Renee Montagne

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This was the scene last night in the Texas Capitol building.

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MONTAGNE: Crowds who came out to support a nearly 11-hour filibuster by Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis erupted in screams in an attempt to stop a vote on a bill that would have forced all but a handful of abortion clinics in Texas to close. That's because, among other things, the bill would require clinics be upgraded to ambulatory surgical centers, something that the clinics say they can't afford.

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Let's now delve into the mysteries of the highest court in the land. The Supreme Court handed down a handful of important decisions yesterday but left the nation in suspense over the most watched cases of the year: affirmative action, gay marriage and the Voting Rights Act. There's a week left in the high court's term and we wanted to know why the justices always seem to leave the biggest decisions until the very last minute. So we called in NPR's legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg. Good morning, Nina.

A federal judge on Thursday hears arguments over whether a lawsuit against the NCAA should be expanded. The case was brought by former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon. He contends the NCAA unfairly benefits from student athletes by forcing them to sign away their licensing rights.

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In Syria's ally Iran, people are voting for president today. It is Iran's first presidential election since the stunning vote in 2009. Back then, a surprisingly early declaration of victory for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sparked a wave of protests, followed by years of government repression. This time around, six candidates are contending for power amid widespread skepticism about the election, and intensive security on the streets.

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The biggest players in the video gaming are gathered here in Los Angeles this week for E3, the industry's annual trade show. Gamers have been anticipating the unveiling of new products from Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo and other companies.

NPR's Laura Sydell has spent the past few days with zombies, assassins and one little plumber. Good morning.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Good morning.

At least six people have died in Wednesday's collapse of a commercial building in Philadelphia. More than a dozen victims have been rescued from the rubble.

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All right, through much of this week, we've been hearing from young Afghans on the future of their country after NATO troops withdraw in 2014. Yesterday, our colleague Renee Montagne met with the American general who commands coalition forces in Afghanistan. They traveled to a special forces base where young Afghan men - and a few women - are being trained.

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This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne, in Kabul, Afghanistan.

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And I'm Steve Inskeep, in Washington, with David Greene.

James Everett Dutschke faces charges of sending poisoned letters to President Obama and other officials. He's the second suspect federal authorities have arrested in the case. Another man was released from jail last week after a lack of physical evidence tying him to the ricin-tainted letters.

Tuesday night, forward Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers became the latest star to go down with an injury. The Memphis Grizzlies took advantage of Griffin's absence and beat the Clippers 103-93 to take a 3-2 lead in their first-round series.

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The world has heard some relatives of the Tsarnaev brothers.

INSKEEP: On this program, we heard an aunt of the young men defend the accused Boston Marathon bombers.

MONTAGNE: An uncle has very vocally denounced them.

INSKEEP: Now federal investigators have been interviewing the parents, both of whom now live in Russia.

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We've been hearing some really astonishing voices this week that have prompted a big reaction online - women who have served on the battlefield and on bases here at home. Women are no longer excluded from combat but their exact role is still to be fully decided.

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People in Colorado are still trying to make sense of the shooting death of that state's respected head of the prison system. Tom Clements was gunned down Tuesday night as he answered the door at his home in the small, quiet town of Monument. Police are still searching for the killer. And this happened just hours before Colorado's governor signed strict new gun control measures into law.

Colorado Public Radio's Megan Verlee has been following this story. Good morning.

MEGAN VERLEE, BYLINE: Good morning.

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Lawmakers in Cyprus are trying to ease rage over a proposed tax on all bank deposits by exempting people who have relatively small accounts. It's part of a bailout plan for that Mediterranean country negotiated with the E.U. and IMF over the weekend, but the compromise on taxes may not be enough for Cyprus' parliament to pass the plan.

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And I'm Renee Montagne. Just before noon yesterday, with much of Washington at home for a snowstorm that never really materialized, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky took the floor of the Senate.

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SENATOR RAND PAUL: I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan's nomination for the CIA. I will speak until I can no longer speak.

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

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Venezuela is in a state of mourning for its late president, Hugo Chavez. The outsized leader died yesterday in the capital, Caracas, after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 58. Hugo Chavez was both a polarizing and charismatic figure, and during his long rule he became an icon, beloved by Venezuela's poor and others in the region who admired his defiant stance toward the U.S.

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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.

Usually when we come up to the edge of one of these deadlines there are 11th-hour negotiations, and the two parties manage to swerve away from the precipice at the last minute. What about this time?

In Southern California, the week-long manhunt for Christopher Dorner appears to be over. He is the former LAPD officer who is believed to be responsible for four murders.

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Surprising news this morning from the Vatican. Pope Benedict XVI has announced he is resigning at the end of this month. It is an unprecedented departure in modern times. The last time a pope stepped down, it was 1415, the Middle Ages. At 85 years old, Benedict said he was no longer up to the physical demands of the papacy. We've got NPR's Sylvia Poggioli on the line now live from Rome. Good morning.

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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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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's second inauguration is not expected to have record-setting crowds. Also, the president is not the same man as he was four years ago.

Police and medical examiners offered emotional testimony during the first day in the preliminary hearing for James Holmes. The former graduate student is accused in the mass shooting at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater. The attack left a dozen people dead and injured at least 58 others.

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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.

Alabama is trying to win its third title in four years Monday night. Notre Dame is trying to cap an undefeated season with a championship win.

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