to Maryland is expected to linger over the mid-Atlantic on Wednesday, bringing another 5 to 9 inches to many areas in the east.

Federal government offices in the nation's capital were closed Wednesday in anticipation of the wet, heavy snow, and many schools were closed in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. Hundreds of flights were canceled at Dulles and Reagan National airports.

Update at 10:45 a.m. ET: A 'Bust' For D.C.?

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

A tale of two car thefts has transfixed China, sparking a new bout of soul-searching. It's generated far more attention online than the ongoing legislative session in Beijing, despite leaked orders from the local government restricting official coverage.

Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez, has died, Vice President Nicolás Maduro announced in a televised statement.

Chávez died at a military hospital in Caracas at 4:25 p.m. Tuesday. He was 58.

In power since 1999, the former military commander became an icon of socialist policies in Latin America. With his country's oil wealth as backup, he launched fierce and unyielding criticism of the United States and its allies.

The AP reports:

Fred Butler has done many things in his 106 years, from serving in two military theaters of World War II to helping raise five children. But he had never gone to high school, or earned a diploma — the result of leaving school after the eighth grade to work full-time in a print shop to help support his family.

The TSA is whittling down the list of objects air travelers are forbidden to carry on board and says small pocket knives will soon be allowed on commercial flights.

But thats not all! According to the TSA, travelers will also be able to take on board golf clubs (a maximum of two), hockey sticks, and wiffle ball bats. Yes, wiffle ball bats. Finally!

TSA Administrator John Pistole outlined the changes today at an appearance in New York.

By a vote of 12 to 3, the Senate Intelligence Committee approved the nomination of John Brennan as the head of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The nomination now goes to the full Senate for their confirmation. Reuters reports that timing of that vote is still unknown.

As we've reported, Brennan's nomination has drawn opposition from Senators who "want to know more about last September's attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya."

The Masters Tournament is still a month away, but the green jackets that grace the winners' shoulders are already in the news, thanks to a lawsuit over a proposed auction of a former champion's jacket.

On one side is tournament host Augusta National Golf Club, which says the jacket, won by Art Wall Jr. in 1959, was stolen; on the other is Florida doctor Stephen Pyles and Heritage Auctions of Texas, who insist the jacket was obtained legally and can thus be sold to the highest bidder.

Following the lead of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, the White House said yesterday that it believed users should be allowed to unlock their cellphones without breaking the law.

The White House made the statement in response to an online petition signed by more than 114,000 people. R. David Edelman wrote:

While diplomats move ahead at the United Nations on a package of new sanctions aimed at North Korea in another effort to convince that Stalinist state to give up its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, there's also this news:

During a long, fiery speech, Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro said the country had expelled American diplomat David del Monaco because of what Maduro said was his work trying to "destabilize the country."

"Mr. David del Monaco has 24 hours to pick up his bags and leave the country," Maduro said in the televised speech.

Three people are in custody Tuesday in California, accused of commandeering an 82-foot luxury sailboat in Sausalito, partying through the night, and then running the yacht aground in the pounding surf off the beach at Pacifica.

Days after angering cyclists with his contention that people who ride bikes don't help pay for roads — and stating that "the act of riding a bike results in greater emissions of carbon dioxide from the rider," Washington State Rep. Ed Orcutt has apologized for his words, and any confusion they created.

At the Geneva Motor Show on Tuesday, Volkswagen introduced a futuristic-looking car that the company says is the "world's most efficient."

VW's XL1 is a two seater, plug-in, diesel hybrid that the company says gets 261 miles per gallon "with an all-electric driving range of a little over 30 miles," CNN reports.

CNN adds:

Yet another scandal has hit U.S. Speedskating (USS), which governs the sport with the biggest haul of winter Olympic medals for Team USA.

The USS board announced Monday night that it is investigating allegations of sexual abuse involving short track silver medalist Andy Gabel, now 48, who also once served as president of USS.

"U.S. Speedskating will not tolerate abuse of any kind and we intend to investigate these claims, and any others that arise, thoroughly," the group said in a written statement.

Climate change will make commercial shipping possible from North America to Russia or Asia over the North Pole by the middle of the century, a new study says.

Two researchers at the University of California ran seven different climate models simulating two classes of vessels to see if they could make a relatively ice-free passage through the Arctic Ocean. In each case, the sea routes are sufficiently clear after 2049, they say.

Are you a "mega-commuter"?

That's a term used by the U.S. Census Bureau to describe people who commute at least 90 minutes and 50 miles to work. Nearly 600,000 Americans spend that much time in vehicles, carpool lanes, and trains and buses each day, according to the bureau.

This interactive map, created by WNYC, shows commute times, by ZIP code, across the country. Zoom into your area to see how your commute compares:

Screaming, crying fans are par for the course if you're teen idol Justin Bieber. But this is a bit different.

After a Monday concert at London's O2 Arena that reportedly started two hours late, the 19-year-old pop star has been forced to apologize for upsetting disappointed young concertgoers and their angry parents.

In a series of tweets Tuesday, Bieber issued his mea culpa:

Pages