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.

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Iranians Feel The Bite Of Tougher Sanctions

Mar 15, 2012
Originally published on March 15, 2012 8:42 am

No nation has been sanctioned so frequently, and so thoroughly, as the Islamic Republic of Iran. For more than 30 years, the country has been under some kind of punitive economic measure.

The goal has been to prevent Iran from receiving and using the billions of dollars in oil profits that finance its nuclear program.

But none have been tougher, according to President Obama, than the sanctions his administration has imposed on Iran's banking system.

The evidence suggests that these sanctions have made it difficult for Iran to carry out international transactions. And they have forced ordinary Iranians into activities that under other circumstances might be called money laundering.

Two Perspectives

Until recently, sanctions imposed on Iran — by the United States and by the U.N. Security Council — have not changed Iran's determination to expand its nuclear activities.

But on the last day of December, Obama signed into law a bill that could ban foreign banks from operating in the United States if they carry out transactions with the Central Bank of Iran.

That step came after several years of sanctions tightening, according to the president.

"What we've been able to do over the last three year is mobilize unprecedented, crippling sanctions on Iran," Obama said.

That pressure has forced many, perhaps most, international banks to think twice about doing business with Iran.

"Iran is feeling the bite of these sanctions in a substantial way. The world is unified. Iran is politically isolated," Obama said.

Of course, that's not the way Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, sees it.

"Obama has said he will bring Iran to its knees through sanctions," Khamenei told a national television audience a few days ago. "This is a delusion. They call these paralyzing sanctions — for the past year? We've been under sanctions for 30 years."

Despite the supreme leader's words, there's no doubt the current sanctions have been disruptive for the government and for many of Iran's people, says Muhammad Sahimi, a professor at the University of Southern California who writes regularly for the website Tehran Bureau.

"It has greatly tightened and restricted the freedom that the Iranian government needed to carry out all these transactions," Sahimi says. "And that in turn, of course, has affected the lives of ordinary Iranians."

Growth In Money Smuggling

The most dramatic development has been the collapse of Iran's currency, the rial. Over the past few months, it has lost more than half its value against the dollar, sparking a panic that saw Iranians desperate to flee the rial and turn their holdings into hard currency.

This has put enormous pressure on Iran's foreign currency reserves. As a result, Sahimi notes, the government imposed stiff restrictions, under penalty of imprisonment, on how much foreign currency ordinary Iranians can hold or send out of the country.

"So it has become very difficult to many Iranians to actually either send any money to outside Iran or sell their assets in Iran and get it out of Iran," Sahimi says.

Ordinary Iranians have become money smugglers, hoarding their dollars, filling suitcases with cash, and traveling out of Iran to make deposits into international banks.

Some people have even resorted to taking stashes of cash by speedboat across the Persian Gulf at night to make their deposits in banks on the other side.

One of the most popular destinations is Dubai, says Hossein Askari, an expert on Iran's economy at George Washington University. Its banks have bowed to U.S. pressure to forgo dealings with Iran's government, but not with individual Iranians.

"And when you get on the other side, many countries, especially in Dubai, nobody asks you any questions," Askari says.

China And India Loopholes

At the government level, banks in India and China are still doing business with Iran. China imports a great deal of Iran's oil, so it has established accounts for Iran in China amounting to billions of dollars.

But China reportedly has imposed exorbitant fees and restrictions on these accounts, a development just now becoming known in Iran, says USC's Sahimi.

"That is beginning to change the perception, even within Iran, whether China is really Iran's strategic ally or is just taking advantage of the situation," he says.

For the sanctions to be fully effective, the United States would have to move to close loopholes like this. Askari is skeptical.

"I don't think the United States will do that with Indian banks. And I am 100 percent sure it will not do with Chinese banks," he says.

Between the U.S. and China, especially, there is too much at stake. So in the end, the sanctions are tough — but probably not watertight.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Here's one more factor in the confrontation between the West and Iran: It's the tolerance and endurance of Iran's people. Economic sanctions have hampered the country for more than 30 years. President Obama's administration recently imposed the most intensive sanctions ever on Iran's banking system. The goal is to prevent Iran from receiving and using billions of dollars in oil profits, also to persuade Iran's leaders to make a deal over the country's nuclear program or risk economic suffering, even political unrest. The sanctions, though, have also prompted Iranians to take creative measures to continue international business.

NPR's Mike Shuster has the story.

MIKE SHUSTER, BYLINE: No nation has been sanctioned so frequently and so thoroughly as the Islamic Republic of Iran. But it's fair to say that until recently, sanctions imposed on Iran, by the United States on its own and by the UN Security Council, have not changed Iran's determination to expand its nuclear activities.

But, on the last day of December, President Obama signed into law a bill that could ban foreign banks from operating in the United States if they carry out transactions with the Central Bank of Iran. That step came after several years of sanctions tightening, according to the president.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: What we've been able to do over the last three years is mobilize unprecedented, crippling sanctions on Iran.

SHUSTER: That pressure has forced many - perhaps most - international banks to think twice about doing business with Iran.

OBAMA: Iran is feeling the bite of these sanctions in a substantial way. The world is unified. Iran is politically isolated.

SHUSTER: Of course, that's not the way Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, sees it.

AYATOLLAH ALI KHAMENEI: (Foreign language spoken)

SHUSTER: Obama has said he will bring Iran to its knees through sanctions, Khamenei told a national television audience a few days ago. This is a delusion. They call these paralyzing sanctions for the past year? We've been under sanctions for 30 years. Despite the supreme leader's words, the current sanctions no doubt have been disruptive for the government and for many of Iran's people, says Muhammad Sahimi, a professor at the University of Southern California who writes regularly for the website Tehran Bureau.

MUHAMMAD SAHIMI: It has greatly tightened and restricted the freedom that the Iranian government needed to carry out all these transactions. And that, in turn, of course, has affected the lives of ordinary Iranians.

SHUSTER: The most dramatic development has been the collapse of Iran's currency, the rial. Over the past few months, it has lost more than half its value against the dollar, sparking a panic that saw Iranians desperate to flee the rial and turn their holdings into hard currency. This has put enormous pressure on Iran's foreign currency reserves. As a result, Sahimi notes, the government imposed stiff restrictions, under penalty of imprisonment, on how much foreign currency ordinary Iranians can hold or send out of the country.

SAHIMI: So it has become very difficult to many Iranians to actually either send any money to outside Iran, or sell their assets in Iran and get it out of Iran.

SHUSTER: Ordinary Iranians have become money smugglers, hoarding their dollars, filling suitcases with cash, and traveling out of Iran to make deposits into international banks. Some people have even resorted to taking stashes of cash by speedboat across the Persian Gulf at night to make their deposits in banks on the other side. One of the favorite destinations is Dubai, says Hossein Askari, an expert on Iran's economy at George Washington University. Its banks have bowed to U.S. pressure to forgo dealings with Iran's government, but not with individual Iranians.

HOSSEIN ASKARI: And when you get on the other side, in many countries, especially in Dubai, nobody asks you any questions.

SHUSTER: At the government level, banks in India and China are still doing business with Iran. China imports a great deal of Iran's oil, so it has established accounts for Iran in China amounting to billions of dollars. But China reportedly has imposed exorbitant fees and restrictions on these accounts, a development just now becoming known in Iran, says Muhammad Sahimi.

SAHIMI: That is beginning to change the perception, even within Iran, whether China is really Iran's strategic ally, or is just taking advantage of the situation.

SHUSTER: For the sanctions to be fully effective, the United States would have to move to close loopholes like this. Hossein Askari is skeptical.

ASKARI: I don't think the United States will do that with Indian banks. And I am 100 percent sure it will not do with Chinese banks.

SHUSTER: Too much else is at stake between the U.S. and China, especially - tough sanctions, yes, but watertight, probably not. Mike Shuster, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.