This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Israelis see Syria convulsed in violence to their north; uncertain relations with a much-changed Egypt to the south; and many fear a conflict with Iran could be just a matter of time. But as if to remind us of the central dispute in the region, Palestinians launched a barrage of rockets from Gaza last week. Israel responded with airstrikes. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The violence began when Israel assassinated a leader of a militant Palestinian faction in Gaza.]
The Iranian government continues to deny U.N. nuclear inspectors access to a military base where some believe they tested atom bomb parts. But Iran also says it's willing to resume talks with the United States and five other big powers, though skeptics argue Tehran is just playing for time. At a news conference yesterday, President Obama stressed diplomacy but added time for talks is running out.
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington. More good unemployment numbers today, oil prices tick down, positive news even about the housing market. Yes, many millions are still out of work, banks continue to process foreclosures, overall economic growth remains sluggish. But right now anyway, some sectors are doing better, a few are actually booming.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich is serving a 14-year prison sentence in a Colorado prison. Former Missouri state senator Jeff Smith served a year in federal prison on obstruction of justice charges. He offers sober advice to Blagojevich on what to expect, and what and what not to do behind bars.
A Pentagon official is downplaying the Afghan president's call for the United States to confine its troops to military bases by next year.
The AP says an unnamed "defense offical" told reporters the United States does not believe that's what President Hamid Karzai is seeking.
"We believe that this statement reflects President Karzai's strong interest in moving as quickly as possible to a fully independent and sovereign Afghanistan," Pentagon spokesman George Little said, according the AP.