From California, two stories have emerged today about thieves stealing from schools. In one case, the criminals seemed motivated by selling metal pipes. And in the other, they wanted rare animals.

Two reptiles and a tarantula were stolen from a classroom in Jurupa Valley, elementary school teacher Bonnie Werner says. The thieves broke into Troth Street Elementary and took the prize elements of her collection of lizards, snakes and other animals.

A report (PDF) from the Department of Defense's Inspector General details flawed quality assurance inspections of the body armor used by troops to stop bullets. The investigation, which was requested by Congress, looked at seven Army contracts worth $2.5 billion and awarded between 2004 and 2006.

Earlier this month, Standard & Poor's announced that it had downgraded the U.S. credit rating from AAA to AA+, citing political risks and the nation's rising debt burden. It was the first time in history that the U.S. credit rating was lowered.

The Wall Street Journal has an exclusive report today that sheds light on just how far the reach of Syria's police state extends: Talking to U.S. officials and Syrian expatriates in the U.S., the paper found that the regime of President Bashar Assad is tracking and intimidating dissidents living abroad.

The Journal reports:

Hospitals around the country have started offering deeply discounted CT scans for smokers worried about lung cancer.

Their pitches point to recent findings that screening current or former heavy smokers with CT scans before they show symptoms of lung cancer could modestly reduce their risk of dying from the disease. But some experts question whether the strategy is simply a marketing ploy that could bring more harm than good.

In a statement, yesterday, China denied a report that Pakistan allowed it to inspect the remnants of the specially modified Black Hawk helicopter that malfunctioned during the Osama bin Laden raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The BBC reports:

"Those reports are entirely groundless and very ridiculous," the Chinese defence ministry said in a statement.

Tobacco Firms Sue FDA Over Graphic Warning Labels

Aug 17, 2011

Four tobacco firms filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration arguing that new regulations that require them to put graphic warning labels on cigarette packages violate their constitutional rights.

In a statement, a lawyer who represents Lorillard, Inc., the third largest manufacturer of cigarettes in the U.S., said the regulations "violate the First Amendment."

There they sat with the President of the United States at the Old Market Deli in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, five veterans of our two most recent wars. With a turkey sandwich on his plate, Mr. Obama acknowledged their service, and the disproportionate sacrifice small towns and rural counties have made in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the military in general.

It's a story that has sent "shockwaves through the world of college sports," as NPR's David Greene said earlier today on Morning Edition: