On a cold, rainy morning, a van pulls up outside a rural elementary school on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan's capital. The fluorescent green vehicle provides a flash of color on this otherwise gray day. There's a picture of children reading books under a large apple tree, and the words "Reading is fun" are painted in English and Urdu, the national language in Pakistan.
For American policy analysts, today's announcement of direct food aid and medical supplies to Syrian rebels is a significant shift. But a top commander in the forces fighting the Syrian regime says it's not nearly enough. NPR's Deborah Amos met that commander in northern Syria today.
The sunny island of Cyprus has been a vacation haven for Arabs and Israelis alike. But recently, it's been the site of a much-watched trial of an admitted Hezbollah operative. He has described himself simply as a pawn in the militant group's hierarchy, tasked with doing surveillance on restaurants, hotels and buses serving Israeli tourists. But his trial has revealed a wide range of details about how Hezbollah operates and how it may be getting more sophisticated.
After years of tax cuts and a big hike in defense spending, deficits were rising. Then came a bitter battle over the debt limit. Three senators came up with a plan: Unless Congress and the White House could get the deficit under control, this thing called "sequestration" would do it for them.
The battle between an American capitalist and a French socialist official has prompted chuckles — and heated debate — on both sides of the Atlantic. The exchange highlights some humorous stereotypes and reveals real differences between the economic cultures of France and the United States.
A leaked letter from Maurice Taylor, CEO of the Illinois-based Titan tire company, ignited the controversy. In it, Taylor, regarded by the French as a hardcore capitalist, addressed Arnaud Montebourg, France's flamboyant, leftist industrial renewal minister.
Several states are rushing to establish a foothold in online gambling — an activity that federal officials were only recently trying to ban.
Just a while ago, the federal government actually viewed online gambling as a crime. Lately, the Obama administration has taken a more permissive stance. It now allows states to sell lottery tickets online.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had expressed reservations about online gambling a month ago and had vetoed an earlier version of the bill. But in the end, the pressure to sign the legislation was just too great.
The Obama administration is rethinking its strategy in Syria. As the death toll mounts and a diplomatic solution seems out of reach, the administration is planning to do more to help Syrian rebels. That could involve what's referred to as direct, non-lethal assistance. It does not include weapons.
Secretary of State John Kerry is talking about all this in Rome with members of the Syrian opposition, and NPR's Michele Kelemen is traveling with him.
If Congress and the Obama administration can't agree on a budget deal by Friday, the federal government will be forced to cut $85 billion from just about every federally funded program. Every state could lose federal aid, and a myriad of government programs could shut down or curtail services — and that includes the nation's public schools.