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Top of the News

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RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Hey there. Welcome back to the Bryant Park Project from NPR News, on digital, FM, Sirius Satellite Radio, and online at npr.org/bryantpark. I'm Rachel Martin.

ALISON STEWART, host:

And Alison Stewart. Coming up, new movies and bad acting. But not on the screen. Bad acting on the radio. First, let's get some news headlines.

BILL WOLFF: This is NPR.

MARTIN: A relative and key aide to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has been gunned down in Iraq. Here's NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, from Baghdad.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: Muqtada al-Sadr's brother-in-law, Riyadh al-Nouri, was coming back from Friday prayers when he was gunned down in front of his house. Security officials immediately placed the holy city of Najaf, where the attack happened, under curfew. The assassination comes as confrontations continue between al-Sadr's militia, the Mahdi army, and U.S. and Iraqi forces.

Clashes in the vast Shiite slum and Mahdi army stronghold of Sadr City in Baghdad have been going on for days. Al-Sadr is considering whether or not to lift a ceasefire that's been in place for eight months now. Al-Nouri was not only Sadr's relative. He directed the Sadr office in Najaf. His death will only escalate tensions.

MARTIN: NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reporting there. The Americans who fight those battles and others will now have shorter tours there. President Bush said yesterday that Army deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan will drop to 12 months. That's down three months from the current 15. He also endorsed a summer pause in troop reductions in line with recommendations from top commander General David Petraeus.

The troubled Olympic torch is in Argentina today. Thousands of police there are ready to protect it from demonstrators who are angry about China's actions in Tibet. The International Olympic Committee chief is now calling the torch relay a crisis. The IOC considered cutting the relay short, but decided to keep it going.

Exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama, is in the U.S. today. He's in Seattle for his first visit since the latest unrest in Tibet. He says he supports non-violent protests of the Olympics. Meanwhile, China said today that the U.S., quote, "seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people," end quote, when Congress passed a resolution calling on Beijing to stop cracking down on Tibetan dissidents and speak with the Dalai Lama.

One U.S. Marine accused of killing another and her unborn child. After a three-month manhunt, he's in custody in Mexico. Here's James Bleers with the story.

JAMES BLEERS: Twenty-one-year-old Marine Corporal Cesar Laurean has been arrested in the western Mexican city of Michoacan. He's accused of murdering fellow Marine Lance Corporal Maria Lauterbach, age 20. She'd accused him of rape and was eight months pregnant at the time of her death.

Her charred body was found buried in his back garden near Fort Lejeune, North Carolina, where they were both based. Laurean, who's Mexican-born, fled there, but was caught following a joint FBI-Mexican operation. He's due to be extradited on the understanding that U.S. prosecutors won't seek the death penalty.

MARTIN: James Bleers reporting there. And news reports are saying that a campaign office of Senator Hillary Clinton's has been burned down. Her campaign office in Terre Haute in Indiana burned down overnight. No injuries are reported. Authorities are investigating. The primary in Indiana is May 6th.

And even if they put out lousy albums, "American Idols" will at least be good for mailing a letter. Idol winners are starring on a new series of U.S. stamps. They're for sale on the "Idol" website and photostamps.com. Season one winner, Kelly Clarkson, starts the series out. That's the news. It's always online at npr.org.

WOLFF: This is NPR.

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