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PHOTOS: A Scene From A Greek Wildfire

Jun 20, 2012

We were stunned by the photographs coming out of a wildfire near Athens today. They were taken by Angelos Tzortzinis after a fire that burned inside an air force base.

The AP moved a story about it, earlier today. But Tzortzinis found that the fire had also affected an encampment of Romas and took these haunting images for the Agence France Presse:

Minnesota is seing the worst flooding in decades. Heavy flooding in Duluth caused the evacuations of homes and also caused the death 11 zoo animals at the Superior Zoo in Duluth.

Minnesota Public Radio reports that two seals escaped from their exhibits. MPR reports:

When 'Madagascar' Meets Children's Claritin

Jun 20, 2012

Merck is catching flak for marketing Children's Claritin with cute cartoon characters from the latest installment in the Madagascar movie series.

We are a nation that puts apple pie above all other pies, and yesterday's survey confirms our audience falls right in line when it comes to the forbidden fruit. But that's not the whole scoop on popular pies.

As we reported yesterday, top American pies bought in the store are apple, pumpkin, cherry, blueberry, and Dutch apple.

Acting along partisan lines, with a vote of 23 to 17, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted this afternoon to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt. Republicans, who control the committee, say Holder's Justice Department has not turned over all the documents that the committee needs to see as it probes the so-called Fast and Furious gun-trafficking operation.

And they want to know more about why the Justice Department initially told a senator that it had not pursued such an operation.

On July 1, 15 California state parks are slated to be closed permanently to the public — the first such closures in the state's history. They're the victim of budget cuts in a state with a $16 billion shortfall.

Over the past year, park enthusiasts have scrambled to save dozens of parks from closure, including Henry W. Coe State Park, California's second-biggest state park, located about 30 miles south of San Jose.

Reprisals after three church bombings on Sunday have continued in Nigeria, and The Associated Press reports the death toll has reached 98.

The AP adds:

"A rescue services official said more than 98 people have died since Sunday after a trio of church bombings sparked reprisals in Kaduna state. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists.

Sahar Sabet of Alpharetta, Ga., says that when she was in an Apple store at the local North Pointe Mall last week to buy an iPad and an iPhone, she and her uncle were overheard by a clerk.

The sales rep asked what language they were speaking and where they were from. When they said they were speaking Farsi and originally from Iran, Sabet tells Atlanta's WSB-TV, the clerk's response was a shock:

"I can't sell this to you."

A new survey of 38 former clerks of current Supreme Court justices and 18 attorneys who have argued cases before the high court found that most of them think the court will rule that the individual mandate is unconstitutional. The mandate is the centerpiece of the Obama administration's signature health care law and it is unknown whether the law can survive without that piece.

For Langdon Cook, a walk in the woods isn't that different from a walk through the produce section of the supermarket. He's a writer, blogger and all-around outdoorsy type, but in outdoorsy Seattle, he's made his name primarily as a forager.

A Few Drinks While Pregnant May Be OK

Jun 20, 2012

When a woman drinks heavily during pregnancy, it can cause profound damage to her unborn child.

Nobody knows how much alcohol, if any, is safe, so the U.S. surgeon general and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise women to abstain from drinking throughout pregnancy to avoid physical and mental birth defects.

But here and elsewhere, even conscientious pregnant women have been known to have an occasional beer or glass of wine while carrying a child. How risky is that?

Asian-Americans On The Rise

Jun 20, 2012

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We don't do too many traffic reports, but this news has the potential to be both fascinating and frustrating — depending on whether you're watching from afar or stuck inside a gridlocked car:

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge that carries U.S. Route 50 traffic back-and-forth between Washington, D.C., and mid-Atlantic beaches will be closed for about 40 minutes today, starting around 1:15 p.m. ET, so that a cargo ship carrying four huge cranes can pass (safely, we hope) beneath the span.

The defense rested its case just before noon ET today and closing arguments will begin Thursday in the trial of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on charges of sexually abusing young boys, according to reporters from The Associated Press, NPR and other news outlets.

Sandusky did not take the stand in his own defense.

Our Original Post: If Sandusky Is Going To Testify, Today's The Likely Day

The Obama administration's use of drones to kill suspected terrorists in foreign countries may be President Obama's biggest legacy in the fight against terrorism.

One privilege — or burden — of the Oval Office is that each inhabitant gets to decide how dirty to get his hands in wartime. President Truman made the ultimate decision to use the atomic bomb, while President Kennedy chose not to use a nuclear weapon in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

President Obama has certainly put Republicans in a tricky spot with his action to essentially activate parts of the DREAM Act that would defer deportations for certain young illegal immigrants.

Come out against the president's stance, popular with many Latino voters but not exclusively so, and Republicans run the risk of further alienating many of those voters.

But come out in support of the president's act, and many conservatives in the Republican base could get angry.

At any given moment, about 15,000 men and women are living in solitary confinement in the federal prison system, housed in tiny cells not much larger than a king-sized bed.

"It is hard to describe in words what such a small space begins to look like, feel like and smell like when someone is required to live virtually their entire life in it," says Craig Haney, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

But Tuesday, Haney, who has studied life inside prisons for three decades, had an opportunity to paint that picture.

I've never in my life desired a low-sodium biscuit, but I let the well-groomed woman at the Fancy Food Show in Washington, D.C. this week goad me into eating one.

"They're soooo good, I swear," she says.

It's perfectly fluffy and edible, this low-sodium biscuit, but seconds after it's gone I'm regretting having just wolfed down the whole thing. That's precious space in my stomach that I've just forfeited for an unremarkable food I'd never be interested in eating again.

OK, so it's not exactly news that the Obama administration hasn't done the best job in the world selling the Affordable Care Act to the American public.

But now the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism has some statistics to demonstrate just how sorry that job has been. And it suggests that the media gets at least some of the blame.

The party that won Greece's parliamentary elections on Sunday has accepted the tough conditions international lenders imposed to bail out the ailing nation. But there's been talk that the party wants to seek some concessions on the terms of the rescue package.

At the G-20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated her tough line that bailout terms for Greece are not negotiable. After the summit, Merkel returns to a German electorate that is now fed up with a debt crisis that only seems to grow and worsen.

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