Dec 18, 2011

How Hitchens Said Goodbye

Today: Last U.S. Troops Leave Iraq , House GOP Snubs Payroll Tax Bill , 652 Dead in Philippines Typhoon
The Daily Beast Cheat Sheet: Morning

December 18, 2011

During his battle with esophageal cancer, the great writer Christopher Hitchens never lost his wit, says his friend Simon Schama in a moving tribute in this week's Newsweek. Astoundingly, Hitchens went on writing, never self-pitying, and with the same furious bravura he deployed against purveyors of unreasoned pieties throughout his entire life. Plus, more on Hitchens: his writings, most-famous feuds, and photos through the years.


The last U.S. soldiers officially left Iraq early Sunday morning, ending the nearly nine-year war. The final column of around 100 mostly U.S. military armored vehicles carrying about 500 soldiers crossed the Iraq border into Kuwait in the early hours on Sunday, as soldiers whooped, bumped fists and embraced each other. NBC News's Richard Engel tweeted  that the gate to Iraq had just closed and "soldier just told me, 'that's it, the war is over.'"


Just when you thought Congress was on the right track, they threaten to undo everything. House Republicans are considering rejecting the two-month extension to the payroll tax cut that the Senate passed Saturday, arguing that it would give the Democrats the upper hand in February negotiations. In a conference call with GOP members, House Speaker John Boehner spoke to Republicans who were "overwhelmingly disappointed in the Senate's decision to just 'kick the can down the road' for two months," according to a GOP aide. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican, said his caucus was "furious. It was a chorus of frustration with the Senate." House Republicans will give 24 hours' notice before voting on it next week.


At least 652 people have been killed in the Philippines after Typhoon Washi ravaged the islands' south. At least 808 others are still missing after flash floods swept people away, according to the Red Cross. Washi, which weakened to a tropical storm, blew away Sunday, but not before leaving a trail of death on Mindanao island. Most of the dead were children and women who were swept away when they were asleep Friday night.


The Des Moines Register, Iowa's highest-circulated newspaper, endorsed Mitt Romney on Saturday. Romney has recently increased his campaign presence in Iowa, which holds its caucus on Jan. 3. The newspaper's editorial board said that although it did not back Romney four years ago, "this is a different field, and he has matured as a candidate. Rebuilding the economy is the nation's top priority, and Romney makes the best case among the Republicans that he could do that." The newspapers also criticized frontrunner Newt Gingrich, calling him "an undisciplined partisan who would alienate, not unite, if he reverts to mean-spirited attacks on display as House speaker."

Ex-Czech Leader Vaclav Havel Dies
Playwright-turned-president was 75.
Why the 'God Particle' Is a Big Deal
Oxford professor Frank Close explains.
Man Burns Woman Alive in Elevator
In Brooklyn apartment building.
'Barefoot Diva' Cesaria Evora Dies
Spread traditional music of West Africa's Cape Verde.
J.R. Martinez Expecting First Child
With girlfriend Diana Gonzalez-Jones.
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