Renee Montagne

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Venezuela is in a state of mourning for its late president, Hugo Chavez. The outsized leader died yesterday in the capital, Caracas, after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 58. Hugo Chavez was both a polarizing and charismatic figure, and during his long rule he became an icon, beloved by Venezuela's poor and others in the region who admired his defiant stance toward the U.S.

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We're hearing this morning that Pope Benedict has left the Vatican. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli is covering the first papal retirement in 600 years, and she joins us now from Rome. And Sylvia, describe the scene for us there.

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Alright, to talk more about the politics behind the across-the-board cuts, here is NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Good morning.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning.

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Snow, superstars, and cinema. That combination can mean only one thing at this time of year: The Sundance Film Festival. Our movie reviewer, Kenneth Turan, is on the scene in Park City, Utah, as he is every year, to tell us about some of the movies at Sundance. Good morning.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Let's start with dramas. What really stands out for you, Ken?

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Steve, thanks very much. Now let's go just beyond the capital building, into the National Mall. That's where NPR's Ailsa Chang is. And she's between the Capitol, as I understand it, Ailsa, and the Washington Monument, right there in the thick of things.

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And I'm Renee Montagne. One of the liveliest parts of today's events dates back to the very first Inauguration, and that would be the inaugural parade. After George Washington took his oath of office, he was joined by a procession made up of local militias as he made his way from Mount Vernon to New York City. Today, the parade is a colorful blend of marching bands, floats and different organizations led by ceremonial military regiments.

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President Obama wants a Republican to be his next secretary of Defense, and some Republicans really don't like the choice.

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And joining us now, as she does most Monday, is Cokie Roberts. Good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Hi, Renee. Happy New Year.

MONTAGNE: Happy New Year to you. So, Cokie, we seem to be getting the next year, or this new year, right back where we ended in the last Congress, and that's bickering over everything. And as we've just heard, that includes, big time, the president's cabinet appointment of a former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel. Tell us more about what's going on there, a little bit more history.

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The contentious fight over labor rights has been unfolding throughout the Midwest in the last couple of years. Michigan is only the latest example.

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Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, who took power last June, is facing a rebellion against his rule. It all started with a set of controversial decrees by the president that put him above the law until a constitution is in place. That move has polarized the country. Judges are on strike and critics say the president is pushing through an illegitimate constitution.

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Let's turn now to the urgent diplomatic efforts underway. Secretary of State Clinton is now in Cairo, meeting with Egyptian leaders in efforts to reach a ceasefire. NPR's Leila Fadel joins us from Cairo to discuss the latest.

Good morning.

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Opposition groups working to bring down the regime in Syria are meeting in Doha, Qatar in a furious bid to reorganize and reinvigorate themselves. The aim is to form a legitimate government in exile that would be recognized by the international community. This new effort to bring together the Syrian opposition is strongly backed by the U.S. NPR's Kelly McEvers is in Doha and joins us to talk about it.

And let's start by you telling us exactly who is there.

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The triumph in some parts of the country this morning is that people are able to vote at all. Just over a week after Hurricane Sandy slammed ashore, people are voting today in New Jersey.

And in New York City, NPR's Robert Smith is in the Borough of Queens, part of New York City. He's on the line. Robert, what have you seen today?

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A young Bangladeshi man has been charged with conspiring to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank in lower Manhattan. New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly commented on the arrest at a press conference last night.

RAYMOND KELLY: This individual came here for the purpose of doing a terrorist act.

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Two Americans have been awarded this year's Nobel Prize for Economics for work that has to do with matching in business, medicine and marriage. The two, whose work turned out to be a good match, are Alvin Roth of Harvard and Lloyd Shapely of the University of California, Los Angeles. They will share the $1.2 million prize.

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A judge in Pennsylvania has blocked a key part of that state's new voter ID law, a law that's caused controversy. Now, come Election Day, voters showing up at the polls can still be asked to show a government-issued photo ID, but they will not be prevented from voting if they don't have one. NPR's Pam Fessler has been covering the story and she joins us now. Good morning.

PAM FESSLER, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: So, remind us what this Pennsylvania law is - you know, why it's been making national news.

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