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7:20am

Tue December 20, 2011

7:05am

Tue December 20, 2011
The Two-Way

Home Construction Rose In November; 2011 Still A Weak Year

There was a 9.3 percent rise in "housing starts" last month vs. October, the Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development just reported.

"Single-family housing starts in November were at a rate of 447,000," the agencies say. "This is 2.3 percent above the revised October figure of 437,000." The really big increase was in construction of buildings with five or more living units. Starts in that category were up 32.2 percent.

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6:55am

Tue December 20, 2011
The Two-Way

House Rejects Senate's Extension Of Payroll Tax Cut

Originally published on Tue December 20, 2011 12:23 pm

House John Boehner (R-Ohio) at the U.S. Capitol on Monday (Dec. 19, 2011).
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Update at 12:56 p.m. ET. House Rejects Bill:

Voting mostly along party lines, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to send a Senate bill extending unemployment benefits and a payroll tax cut to conference. With the Senate in recess, the move leaves the bill in limbo and could mean that come January, 2 million Americans will lose their long-term unemployment benefits and 160 million workers could see their taxes rise by 2-percentage points.

Before the vote, Democrats and Republicans went head to head on the House floor.

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6:45am

Tue December 20, 2011
It's All Politics

Why Is Times Columnist Gail Collins So Obsessed With Mitt Romney's Dog?

This 1982 family photo provided by the Romney campaign shows the Romney family during summer vacation: from left, Mitt, Tagg, Ben, Matt, Craig, Ann and Josh Romney. Seamus, unfortunately, is not pictured. His fateful voyage to Canada occurred the following summer.
Anonymous AP

Plenty of folks have their unshakable obsessions. Indiana Jones sought the Holy Grail. Captain Ahab pursued the Great White Whale. For New York Times columnist Gail Collins, it's her fixation on the voyages of an Irish Setter named Seamus.

"For some reason, the idea that you've got this guy who would drive all the way to Canada with an Irish setter sitting on the top of the car — it absolutely fascinated me," Collins says.

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6:15am

Tue December 20, 2011
The Two-Way

Kim Jong Un's Ascension Is 'Being Cemented For Him'

A screen shot from North Korean TV foottage shows Kim Jong Il's body lying in a glass coffin in Pyongyang.
AFP/Getty Images

The body of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is now lying in state at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang — enclosed in a glass coffin and surrounded by flowers. He died Saturday and the period of mourning is set to continue until well into next week.

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