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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What's Making Americans Less Thirsty For Gasoline?

Mar 22, 2012
Originally published on March 23, 2012 7:03 am

The price of gasoline keeps rising for Americans, but it's not because of rising demand from consumers.

Since the first Arab oil embargo of the 1970s, the U.S. has struggled to quench a growing appetite for oil and gasoline. Now, that trend is changing.

"When you look at the U.S. oil market, you see that there's actually no growth," says Daniel Yergin, chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates.

He says gasoline demand peaked in 2007 and has fallen each year since, even though the economy has begun to recover.

"The U.S. has already reached what we can call 'peak demand.' Because of increased efficiency, because of biofuels, we're not going to see growth in our oil consumption," Yergin says.

That view is shared by the government's official source of energy data, the Energy Information Administration. Its long-term projection is that gasoline consumption will steadily decline by around 7 percent over the next 25 years.

Howard Gruenspecht, the EIA's acting administrator, says the projection does not take into account the latest proposal on automotive fuel efficiency, likely to be approved later this year. It requires fleet averages of 54.5 miles per gallon.

"If you put those into the mix, we would expect a somewhat steeper decline in overall liquid fuels demand, and gasoline demand in particular," Gruenspecht says.

The Crossover Effect

Gruenspecht says there are many reasons for the declining demand for gasoline. They include government mandates for the use of biofuels, like ethanol; and some demographic changes — for instance, the graying of America (older people tend to drive less). The main factor, though, is the increasing efficiency of new cars and trucks.

Rebecca Lindland, director of research for IHS Automotive, says 27 percent of the new vehicles sold in 2011 were smaller, lighter, car-based versions of the SUV, called "crossovers."

"Those tend to get significantly better fuel economy than our traditional truck-based SUVs that used to account for 20 percent of all the vehicles we bought," she says.

Now, those big SUVs are less than 5 percent of sales, and the average fuel efficiency of the crossovers is 20 to 30 percent higher than the old SUVs.

Of course, the higher price of gasoline plays a role in the changeover, says the EIA's Gruenspecht.

"I'm sure it's having some effect, but I don't think it's a major driver," he says.

Lindland agrees that the high price at the pump plays a role, but that's not the main consideration in consumers' vehicle purchases.

"What really matters to the consumer, what really drives their purchase decision, is whether the vehicle meets their wants and needs in terms of cargo load — whether people or stuff — and just their overall lifestyle," she says.

Standardizing Efficiency

Lindland says the key to the decline in gasoline use is higher government fuel efficiency standards, which forced automakers to make more fuel-efficient cars that appeal to consumers.

If fuel economy was the top priority, says Lindland, sales of hybrids would be exploding. But they're not.

"Actually, hybrid sales have been declining the last two years. So we're down to just 2.1 percent of the market is hybrid sales," she says. "And so we're selling nine times as many small cars and, of course, more than 12 times as many crossovers."

Eventually, hybrids and electric vehicles will likely make a big contribution to curbing the U.S. oil appetite.

For now, at least, most of the increases in fuel efficiency are coming from improvements in conventional gas-powered cars, including turbo-chargers that make smaller engines more powerful, 6-speed instead of 3- or 4-speed transmissions, smaller size and lighter materials.

Lindland says the next big improvement will be broad use of a start/stop feature that turns the engine off when you're at a traffic light, for instance, and automatically restarts it when you press on the accelerator. It's a feature already widely available in Europe.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

You just heard President Obama mention the spike in gas prices we're seeing right now. It's worth noting the rising prices are not – as you might expect – the result of higher demand from consumers. In fact, over the past four years, the U.S. appetite for oil and gasoline has been falling.

And that's likely to continue, as NPR's John Ydstie reports.

JOHN YDSTIE, BYLINE: Since the first Arab oil embargo of the 1970s, America has struggled to quench a growing appetite for oil and gasoline. But that's changing.

DAN YERGIN: When you look at the U.S. oil market, you see that there's actually no growth.

YDSTIE: That's Dan Yergin, chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates. He says gasoline demand peaked in 2007 and has fallen each year since, even though the economy has begun to recover.

YERGIN: The U.S. has already reached what we can call peak demand. Because of greater efficiency, because of biofuels, we're not going to see growth in our oil consumption.

YDSTIE: That view is shared by the government's official source of energy data, the Energy Information Administration. Its long-term projection is that gasoline consumption will steadily decline by around 7 percent over the next 25 years.

EIA Acting Administrator Howard Gruenspecht says that's without taking into account the latest proposal on automotive fuel efficiency, likely to be approved later this year. It requires fleet averages of 54 and a half miles per gallon.

HOWARD GRUENSPECHT: If you put those into the mix, we would expect a somewhat steeper decline in overall liquid fuels demand, and gasoline demand in particular.

YDSTIE: Gruenspecht says there are a number of reasons for the declining demand for gasoline. They include government mandates for the use of biofuels, like ethanol, and some demographic changes. For instance, the graying of America - older people tend to drive less. But the main factor is the increasing efficiency of new cars and trucks.

REBECCA LINDLAND: The big difference, really, is that we've changed from SUVs to crossovers.

YDSTIE: That's Rebecca Lindland, director of research for IHS Automotive. She says 27 percent of the new vehicles sold in 2011 were smaller, lighter, car-based versions of the SUV, called crossovers.

LINDLAND: And those tend to get significantly better fuel economy than our traditional truck-based SUVs, that used to account for about 20 percent of every vehicle we bought.

YDSTIE: Now, those big SUVs are less than 5 percent of sales. And the average fuel efficiency of the crossovers is 20 to 30 percent higher than that of the old SUVs. Of course, the higher price of gasoline plays a role in the changeover, says the EIA's Howard Gruenspecht.

GRUENSPECHT: I'm sure it's having some effect, but I don't think it's a major driver.

YDSTIE: Rebecca Lindland agrees that the high price at the pump plays a role. But it's not the main consideration in consumer vehicle purchases, she says.

LINDLAND: What really matters to the consumer, what really drives their purchase decision, is whether the vehicle meets their wants and needs in terms of their cargo load - whether it's people or stuff - and just their overall lifestyle.

YDSTIE: Lindland says the key to the decline in gasoline use is higher government fuel-efficiency standards, which has forced automakers to make more fuel-efficient cars that appeal to consumers. If fuel economy were the top priority, says Lindland, hybrids sales would be exploding. But they're not.

LINDLAND: Actually, hybrid sales have been declining the last two years. So we're down to just 2.1 percent of the market is hybrid sales - that's 2.1. And so we're selling, you know, nine times as many small car and, of course, more than 12 times as many crossovers.

YDSTIE: Eventually, hybrids and electric vehicles will likely make a big contribution to curbing the U.S. oil appetite. But for now, at least, most of the increases in fuel efficiency are coming from improvements in conventional gas-powered cars, including turbo-chargers that make smaller engines more powerful; six-speed instead of three- and four-speed transmissions; smaller size; and lighter materials. Lindland says the next big improvement will be the broad use of a start-stop feature that turns the engine off when you're at a traffic light, for instance, and automatically restarts it when you press on the accelerator. It's a feature already widely available in Europe.

John Ydstie, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.