11:52am

Fri December 16, 2011
The Two-Way

'Layaway Santas' Are Spreading Cheer This Year At Kmarts

We need a heart-warming story and this fits the bill:

"At Kmart stores across the country," The Associated Press writes, "Santa is getting some help: Anonymous donors are paying off strangers' layaway accounts, buying the Christmas gifts other families couldn't afford, especially toys and children's clothes set aside by impoverished parents."

We're seeing stories about this happening in:

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11:25am

Fri December 16, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

An Early Exit For Early Retiree Insurance Program

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 11:36 am

iStockphoto.com

The clock is winding down on a little known but very popular part of the Affordable Care Act that has helped employers offer health benefits to early retirees.

The $5 billion early retiree fund has already paid out $4.5 billion, and the last day to submit claims for any of the remaining funds is Dec. 31.

The federal health law created the fund to give employers an incentive to keep providing health insurance coverage for retirees between the ages of 55 and 65.

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11:05am

Fri December 16, 2011
Movie Reviews

An 'Impossible' Mission Full Of Fun And Wonder

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his Impossible Mission Force go to great heights to combat the threat of a nuclear confrontation in Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol.
Paramount Pictures

The fourth Mission: Impossible picture is nonsense from beginning to end — and wonderful fun. The director is Brad Bird, of Ratatouille and The Incredibles and The Iron Giant, and there's no doubt now, in his live-action debut, that he's a filmmaker first and an animator second. Part 4, titled Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, is in a different league from its predecessors.

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11:04am

Fri December 16, 2011
The Two-Way

SEC Files Civil Fraud Suit Against Former Fannie And Freddie Execs

Six former top executives of the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) "knew and approved of misleading statements claiming the companies had minimal holdings of higher-risk mortgage loans, including subprime loans" and have now been accused of securities fraud in a civil suit, the Securities and Exchange Commission just announced.

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10:48am

Fri December 16, 2011
The Salt

Exercise Info, Not Calorie Counts, Helps Teens Drop Sodas

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 1:13 pm

What if you knew you'd have to jog for 50 minutes to burn off those calories?
iStockPhoto.com

Sugary drinks like soda are a big cause of obesity, but public health types haven't had much luck convincing the public of that.

But what if you knew that it would take 50 minutes of jogging to burn off one soda?

When researchers taped signs saying just that on the drink coolers in four inner-city neighborhood stores, sales of sugary beverages to teenagers dropped by 50 percent. That tactic was more effective than a sign saying that the drinks had 250 calories each, or a sign saying that a soft drink accounts for 11 percent of recommended daily calories.

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10:30am

Fri December 16, 2011
The Two-Way

At Bradley Manning Hearing, His Attorney Challenges Judge

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 11:20 am

An "astonishing" scene has already played out at the just-opened military court hearing about the case against Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who stands accused of giving classified information to WikiLeaks, The Guardian reports.

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10:14am

Fri December 16, 2011
Leaving Iraq

As The Iraq War Ends, Reassessing The U.S. Surge

Gen. David Petraeus (center, with no gun) walks with troops in 2007 in Baqouba, Iraq. The area had recently been seized back from al-Qaida control with help from U.S. forces who were part of the surge. The surge is widely credited with changing the course of the war; now, some experts are debating how much credit it deserves.
Chris Hondros Getty Images

Here's the conventional wisdom about the U.S. troop surge in Iraq: By 2006, Iraq was in chaos. Many Americans called for the U.S. to get out. Instead, President Bush sent in 30,000 additional troops. By the end of 2007, Iraq started to stabilize, and the move took on an almost mythic status.

In 2008, for example, Sen. Lindsey Graham spoke at the Republican National Convention about the U.S. presence in Iraq, saying that, "by every measure, the surge of troops into Iraq has worked."

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9:33am

Fri December 16, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Say 'Aah' And Get Your Diabetes Test

Originally published on Fri December 16, 2011 9:48 am

While I've got you here, how about that diabetes test?
iStockphoto.com

Each year, one-quarter of adults don't see a primary care doctor, so odds are they're not being checked for high blood pressure, diabetes and other major health risks. That's 55 million people who are missing out.

But a lot of them — around 13 million — do go to the dentist. So what if the dentist could screen them instead?

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9:30am

Fri December 16, 2011
The Two-Way

McQueary Repeats Allegation About Sandusky

(Note: There is graphic testimony about the alleged sexual abuse of a young boy in this post.)

Mike McQueary, a key witness in the case against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky — who stands accused of sexually abusing at least 10 young boys over more than a decade — is testifying this morning at a court hearing about the scandal that has rocked the university.

NPR's Jeff Brady is covering the Pennsylvania court proceeding and is posting updates on his Twitter page.

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9:05am

Fri December 16, 2011
The Two-Way

Occupy? Humble Brag? What's Your 'Word Of The Year?'

"Humble brag" is linguist Ben Zimmer's personal favorite for 2011 Â word of the year.
Twitter.com/Humblebrag

Merriam-Webster may think that "pragmatic" was 2011's word of the year, as we reported Thursday, but there's certainly lots of room to debate that choice.

And the American Dialect Society has put out its annual call for help in deciding what word it should bestow with the honor.

Last year, the society decided "app" was 2010's top word.

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