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Trent Franks/Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images


and other news briefs

Issue: "2011 News of the Year," Dec. 31, 2011

Conservative lawmakers in the House of Representatives pushed to ban abortions based on gender or race. "Today in America, 40 to 50 percent of all African-American babies, virtually one in two, are killed before they are born," said Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., who authored a bill to make it a criminal and civil offense to perform abortions for sex or race selection. The bill has 60 co-sponsors. Franks said at a hearing Dec. 7 that abortion "is a greater cause of death for African-Americans than heart diseases, cancer, diabetes, AIDS, and violence combined."

Jail time

Former governor Rod Blagojevich will become the second Illinois chief executive in prison, after a U.S. district judge sentenced him to 14 years in prison on 18 federal corruption charges, including charges of trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama. Blagojevich, who turned 55 this month, is likely to serve about 12 years of the sentence starting March 15 and has requested to be sent to a federal prison in Colorado, about 1,000 miles from family in Chicago.


A sixth come-from-behind victory for the Denver Broncos, who beat the Chicago Bears in overtime 13-10 on Dec. 11, has even critics showing respect for Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, called by some "the Mile-High Messiah." The 24-year-old Heisman Trophy winner, made Denver's starting quarterback in October, continues to drop his knee in thanks after key plays, despite mocking by some reporters and fellow NFLers.

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"Tebow is not even close to the most physically talented quarterback in the NFL," said nonbelieving political columnist Matthew Dowd, "but he has taken a team sitting in the cellar and lifted it up to playoff contention." But Dowd said, "I do think this Tebow boomlet is about faith. And it's about confidence. And leadership. And humility ..." Dowd contrasted Tebow's post-game press appearance to a 60 Minutes segment the same night featuring President Obama ("You don't feel like we are going to win under his leadership.") and other political leaders.

Plan B

President Barack Obama insisted he was not involved in a first-ever decision by the nation's top health official to overrule the Food and Drug Administration. But Obama supported a Dec. 7 ruling by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to ban over-the-counter sales of Plan B, a so-called emergency contraceptive, to teenagers 16 and under. "She could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old going to a drugstore should be able-alongside bubble gum or batteries-be able to buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could have an adverse effect," Obama said a day after the decision. The "morning-after" pill, known also as an abortifacient that ends a pregnancy after conception, is available by prescription to women 17 and older.

Fast and furious

A House committee grilled U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in a testy Dec. 8 hearing, one year after the death of a federal agent tied to a botched Justice Department gun deal. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, complained to Holder for his refusal to cooperate on House oversight requests concerning Operation Fast and Furious-a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives plan to allow the sale of 2,000 guns to Mexican criminal organizations and then to use the weapons to track the flow of firearms across the Mexican border. One of those weapons was used to kill Customs and Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010. Holder admitted such tactics should not be used again, but has refused to fire officials who launched the operation. He did admit to long-lasting harm: "Guns lost during this operation will continue to show up at crime scenes on both sides of the border."

Savannah swap

After losing a four-year court battle over its historic property, Christ Church in Savannah-which voted to leave The Episcopal Church over doctrinal issues for the Anglican Province of Uganda-wasn't left without a place to worship. Independent Presbyterian Church just down the street, also a historic church dating to the 18th century, offered to share its facilities with the disaffected Episcopal congregants (who make up nearly 90 percent of Christ Church's membership roll). On Dec. 11 Independent welcomed the displaced Episcopalians publicly, its congregation turning out on the steps as Christ Church members walked from their home church to Independent. The two congregations plan to share the Presbyterian worship space with different services. "If somebody said how did this day feel to you, I would say it felt strong," said Christ Church senior pastor Marc Robertson, "which was a great gift, a gift from heaven."


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