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.
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. 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.]
About half of all Arizona mortgages are under water, meaning owners owe more than the property is worth. This proposal was aimed at helping those who continue to make payments rather than simply walk away. It is a bit complex, involving the state using its power of eminent domain to acquire the property, paying the bank the current market value with money from investors who buy state bonds, and giving the lender a no-interest promissory note for the balance. That buys the homeowner some time for the market to recover.
Current law says companies with a retail presence in Arizona have to levy the tax. Efforts to expand that definition to include firms with only warehouses here were beaten back in the Senate by Amazon lobbyists -- twice. The proposal approved Wednesday by the House Commerce Committee seeks to sweeten the deal: The tax would be prospective only, meaning Amazon could escape having to fight a $53 million assessment from the state Department of Revenue for what it says are uncollected prior taxes. Mesa Republican J.D.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.