Politics & Government

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Government troops are battling rebels for control of Syria's largest city, Aleppo. The government launched a major offensive over the weekend to retake neighborhoods held by the Free Syrian Army. Both sides appear to be preparing for an extended battle that could prove crucial to the outcome of the 17-month-old uprising.

After days of massing troops and weapons, the government assaulted rebel-held neighborhoods with tanks, helicopters and artillery, as heard in an amateur video uploaded to YouTube.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A Jefferson County Circuit judge postponed an injunction hearing on the lawsuits against Birmingham school officials by the city and state superintendents. The Birmingham News reports that the postponements made Friday will give the school board a chance to decide whether to keep fight the lawsuits or settle. Circuit Judge Houston Brown says the injunction hearing will be postponed until Aug. 1. Brown agreed to delay the hearing that had been set for Monday.

Mitt Romney In Birmingham Aug. 15

Jul 27, 2012
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has scheduled a fundraising reception Aug. 15 in Birmingham.

A letter from the Romney campaign said the event will be at The Club. People contributing $5,000 can get their photo taken with the former Massachusetts governor at 5:30 p.m. A general reception, costing $1,000 per person, is at 6 p.m. Then a private dinner starts at 7 p.m. for those contributing $25,000 or more.

AG Seized $283,000 In Cash From Alabama Casino

Jul 27, 2012
Liz Lawley / Flickr

Alabama's attorney general seized more than $283,000 in cash during a raid on the Center Stage casino near Dothan.

Attorney General Luther Strange has asked a Houston County judge to let him turn over the money to the state treasury and allow him to destroy 691 computer terminals, servers and other pieces of equipment seized in the raid Wednesday. Strange says the equipment and money were part of an illegal gambling operation.

Circuit Judge Larry Anderson is considering the case.

Fast food's Chick-fil-A has been at the center of the culture wars in recent days because of company President Dan Cathy's outspoken opposition to gay marriage.

Today starts the Alabama Families of Prisoners Conference in Birmingham. The two-day event was established to help families who are in need of resources and encouragement now that a family member is incarcerated. Mary Kay Beard is coordinating the conference. She says inmate’s families serve time just as surely as the inmates do.

"But no one tells them what the rules are, and I don't mean specific rules but how to walk through this time of incarceration and we want to provide to them resources that will be helpful."

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Good morning. I'm Linda Wertheimer with the opposite of a jailbreak. Rodney Dwayne Valentine was released from jail. He asked police officers for a ride to a motel and the officers said no. They told him to call a cab. Instead, Valentine decided to stay put. He refused to leave the jail. The Greensboro News and Record reports that Valentine was then arrested for trespassing. He's back in the slammer. It's MORNING EDITION. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

The economy grew at a sluggish 1.5 percent annual rate in the second quarter, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported this morning, down from a 2 percent pace in the first quarter.

This is the bureau's first estimate of GDP growth in the spring months. It will revise the figure twice in coming months. It's now 8:33 a.m. ET. We'll have more about the report shortly.

Update at 10 a.m. ET. The White House Points To String Of Positive Quarters:

An occasional series, Fiscal Cliff Notes breaks down the looming "fiscal cliff" of expiring tax cuts and deep automatic spending cuts set to hit around the first of year.


About 80 percent of Americans would see their taxes go up if all the tax cuts signed into law by President George W. Bush were to expire as scheduled at the end of this year. And nearly 100 percent of the highest income earners would have to pay more — including both the Obamas and the Romneys.

The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to shut down all of the medical marijuana dispensaries in the city. That's no easy task. There are more than 800 of them — more than the number of Starbucks coffee shops in Los Angeles. But after years of struggling to regulate pot shops, city officials have decided to prohibit them altogether.

Last of five parts

The most striking thing you see when you drive into the Syrian town of Derat Azza is that it's devoid of ordinary people. Shops are closed, shuttered.

The only people you see seem to be rebels.

It seems like the only difference between this town and others in the area is that the regime made up its mind to target it. And once the regime did, there was nothing the people could do.

For decades, the primary goal of those who would fix the U.S. health system has been to help people without insurance get coverage. Now, it seems, all that may be changing. At least some top Republicans are trying to steer the health debate away from the problem of the uninsured.

The shift in emphasis is a subtle one, but it's noticeable.

What people in New Jersey like about Gov. Chris Christie is his candor — the sense that he's speaking from his heart, instead of a script.

Last summer, as Hurricane Irene barreled toward the Jersey shore, the Republican governor offered a particularly memorable moment during a press conference: "Get the hell off the beach in Asbury Park and get out," he said. "You're done. It's 4:30. You've maximized your tan. Get off the beach."

Alabama Asks Court To Back Its Redistricting Plan

Jul 26, 2012
ryanjreilly / Flickr

Alabama is asking a federal court to rule that its redistricting plan for the state Legislature does not violate the Voting Rights Act.

The state filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking a declaratory judgment that the plan does not deny or abridge the right to vote based on race or color.

The first stop — Britain — in Mitt Romney's foreign tour certainly is starting out rockier than nearly anyone expected.

First there was the kerfuffle over remarks, attributed by a British newspaper to an anonymous campaign adviser, that Romney understood the shared "Anglo-Saxon heritage" between the U.S. and Britain in a way President Obama didn't. Those comments were viewed as racist by some and were disowned by the Romney campaign.

Ala. Gambling Trial Judge Wants Bribery Clarity

Jul 26, 2012

The judge who presided over Alabama's two gambling corruption trials says the U.S. Supreme Court needs to clear up when a campaign contribution constitutes a bribe.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued an opinion saying there is ``considerable confusion'' about how federal corruption laws apply to campaign contributions. He says a precise definition of bribery would help.

The two trials before Thompson involved legislators and lobbyists accused of promising campaign contributions in return for votes on pro-gambling legislation. No one was convicted.

The Obama administration is enlisting new allies to fight health care fraud: insurers.

Today the Departments of Health and Human Services and Justice announced a partnership with more than a dozen health insurers and industry groups to nip fraudulent schemes in the bud, instead of tracking down bad guys after the fact.

It was likely something that the United States Department of Agricultural didn't put much thought into. In an internal newsletter detailing agency's "greening" efforts, there's information about new lightbulbs and locally bought fruits and vegetables.

But on page three of five, there's also a passage that encourages forgoing meat on Mondays.

Our colleague David Folkenflik reports for the Newscast Desk that:

"NPR has hired an outside lobbying firm to help make its case with lawmakers on Capitol Hill as some House Republicans seek to make deep funding cuts to public broadcasting.

"Recent disclosure forms show NPR has paid $10,000 to Navigators Global, a firm founded by Republican political figures including strategist and pundit Mike Murphy.

The Justice Department inspector general has uncovered what he calls illegal hiring practices at the federal agency. In a new report he cites eight employees for trying to find jobs for their children and other relatives.

The number of people filing first-time claims for jobless benefits fell by 35,000 last week, to 353,000, the Employment and Training Administration just reported.

That brings the level about back to where it was three weeks ago and down near a four-year low — but also keeps claims in the range where they've been trending for about the last year.

Outrage in China about the dozens of deaths last weekend when Beijing's drainage system couldn't cope with heavy rains and much of the city was flooded has been followed by more frustration and anger today.

Disgraced Former Health Care Chief Scrushy Freed

Jul 25, 2012
HealthSouth Corporation

Disgraced former health care executive Richard Scrushy has been released from federal custody after nearly six years.

Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke says the former multimillionaire HealthSouth Corp. founder and CEO was freed Wednesday from home confinement in Houston, the final step as he begins three years of supervised release.

Atty. General Raids Dothan's Center Stage Casino

Jul 25, 2012

State and local law enforcement have raided Center Stage casino near Dothan and seized several hundred machines.

State Attorney General Luther Strange announced that his office worked with the Houston County sheriff and district attorney to serve a search warrant Wednesday morning that resulted from an ongoing investigation of illegal gambling.

Weekly Standard: Rules For Romney

Jul 25, 2012

Lisa Spiller, a professor in the business school at Christopher Newport University, and Jeff Bergner are authors of Branding the Candidate.

The two of us recently published a book about the highly successful Obama presidential campaign of 2008. From our research we distilled 10 lessons for 2012 Republican primary candidates called (with apologies to Saul Alinsky) "Rules for Republicans" (The Weekly Standard, January 2-9, 2012). With the Republican primary now behind us, it is fair to ask: How is the Romney campaign doing?

Update at 5:36 p.m. ET. U.S. Attorney Will Investigate:

During a press conference today, Mayor Tom Tait asked for calm. He also said that the Office of the U.S. Attorney had agreed to investigate the shootings.

"The first step is to get to the truth," Tait said according to the Orange County Register. "That takes some time and patience, and that's what I'm asking for."

Our Original Post Continues:

"Senate leaders have reversed course and decided to stage showdown votes later today on rival Democratic and Republican plans for extending broad tax cuts next year that will otherwise expire in January," The Associated Press writes.

So, Democrats will get the chance to cast "yea" votes on their plan to extend the so-called Bush tax cuts only for those earning less than $250,000 a year. Republicans will get the chance to cast "yea" votes on their plan to extend the tax cuts for everyone.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, influential conservative and pugilistic dissenter, is challenging everything from a recent leak about Supreme Court deliberations, to conventional wisdom about the court and its history.

In a new book co-authored with Bryan Garner, Scalia spells out his judicial philosophy, and on Tuesday, the always voluble, charming and combative justice sat for a wide-ranging interview — about the book, his relationships on the court, and the recent leak alleging anger among the justices over the recent health care decision.

Grantham Says Controversy Could Lead To APT Demise

Jul 24, 2012
Alabama Public Television / Wikipedia

The chief operating officer of Alabama Public Television has written a letter to Gov. Robert Bentley expressing concern that the controversy surrounding the firing of two top officials at Alabama Public Television could lead to the demise of the network in Alabama.

Alabama Public Television Network chief operating officer Charles Grantham said in an interview about the letter that the controversy could lead to the demise in Alabama of popular programs like ``Sesame Street'' and ``Antique Roadshow.''

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