Renee Montagne

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On the shores of California one recent morning, female Marines were heaving heavy chains to secure amphibious assault vehicles that soon would roll into the waves.

The exercise was one part of a yearlong experiment aimed at settling the question of whether women can handle the punishing world of ground combat.

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Herat is one of the most graceful cities in Afghanistan. Its traditions go back to the Persian empire, with its exquisite blue and green glass, and its thriving poetry scene.

Now Herat is struggling with a darker side: drug addiction at a higher rate than almost anywhere else in the country.

In a dusty ravine on the outskirts of the city, Ahmad, a scruffy 20-year-old, is striking a match to inhale heroin.

It's a simple act he repeats throughout his day — heating a dark slab of heroin paste smeared on a bit of foil so he can smoke it.

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And I'm Renee Montagne.

On Saturday, voters turned out in large numbers despite threats of Taliban violence. It will take weeks to learn who will become Afghanistan's next president. Hamid Karzai can't run for a third term

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A U.K. seed company has taken the leafy look and peppery taste of kale and added the flavor of Brussels sprouts. You can buy BrusselKale now in Ohio and Pennsylvania; it debuts nationally this fall.

Host Renee Montagne talks to Erin Conway-Smith, southern Africa editor for GlobalPost, about the murder trial of Olympic hero Oscar Pistorius.

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Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne. Aspiring high school mathematicians gathered in New York for March Mathness. Even for kids who don't love sports, the professor leading the event told The Times there are a billion reasons to love brackets this year: Warren Buffett's reward for picking the winners for all 67 NCAA games. The math geeks are hoping linear algebra and complex computer codes will help them beat the odds: 9.2 quintrillion to one. It's MORNING EDITION. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Let's talk more about changes to the National Security Agency that President Obama is announcing as we speak at the Justice Department. And we're joined in our studio by Tamara Keith and Tom Gjelten. And let's just begin.

Tom, you told us earlier today that technology companies wanted greater transparency. They want the public to know more about what the NSA is doing. What is the president proposing today?

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Oscar nominations are in. They were announced this morning in Beverly Hills. And "American Hustle" and "Gravity" are the early front-runners. Each of them got 10 Academy Award nominations, including best picture. "12 Years a Slave" was close behind with nine nominations. For more, we're joined now by Linda Holmes, who writes and edits NPR's entertainment and pop culture blog Monkey See. Good morning.

LINDA HOLMES, BYLINE: Good morning to you.

A very cold winter storm is engulfing much of the Northeast, dumping more than 20 inches of snow in some areas and bringing strong winds along with it. Schools are closed in Boston and New York City. Thousands of flights have been canceled. Officials around the region are asking people to stay home and let road crews do their work.

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Turkey's government is defending itself against a corruption scandal. That scandal has shaken a nation often described as the model for moderate Islamic democracy. The scandal reaches the highest levels of the government, and has sparked a strong backlash by Turkey's ruling party.

We reached NPR's correspondent in Istanbul, Peter Kenyon, to learn more about what's going on.

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Roy Choi ushered in a food truck "new wave" in Los Angeles, making street fare edgier, tastier. Five years ago, he and a partner launched Kogi — Korean for meat — with a small fleet of trucks offering up a Korean-Mexican fusion that inspired food entrepreneurs in cities across America where the trend caught fire. His signature creation? The short rib taco: warm tortillas, Korean barbecue beef, cilantro-onion-and lime, topped with a spicy-soy slaw.

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And with some perspective on why the two sides are so dug in, and what options Speaker Boehner and President Obama may be weighing, we turn as we do most Mondays to Cokie Roberts. Good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Hi. How are you, Renee?

The National Security Agency violated special court restrictions on the use of a database of telephone calls, but the NSA says it fixed those problems. That's the bottom line from more documents declassified by the director of National Intelligence. The document dump is part of an effort to share more details about NSA surveillance activities that were uncovered by former government contractor Edward Snowden.

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A judge in New Delhi has just delivered his guilty verdict for four men who raped and murdered a young woman on a city bus back in December. It was one of the most high profile cases in Indian history. The horrific crime stirred a national debate over the country's lax prosecution of crimes against women and became an international issue as well. We talk to NPR's Julie McCarthy who was at the courthouse. Good morning.

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

In London, Prime Minister David Cameron had planned to get backing from Parliament Thursday – approving a possible military intervention. Instead, he's been forced to back down. The Labour Party announced it would vote against military action in Syria.

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The Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant is back in the news more than two years after an earthquake and tsunami triggered a series of meltdowns. New leaks found this week prompted regulators to consider raising the alert level there in Japan. NPR's science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel joined us to explain. Geoff, good morning.

GEOFF BRUMFIEL, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Why raise the alert level?

A UPS cargo plane crashed near the airport in Birmingham, Ala., Wednesday morning. The pilot and co-pilot were both killed.

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Major League Baseball appears set to hand down suspensions to several players implicated in performance enhancing drug use. New York Yankees All-Star Alex Rodriguez is the biggest name by far on that list and he also faces the longest suspension. NPR's Mike Pesca joins us now for an update. Good morning.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Hello.

MONTAGNE: So what length of penalty does Alex Rodriguez face?

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

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And I'm Renee Montagne.

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This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

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And I'm Renee Montagne.

As of this morning, Panama still doesn't know quite what to do with that North Korean cargo ship its impounded. The ship was going through the Panama Canal on its way from Cuba to North Korea. And when Panamanian authorities looked inside under thousands of bags of Cuban sugar, they found parts for missiles, jets and radar systems.

Here to help sort out this discovery is NPR's Tom Gjelten. Good morning.

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