All Things Considered for Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Anti-government activists in Syria are accusing President Bashar al-Assad's forces of deploying a chemical weapons attack on the suburbs of the capital, Damascus. The government denied the attack, but the allegations have prompted the United Nations to call an emergency meeting. Melissa Block talks to Washington Post reporter Loveday Morris for more.
The U.S. and its allies are calling for a swift investigation into the latest reports of chemical weapons use in Syria. Russia, though, is casting doubts on the allegations, which come just as UN inspectors begin their long-delayed mission to look into past reports of chemical weapons use. Russia says the timing suggests that "we are dealing with a pre-planned provocation" by the rebels. Rebels say that hundreds of people, including children, have been killed and Britain's foreign ministers says, if true, it marks a shocking escalation to the conflict.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has teamed up with other tech giants to pursue the goal of providing Internet service to five billion people in the developing world. The group, called Internet.org, says data can be used more efficiently and participating partners can work cooperatively to make access to the web affordable in emerging economies. Zuckerberg makes the case on his Facebook page for how a global Internet infrastructure can be created. But the document doesn't have tangible commitments from Facebook or other participating companies.
Beta agonists, a class of drugs widely fed to cattle and hogs to make them put on weight faster, are coming under increasing scrutiny. Reports suggest animals fed these drugs can seem reluctant to move — lethargic, unable to walk properly — and may die more often, too.

Poverty, Meth Drives Up Cattle Rustling In Texas

Cattle rustling is on the rise in Texas and Oklahoma. So far this year, authorities have seen a 40 percent increase in thefts. But one of the reasons why may be a bit surprising: Drug users are stealing them. The drought is also making the problem worse.

Morsi Opponent: Democracy The Path Out Of Violence

In Egypt on Wednesday, a judge ordered the release of former president and strongman Hosni Mubarak from jail. The move threatens to further roil political tensions in the country. For one view of Egypt's state of affairs, Audie Cornish talks with liberal parliamentarian, activist and political scholar Amr Hamzawy. Hamzawy is a founding member of the Egyptian Freedom Party.
The U.S. intelligence community is releasing a secret court opinion concerning an National Security Agency surveillance program. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court opinion is known to have found the NSA program unlawful. But civil liberties advocates have called for it to be made public.
Bo Xilai, the disgraced senior Chinese politician, on trial Thursday. China's leadership hopes Bo's trial will bring an end to the country's biggest political scandal in decades, but observers say few of the charges he will face in court relate to the most embarrassing revelations that have emerged in the case.

Defining A Hole Presents A Philosophical Quandry

Late summer tends to be a slow month for news. But at All Things Considered, we put on a two hour program, no matter what. So — without a trace of irony — one of our science correspondents offered to help fill some holes in the show with a series of stories about holes. Today, he explores the complex philosophical question, what is a hole? And when is a hole not a hole?

Summer Of '63: Old Lessons For A New Movement

Today's undocumented activists are using strategies borrowed from the civil rights movement and calling their struggle "The Civil Rights Movement of the 21st Century."

Manning Sentenced To 35 Years In Prison For Leaks

Army Pvt. Bradley Manning has been sentenced to 35 years in prison by the military judge who convicted him of multiple offenses for providing classified documents to the website Wikileaks.
Witnesses from Afghanistan have testified in the sentencing phase of the court martial of Sgt. Robert Bales. He's admitted to killing 16 Afghan villagers during a nighttime massacre, and a military jury in Washington state is deciding whether his life sentence should come with any possibility of parole.
The windswept island about 6 miles off the coast was a haven for a hugely diverse bird population until fishermen decimated the birds' ranks. Puffins have been successfully reintroduced to Eastern Egg Rock, but warming ocean waters may be threatening their ability to survive.
Ruth Calderon's first speech in parliament led some to call her the leader of a Jewish renaissance. But others view her as a real threat — to Judaism itself.
The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vasquez takes readers on a journey through Colombia starting in the late '60s — but it's not your average detective story. Reviewer Rosecrans Baldwin says the real mysteries in the book are in the minds of the characters.
The president will spend the next two days on a bus tour of New York and Pennsylvania that includes stops at three colleges and a high school. At each stop, he'll be talking about ways to keep higher education costs down.
A new report finds wages over the past decade were stagnant or declined for the bottom 70 percent of American workers. It's part of a longer-term trend, but economists are divided over how to change it.

What's Behind Romania's Church Building Spree?

Commentator Andrei Codrescu notes the complicity of the Romanian Catholic Church in both World War II and Communist-era wrongs. Now the church is given big new construction projects to politically connected contractors.
A veterans group handed the White House a petition to take action on the "million veteran backlog" on Tuesday. But the Veterans Administration says that backlogged claims are dropping for the fifth month in a row and are now under half a million.
In 1945, a hungry American prisoner of war in Germany traded a much-loved ring for some food. Nearly 70 years later, it has found its way to the man's family. How it got there is a good story.
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