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Romney Seeks Gingrich's Tea Party Lead In S.C.

Dec 18, 2011

It was warm and beautiful in the seaside resort of Myrtle Beach, S.C., Saturday, where Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney held his final town hall meeting of the weekend. As he stood surrounded by supporters wearing campaign T-shirts, Romney's mood seemed as sunny as the 65-degree weather outside.

Romney had a lot to be happy about. South Carolina's Tea Party-backed Gov. Nikki Haley had not only endorsed him, she regaled him with glowing tributes at every campaign stop in the multi-city tour.

Lining Up With The Tea Party

Vaclav Havel, the Czech playwright who led a revolution to bring down the country's communist regime, died Sunday morning at his weekend house in the northern Czech Republic. He was 75.

Havel's close friend, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, was born in Czechoslovakia. She says he fit right in the center of the modern history of Eastern Europe.

The U.S. Senate wrapped up a tumultuous year of divided government with votes that keep the federal government funded through September and extend expiring unemployment benefits and a payroll tax cut another two months.

In a rare Saturday year-end session, the Senate's action averted a shutdown but was not the last word on the payroll tax cut extension.

Mitt Romney returned to form in the final Republican presidential debate before the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses.

Romney, who had perhaps his shakiest debate performance in Des Moines over the weekend, appeared to regain his composure in Thursday night's debate in Sioux City, Iowa.

He managed to once again convey the sense that he was the one GOP candidate of the seven remaining who could credibly stand on the same stage with President Obama next fall, the most electable of the candidates running for the Republican presidential nomination.

The influential writer and cultural critic Christopher Hitchens died on Thursday at the age of 62 from complications of cancer of the esophagus. Hitchens confronted his disease in part by writing, bringing the same unsparing insight to his mortality that he had directed at so many other subjects.

Over the years, Hitchens' caustic attention was directed at a broad range of subjects, including Henry Kissinger, Prince Charles, Bob Hope, Michael Moore, the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa.

Politicians and journalists always run a risk when they judge a voter strictly on on appearances.

There was a reminder of that Monday when Mitt Romney was forced to defend his opposition to gay marriage during a restaurant encounter with a grizzled Vietnam veteran who happened to be gay.

As it turned out the vet, Bob Garon, also was sitting at a restaurant booth with his husband when the unsuspecting Romney, campaigning at the Manchester restaurant, asked if he could sit down with them.

Millions of Americans wake up each morning without a job, even though they desperately want to work. It's one of the depressing legacies of the financial crisis and Great Recession.

NPR and the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a poll of people who had been unemployed or with an insufficient level of work for more than a year. The results document the financial, emotional and physical effects of long-term unemployment and underemployment.

Donald Trump's planned Republican presidential debate lost a major reason for tuning in: watching Mitt Romney contend with Newt Gingrich, the latest rival to claim frontrunner status.

Romney said Tuesday he planned to skip the debate to be moderated by Trump, the TV reality show star and real-estate developer.

The former Massachusetts governor told Fox News' Neil Cavuto of his decision to decline the invitation to the Trump debate being sponsored by NewsMax and ION TV.

With the Jan. 3 Iowa Republican caucuses set to kick off the "real" battle for the party's presidential nomination, there's word that:

So now it's Newt Gingrich.

In what has become the most improbable result of a most improbable campaign season, Gingrich, the former speaker of the House who has been out of public office since 1998, has benefited from a series of well-reviewed debate performances to catapult himself to the top of the GOP presidential pack. Not just the leading "Anybody But Mitt (Romney)" candidate. The leader, period.

This week, European leaders will huddle in intense meetings, trying to work out a comprehensive plan to solve crushing debt problems.

Higher stakes are hard to imagine.

If all goes well at a summit in Brussels, the political leaders will make an announcement Friday, spelling out their long-term commitment to a plan to loosen a choking tangle of debt troubles. If they can't agree on a plan, the EU debt crisis could lead to the kind of financial chaos that economists say surely would hurt the United States.

It wasn't supposed to end this way for Herman Cain.

His improbable run for the GOP presidential nomination should have served to burnish his CEO credentials, sell his books and enhance the fee the Baptist lay minister charges for motivational speeches and appearances.

This fall, the simplicity of Cain's 9-9-9 tax-reform plan propelled him to the top of a volatile field. Soon other candidates were rushing to introduce their own versions of a flat tax.

Susan Orlean, a staff writer for The New Yorker, has just written a book about the life and legend of America's beloved canine icon, Rin Tin Tin. So we've invited her to play a game called "Rin Tin Tin is just the be gin gin ginning." Rin Tin Tin made us think of the Tintin comics ... and that sounds like Tauntaun from Star Wars ... which is sort of like TomTom, the GPS system.

Celebrity auctions have become common, but once in a while there's an event that will make almost anyone stand up and take notice. After a world tour, the entire collection of Elizabeth Taylor's jewelry, clothing and memorabilia is on view starting Saturday at Christie's auction house in New York City.

After 10 days, there will be a four-day auction. Some 2,000 objects from the film star's life will be on the block, both at Christie's and online.

'Gutsy, Glamorous'

The nation's unemployment rate fell to 8.6 percent in November from 9 percent in October as payrolls went up by 120,000 jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says.

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And our last word in business today is comic value. The long-running NBC comedy series "The Office" is about a group of workers employed by a fictitious paper company.


(New material based on NPR reporting added to the top of this post at 12:30 p.m. ET.)

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain is reassessing his campaign but still plans to move ahead at this time, his Iowa campaign director tells The Associated Press and NPR.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been labeled a flip-flopper. And when it comes to abortion, the former governor of Massachusetts appears to have changed his position from being in favor of abortion rights to being opposed.

But now some people are asking if Romney ever supported abortion rights at all? Backers of abortion rights don't think so.

American Airlines, one of the giants of the U.S. airline industry, just announced it is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Shoppers stormed retail stores this past weekend, and now on Cyber Monday, many are clicking their way to more purchases.

"I am definitely a price-based shopper," said Sarah Kelly, a 28-year-old Washington, D.C., resident who bought a KitchenAid mixer Monday morning as a holiday gift. She also bought shoes, clothes and other presents after waking early to search for online coupons and shipping offers. "I only purchase if the shipping is free," she said.

For the not-so-super debt reduction supercommittee, failure is clearly an option.

As the blame-gaming bipartisan congressional committee stumbled toward collapse Monday, washing out on even the most basic show of common purpose, the "what happens next" scenarios began to take shape.

Supercommittee Admits It's Failed To Reach A Deal

Nov 21, 2011

The co-chairs of the Supercommittee made it official, minutes ago: They said they have failed to reach an agreement over a deficit reduction package.

The AP reports:

"Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling say that despite 'intense deliberations' the members of the panel have been unable 'to bridge the committee's significant differences.'

Brace yourself for more extreme weather. A group of more than 200 scientists convened by the United Nations says in a new report that climate change will bring more heat waves, more intense rainfall and more expensive natural disasters.

These conclusions are from the latest effort of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — a consensus statement from researchers around the world.

As The Protest Ends, What Now For Occupy Movement?

Nov 18, 2011

Today's "Day of Action," planned by the Occupy Wall Street movement, culminated at Foley Square near City Hall in New York. In some ways, it felt rather low key, because the space felt wide open and despite a sizable crowd that overflowed onto the streets and nearby sidewalks, the protest felt organized.

With Wednesday's deadline looming, the congressional supercommittee still seems far from an agreement, causing concern that failure could send financial markets into a spiral.

The bipartisan panel, charged with finding budget cuts or new revenues to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years, is a child of the summer's debt-ceiling debate. It was an escape hatch for Congress and the president when they couldn't reach agreement on big deficit-reduction measures. That game of chicken helped to send the stock market sliding.

Newt Gingrich served as speaker of the House of Representatives for four turbulent and productive years.

From 1995 through 1998, Congress forced a government shutdown, overhauled the welfare system, balanced the budget for the first time in decades and impeached a president for the second time in history.

Gingrich was in the middle of those debates, fiery in his rhetoric, yet willing to compromise and work with a Democratic president.

The 104th Congress

(Post updated at 8:49 pm.)

Texas Gov. Rick Perry move over. You now have company in the brain-fade department after Herman Cain demonstrated a flamboyant confusion over his position on Libya Monday.

In a meeting Milwaukee Journal Sentinel staff members, a journalist asked the Republican presidential candidate a question that wasn't exactly one of those "gotcha" queries. Paraphrasing, the question was: Do you agree or not with what President Obama's Libya policy?

Today's show features live performances from some of our favorite World Cafe artists, straight from our 20th-anniversary celebration concerts.

Updated at 2:52 p.m. ET: Wal-Mart issued a statement Wednesday saying its request for partners to provide primary care services was "overwritten and incorrect." The firm is "not building a national, integrated low-cost primary health care platform," according to the statement by Dr. John Agwunobi, a senior vice president for health and wellness at the retailer.

Is time real, or is change just a kind of optical illusion resting on a deeper unchanging reality?

As finite creatures, with death hovering just out of our sight, the true nature of time haunts all our endeavors. Tomorrow, physicist Brian Greene tackles time's illusion in his Fabric of Reality PBS series. Science, however, is just one way we ask about the reality of time.