This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. In Syria, the army of President Bashar al-Assad appears to be gaining the upper hand on the battlefield, as rebels wait for military assistance from the U.S. and other Western allies, assistance that has yet to arrive. Meanwhile, U.N. officials say the refugee crisis has now reached levels not seen since after the Rwanda genocide.
NPR's Kelly McEvers joins us from Beirut for more. Kelly, welcome.
Today, Russia is wrapping up its biggest military maneuver since the Soviet era, an exercise that's designed to test its military readiness on land, sea and in the air. NPR's Corey Flintoff reports that it may also be an effort to show Russia's Far Eastern neighbors that it is still a force to be reckoned with.
COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: Russian President Vladimir Putin watched part of the war games this week at a firing range in southern Siberia.
PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: (Foreign language spoken)
An Israeli cabinet member said today that officials plan to release some Palestinians who have been in prison in Israel for decades. This appears to be part of the diplomatic dance around restarting peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel. After six visits to the region in six months, Secretary of State John Kerry, announced yesterday that there is enough agreement to begin initial talks next week or soon after in Washington, D.C.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. For the past few years, in July the Russia provincial town of Vologda has hosted a European Film Festival. Vologda is a sleepy city far from the Russian metropolises of Moscow and St. Petersburg, and every year the arrival of European filmmakers and actors to the Russian heartland is a very special event.
This year, NPR's Eleanor Beardsley attended the festival.
Somalia hadn't had a case of polio for nearly six years. But in the past few months, the virus has come back. Now the East African country has the worst polio outbreak anywhere in the world.
Twenty new cases of polio were reported this week in Somalia by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. That brings the total number of cases in the Horn of Africa to 73. The rest of the world combined has tallied only 59 cases so far this year.
Now it is time to move on to our final game, Lightning Fill In The Blank. Each of our players will have 60 seconds in which they can answer as many fill in the blank questions as he or she can. Each correct answer is now worth two points. Carl, can you give us the scores?
CARL KASELL: Alonzo Bodden has the lead, Peter. He has four points, Faith Salie has two, Charlie Pierce has two.
In 2012, comedian Louis C.K. tweeted: "In 27 years doing this, I've seen a handful of truly great, masterful standup sets. One was Tig Notaro last night at Largo." The set C.K. was referring to was Notaro's performance the day she was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. That set became "Tig Notaro: Live," which is now out now on iTunes.
We've invited Notaro to play a game called "Tig, meet Tug." Frank Edwin McGraw, known as Tug, was one of the great relief pitchers in baseball, or at least the most colorful. We'll ask Notaro three questions about her near-namesake.
The days are few and far between when President Obama has intentionally reminded us that he is the first African-American president.
Friday was one.
The president did something no other holder of his office has ever had the life experience to do: He used the bully pulpit to, as an African-American, explain black America to white America in the wake of last week's acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.