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Renee Montagne

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We're hearing this morning that Pope Benedict has left the Vatican. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli is covering the first papal retirement in 600 years, and she joins us now from Rome. And Sylvia, describe the scene for us there.

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Alright, to talk more about the politics behind the across-the-board cuts, here is NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Good morning.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning.

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And I'm Renee Montagne.

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And I'm Renee Montagne. More signs today of a slow, slow economic recovery. The Labor Department reports the economy added 157,000 new jobs last month. The unemployment rate ticked up slightly, to 7.9 percent. To tell us what's behind these numbers, we're joined by NPR business correspondent Yuki Noguchi, and also our White House correspondent, Scott Horsley. Good morning to both of you.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: Good morning.

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That sharp drop in government spending that put the squeeze on the economy last quarter, as we just heard, is likely to be repeated. This spring, the government is set to make additional cuts to spending, including defense, unless lawmakers agree on a different plan. So far there's little agreement in Washington about the optimum size or shape of government spending.

NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now to talk about this in our Business Bottom Line. Good morning, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

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Steve, thanks very much. Now let's go just beyond the capital building, into the National Mall. That's where NPR's Ailsa Chang is. And she's between the Capitol, as I understand it, Ailsa, and the Washington Monument, right there in the thick of things.

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And I'm Renee Montagne. One of the liveliest parts of today's events dates back to the very first Inauguration, and that would be the inaugural parade. After George Washington took his oath of office, he was joined by a procession made up of local militias as he made his way from Mount Vernon to New York City. Today, the parade is a colorful blend of marching bands, floats and different organizations led by ceremonial military regiments.

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President Obama wants a Republican to be his next secretary of Defense, and some Republicans really don't like the choice.

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And joining us now, as she does most Monday, is Cokie Roberts. Good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Hi, Renee. Happy New Year.

MONTAGNE: Happy New Year to you. So, Cokie, we seem to be getting the next year, or this new year, right back where we ended in the last Congress, and that's bickering over everything. And as we've just heard, that includes, big time, the president's cabinet appointment of a former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel. Tell us more about what's going on there, a little bit more history.

President Obama returns to Washington Thursday as do members of the U.S. Senate. They're cutting holiday plans short in hopes of coming up with a deal to avoid the tax hikes and budget cuts set to take effect on Jan. 1.

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After eight days and billions of dollars in lost business, the shutdown at the nation's busiest port hub is over. Striking clerks at the adjacent ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have reached a tentative agreement with managers. At issue: worries about outsourcing jobs. The clerks, hundreds of them, and ten thousand longshoremen, who refused to cross picket lines, head back to work this morning.

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Let's talk about that new offer now. The proposal from House Republicans includes a combination of revenue raising and spending cuts. What it doesn't include is any rise in tax rates.

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Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, who took power last June, is facing a rebellion against his rule. It all started with a set of controversial decrees by the president that put him above the law until a constitution is in place. That move has polarized the country. Judges are on strike and critics say the president is pushing through an illegitimate constitution.

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Let's turn now to the urgent diplomatic efforts underway. Secretary of State Clinton is now in Cairo, meeting with Egyptian leaders in efforts to reach a ceasefire. NPR's Leila Fadel joins us from Cairo to discuss the latest.

Good morning.

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The triumph in some parts of the country this morning is that people are able to vote at all. Just over a week after Hurricane Sandy slammed ashore, people are voting today in New Jersey.

And in New York City, NPR's Robert Smith is in the Borough of Queens, part of New York City. He's on the line. Robert, what have you seen today?

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A young Bangladeshi man has been charged with conspiring to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank in lower Manhattan. New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly commented on the arrest at a press conference last night.

RAYMOND KELLY: This individual came here for the purpose of doing a terrorist act.

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Two Americans have been awarded this year's Nobel Prize for Economics for work that has to do with matching in business, medicine and marriage. The two, whose work turned out to be a good match, are Alvin Roth of Harvard and Lloyd Shapely of the University of California, Los Angeles. They will share the $1.2 million prize.

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And this morning brings news of a literary prize. The Nobel for Literature goes to Chinese writer Mo Yan. Making the announcement, the Swedish Academy's permanent secretary, Peter Englund:

For the first time since President Obama took office, the unemployment rate is back at 7.8 percent, the Labor Department reported Friday. It's been above 8 percent for nearly four years. The number of new jobs added was in line with expectations — 114,000.

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A judge in Pennsylvania has blocked a key part of that state's new voter ID law, a law that's caused controversy. Now, come Election Day, voters showing up at the polls can still be asked to show a government-issued photo ID, but they will not be prevented from voting if they don't have one. NPR's Pam Fessler has been covering the story and she joins us now. Good morning.

PAM FESSLER, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: So, remind us what this Pennsylvania law is - you know, why it's been making national news.

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At the heart of NATO's strategy to turn over security to Afghanistan, is the joint patrol: Afghan and international troops training and fighting shoulder-to-shoulder. Now faced with a rash of insider attacks - Afghans in uniform turning their guns on international troops - NATO is suspending most of those joint operations.

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And I'm Renee Montagne. We come to you this morning with grim news. The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans have been killed when protesters stormed the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. The protests were sparked yesterday by an American-made video circulating on the Web that ridicules Islam and the prophet Muhammad.

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