12:57pm

Mon March 12, 2012
Europe

For Russia's Troubled Space Program, Mishaps Mount

Originally published on Mon March 12, 2012 6:56 pm

Russia's unmanned Progress space freighter, headed for the International Space Station, blasts off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Oct. 30, 2011. A string of mission failures has raised concerns over the reliability of Russia's space program.
STR Reuters /Landov

Russia was once the world leader in space exploration, but its space program has suffered a string of costly and embarrassing mishaps over the past year.

NASA says Russia is still a trustworthy partner, but critics say the once-proud program is corrupt and mismanaged — good at producing excuses, but not results.

The Memorial Space Museum in Moscow showcases the achievements of the Soviet Union's space program.

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12:37pm

Mon March 12, 2012
Afghanistan

Afghan Shootings Could Complicate U.S. Mission

The deaths of Afghan civilians, who were allegedly shot by an American soldier, could make the U.S. mission even harder. Here, an Afghan soldier leaves a home where civilians were killed Sunday in the southern province of Kandahar.
AP

It's unlikely that the killing of 16 Afghan civilians on Sunday, allegedly by a U.S. Army staff sergeant, will drastically alter the course of the war.

U.S. and NATO strategy calls for a sizable contingent of international troops to stay in Afghanistan until 2014, with residual support after that. That timetable is unlikely to change.

But the task U.S. forces face in trying to stabilize the country could well be made more difficult by the shootings.

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12:18pm

Mon March 12, 2012
Around the Nation

Vegas Museum Offers A Mob History You Can't Refuse

Originally published on Mon March 12, 2012 6:56 pm

Look Out, Copper: A 1928 Ford Model A car (left) and a 1938 Ford paddy wagon arrive at the Feb. 14 grand opening of The Mob Museum in Las Vegas.
Ethan Miller Getty Images

As soon as you step in the elevator of Las Vegas' new Mob Museum, a cop on a video monitor reads you your rights. When the doors finally open, you're greeted by a huge photo of 1920s-era gangsters standing in a police lineup, wearing fedoras.

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11:43am

Mon March 12, 2012
It's All Politics

Presidential Speeches: Sound And (Partisan) Fury, Signifying Not Much

When presidents give major set-piece speeches, they're mainly engaged in exercises in futility since a commander-in-chief's high-flown rhetoric rarely shifts voter attitudes for long.

Indeed, the exercise could even be more negative than neutral since speeches by presidents advocating specific policy not only leave citizen unswayed but can fire up political opponents in the other party, according to Ezra Klein in an essay in the New Yorker.

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11:39am

Mon March 12, 2012
Rebuilding Japan

Rethinking, Not Just Rebuilding, Japan's Northeast

Originally published on Mon March 12, 2012 6:56 pm

Demolished ships lie strewn about near the fishing port of Minamisanriku town, in Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan, Feb. 23, 2012. The local fisherman's union says last year's tsunami wiped out 90 percent of local fishing boats.
Yuriko Makao Reuters /Landov

With a fierce yell and a resounding thwack, 13-year-old Japanese student Nanami Usui brings her bamboo sword down on her opponent.

By practicing Kendo, or Japanese swordsmanship, Usui is one of several students in the town of Minamisanriku who are rebuilding their confidence after last year's tsunami washed away their homes and shattered their hometown in the country's northeast.

Usui says she dreams of being a police officer, but she doesn't know yet where she wants to live and work.

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11:36am

Mon March 12, 2012
The Two-Way

Penn State: Paterno Was Fired After 'Failure Of Leadership'

Penn State head coach Joe Paterno stands with his team before they take the field during an NCAA college football game against the University of Wisconsin in State College, Pa., on Oct. 13, 2007.
Carolyn Kaster AP

In a report issued today, the board of directors of Penn State University confirmed what everyone already figured: They fired head coach Joe Paterno over his actions concerning the sexual abuse allegations against his once assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

The university said it made its decision based on a grand jury report that said graduate student Mike McQueary had told the coach that he saw Sandusky "in the Lasch Building showers fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy."

The board says:

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11:20am

Mon March 12, 2012
The Two-Way

Priest 'Placed On Leave' After Denying Communion To Lesbian

The Gaithersburg, Md., priest who refused to give Communion to a lesbian parishioner during a funeral mass for the woman's mother has been has been placed on leave, according to NBC Channel 4 news.

A letter from an archdiocese official says that Rev. Marcel Guarnizo was placed on leave for engaging in intimidating behavior. The archdiocese had previously apologized for Guarnizo's behavior.

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11:06am

Mon March 12, 2012
Afghanistan

Afghan Shooting Leaves Many Unanswered Questions

Originally published on Mon March 12, 2012 2:09 pm

An Afghan youth mourns for relatives who were killed on Sunday.
Allauddin Khan AP

Many details remain unknown about Sunday's shooting in southern Afghanistan, where a U.S. Army sergeant is suspected of walking through villages near Kandahar and killing 16 Afghan civilians.

But the shooting has raised the specter of reprisals against American troops and also led to questions about how much damage it could cause to the larger American war effort in Afghanistan.

Here's a look at what is, and isn't, known so far.

The Suspect

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10:39am

Mon March 12, 2012
The Two-Way

Before He Became 'Tricky Dick,' Richard Nixon Wrote Love Letters

Originally published on Mon March 12, 2012 10:45 am

Richard Nixon is shown as a member of the Whittier College football squad in Whittier, Calif., circa 1930s.
AP

We're all familiar with the gruff Richard Nixon of the Watergate tapes. But the presidential library of the 37th president of the United States has an exhibit that shows a different side of him — the softer, gushy side of him that emerged as he was courting Pat Ryan, the woman who would become his wife.

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10:12am

Mon March 12, 2012
Morning News Roundup

Connecting the Dots: Top news stories for Monday, March 12, 2012

The Federal Transit Administration has committed $900 million to the Bart Silicon Valley project. This extends the existing Bart system 16 miles south to San Jose. Construction can begin, and if all goes as planned, the extension could be running four years from now...

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