Audie Cornish

After spending eight months on a Japanese space expedition, a cherry pit that's now four years old has mysteriously blossomed six years before it was due.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. For the last 10 weeks, NPR has been following eight runners who have been preparing for this year's Boston Marathon. We've dubbed our runners the NPR 8 and they've been blogging the highs and lows of their training. Today, we have some excerpts from their audio diaries.

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin defended his position on Ukraine. In a news conference, Putin denied that Russian troops are in Crimea but reserved the right to use force in Ukraine.

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MELISSA BLOCK: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

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NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman joins us now to talk about the Pentagon's view on cuts to military benefits. And Tom, we just heard from Quil that retirees feel the military is essentially breaking faith with those who served. But what do Pentagon leaders say to that?

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Well, Audie, I spoke with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Martin Dempsey earlier this week and I asked him about these pension cuts and here's what he had to say.

The Senate is still struggling to find a way to pay for an extension of unemployment benefits for those out of work for 26 weeks or more. Majority leader Harry Reid agreed to bring up five Democratic and five Republican amendments in hopes to winning enough Republicans over to get to the 60 votes needed for passage.

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Embattled New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was back in the spotlight today. The annual State of the State speech came at an awkward moment for Christie. The Republican governor had not spoken publicly since apologizing last week for politically motivated lane closures at the George Washington Bridge. Christie acknowledged the unfolding scandal at the start of his speech.

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Today brings a new wave of questions about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. It's no longer just about whether Christie knew members of his team had ordered a traffic jam on the Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge. Today we learned the federal government is also investigating whether the Christie administration misused funds earmarked for recovery from Superstorm Sandy.

We're joined once again by reporter Matt Katz of member station WNYC. And, Matt, what more can you tell us about these new allegations?

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An Olympic team spot isn't the only glittering sports prize up for grabs this weekend. Eight teams gear up for the NFL divisional playoffs on the road to next month's Super Bowl. Sportswriter Stefan Fatsis joins us now for his regular Friday update on what's happening in football. Hey there, Stefan.

STEFAN FATSIS, BYLINE: Hey, Audie.

CORNISH: So let's start with those two games tomorrow. First, Indianapolis at New England. In a nutshell, what do we expect?

Poverty and income inequality have long been staples of the Democratic Party platform, but they haven't often been high priorities. This year, that appears to be changing, and what's more, some Republicans seem eager to join the conversation.

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