This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Israelis see Syria convulsed in violence to their north; uncertain relations with a much-changed Egypt to the south; and many fear a conflict with Iran could be just a matter of time. But as if to remind us of the central dispute in the region, Palestinians launched a barrage of rockets from Gaza last week. Israel responded with airstrikes. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The violence began when Israel assassinated a leader of a militant Palestinian faction in Gaza.]
The Iranian government continues to deny U.N. nuclear inspectors access to a military base where some believe they tested atom bomb parts. But Iran also says it's willing to resume talks with the United States and five other big powers, though skeptics argue Tehran is just playing for time. At a news conference yesterday, President Obama stressed diplomacy but added time for talks is running out.
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington. More good unemployment numbers today, oil prices tick down, positive news even about the housing market. Yes, many millions are still out of work, banks continue to process foreclosures, overall economic growth remains sluggish. But right now anyway, some sectors are doing better, a few are actually booming.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich is serving a 14-year prison sentence in a Colorado prison. Former Missouri state senator Jeff Smith served a year in federal prison on obstruction of justice charges. He offers sober advice to Blagojevich on what to expect, and what and what not to do behind bars.
A Pentagon official is downplaying the Afghan president's call for the United States to confine its troops to military bases by next year.
The AP says an unnamed "defense offical" told reporters the United States does not believe that's what President Hamid Karzai is seeking.
"We believe that this statement reflects President Karzai's strong interest in moving as quickly as possible to a fully independent and sovereign Afghanistan," Pentagon spokesman George Little said, according the AP.
I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We're going to check in on a number of important international stories today. In a few minutes, we will tell you about what could be a significant ruling by the International Criminal Court. The court issued the first conviction in its history. It was against a former Congolese rebel fighter who was found guilty yesterday, of forcing children to serve as soldiers. We'll take a closer look at the verdict and what it could mean in a few minutes.
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, she's been called China's Elizabeth Taylor and the honors keep on coming. Joan Chen is being recognized at the International Asian-American Film Festival, which wraps up this weekend in San Francisco. We'll speak with her in just a few minutes.
Now, we want to turn to an important issue from this country that found the international spotlight this week. Yesterday, members of the NAACP, one of this country's oldest and most prominent civil rights organizations, addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council about new voter ID laws. More than 30 states now have laws requiring people to show a government-issued ID in order to vote, that according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
An alert for all those who were caught up in the excitement last year when the Decorah Eagle Cam was streaming as a pair of bald eagles in Iowa watched over their three eggs and as the eaglets hatched:
Federal health officials unveiled a graphic new anti-smoking campaign featuring testimonials from ex-smokers about the toll of tobacco on their health.
These aren't the usual public service announcements. The $54 million "Tips from Smokers" campaign marks the first time the federal government plans to pay to run anti-smoking ads nationwide, officials said.