Police in Baton Rouge say they have arrested three people who stole guns with the goal of killing police officers. They are still looking for a fourth suspect in the alleged plot, NPR's Greg Allen reports.

"Police say the thefts were at a Baton Rouge pawn shop early Saturday morning," Greg says. "One person was arrested at the scene. Since then, two others have been arrested and six of the eight stolen handguns have been recovered. Police are still looking for one other man."

A 13-year-old boy is among those arrested, Greg says.

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After an international tribunal invalidated Beijing's claims to the South China Sea, Chinese authorities have declared in no uncertain terms that they will be ignoring the ruling.

The Philippines brought the case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, objecting to China's claims to maritime rights in the disputed waters. The tribunal agreed that China had no legal authority to claim the waters, and was infringing on the sovereign rights of the Philippines.

Donald Trump is firing back at Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after she made disparaging comments about him in several media interviews. He tweeted late Tuesday that she "has embarrassed all" with her "very dumb" comments about the candidate. Trump ended his tweet with "Her mind is shot - resign!":

Donald Trump wrapped up his public tryout of potential vice presidential candidates in Indiana Tuesday night with Gov. Mike Pence giving the final audition.

The Indiana governor's stock as Trump's possible running mate is believed to be on the rise, with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also atop the list. Sources tell NPR the presumptive GOP presidential nominee is close to making a decision, which he's widely expected to announce by Friday.

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The unassuming hero of Jonas Karlsson's clever, Kafkaesque parable is the opposite of a malcontent. Despite scant education, a limited social life, and no prospects for success as it is usually defined, he's that rarity, a most happy fella with an amazing ability to content himself with very little. But one day, returning to his barebones flat from his dead-end, part-time job at a video store, he finds an astronomical bill from an entity called W.R.D. He assumes it's a scam. Actually, it is more sinister-- and it forces him to take a good hard look at his life and values.

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Donald Trump picked a military town — Virginia Beach, Va. — to give a speech Monday on how he would go about overhauling the Department of Veterans Affairs if elected.

He blamed the Obama administration for a string of scandals at the VA during the past two years, and claimed that his rival, Hillary Clinton, has downplayed the problems and won't fix them.

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Decoding The Allure Of The Almanac

Mar 2, 2012
Originally published on September 19, 2014 6:18 am

There's been something wacky with the weather this winter, and many forecasters never saw it coming.

Among them was The Old Farmer's Almanac, the quirky, centuries-old mix of historical data, prognostications and folk wisdom. Millions of people consult the almanac, which uses a secret formula to come up with its annual, yearlong weather forecasts, even though meteorologists say it has a dubious track record.

This year's edition might have been off target, but that doesn't concern Connecticut native Ryan Tartisel, who says the almanac is at least as good as more mainstream sources.

"I've followed the weather very closely, and the other forecasters seemed to get it wrong just as often," says Tartisel, 30, who works for a media company. "Usually, the almanac calls it with some degree of accuracy."

Winter Gone Wrong

The Old Farmer's Almanac predicted this winter would bring above-normal snowfall from New England to Georgia and across the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest, with below-normal levels of precipitation in drought-stricken Texas.

Not quite.

"Precipitation-wise, much of the country has been drier than average, with one exception: an area that includes Texas," says Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's outlook for this winter hasn't fared much better.

Even with all of NOAA's on-the-ground and in-the-sky resources, Halpert notes, long-term predictions are difficult. Its 90-day forecasts are on target some 60 percent of the time. "Not that good, but getting better," he says. Short-term forecasting is far more accurate.

So nobody's perfect, but The Old Farmer's Almanac — first published in 1792 and not to be confused with the rival Farmers' Almanac that dates back to 1818 — has long trumpeted an 80 percent accuracy rate.

That kind of success rate would be the envy of forecasters who use less-clandestine methods involving super computers and advanced weather modeling. (However, comparing the almanac's accuracy rate with NOAA's isn't cut and dried, since the two use vastly different methods.)

"My guess is their success rate is more like half what they say," says Jonathan Martin, chairman of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. "It's Middle Ages in terms of accuracy."

Secret Formulas And Folk Wisdom

So why is it that every fall, as talk turns to the coming winter, the prognostications of The Old Farmer's Almanac are almost sure to be part of the discussion?

The almanac's editor, Janice Stillman, acknowledges that the journal's forecast this year was off. But she says that traditionally, its predictions are as accurate as advertised.

"Meteorologists can say whatever they want," she says. "But we use the same data as everyone else. There's no mystery about it."

Ben Radford, deputy editor of the science magazine Skeptical Inquirer, says mystery is actually a big part of why Tartisel and others might perceive the almanac as being more accurate than it actually is.

People are attracted to the idea that a 200-year-old secret formula locked in a simple black box could outdo the weather geeks, says Radford, who has written books that examine urban legends and claims of the paranormal. So they tend to remember when the National Weather Service gets it wrong but forget when the almanac does.

That's what psychologists call confirmation bias, he says, which is "basically remembering the hits and forgetting the misses, or in some cases forgiving the misses."

"It's the same with astrology columns," Radford says. "You can look at your horoscope each day for a month, and if you later ask someone about it, they will tell you about the few times it was right, not the majority of times it was wrong."

And he says the almanac does an expert job of mixing in some real science with its pseudoscience: "On one page you might have accurate information about the moon phases, and on the next page you might have completely false information about how Venus influences your personal life."

Accuracy Claims Examined

Leah Arielle Ogilvie, a 27-year-old student and part-time gardener who lives in Pottstown, Pa., has been using The Old Farmer's Almanac for several years as a guide for when to plant her vegetables.

"It's been pretty good," she says, though she's less convinced when it comes to weather forecasting. "There are times when they've predicted a cold winter and it's not been all that cold, or they predict a very wet summer and it's not."

A few years ago, Penn State meteorologist Paul Knight and some colleagues examined the almanac's weather predictions from 1996 to 2004.

"Some months they were pretty good, some months they were pretty bad," Knight says. As for the claim of 80 percent accuracy? "It is just not possible to do that consistently," he says.

But even if they take exception to some of the almanac's assertions, some of those same hard-nosed weather professionals have a soft spot for it.

Knight says he's among the 3.5 million people who pick up a copy each year. "It's fun. I read it," he says.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison's Martin might scoff at the almanac's talk of sunspots and secret formulas, but he praises its blend of astronomical data and folksy wisdom. He even credits The Old Farmer's Almanac with sparking his interest in the weather.

"I was always one of the first people to go steal a look at what the winter would be like for my region, because I love winter weather and I grew up in New England," he says. "Anything that could get me more interested in the weather when I was a young boy worked in favor of my getting into this career."

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