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Top of the News

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The latest headlines.

ALISON STEWART, host:

Live from the NPR studios at Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan, this is THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News.

We are available on digital, AM, FM, satellite, iTunes, and online at npr.org/bryantpark.

Hey, everybody. I'm Alison Stewart.

RICO GALLIANO, host:

And I'm Rico Galliano. Coming up: the guy who wrote the book on the rock band Magnetic Fields. But first, the news, with Rachel Martin.

BILL WOLFF (Announcer): This is NPR.

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Thanks, guys. Good morning, everyone.

President Bush is urging Americans to be patient when it comes to the war in Iraq. During his final State of the Union address, Bush also called on Congress to take steps to boost the slumping economy. He urged lawmakers to pass the stimulus package that he and House leaders have agreed upon and pass it as it is. No additions, please.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: The temptation will be to load up the bill. That would delay it or derail it, and neither option is acceptable.

(Soundbite of applause)

MARTIN: But Senate leaders may defy the president. They're considering a plan to add rebates for low-income seniors who live on Social Security, and a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits.

President Bush also called on Congress to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Law. Remember that one? Efforts to renew the law stalled last year.

Here's NPR's Larry Abramson.

LARRY ABRAMSON: The president pointed to statistics showing that some students' math and reading scores have improved and said that was good reason to renew the law.

Pres. BUSH: The No Child Left Behind Act is a bipartisan achievement. It is succeeding, and we owe it to America's children, their parents, and their teachers to strengthen this good law.

ABRAMSON: What the president did not say is that scores for many students have stagnated, and that the gap between white and minority students remains substantial.

Most experts say Congress is unlikely to take up this issue in an election year. The president also called on Congress to pass a $300-million voucher program to help low-income students afford private or religious schools. That idea faces stiff opposition from teachers and educators, and is unlikely to find support in Congress.

MARTIN: NPR's Larry Abramson.

International headlines now.

The crisis in Kenya continues today. Two Kenyan military helicopters fired above armed groups that were terrorizing refugees in the city of Naivasha. According to reports, the helicopters dive-bombed the crowds several times, firing what the police said were rubber bullets. They were trying to break up a mob of about 600 people who were brandishing machetes and threatening members of another tribe.

Earlier today, gunmen killed a Kenyan opposition leader at his home, sparking violence between ethnic gangs in Nairobi's Kibera slum. Kenya's embattled president, Mwai Kibaki, issued a statement appealing for calm, while opposition leader Raila Odinga said the country is moving dangerously close to anarchy. Formal talks between the two leaders are expected today. The former U.N. chief Kofi Annan is mediating efforts to bring an end to the violence that started after the disputed December 27th election.

And China has been suffering through a huge snowstorm that stranded hundreds of thousands of people over the past few days. And today, at least 25 people were killed after a bus plunged off an icy road. About 500,000 people, mostly migrant workers, were stuck in the city of Guangzhou, a major city in the south of the country. Train service has been cut off. And this week, the government has been scrambling to prevent riots by frustrated travelers.

That is the news. It is always online at npr.org.

WOLFF: This is NPR.

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