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Judge To Bulldog Thief: 'You Hid The Pup; The Jig Was Up'

Jul 24, 2014 (Morning Edition)

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Sarah Palin Gets A Speeding Ticket, Says She 'Can't Drive 55'

Jul 24, 2014 (Morning Edition)

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Authorities Lose Contact With Air Algerie Aircraft

by Eyder Peralta
Jul 24, 2014

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Authorities have lost contact with an Air Algerie aircraft traveling from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to Algiers, Reuters reports citing the Algerian state news agency.

Reuters adds:

"APS said authorities lost contact with flight AH 5017 an hour after it took off from Burkina Faso.

"Spanish private airline company Swiftair confirmed it had no contact with its MD-83 aircraft operated by Air Algerie, which it said was carrying 110 passengers and six crew. An Algieran official had earlier said it was an Airbus A320."

In a statement, Swiftair said the flight took off at 9:17 p.m. ET on Wednesday, and was supposed to arrive shortly after 1 a.m. ET. on Thursday.

"There is at this moment, no contact with the aircraft," Swiftair said.

Of course, this incident comes about a week after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17was shot down over Ukraine and a day after a Transasia Airways plane crash-landed in Taiwan, killing dozens of passengers.

This is a breaking news story. We'll update when we know more.

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Paul Davis, third from left, the presumed Democratic nominee for Kansas governor, receives the endorsements of more than 100 current and former Republican politicians on July 15, 2014, in Topeka, Kan. (AP)

A Strange Political Dustup Clouds Kansas Governor's Future

by Jim McLean
Jul 24, 2014 (Morning Edition)

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Kansas's Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is locked in an unexpectedly tough re-election battle for doing exactly what he said he would do - cut taxes.

Citing mounting evidence that those tax cuts are creating a budget crisis - not stimulating the Kansas economy as promised - some in the state's moderate Republican establishment recently did the unthinkable: endorse a Democrat for governor.

That's not only endangering Brownback's re-election hopes, it's also tarnishing his plans to turn one of the reddest of red states into a national model.

Sam Brownback left the U.S. Senate to run for governor intending to demonstrate he could use conservative policies to reverse decades of population and economic decline in his home state. He easily won the 2010 race, and immediately began implementing and promoting what he calls his red-state model.

"You've got really two models developing: You've got this red state model and blue state model," he explained in a recent interview with the Heritage Foundation. "And one of these models is going to end up winning out and that model is going to go, I think, nationwide. I really hope it's the red state, lower taxes, less government, more freedom model."

Tax cuts are the most important part of the red-state model, and Brownback argues that lowering and eventually eliminating state income taxes will make Kansas a top choice for entrepreneurs and job creators.

His efforts to sell his model as a path forward for other states caught the attention of Michael Leachman, a researcher at the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

"The tax cuts that Kansas implemented a couple of years ago and took effect at the beginning of 2013 were one of the biggest state tax cuts in history," he explains. "And now a number of other states are pointing to Kansas as a model for how you can use very large tax cuts to promote economic growth."

But so far, Leachman says, following Kansas's lead may not be a good idea. The tax cuts haven't generated anything close to the economic "shot of adrenaline" that Gov. Brownback promised.

"There is no evidence of any boost to the state's economy," he says. "Kansas's job growth since the tax cuts took effect is actually a little slower than job growth has been nationally."

If a lack of immediate results was all that Sam Brownback had to worry about, he could appeal for patience. But there is mounting evidence that his tax cuts are largely responsible for a sudden and sharp drop in state revenues.

Senate Democratic leader Anthony Hensley says if the trend continues the state will quickly burn through its cash reserves, forcing legislators to deal with a burgeoning budget crisis when they return to Topeka in January.

"I think the governor is in a serious state of denial right now about the fiscal condition of the state," he says, chuckling.

The specter of cutting funding to schools, universities and a popular highway program by hundreds of millions of dollars is political fodder for House Minority Leader Paul Davis, Brownback's likely Democratic opponent in the fall.

One recent poll shows Davis leading Brownback by six points.

That has spurred some moderate Republicans to do something quite unexpected. Just last week, more than 100 of them - all current or former elected officials - endorsed Davis.

"We are all Republicans but we will always be Kansans first," says former state Sen. Wint Winter Jr., who helped organize the uprising. "We stand today united in the belief that under the current Republican governor Kansas is going in the wrong direction."

But Brownback is not backing down and insists his tax cuts are starting to work. At a recent campaign rally, he cited a discussion with a business owner he hired to help with his daughter's recent wedding.

"He looks at me and says, 'hey, you're the governor right? Yeah, Yeah. 'That tax deal that you did; that's really helped my little small business out," he says. "And I said, good, good. What are you going to do with the money? He said, 'well I'm looking this fall at buying another truck and hiring another guy to run the truck."

Whether voters give Brownback and his experiment more time could depend on just how much worse - or better - the state's fiscal problems get between now and November.

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Rabbi Michel Serfaty (right), head of the Jewish-Muslim Alliance of France, stands next to a Muslim cleric, or imam, as they both hold signs wishing Muslims a happy Ramadan. The rabbi and the imam have also traded hats. Despite efforts by Serfaty's group, a record number of French Jews are expected to move to Israel this year. (NPR)

Despite Mideast Turmoil, More French Jews Are Moving To Israel

Jul 24, 2014 (Morning Edition)

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A restaurant in Sarcelles, a northern Paris suburb, is damaged after a July 20 rally against Israel's Gaza offensive descended into violence. Candles are lit in Toulouse, southwestern France, in 2013 to honor the anniversary of a shooting there. Anti-Semitism is part of the rising emigration from France to Israel.

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Jews are leaving France and moving to Israel in unprecedented numbers this year.

With the departures expected to surpass 5,000, France could pull ahead of the U.S. for Jewish emigration to Israel, known as aliya. Usually, making aliya is a cause for celebration. But in France this year, it's tinged with bitterness.

The country, which has Europe's largest Muslim and Jewish populations, is experiencing repercussions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In Paris, pro-Palestinian demonstrations have turned violent, as some demonstrators attacked a synagogue and clashed with riot police.

But even before the latest Mideast flare-up, French Jews say there's been a rise in anti-Semitism in France and across Europe.

Four people were gunned down outside the Jewish museum in neighboring Belgium in May, and three Jewish schoolchildren and a teacher were killed in the southern city of Toulouse in 2012. Both attacks were carried out by young Frenchmen of North African descent, who had recently returned from fighting alongside extremists in places like Syria.

The combination of this violence and the stagnant French economy is fueling the emigration. So far this year, more than 2,000 French Jews have left, up from 580 during the same period last year.

Earlier this month, a Paris synagogue overflowed during a goodbye ceremony for the latest group of Jews to move to Israel.

Among them are Steven Taieb and Meyer Zouari. Both are leaving their families to move to Israel this summer. Armed with computer science degrees, they hope to find good jobs.

Though both young men claim they've always wanted to move to the Holy Land to fully live their faith, they say the recent climate precipitated their departure. Zoauri's father David believes his son made the right decision.

"France is no longer the beautiful country it was," he says. "It's being invaded. Its secularism is being compromised. All you see are women wearing veils in the streets. And mosques are sprouting up everywhere."

France, Zoauri says, is turning into a Muslim country.

Both of the young Jewish men say they grew up in the Paris suburbs, in mixed communities where Jews, Muslims and Christians co-existed.

Taieb says his family never had any problems: "We all said hello to each other and respected each other."

But Zouari had a different experience living amid his Muslim peers.

"I never knew if someone might try to do something to me just because I was Jewish," he says. "For example, I never felt comfortable wearing my skull cap outside. That would have been a provocation."

After singing a beautiful ballad about Jerusalem, the Paris congregation listens to France's head rabbi, who reminds them of their attachment to France, the first country to give Jews full rights as citizens in 1791. Aside from the tragic deportations during the World War II, France has generally been a haven for Jews. Since the second world war, the French government has redoubled efforts to make Jewish families feel welcome.

The new wave of anti-Semitism is coming from a young generation Muslims of African and North African descent who are spurred on by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, says Martine Cohen, a religious expert at CNRS research institute.

"Jews know that French authorities are behind them and want to defend them," she says. "This is not a state anti-Semitism. It's an anti-Semitism coming from society."

At a small theater not far from the synagogue, controversial comedian Dieudonne Mbala Mbala performs a crude routine, with plenty of anti-Semitic themes.

Dieudonne has always denied being anti-Semitic, saying he is anti-Zionist. The French interior minister has tried unsuccessfully to ban the shows of this half-African, half-French provocateur, who has a large Internet following.

Outside the theater after the show, some fans — a cluster of young Muslim men — tell me Dieudonne is not anti-Semitic, just anti-system.

Rabbi Michel Serfaty is furious with the system — and with both French and Jewish authorities. He says they are dealing with the crisis in the wrong way, fighting in the courts instead of in the streets.

On a recent afternoon, Serfaty is handing out flyers in front of a mosque. He says French Muslim and Jewish communities are living in two separate worlds, and must make an attempt to get to know one another.

His flyer says Jews and Muslims must commit to treating each other with mutual respect. Most of the worshippers who talk to Serfaty agree, and say what he's doing is a good thing. Serfaty has a long conversation with one observant Muslim who wears a beard and djellaba, and who says the world for too long has allowed Israel to savage the Palestinians' plight.

"But that isn't our problem here," says Serfaty. "It's a geo-political problem far away from us and has nothing to do with us. We live in France, we speak French, and it's in both our interests to build this society together. We are all French."

Serfaty has hired and trained several young Muslims to go into Muslim-populated areas and help him with his outreach project. He says they're making inroads, but it's a drop in the bucket.

He says the French state needs to employ a battalion of such young people to help turn the tide of misinformation and hate. If not, he says, Jews will continue to leave France.

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