National News

Adam Namm, U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador and musician member of Samay Blues Band.

Singing The Blues, A U.S. Envoy Hopes To Boost Ties With Ecuador

Shortly before taking the stage at a bar in Quito, Ecuador's capital, the local band Samay Blues plugs in for a sound check.

Among the audience are a number of Americans. That's because the word is out: U.S. Ambassador Adam Namm will be sitting in on keyboards.

"I'm glad to get out of the office once in a while," Namm tells a patron. "Thanks for coming."

In a region where many left-wing leaders are hostile to the United States, Namm has found a novel way to reach out to his host country.

Tony Simmons listens to Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke speak to a Johns Hopkins University class after a council meeting at City Hall. Simmons is assisting in teaching the class, called "Health, Homelessness, and the Housing Question," which focuses on understanding issues faced by the homeless population.

Homeless Man Encourages Others On The Streets To 'Get Up'

This story begins an occasional series about individuals who don't have much money or power but do have a big impact on their communities.

Sometimes, the people you'd least expect are those who do the most. People like Tony Simmons, a homeless man in Baltimore who helps others get off the street. Simmons says he does it as much for himself as for anyone else.

Coleen Schaefer (left) and Doni Sprague display a tiger pelt that was confiscated and is being stored at the National Eagle and Wildlife repository on the outskirts of Denver. Some 1.5 million items are being held at the facility. The Asia-Pacific Trade Pact, which is still under negotiation, would punish wildlife trafficking.

Tiger Skins And Rhino Horns: Can A Trade Deal Halt The Trafficking?

If you want a sobering look at the scale of wildlife trafficking, just visit the National Eagle and Wildlife Repository on the outskirts of Denver. In the middle of a national reserve is a cavernous warehouse stuffed with the remains of 1.5 million animals, whole and in parts.

They range from taxidermied polar bears to tiny sea horses turned into key chains. An area devoted to elephants is framed by a pair of enormous tusks.

Christian Tengblad (right) and his fellow fare dodger are part of the group Planka.nu.

Group Urges Swedes To Evade Subway Fares, And Even Insures Against Fines

Every city that has public transportation struggles with fare jumpers — people who sneak onto the subway or the bus without buying a ticket. In Sweden, fare-dodging is a brazen movement in which the group's members don't try to hide what they're doing.

Apple CEO Tim Cook discusses the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus late last year.

Apple Sold 30,000 iPhones An Hour Last Quarter, Scored Record Profits

Sales of Apple's larger iPhone 6 and 6 Plus hit one out of the ballpark last quarter, reports NPR's Laura Sydell.

"Apple sold over 74 million iPhones in three months and it made $18 million in profits — that's a record for the company. Apple CEO Tim Cook said that they sold 30,000 iPhones every hour."

"The sales may reflect pent up consumer demand — many people were waiting for Apple to release a phone with a bigger screen, which its main competitor, Samsung, already had."

Francisco Fernandez de Alba skis along a recently plowed road during a snowstorm in Providence, R.I., Tuesday. Parts of the state were buried under nearly two feet of snow by early Tuesday afternoon, and more was on the way.

Winter Storm Winds Down, But Blizzard Conditions Persist

Coastal flooding and dangerous conditions were still affecting New England Tuesday evening, with blizzard warnings declared from Rhode Island to parts of New Hampshire and Maine. Since Sunday, parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts and other states have had more than two feet of snow.

Strong winds were a main concern along the coast, as they drove flood waters inland and caused other problems. The National Weather Service says winds gusted at over 70 mph in Nantucket and Chatham, Mass.

The defense gatherers after the jury was read the charges against Brandon Vandenburg, center, and Cory Batey, right, in Nashville Tuesday. The pair were found guilty of aggravated rape and aggravated sexual battery.

Former Vanderbilt Football Players Found Guilty In Rape Case

A jury has found two former members of the Vanderbilt University football team guilty of multiple counts of aggravated rape and aggravated sexual battery, in a case that stems from a 2013 assault in a dorm room. Others also face charges in the case.

Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey will face sentencing on March 6. Convicted of multiple felonies, the two could be sentenced to decades in prison.

From Nashville, Blake Farmer of member station WPLN reports:

Obama Administration Won't Seek To End 529 College Tax Break

Reversing what had been an unpopular approach, the White House says it is dropping the idea of ending a tax break for 529 college savings plans. Critics had called the proposal a tax hike. All 50 states and the District of Columbia sponsor 529 plans.

Money in 529 accounts is meant to grow along with future college students, and then be distributed to pay for education expenses without being taxed.

Americans for Prosperity Foundation Chairman David Koch speaks in Orlando, Fla., in August 2013.

Koch Brothers Put Price Tag On 2016: $889 Million

The political network led by industrialists Charles and David Koch plans to spend $889 million for the 2016 elections. In modern politics, it's more than just a ton of money.

It's about as much as the entire national Republican Party spent in the last presidential election cycle, four years ago. And as Sheila Krumholz — director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks politicians and donors — pointed out in an interview, it's double what the Koch brothers and their network spent in 2012.

Krumholz summed it up: "It is staggering."

A Pakistani polio vaccination worker gives a dose to a child in Islamabad during a 2014 campaign.

For Dollars Donated To Vaccine Campaigns, Norway Wears The Crown

GAVI asked and the world gave.

GAVI is the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization. At a conference in Berlin today, the nonprofit group asked for help in meeting its goals of vaccinating 300 million children in low income countries against potentially fatal diseases.

The response was extraordinary: a total of $7.5 billion pledged to cover GAVI's 2016-2020 efforts.

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