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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Just How Independent Are Independent Voters?

Mar 27, 2012
Originally published on April 9, 2015 5:30 pm

Lester Wilson doesn't think of himself as a Republican or a Democrat. He's not a card-carrying Libertarian or Green, either.

The one group he does belong to is the 40 percent of Americans who identify as independents — now a larger chunk of voters than any single political party, according to a recent Gallup survey.

"I like my independent status. I think voting for just one party is a betrayal of my civic duty," says the 38-year-old maintenance worker from Asheville, N.C.

There's a lot of talk this election cycle about how important independents will be in deciding the November presidential election and which candidate will win their votes.

'Closet Partisans'

But exactly how independent are the self-styled independents?

Wilson, for example, has occasionally voted for Republicans on the local level, but he's gone for the Democrat in all but one presidential election. The sole exception was 2004, when he says he voted Libertarian. He even went to the polls in his state's 2008 Democratic presidential primary (and voted for Barack Obama).

He has a lot of company. Research over the years suggests that most independents are what John Petrocik, a political science professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia, calls "closet partisans."

"We talk as though these people are strongly susceptible to the short-term influences of campaigning and the economy, and that they are a massive swing bloc in the electorate," says Petrocik, whose research helped lay the groundwork for the influential 1992 book The Myth of the Independent Voter.

"For the most part, none of those things are true," he says.

Wilson, who sees his political autonomy as a civic duty, is an example of someone who has taken to heart the belief that, as Petrocik puts it, "a good citizen is independent-minded and makes up his or her own mind."

"But as soon as you press them, they very quickly admit that they prefer one party or another," he says.

Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta, agrees that being an independent is often an important part of a voter's personal identity. "People want to think of themselves as independent, that they don't just vote automatically," he says.

He also thinks there may be a more pragmatic reason why some voters remain unaffiliated: "They don't want to get literature; they don't want to be bothered; they don't want to get phone calls."

Truly independent voters do exist, according to Abramowitz and Petrocik, but they account for just 10 percent to 15 percent of the electorate. "And once you take away those people who aren't going to turn out, you're down to something like 6 percent or 7 percent," Abramowitz says.

In other words, the true swing voters are a pretty small group.

They also haven't been the deciding factor in tight presidential elections that many people might think. In the three most closely contested races of the past 40 years — 1976, 2000 and 2004 — the majority of independents backed the candidate who wound up losing the popular vote. (In 2000, George W. Bush won the independent vote and the White House even though Al Gore won the popular vote by nearly 550,000 votes.)

Myth Of The 'Myth'?

Abramowitz says exit poll data show independents who say they lean toward a particular party — and most of them lean Democratic — follow through in the voting booth.

In 2008, for example, exit polls showed that about 90 percent of those who said they leaned Democratic ended up voting for Barack Obama, while something like 80 percent of the Republican-leaning independents went for Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

But Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary's College of Maryland, says you have to look at voters' behavior over time, not just at exit poll data in a single election, to get a clear picture of how people really vote.

He says independents who say they lean toward a particular party — especially those who favor Democrats — are actually more likely to switch sides from one election to another.

"In any given election, yes, they do vote like people who say, 'I'm a strong Republican' or 'I'm a strong Democrat,' " he says. "But if you follow them across time, they are less loyal to that party from election to election.

Eberly says this behavior accounts for the frequent power shifts in Congress.

"The fact that [independents] from one congressional cycle to the next will switch their support adds to the instability in politics right now, where one party cannot hold onto power for much more than one or two election cycles," he says.

Out on the campaign trail, most political strategists have become true believers when it comes to the myth of the independent voter, Abramowitz says. Energizing the base, he says, is more important than attracting the independents — especially for those Republicans chasing their party's nomination in August.

"It doesn't mean you completely ignore those folks," he says, "but they aren't as important to the outcome."

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