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The Republican takeover of the U.S. House and statehouses across the country has helped launch a new chapter in the nation's long-running debate over abortion.

And as NPR's Julie Rovner reports on Wednesday's All Things Considered, there's a move afoot to legally redefine when personhood itself begins — to the time when a sperm fertilizes an egg. A change like that would have broad legal ramifications.

In Syria, the brutal death of a 13-year-old boy has spurred further demonstrations as the uprising there enters a third month.

Syrian protesters now shout the boy's name, Hamza al-Khateeb. He has become a symbol of the victims of the government's crackdown on dissent.

The Syrian government has promised to investigate his death. A video of his mutilated body was so gruesome that YouTube administrators blocked it, but they reinstated the images on Wednesday after a petition from human-rights organizations.

The North African country of Algeria borders both Tunisia and Libya, but after being scarred by a civil war during the 1990s, Algerians have not rebelled like their neighbors.

But that could change. And observers warn that there could be an explosion if the government's promise of change doesn't come fast enough. Seventy percent of the Algerian population is under the age of 30, and its discontent is growing.

There are now no names left in the "unaccounted for" column of the official list of those who were initially missing after the devastating tornado that swept through Joplin, Mo., on May 22.

And that report from the Missouri Department of Public Safety says the official "confirmed deceased" toll stands at 124.

Officials say this is the "final" such report they'll be issuing.

After 19 seasons and four NBA titles, Shaquille O'Neal said he was "about to retire." O'Neal made the announcement on Twitter. "I'm retiring," he wrote and linked to a short video.

"We did it. 19 years, baby" he said in the video. "I want to thank you very much; that's why I'm telling you first: I'm about to retire."

NPR News has learned that Massey Energy executive Chris Adkins will not be part of the executive team at Alpha Natural Resources following today's merger of the two coal companies.

As expected, Joseph "Sepp" Blatter was reelected to a fourth term as president of FIFA. Blatter was running unopposed, but, as we reported yesterday, the English Football Association had called for a delay in the vote, because FIFA, worldwide soccer's governing organization, is embroiled in several ethics scandals.

Last year's GOP takeover of the U.S. House and statehouses across the country has dramatically changed the shape of the nation's abortion debate. It has also given a boost to an even more far-reaching effort: the push to legally redefine when life itself begins.

The question being raised in legal terms is: When does someone become a person?

Massive protests have broken out in Chile over the environment — specifically over some dams that are set to be built in Patagonia, one of the world's most iconic wilderness areas. Most citizens disapprove of the HidroAysen project, which scientists and conservationists say will forever change this region.

Yet largely because of a booming copper mining industry, Chile is hungry for energy and the government is pushing ahead with the dams.

"By the end of this year," Defense Secretary Robert Gates says, the Taliban should be to the point where it's willing to take part in formal talks aimed at bringing peace to Afghanistan.

But, he said during a conversation set to air on today's All Things Considered, the Taliban must "put down their weapons ... abandon [any ties] to al-Qaida" and agree to live "under the Afghan constitution."