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Morocco has been called one of the winners of the Arab Spring. The country's young king, Mohammed VI, offered a new constitution and early elections, taking the steam out of a protest movement that rose up last February.

But the arrest and trial of an artist who writes provocative rap songs show that there seem to be limits to the reforms.

The rap songs of 24-year-old Mouad Belrhouate are popular in Morocco, even more so after the four months he has spent in jail.

Jakadrien Turner, a Texas teen deported to Colombia after authorities said she lied to them about who she was, is headed back home today.

We thought the World Wide Web was supposed to make information fly.

But now we have to question that notion.

It's taken a year and a half for us to hear that Pepsi is defending itself against a lawsuit claiming that a mouse was found in a can of Mountain Dew by saying that the furry little creature couldn't have been there because:

Internet Exiles Stores On Main Street

Jan 6, 2012

Open any children's book with a scene set downtown and you'll see a picture of basically the same row of shops. There's a bookstore, a pharmacy, a florist, a post office and a bank, and maybe a bakery where the kids can hope for a free cookie.

Nearly all those businesses are under threat from the Internet.

The Obama administration said it is proposing a change for the way some apply to become legal, permanent residents of the United States. The change would affect American citizens whose children or spouses are in the country illegally.

The current rule mandates that in order to apply for legal status, a person must return to their country and wait there while the long process continues. The rule tweak would allow those family members to stay in the country while the application works its way through the bureaucracy.

When it comes to unemployment reports in an election year, it's not just the data — it's also the spin.

Friday's jobs report could be seen as good news — at 8.5 percent, it's the lowest in three years. Good news for President Obama? Not according to Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who lost no time in pointing out that the number is still above 8 percent — the figure that the president said would be the worst case under his 2009 stimulus package.

A team from the aircraft carrier strike force group that Iran threatened earlier this week has rescued 13 Iranian sailors who were being held by Somali pirates for several weeks, the U.S. Navy reports.

In a statement issued this morning, the Navy says:

You may want to read this twice if you're older than 45. In fact, you may have to.

That's because your mental abilities are already in decline, according to a study of 7,390 British civil servants just published in BMJ, the British Medical Journal.

This could be "the year of the gas-pocalypse" analysts tell the Los Angeles Times, "because gasoline prices are the highest ever for the start of the year, and they're on the rise, supercharged by expensive oil and changes in refinery operations."

Indeed, check out some of this reporting and analysis from GasBuddy.com:

Of all the good news in the December unemployment report, perhaps the most encouraging sign for the 2012 labor market was the increase in construction jobs. That sector has lost more than 2 million jobs as the housing market imploded 5 years ago, but increases in construction hiring and spending could be cautious signs of a turnaround, analysts say.

Overall, employers created 200,000 jobs last month, sending the U.S. unemployment rate down to 8.5 percent, the Labor Department said Friday.

Reporter Liz Halloran and I have been motoring around New Hampshire the past few days, chasing candidate events and taking the political temperature of the state.

On the way to a Santorum event Thursday we spotted a small lake dotted with ice fishing shelters — the first we'd seen all week. Apparently, the ice only became thick enough in the last two weeks or so.

"Could Typo Rewrite Caucus History?"

That's the headline at the website of Des Moines' KCCI-TV, which reports that one Republican from Iowa's Appanoose County thinks a miscount at a caucus attended by 53 people there might have mistakenly contributed to Mitt Romney's reported eight-vote victory over Rick Santorum.

What's In That Food? The SuperTracker Knows

Jan 6, 2012

January is a giddy time for weight-loss companies, which usually rake in profits as New Year's resolutions shuttle earnest dieters to their doors. Now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture would like to get in on the action, too. Not the money, mind you. The feds want us to use their new online food-and-exercise tracker, SuperTracker.

Under Media Glare, Santorum's Record Draws Closer Look

Jan 6, 2012

Now that he's getting his moment at the front of the GOP pack, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is drawing the kind of scrutiny he's escaped during all those lonely months at the bottom of the polls.

The nation's unemployment rate edged down to 8.5 percent — its lowest level in nearly three years — as 200,000 jobs were were added to payrolls, the Bureau of Labor Statistics just reported.

We'll add more details from the report shortly, so hit your "refresh" button to see our latest updates.

Update at 8:45 a.m. ET. Looking Back:

At 8.5 percent, the jobless rate is the lowest since February 2009's 8.3 percent.

The most-anticipated story of the morning seems to be the December jobs and unemployment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is due for release at 8:30 a.m. ET.

We'll post on the news as soon as possible after it's available.

Penn State University has chosen New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien to be its next head football coach and the man who will try to rebuild a program that was rocked last fall by a scandal that cost legendary coach Joe Paterno the job, ESPN reports. The sports network says an announcement is expected to be made Saturday.

There's been an explosion in central Damascus today and there are reports of multiple deaths and dozens of injuries.

As always in Syria, where the regime of President Bashar Assad tries to control the news, it's difficult to get an accurate sense of just what is going on. The regime is blaming its opponents, who have been protesting against Assad since last spring. Activists are questioning whether the attack was staged by supporters of the regime to make the opposition look bad.

Here's some of what's being reported:

Researchers trudging down the long and twisted path toward an AIDS vaccine are encouraged by new studies that show an experimental vaccine protects monkeys against infection with a virus that is very similar to HIV.

Corporations don't lobby Congress for fun. They lobby because it helps their bottom line. Getting a regulation gutted or a tax loophole created means extra cash for the corporation. But getting laws changed can be very expensive. How much money does a corporation get back from investing in a good lobbyist?

It's a messy, secretive system so it was always hard to study. But in 2004, economists found a bill so simple, so lucrative, that they could finally track the return on lobbying investment.

In the Arab states that have ousted dictators and begun building new political and economic systems, many are looking to Turkey as an example of a modern, moderate Muslim state that works. Perhaps no country has seen its image in the Arab world soar as quickly as Turkey, a secular state that's run by a party with roots in political Islam. As part of our series on the Arab Spring and where it stands today, NPR's Peter Kenyon examines whether the "Turkish model" can be exported.

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is campaigning in New Hampshire after finishing a very close second in the Iowa caucuses. His success in the Hawkeye State was a surprise because Santorum was polling in the single digits there just a few weeks back.

For Santorum, surprising the political establishment is nothing new. Since he was first elected to Congress in 1990 — at 32 years old — Santorum has made a career out of being the underdog and usually winning.

Most of the Republican presidential candidates are focused on New Hampshire, which holds its primary next Tuesday.

But while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney began his day campaigning in New Hampshire, by the afternoon he was in South Carolina, which holds its primary Jan. 21.

There's an old joke: The two happiest days in a man's life are the day he buys a boat and the day he sells it.

That's certainly been true for the owners of the Kalakala, a historic art deco ferry that currently resides in the Puget Sound. Launched in 1935, the vessel's trials and tribulations have become the stuff of legend in Seattle.

New Consumer Czar: 'This Is A Valid Appointment'

Jan 5, 2012

Richard Cordray, the new head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, defended his appointment in an interview with All Things Considered today.

"This is a valid appointment," he told NPR's Robert Siegel. "But, again, I'm not going to be distracted by the details of that. My job is to be the director of this consumer bureau, to look out for consumers across the country and I'm going to focus 100 percent on that job."

Robert asked if he was just going to "ignore whatever litigation might develop from that" and Cordray said, "that's correct."

It's flat. It's slimy. And it hides under rocks on the river bottom. It's the Ozark hellbender, and at up to two feet in length, it's one of the world's largest salamanders.

But Ozark hellbenders are disappearing: Fewer than 600 are left in the rivers of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. Scientists have been making a huge effort to get them to breed in captivity. And now, thanks to a major effort at the Saint Louis Zoo, 2012 could be the year of new hope for hellbenders.

A scandal involving French-made breast implants continues to widen.

The implants contain industrial-grade silicone that causes abnormally high rupture rates, according to critics. They have been sold in many countries in Europe and beyond, though not in the United States. Now, the French government has opened a criminal investigation into the company.

French television showed footage on Thursday of investigators and a judge searching the factory of the Poly Implant Prothese company, or PIP, in southern France.

Killer whales in Puget Sound aren't doing very well. They were placed on the endangered species list in 2005, and there are several hypotheses for why they're not recovering.

In Puget Sound, a team of researchers is relying on a secret weapon with a killer nose to figure out what's wrong with the orcas in Northwestern waters.

'A Treasure Trove Of Information'

Scientists suspect lack of food, boat traffic and pollution are to blame, but no one knows for sure. Some think the answer might be found in the whales' wake — specifically, their poop.

A California woman is taking Honda to small claims court, claiming her Civic hybrid never gave her the 50 miles per gallon advertised.

All Things Considered's Melissa Block spoke to Andrea Chang, a Los Angeles Times business reporter who was in court on Tuesday as Heather Peters made her case.

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