Russia's support for Syrian President Bashar Assad has put it at odds with other countries in the Arab world.
Russia drew a lot of flack from Arab countries and the West when it vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution aimed at pressuring Assad to stop his crackdown on protesters. That has some analysts in Russia doubting whether the Kremlin really has a cogent strategy for the Middle East.
The dilemma for Russia policy in the Arab world can be illustrated by two very different events that took place this week.
The big Swiss bank UBS awarded some of its investment bankers millions of dollars in bonuses for their work last year. Now, according to The Wall Street Journal, it's taking some of that money back.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Or clawing it back. That's our last word in business today. Claw back provisions implemented after the financial crisis allow banks to recover bonuses from employees. A trading scandal last year cost UBS more than $2 billion and pushed it into the red.
And that settlement is, of course, a priority for President Obama. But so is the debt crisis in Europe. Today, he hosts Italy's new prime minister, the technocrat who succeeded the controversial-but-flamboyant Silvio Berlusconi last fall. Mario Monti has not yet turned around Italy's economy, but as NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports, he's changed the government's image abroad.
Rick Santorum headed in a different direction after his wins on Tuesday.
Here's NPR's Wade Goodwyn in Dallas.
WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: North Texas was a good choice for former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum to keep his campaign's momentum going. He met with evangelical pastors in the morning, Tea Partiers in the afternoon and a Republican women's group at night.
(SOUNDBITE OF MEETING)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It is our pleasure to introduce to you Rick Santorum. Give him a Texas welcome.
Tai chi, the Chinese martial art involving slow and rhythmic movement, has been shown to benefit older people by maintaining balance and strength. Now, researchers have found that tai chi also helps patients who suffer from Parkinson's disease.
Leona Maricle was diagnosed with Parkinson's two years ago. At the time, she was teaching math, and she says she had experienced the telltale tremors of Parkinson's for a number of years. She learned how to cope.
Labor unions plan to rally in front of the Arizona State Capitol on Thursday afternoon to protest four bills quickly moving through the state Legislature that could make last year's Wisconsin labor laws look modest by comparison.
Three of the four bills restrict the way unions collect dues and the way workers get paid for union activities. The fourth bans collective bargaining between governments and government workers: state and local. Unlike Wisconsin, it affects all government employees, including police and firefighters.
Chuck Taylor All Stars are common on the streets of Shanghai. Xuan Zhihui, 62, a retiree from a state-owned factory, wears her daughter's hand-me-down sneakers, which are 15 years old. She says they're really comfortable.
Credit Frank Langfitt / NPR
My Tee in Shanghai carries loads of limited edition Chuck Taylors from cities in Japan and New York. Owner Kenny Lee considers some of them museum pieces and has refused to sell them despite offers of up to $3,000.
Stroll along a street in downtown Shanghai for very long, and you're likely to run into someone wearing Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars. One recent afternoon, Xu Jing was heading back from lunch to her job at an ad company in a pair of raspberry-colored Chuck Taylors.
"They have a young image, upbeat and outdoorsy, sporty," said Xu, 27, explaining the appeal. "Young people with an artistic sense prefer Converse."
Xu was accompanied by Chen Xiaolei, a co-worker who owns three pairs of Chuck Taylor high-tops.