5:16pm

Wed December 14, 2011
Around the Nation

Experts Question Need For Stronger Cellphone Ban

A driver uses a cellphone in Maine, which has laws that ban people under 18 from using cellphones behind the wheel and bar all drivers from texting.
Robert F. Bukaty AP

When the head of the National Transportation Safety Board called for states to pass tough new laws banning drivers from using cellphones or hand-held devices, she said: "No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life."

While Tuesday's statement by NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman is undeniable, there are those who question the advisability of such a ban. Some state lawmakers and transportation experts say it could be difficult to enforce and that there's no real evidence yet that existing laws on hand-held devices have significantly reduced accident rates.

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5:08pm

Wed December 14, 2011
Politics

Report: Wealthy 'Elite Donors' Fueling U.S. Politics

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 9:10 pm

A report released by the Sunlight Foundation finds that in the 2010 midterm elections, 26,783 donors nationwide gave more than $10,000 each.
iStockphoto.com

A tiny percentage of very wealthy Americans funded a relatively large chunk of the 2010 congressional midterm races, continuing a trend that has been growing for two decades, according to a new analysis of political contributions.

The Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for transparency in politics and government, found that fewer than 27,000 individuals (out of a population of 307 million) each gave at least $10,000 to federal political campaigns in 2010.

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4:43pm

Wed December 14, 2011
It's All Politics

Just How Many Jobs Would The Keystone Pipeline Create?

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 7:12 pm

Demonstrators march with a replica of a pipeline during a protest to demand a stop to the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline outside the White House last November.
Evan Vucci AP

One of the major sticking points between the House and the Senate as they face off over end-of-year legislation is the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The bill the House passed Tuesday contains a provision forcing President Obama to decide on the pipeline within 60 days.

Republicans say this project should move ahead quickly because it will create thousands of jobs. But just how many jobs would be created is a matter of contention.

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4:33pm

Wed December 14, 2011
Middle East

Egyptian Islamists Favored In Second Phase Of Voting

Originally published on Tue January 31, 2012 11:48 am

Women stand in line to cast their votes in Suez, Egypt, on Wednesday. For months after the revolution, the port city had no government or services. Some voters are turning to the Salafists or the Muslim Brotherhood to bring change.
Eman Helal AP

A steady stream of voters showed up Wednesday at polling centers in the port city of Suez and eight other governorates in Egypt. Islamists are expecting to boost their lead in the second phase of the country's landmark parliamentary elections.

The first phase was held last month, and the third and final phase will come next month as the country votes by region.

At a school called "Freedom" in Suez, many women were heavily veiled with only their eyes showing.

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4:31pm

Wed December 14, 2011
The Two-Way

In High Profile Case, Two Romanian 'Witches' Arrested

Witches. Police. Blackmail. And TV celebrities.

Yep, that caught our attention, too, so we had to pass along a strange case that has made its way to court in Romania. The government has arrested two self-professed witches who are accused of blackmailing their clients. The AP reports:

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4:20pm

Wed December 14, 2011
Africa

South Sudan: Will Oil Lead It Out of Poverty?

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 7:12 pm

South Sudanese security forces stand outside the control room of the Petrodar oil facility in Paloich, South Sudan. Sudan was once sub-Saharan Africa's third-largest oil producer, but much of that oil came from what is now South Sudan.
Pete Muller AP

South Sudan, the world's newest nation, is still trying to find its feet, and private companies, international aid experts and diplomats have gathered in Washington this week to see if they can help.

The 5-month-old country is one of the most underdeveloped places in the world, and it still has many lingering disputes with its former rulers in Sudan — disputes that could scare off potential investors.

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4:14pm

Wed December 14, 2011
Middle East

Mysterious Events Leave Tehran Feeling Under Siege

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 7:12 pm

A picture released by the official website of Iran's Revolutionary Guard on Dec. 8 shows Iranian Revolutionary Guard Brig. Gen. Amir-Ali Hajizadeh (right) looking at a U.S. spy drone that crashed in Iran on Dec. 4.
AFP/Getty Images

It's never easy trying to figure out just what is going on in Iran.

But it has been especially difficult of late — after an explosion that reduced a missile base to rubble, another blast that was heard but not seen, and the mysterious case of the downed American stealth drone.

These events have left a slew of questions and very few answers.

The huge explosion at the missile base outside Tehran on Nov. 12 was heard in the capital, about 30 miles away, and, satellite pictures show, it devastated the base.

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3:56pm

Wed December 14, 2011
It's All Politics

Not So Fast, Newt: Gingrich As Polling Phenomenon

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 6:32 pm

Republican presidential candidates Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich laugh at a presidential debate at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., in October.
Scott Eells AP

Poll after poll shows Newt Gingrich with a commanding lead for the Republican nomination for president.

The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll is the gaudiest yet, giving the former speaker of the House 40 percent among Republicans across the country, nearly double the number for erstwhile front-runner Mitt Romney.

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3:39pm

Wed December 14, 2011
Iraq

How Much Influence Will Iran Have In Iraq?

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 9:36 am

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (left) shakes hands with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during an official meeting in Tehran last year.
STR AFP/Getty Images

Earlier this month, a ceremony took place in Baghdad that was unthinkable under Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein: Ashura, the annual Shiite ritual marking the slaying of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and one of the most revered figures in Shiite Islam.

As the trumpets sounded in Baghdad's notorious Shiite slum of Sadr City, boys and men wearing white shrouds brought swords down onto their shaven heads. Thick red blood gushed onto their faces. Hussein sacrificed for us, the belief goes, and devoted followers are ready to sacrifice for him.

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3:35pm

Wed December 14, 2011
The Two-Way

Christmas Stamps Are OK; Christmas Carols? Not At The Post Office

There's been some consternation on the Web about what happened this weekend at a post office in Silver Spring, Md., when three Christmas carolers — all decked out in shawls, bonnets and a top hat (for the guy) — popped in and started singing.

It seems that one of the USPS managers on duty jumped into action, telling the trio that they couldn't do that because they were on government property.

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