Today's Takeaway: Obama Administration Takes on Voter ID Laws

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (Mark Wilson/Getty)

Attorney General Holder Weighs in on Voting Laws; How Voter ID Laws Will Impact Elections; Cash-Strapped Detroit Suspends Payment to Vendors; House and Senate Wrangle Over Payroll Tax Cut; New Amazon App Targets Bookstores; NTSB Chairman on National Texting Ban; US Military Looks at Iraq Withdrawal; Tim Tebow's Public Display of Religion; How Can Colleges Deal With Depression?

Top of the Hour: House Passes GOP Payroll Tax Cut Plan, Morning Headlines

The House of Representatives passed a Republican-backed plan to extend the payroll tax holiday on Tuesday night. But the provision, which the White House threatened to veto because it would force work on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, was declared "dead on arrival" in the Senate by Majority Leader Harry Reid.

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Holder: US DOJ to Review State Voter ID Laws

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was in Austin, Texas Tuesday night where he promised the Justice Department's civil rights division will aggressively review new voter ID laws that civil rights advocates say will have a discriminatory impact. This puts the Justice Department smack in the middle of a growing partisan debate over civil rights and minorities' access to the ballot. Several states, including Texas, have passed new requirements requiring voters to present photo ID before casting their vote. 

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Two Views on Voter ID Laws

More than a dozen states have passed new laws that civil rights advocates say will discourage minority turnout at the polls in next year's elections. The laws range from laws requiring voters to present a photo ID before casting their ballot, to restrictions on early voting and new rules that make it harder for former felons to vote. A study by NYU's Brennan Center for Justice estimates the law will impact more than five million voters and could well alter the turnout of a close election.

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House and Senate Wrangle Over Payroll Tax Cut

The House of Representatives passed a bill extending payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits Tuesday night, despite a warning by The White House that the bill would be vetoed for a provision that forces work on the Keystone XL pipeline. Construction of the pipeline, which is opposed by environmentalists, was delayed by the State Department until after the 2012 elections. President Obama, who has advocated both measures in recent weeks, vowed to veto any bill that was attached to other measures. Majority Leader Harry Reid declared the bill "dead on arrival" in the Senate.

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Cash-Strapped Detroit Suspends Payment to Vendors

The city of Detroit has begun suspending payments to some of its vendors in order to be able to cover basic services and make payroll.  If the city is not able to resolve its budget crisis on its own, the state is likely to appoint an emergency manager to restructure the city and rescue it from bankruptcy. Moody's has put some of the city's municipal bonds on review for a downgrade.

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Haiti Charges UN With Responsibility for Cholera Outbreak

Lawyers representing the families of thousands of people who died of cholera in Haiti are planning to sue the United Nations for wrongful death. The lawyers say U.N. peacekeeper troops inadvertently brought cholera to Haiti from Nepal after the 2010 earthquake that decimated the country. Since the cholera outbreak began in 2010, nearly 7,000 people have died and over 500,000 have been infected. The BBC's Mark Doyle has been in Haiti investigating the situation and filed this report.

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New Amazon App Targets Bookstores

When it comes to sales, it's widely known that bookstores, particularly independent ones, face tough competition from online sellers such as Amazon. It looks like the battle lines just got tougher. With their new book app, Amazon is encouraging book store shoppers to scan titles they find intriguing, and see if they can get a better price online. The reward if you find a better price is the chance to earn five percent credit on purchases at Amazon, of course.

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Top of the Hour: Panetta Says US 'Winning' in Afghanistan, Morning Headlines

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told U.S. troops in Afghanistan that the U.S. is winning the war on Wednesday morning. "We're moving in the right direction and we're winning this very tough conflict," Panetta said in an address to troops at a forward operating base near the border with Pakistan.

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An Army Mother on Leaving Iraq

In the end, the invasion of Iraq did not find any weapons of mass destruction, nor did it eradicate Al Qaida. The war did, however, topple dictator Saddam Hussein. It also cost hundreds of billions of dollars and went on for years. Now that the last U.S. troops will be quietly departing Iraq between today and the end of the year — President Obama will address soldiers at Fort Bragg Wednesday about the end of the Iraq war and the pullout of combat troops — The Takeaway looks back at the campaign that began with "shock and awe" in 2003 and will end with a "home by christmas" pullout in 2011.

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If Tim Tebow Were a Muslim

With another stunning come from behind victory against the Bears last Sunday, the Tim Tebow train keeps rolling. The Denver Broncos’ quarterback has become a cultural phenomenon. But his on-field exploits only make up one part of the Tebow mystique. Tebow’s public displays of faith play a major role in the star athlete’s public persona and the narrative surrounding him.

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NTSB Chairman on Cellphone Ban for Drivers

The National Transportation Safety Board released recommendations on Tuesday for a national ban on cellphone use while driving. The ban would also urge states to prevent drivers from using hand-held devices. It is said to be one of the most far-reaching efforts to date. "Every year, new devices are being released," NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman said. "People are tempted to update their Facebook page, they are tempted to tweet, as if sitting at a desk. But they are driving a car."

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EU Leaders May Face Tough Sell for Treaty at Home

A deal reached last week by European Union leaders to sign an intergovernmental treaty to save the euro may be in jeopardy. Some European leaders fear they may have signed a deal that they cannot sell to their governments at home. The news comes as the value of the euro on Wednesday morning fell to its lowest level since the beginning of the year. The BBC's Mark Gregory reports on the latest from London.

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The Mayor of Dearborn on 'All-American Muslim'

The Takeaway has been talking this week about the controversy that has erupted around the TLC reality show "All-American Muslim" after the home improvement store Lowe's pulled its ads from the broadcast. The move came after a group called the Florida Family Association launched a campaign against the show, urging companies to pull their ads. Reaction to the Florida Family Association and Lowe's has raised the profile of the cable show, as well as the community of Dearborn, Michigan where it is filmed.

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Time Magazine Names 'The Protester' as Person of the Year

Time magazine has declared 2011 the year of the protester. In the year that gave the world the Arab Spring, austerity-related uprisings throughout Europe, and the Occupy Wall Street movement, it is no surprise the newsweekly chose "The Protester" as its iconic 2011 Person of the Year. Two protesters from very different movements join The Takeaway to talk about the popular uprisings that have dominated headlines and captivated minds around the globe in 2011.

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