Now to efforts aimed at restructuring the Syrian opposition. The main opposition group, the Syrian National Council, is increasingly seen as ineffective, so people trying to bring down the government of President Bashar al-Assad are meeting right now in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar. NPR's Kelly McEvers is there and as she reports, the goal is to give the opposition more credibility with Syrians and the international community.
As Barb mentioned, this week, Colorado and Washington State passed measures legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. We're going to hear reaction now from the country where much of America's pot is grown, Mexico. The sale, growth, and use of marijuana there remains illegal. And Mexico's incoming government fears these new laws will force them to rethink how they fight cross-border pot smuggling. But others think the measures could help fight narco-trafficking and cut into the cartels' power.
Speaking of the fiscal cliff, let's take a minute to review what it is and how it all began. Imagine yourself standing on top of a cliff and it's December 31st, New Year's Eve and you're looking down, way down, toward New Year's Day. That's the deadline, the day a lot of fiscal policy will change and nearly all of us will feel it unless Congress acts.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
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And I'm Melissa Block. The political landscape of Washington, after more than a year of campaigning and billions of dollars in political spending, is stunningly unchanged. President Obama is in the White House. Republicans control the House of Representatives. Democrats hold the Senate.
During the holidays, family kitchens are ground zero for intense craziness: mixers whirling, timers buzzing, knives flying. So yes, it's understandable that many of us just stay out of way of the experienced cook. Especially when the knives come out and Mama is talking under her breath.
If you read Anne Applebaum's Iron Curtain as a manual on how to take over a state and turn it totalitarian, the first lesson, she says, would be on targeted violence. Applebaum's book, which was recently nominated for a National Book Award, describes how after World War II, the Soviet Union found potential dissidents everywhere.
"It really meant anybody who had a leadership role in society," she tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "This included priests, people who had been politicians, people who had been merchants before the war, and people who ran youth groups."
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Before the election recedes too far, there are a couple more takeaways that deserve attention. One is the money. Spending in the 2012 campaign reached record heights. Some estimates put the total at more than $6 billion, and the new outside groups, the superPACs and the nonprofits, spent more than a billion to buy maybe one million television ads. In a moment, the effect of that unprecedented flow of cash.