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2:10 PM ET, December 18, 2011


 Top Items: 
Associated Press:
Vaclav Havel, Dissident Playwright Who Led Czechoslovakia, Dead at 75  —  PRAGUE — Vaclav Havel, the dissident playwright who wove theater into politics to peacefully bring down communism in Czechoslovakia and become a hero of the epic struggle that ended the Cold War, has died.  He was 75.
Ted Mann / The Atlantic Wire:
Vaclav Havel is Dead
Nick Gillespie / Hit & Run:
Vaclav Havel, RIP
J.Y. Smith / Washington Post:
Vaclav Havel, dissident playwright and former Czech president, dies
Discussion: Suburban Guerrilla
Michael Winfrey / Reuters:
Vaclav Havel, leader of “Velvet Revolution,” dies
Iowa Caucuses:
The Des Moines Register's GOP caucus endorsement: Mitt Romney is best to lead  —  Sobriety, wisdom and judgment.  —  Those are qualities Mitt Romney said he looks for in a leader.  Those are qualities Romney himself has demonstrated in his career in business, public service and government.
Reid J. Epstein / The Politico:
Mitt Romney has tame return to Sunday roster  —  After avoiding Sunday morning interview shows for nearly two years, Mitt Romney spent half an hour with “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace largely repeating his campaign talking points and mini-stump speeches.
Discussion: CNN
Jennifer Jacobs / Iowa Caucuses:
10 factors that could determine Newt Gingrich's fate in Iowa  —  Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his wife, Callista, greet audience members at the Republican presidential debate in Sioux City on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011.  (AP Photo/Eric Gay)  —  The novelty of a Newt Gingrich presidency …
A.Killough / CNN:
Des Moines Register endorses Romney
Associated Press:
Gingrich says rivals' criticism taking a toll
Discussion: The Caucus
Ron Nixon / New York Times:
Boehner Says House G.O.P. Opposes Deal on Payroll Tax  —  WASHINGTON — A day after the Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation to extend a payroll tax cut for two months, House Republicans made clear Sunday that they would not support the measure.  —  Speaker John A. Boehner …
Discussion: Blue Mass Group
Amie Parnes / The Hill:
Keystone climbdown leaves Obama supporters scratching their heads  —  President Obama put two conditions in end-game talks on extending the payroll tax holiday.  —  He wanted to pay for the extension with a surtax on millionaires, and he made clear that the Keystone XL oil pipeline should be kept out of the legislation.
Russell Berman / The Hill:
White House backs Senate payroll bill over House objections  —  The White House is throwing its weight behind a Senate compromise for a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut, despite strong objections from House Republicans that could unravel the deal.  —  The director of the National …
Discussion: CNN, The Politico and RedState
Max Fisher / The Atlantic Online:
A Photo That Encapsulates the Horror of Egypt's Crackdown  —  Three soldiers beat a defenseless woman, pull off her abaya, and drag her down a Cairo street  —  The above photo shows Egyptian army soldiers beating a young woman in Tahrir Square in Cairo on Saturday, the second straight …
Discussion: Sister Toldjah and
David D. Kirkpatrick / New York Times:
Egyptian Soldiers Chase and Beat Unarmed Civilians in Cairo
Robert Stacy McCain / The Other McCain:
Minnesota Republican Resigns Post Over Allegation of ‘Inappropriate’ Relationship  —  This news was a shock to me, involving allegations — and we must stress that these are only allegations at this point — against a female politician whom I have actually met: … (Via TPM and Memorandum.)
New York Times:
Last Convoy of American Troops Leaves Iraq, Marking an End to the War  —  BAGHDAD — The last convoy of American troops to leave Iraq drove into Kuwait on Sunday morning, marking the end of the nearly nine-year war.  —  The convoy's departure, which included about 110 vehicles and 500 soldiers …
Star-Ledger Guest / NJ Voices Guest blog:
Discrimination against same-sex marriages cannot be tolerated in our society as a matter of law  —  By Robert Menendez  —  Since my vote in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act 15 years ago, like tens of millions of Americans, I have reflected deeply and frequently about this issue.
Allysia Finley / Wall Street Journal:
The Chicago Expulsion Act of 2011  —  Windy City pols are bankrupting Illinois with bailouts for their hometown.  Now downstate legislators are fighting back.  —  'Why would anyone want to live in Illinois?  " So muses Curt Wooters, who works for the state and helps his dad run …
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 More Items: 
Blue Yeti / Ricochet Conversations Feed:
When Events Collide: An “Uncommon Knowledge” from July, 2002 with Hitchens and Gingrich
Frank Bruni / New York Times:
Op-Ed Columnist: Newt Gingrich's Self-Adoration
 Earlier Items: 
Financial Times:
False assumptions underpinned British strategy
Discussion: Political Mojo
Martin Newman /
Bollywood actress Veena Malik reported missing after nude FHM photo scandal

From Techmeme:

Jacob Kastrenakes / The Verge:
Beeper debuts an Android app, Beeper Mini, to let users send iMessages with E2EE, without having to use a new number or log in with an Apple ID, for $2/month

Tom Warren / The Verge:
Microsoft updates Copilot with OpenAI's latest models, including GPT-4 Turbo, and adds a new code interpreter feature and “Deep Search” functionality for Bing

Alexandra Barinka / Bloomberg:
Meta, IBM, and over 50 other companies and organizations form the AI Alliance, a coalition to work on open-source AI, including to share tech and reduce risks

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