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News outlets in German and Sweden have been reporting for the past year that some of the products made in past decades for Swedish furniture giant IKEA were produced by political prisoners in Cold War-era East Germany.

Today, IKEA conceded that the reports are true and that some of its "representatives" were aware of what was happening.

Eric Idle: A Python In Winter

Nov 16, 2012

At the beginning of What About Dick?, a stage performance released this week as a digital download, writer/performer Eric Idle announces that the audience will be witnessing "Aural Cinema." The story — a tangential, broadly comic yarn involving the decline of the British Empire and "the birth of a sex toy invented in Shagistan in 1898" — is to be performed in the style of a radio play, with the actors (Russell Brand, Eddie Izzard, Billy Connolly, Tim Curry and Tracey Ullman, to name five) reading their parts from scripts into

As the lame ducks waddle up to Capitol Hill for the final few weeks of this Congress, some political observers are hoping they will bring the "Spirit of 2010" with them.

Despite all the partisan bickering, the lame-duck session two years ago — bolstered by a bevy of outgoing Democrats with nothing to lose — actually got big things done, including the $850 billion stimulus and tax cut deal, a measure setting in motion the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," passage of the defense authorization bill and an arms treaty.

(We added a new top to this post at 12:40 p.m. ET to round up the latest developments.)

The White House did not insert politics into the process of determining what could be said about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in the days immediately afterward, former CIA Director David Petraeus told Congress this morning, according to lawmakers who were inside closed briefings today.

Carrying through on its warning about what could happen, the management of Hostess Brands announced this morning that the company is going out of business and laying off its 18,500 employees.

At issue: According to Hostess CEO Gregory Rayburn, "we simply do not have the financial resources to survive an ongoing national strike."

Even though there were talks of a ceasefire to coincide with the visit of the Egyptian prime minister to Gaza, today, the fighting has instead escalated.

Avital Leibovich, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces confirmed that for the first time, rockets fired from Gaza hit an area outside Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, who leads the West Bank, said that the "escalation is at its peak," both in Gaza and out of Gaza.

Voters in Washington and Colorado just approved measures legalizing marijuana for recreational use. But businesses that want to sell marijuana in those states will face a problem: No bank wants to do business with them.

I called several banks in Washington. I called a local credit union, a tiny bank in the San Juan islands. Everybody said basically the same thing. Even if selling marijuana is legal under state law, it's still illegal under federal law. And banks and credit unions worry that this could get them in trouble.

If the election results were disappointing for Republicans nationally, they were devastating for the GOP in California.

Whenever there's a disaster, people want to give, and Hurricane Sandy is no exception. According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, U.S. charities collected more than $174 million in donations as of Nov. 9 to help respond to the storm.

But it's not only money that has been pouring in. Relief programs have also received mountains of clothes, food and other supplies, not all of which are needed.

Leo Tolstoy's epic novel Anna Karenina has captivated readers since the 1800s — and movie directors have been among the intrigued, adapting the story over and over.

The latest is from director Joe Wright, who with Pride and Prejudice and Atonement to his credit certainly knows his way around a literary adaptation. Those films starred Keira Knightley, who has worked with Wright once again as the story's tragic heroine.

Lynne Rossetto Kasper's The Splendid Table is a show for people who love to eat. Every week, on many public radio stations, Lynne and guests give recipes, history lessons and background on various edibles. And on Thanksgiving Day, she does a live two-hour call-in show, helping listeners with the Big Meal. Sometimes Lynne gets desperate callers — but she seems able to calm them down.

"We save just about anything," Kasper says. "I'm not saying it's always the greatest save, but we give it a shot"

Wal-Mart is throwing its hat in the gourmet food ring just in time for the holidays this year. Wednesday, the megastore company launched a monthly food subscription service that sends customers a sampling of novel food products each month.

The death of an Indian woman is prompting Ireland to examine the conditions under which abortions can be permitted in the country.

Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old dentist, died last month after she began to miscarry her 17-week-old fetus. Doctors denied her an abortion, a procedure that is illegal in the predominantly Catholic country, because the fetus had a heartbeat. The story gained traction this week after Halappanavar's husband took her body back to India for cremation and went public with the events that led to her death.

In an interview with All Things Considered's Melissa Block, Israel's Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren said that Israel's calling of 30,000 reservists "signals a preparation for possible land action, which we may need to defend our citizens."

Some Democrats complain that Republicans in recent decades have had the edge in House races because GOP state legislatures have been better at the gerrymandering game. Except that may not be true.

Some political experts believe there's an easier explanation, and perhaps a tougher one for Democrats to overcome: Voters supporting Republican House candidates, they say, are spread over more congressional districts than those who support Democrats. It's that simple. It's merely a matter of geography.

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