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U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan says the Syrian government should be the first to enact a cease-fire, but there was no sign of that on Friday. More violence erupted in several Syrian cities as diplomats prepared for Sunday's meeting of the "Friends of Syria" in Istanbul, Turkey.

The gathering comes at a time of growing disaffection with diplomatic efforts and an increase in attacks by Syrian opposition fighters.

The critique of University of Kentucky head basketball coach John Calipari is that he does what it takes to get his players, and they do what they want from there. Sure, this thinking goes, he's yelling at them from the sidelines whenever one — specifically Terrence Jones — puts up a 3-point shot from a step behind the arc. But he's not much of a coach.

Ivy Leagues Post Record Low Admission Rates

Mar 30, 2012

Some Ivy League schools are posting some of the lowest admission rates on record, this year. Harvard for example only accepted 2,032 of the 34,302 students who applied. That's a 5.9 percent acceptance rate, which is a record low for the school.

The New York Times reports:

Those in Britain who complain that their politicians tend to be mealy-mouthed mediocrities who spend their lives battling over the middle ground are being compelled to think again.

One of the country's most fiesty political brawlers, George Galloway, has once again sprung back into the political ring by unexpectedly securing a return to parliament, long after most pundits had written him off.

It's a popular idea in Texas that the Lone Star State — once an independent republic — could break away and go it alone. A few years ago, Texas Gov. Rick Perry hinted that if Washington didn't stop meddling in his state, independence might be an option. In his brief run for the White House, he insisted that nearly anything the feds do, the states — and Texas in particular — could do better.

The tombstone that marked the grave of Adolf Hitler's parents has been removed from an Austrian cemetery.

The BBC reports the decision was made to keep right-wing extremists from using the graves as a pilgrimage site. The AFP reports:

The Republican National Committee's anti-"Obamacare" ad which edited audio of this week's Supreme Court oral arguments to accentuate the pause taken by the Obama administration's lawyer as he began his defense of the law, continued to get significant attention Friday, much of it negative, two days after it first went up on YouTube.

Take Your Dog To The Office And Stress Less

Mar 30, 2012

Any dog owner will tell you that they're a lot less stressed out when they're with their dog. Even at work. And now science agrees.

People who took their dogs to work in an office in Greensboro, N.C., had lower stress levels through the work day, as reported on self-reported test.

The employees who hadn't brought their dogs to work said their stress levels increased through the work day. So did the non-pet owners. But the dog owners said they stayed mellow as the day went on.

How Your Grill Brush Could Make You Sick

Mar 30, 2012

There's nothing like the scent of charred meat wafting over your neighbor's fence to get you in the mood for summer.

MasterCard and Visa have warned banks that a third party processor has experienced a data breach. In statement, both card associations acknowledged the breach and MasterCard said that law enforcement is involved and "is currently the subject of an ongoing forensic review by an independent data security organization."

Think of Jennifer, or as we like to call her, "Jen." Jen of the dazzling smile, Jen of the gorgeous chin, Jen with her hair down, Jen tousled, Jen as Rachel, Jen with Brad; Jen without Brad, Jen with Vince, Jen at the Oscars, and, of course, Jen as a neuron in the medial part of the temporal lobe.

Maybe you missed that last Jen.

A few years ago, a UCLA neurosurgeon named Itzhak Fried, while operating on patients who suffer from debilitating epileptic seizures, discovered what he now calls the "Jennifer Aniston Neuron."

With $540 million (wait — it just went up to $640 million!) on the line, it's not surprising that Alabama resident Lance Larka is willing to drive across the state line for a chance to win the record Mega Millions jackpot.

In the sign of the bigger cultural struggle in a post-Mubarak Egypt, a court has ordered the government to ban pornographic Internet sites.

One of the big questions facing Egypt now that Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule has ended is what kind of role religion will play in the new government. Some of the Islamists who control parliament have expressed that they would like the country ruled by sharia.

Guest host Jacki Lyden continues the conversation about the passage of Congressman Paul Ryan's budget plan in the House of Representatives. Lyden speaks with NPR Washington Editor S.V. Date about what the vote means and whether the plan's passage may signal long budget battles ahead.

Co-Author Defends GOP Budget Plan

Mar 30, 2012

Republican Congressman Todd Young helped draft Rep. Paul Ryan's 2013 budget that passed in the House of Representatives on Thursday. Congressman Young speaks with guest host Jacki Lyden about the budget plan and Democrats' opposition to it, including calls that the plan would hurt programs like food stamps and Medicaid.

The FBI's top cyber cop retires today after nearly a quarter century in federal law enforcement.

Shawn Henry started looking into computer issues in the run up to Y2K (the arrival of the year 2000). He says that experience left him hungry to learn more about the way electronics were changing the way we live — and the way criminals operate.The movement of so much sensitive information online poses an "existential threat," according to Henry.

In Wisconsin, "state elections officials ordered a set of historic recall elections Friday, making [Republican] Scott Walker the third governor in the nation to face a recall and Rebecca Kleefisch [R] the first lieutenant governor to face one," Milwaukee's Journal Sentinel reports.

A sort of national treasure is scheduled to be revealed Monday: In April 1940, 120,000 census takers spread out across America to take an inventory of its residents. Now that the legally mandated 72 years have passed, we finally get to see the names, addresses, jobs and salaries of all the people who were counted.

UPDATE 4:23 p.m.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has denied a call to ban the plastic additive BPA from food packaging. The action comes after government scientists found little reason to think people are being harmed by the chemical.

The FDA was responding to a petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council, which called for the ban on BPA, also known as bisphenol A, from any use where it comes in contact with food.

During nine years on the run in Pakistan, Osama bin Laden used at least five safe houses and fathered four children, the youngest of his three wives has told Pakistani investigators, according to The New York Times.

Amal Ahmad Abdul Fateh, now 30, married bin Laden in 2000.

New York Bans 'Synthetic Marijuana'

Mar 30, 2012

There will be no more "Mr. Nice Guy" in New York. No more "K2," "Skunk" or "Zohai" either.

The New York State Health Department banned the sale of synthetic marijuana products like those on Thursday. So all kinds of wacky stuff that's made to get people high — but is often disguised as potpourri, incense or some mixture of herbs — is now verboten.

Rep. Paul Ryan's endorsed Mitt Romney Friday just ahead of Tuesday's Wisconsin primary. In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Ryan said: "I think he deserves to be the nominee. I think he earned it. He has emerged as the best candidate." Ryan, a rising star in the party who many wanted to run for president and who is seen as a vice presidential possibility, said a further protracted primary would weaken the party's chances of beating President Obama in November.

"There would have been George dead had he not acted decisively and instantaneously in that moment when he was being disarmed," the brother of George Zimmerman told CNN's Piers Morgan last night in one of the most extensive interviews yet with someone from the family of the man who shot and killed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26.

With a GOP presidential primary coming up on April 3, Wisconsin voters have found themselves besieged by political ads, reports NPR's David Schaper on Friday's Morning Edition.

Talking to voters in La Crosse, Schaper found that residents have grown weary of the onslaught. It has been massive: The Red, White And Blue Fund — the superPAC supporting Rick Santorum — has so far spent almost a half-million dollars on ads attacking front-runner Mitt Romney.

There was a 0.8 percent rise in personal spending in February from January, the Bureau of Economic Analysis just reported. It was the strongest gain in seven months, according to The Associated Press.

But personal income rose just 0.2 percent, the bureau adds. And "disposable personal income," what's left after personal taxes, also rose only 0.2 percent.

One day after fellow Republicans in the House ensured passage of his version of a 2013 federal budget, there are reports that Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan is about to endorse Mitt Romney's bid for the GOP presidential nomination.

The Associated Press says it has been told by two Republican officials that "Ryan's endorsement could come as soon as Friday, when Romney is scheduled to give an economic speech in Appleton, Wis."

Everybody, it seems, is talking about tonight's Mega Millions lottery drawing because the jackpot's up to a record $640 million. (Update at 12:15 p.m. ET: Officials just increased the estimated jackpot, which began today at an already record $540 million.)

The documentary Bully opens in theaters Thursday, and the heated controversy over the appropriate rating for the film has frustrated many schools hoping to use it as a teaching tool.

Administrators have struggled to find effective ways to help curb bullying in their schools in recent years, and a growing number of bullying prevention programs have emerged to meet the demand.

The Obama administration has announced a new policy to handle the risks posed by legitimate biological research that could, in the wrong hands, threaten the public.

The move comes in response to a huge debate over recent experiments on bird flu virus that got funding from the National Institutes of Health. Critics say the work created mutant viruses that could potentially be dangerous for people, or give terrorists a road map for making a bioweapon.

The killings in France of three Jewish children, a rabbi and three soldiers of North African descent came during a presidential campaign in which immigration has dominated campaign rhetoric. The Toulouse gunman, a Frenchman of Algerian descent, was shot dead by police, but the tragedy has prompted national soul-searching.

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