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The devastating drought in the Midwest last summer is a story often told by the numbers, with statistics on large crop failures, days without rain and thousands of parched acres.

This story is also about a tree — a bur oak in rural Columbia, Mo., that everyone calls "The Big Tree." Although it's survived all kinds of punishments during its 350 years on the prairie, last year's record drought was especially tough.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev appears increasingly isolated from the centers of power surrounding President Vladimir Putin.

Analysts say Medvedev is the target of a campaign to wreck his reputation and drive him from office. It's a risky situation for the former president, who was once regarded as Putin's partner.

The attacks have come from many directions. One of the harshest was an anonymous, documentary-style film that was posted on the Internet in January.

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Gone are the days of serving up tater tots and French toast sticks to students. Here are the days of carrot sticks and quinoa.

New nutritional guidelines, announced in 2012, require public school lunchrooms to offer more whole grains, low-fat milk and fewer starchy sides like french fries. But short of stationing grandmothers in every cafeteria, how do you ensure that students actually eat the fruits and veggies they're being offered?

Kacey Musgraves is something of an anomaly. A Texas native in her mid-20s, she fits most easily into the contemporary "country" category, but the work she co-writes with a variety of collaborators is really a throwback to an earlier era of singer-songwriters — as much influenced by rock and folk as by country.

The United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the first U.N. treaty to regulate the estimated $60 billion global arms trade on Tuesday.

The goal of the Arms Trade Treaty, which the U.N. has sought for over a decade, according to The Associated Press, is to keep illicit weapons out of the hands of terrorists, insurgent fighters and organized crime.

The vote on the treaty was 154-3, with 23 abstentions.

You may best know the guinea pig as a nervous little pet that lives in a cage and eats alfalfa pellets.

Now, the rodents are increasingly showing up on plates in the United States.

"After nearly half a century of research in planetary and climate science for NASA, James E. Hansen is retiring on Wednesday to pursue his passion for climate activism without the hindrances that come with government employment," The New York Times' Dot Earth blog writes.

Spaniards wary of trusting their life savings to their country's shaky banking system can now buy a mattress that has an armored safe equipped with a keypad combination lock hidden in one end.

A task force launched by the National Rifle Association after the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., has come back with a report that recommends the creation of programs that give additional weapons training to school resource officers as well as "selected and designated school personnel" who could then carry arms.

Born in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 1984, photographer Farzana Wahidy was only a teenager when the Taliban took over the country in 1996. At age 13 she was beaten in the street for not wearing a burqa, she recalls, and she describes those years as a "very closed, very dark time." To carry a camera would have been unthinkable.

Health plan deductibles keep getting higher — the proportion of workers with a deductible that topped $1,000 for single coverage nearly tripled in the past five years, to 34 percent.

For Women, No Straight Road To Success

Apr 2, 2013

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New York State Sen. Malcolm Smith, a Democrat, was led from his Queens home in handcuffs Tuesday morning after being arrested for allegedly trying to buy his way on to the Republican ticket in this year's New York City mayoral election.

Also arrested Tuesday: City Councilman Daniel Halloran, a Republican, and four other local politicians (also Republicans) from the New York metropolitan area, who stand accused of conspiring with Smith.

Adding some details to an initiative he announced during his latest State of the Union address, President Obama on Tuesday said that federal agencies plan to spend $100 million to jump start an effort to map the human brain. It's research that could lead to breakthroughs in the treatment and prevention of brain disorders.

The government-controlled mortgage giant Fannie Mae, which needed a $116 billion federal bailout after the housing bubble burst in 2007, said Tuesday that it earned a record $7.6 billion in fourth-quarter 2012 and $17.2 billion for the year.

Ongoing coverage as 35 educators from Atlanta's school system turn themselves in to face charges related to that city's cheating scandal:

Updated at 7:53 p.m. ET Atlantic Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall Surrenders.

Former Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall arrived at the Fulton County jail just after 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

For Cuban-Americans, Miami's Freedom Tower is almost a holy place — a former immigration intake center where thousands came in the 1960s after they fled the island's communist rule.

But across the street from the hall, where Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez spoke Monday, there were protests. A dozen anti-Castro activists repudiated some of Sanchez's past comments, including her support for lifting the long-standing U.S. embargo of Cuba.

The Connecticut women cruised into the Division I basketball championship's Final Four Monday night with an 83-53 win over Kentucky. In the evening's other matchup, California squeaked by Georgia, 65-62.

The Final Four's other two slots will be filled Tuesday night. Notre Dame faces Duke, while Tennessee takes on Louisville. (Check the brackets here. The games are being broadcast by ESPN.)

Sheryl Sandberg's controversial new book on women and leadership, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, currently tops Amazon's best-seller list in "Business Management and Leadership" alongside Decisive (Chip Heath and Dan Heath),

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

A vow Tuesday from North Korea that it will restart a nuclear reactor that eventually could make about one bomb's worth of plutonium a year further escalates tensions that were already high due to that nation's almost daily threats, NPR's Louisa Lim tells our Newscast Desk.

According to Louisa, who filed her report from Beijing:

Much has changed since last November, when Afghans were praising Pakistan for saying it would no longer support the Taliban and would instead work for peace.

"We believe that relations between the two countries are deteriorating," says Aimal Faizi, spokesman for President Hamid Karzai.

Faizi says the downward slide started last month. The two countries had agreed to convene a conference of religious scholars, or ulema, to denounce suicide bombing. But the conference fell apart at the last minute, with each country blaming the other for undermining the effort.

The federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., is sometimes called the second most important court in the country, regularly delivering the final word on major environmental, labor and national security cases.

But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has a whopping four vacancies, the most in the nation, including one opening that dates all the way back to 2005, when John Roberts moved to the U.S. Supreme Court.

NPR continues a series of conversations about The Race Card Project, where thousands of people have submitted their thoughts on race and cultural identity in six words. Every so often NPR Host/Special Correspondent Michele Norris will dip into those six-word stories to explore issues surrounding race and cultural identity for Morning Edition. You can find hundreds of six-word submissions and submit your own at www.theracecardproject.com.

Michael Ellison has a tough assignment. He's the associate dean of admissions choosing the first class of a brand new medical school, the Frank H. Netter School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.

"We have over 1,600 applicants, and we will interview 400 for 60 spots," Ellison says.

The school has a very specific mission: minting doctors who want to go into primary care practice.

When it comes to claiming Social Security benefits, there is no magic age. Today's boomers can begin collecting full benefits at 66, tap in early for a modified benefit at 62 or delay receiving benefits until 70.

But the importance of making a smart decision on how and when benefits are claimed can't be underestimated, says Mary Beth Franklin of Investment News.

The price of copper remains at near historic highs, and that means so, too, does the amount of copper getting stolen.

Everything from telephone wire to plumbing is a target, and lawmakers in nearly half the states are considering legislation aimed at making it harder for thieves to sell the stolen metal.

James City County in southeastern Virginia has seen a spate of recent copper thefts. Maj. Steve Rubino with the county police department says there have been six major incidents since January.

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