The Two Way

The Two-Way
9:18 am
Thu December 26, 2013

Greenpeace Activists Start Getting Visas To Leave Russia

In St. Petersburg on Thursday, Greenpeace International activist Anthony Perrett, a British citizen, showed the Russian transit visa that's now in his passport.
Olga Maltseva AFP/Getty Images

The next step has been taken in what some observers say is Russian President Vladimir Putin's bid to burnish his country's reputation before February's Winter Olympic Games in Sochi:

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The Two-Way
7:47 am
Thu December 26, 2013

Apologies, Promises From UPS And FedEx About Delivery Delays

UPS delivery man Vinny Ambrosino was dressed for the holiday season on Tuesday as he delivered packages in New York City. Not all the things ordered for Christmas got to their destinations on time.
Carlo Allegri Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 8:28 pm

Update at 8:20 p.m. ET. Amazon, UPS, Offer Refunds:

The Washington Post reports:

"Amazon and UPS said Thursday they would offer refunds to customers who did not receive their Christmas orders on time, after a surge in last-minute online shopping caught the shipping giant off guard."

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The Two-Way
6:56 am
Thu December 26, 2013

Japan's Abe May Have Hoped To Anger Others With Shrine Visit

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, follows a Shinto priest during his visit to the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo on Thursday.
Franck Robichon EPA/LANDOV

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 10:01 am

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe surely knew that his visit Thursday to a Shinto shrine honoring Japan's dead from World War II would be followed by protests from China and South Korea.

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The Two-Way
2:33 pm
Wed December 25, 2013

In Christmas Message, Snowden Tells Britons 'Privacy Matters'

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in an address televised Wednesday on Britain's Channel 4.
Screengrab/Channel 4

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 2:14 am

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden had a Christmas Day warning for Britons: "A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all."

Britain's Channel 4 televised Snowden's short address as the network's "Alternative Christmas Message," an annual address delivered by a public figure that mimics the style of Queen Elizabeth's Royal Christmas Message. You can watch the full 1:43 video at Channel 4's website.

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The Two-Way
10:17 am
Wed December 25, 2013

U.S. Embassy In Kabul Hit By Indirect Fire

Afghans stand near a crater from an attack reportedly targeting the U.S. Embassy in Kabul on Wednesday.
Ahmad Nazar AP

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 2:10 am

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, was hit by indirect rocket fire Wednesday morning, officials say. NPR's Sean Carberry reports for our Newscast unit that no one was injured.

"They hit in an open area; they didn't strike any of the embassy buildings. There was no damage to embassy facilities, and there were no causalities," he said.

Embassy officials say they are investigating. Taliban insurgents claimed they fired rockets at the embassy, but they often make claims that turn out to be exaggerated or untrue.

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The Two-Way
6:24 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

Pope Francis Preaches Message Of Love At Christmas Eve Mass

Pope Francis blesses the crowd at the Christmas Eve Mass at St. Peter's Basilica, on Tuesday at the Vatican.
Filippo Monteforte AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 7:53 pm

In his first Christmas Eve Mass as pontiff, Pope Francis spoke of Jesus as an infant in keeping with the first months of his papacy that have been dedicated to the most vulnerable in society.

Speaking at St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Francis noted that the first to learn of the birth of Christ were shepherds, who were considered "among the last, the outcast."

"You are immense, and you made yourself small," he said of Jesus. "You are rich, and you made yourself poor; you are all-powerful and you made yourself vulnerable."

The Associated Press writes:

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The Two-Way
4:59 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

First-Class Postage Rate Will Rise To 49 Cents Next Month

A customer places first-class stamps on envelopes at a U.S. Post Office in San Jose, Calif. It'll cost another 3 cents to send a first-class letter starting on Jan. 26.
Paul Sakuma AP

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 7:56 pm

You'll soon need some 3-cent stamps to go with those 46-cent ones.

Regulators on Tuesday authorized the increase, and beginning Jan. 26, it'll cost 49 cents to send a first-class letter. Bulk rate mail, periodicals and package service rates will go up 6 percent, The Associated Press says.

Regulators rejected a request to make the price hike permanent and say instead that it will last no longer than two years, by which time the U.S. Postal Service should have recouped $2.8 billion in losses.

The AP says:

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The Two-Way
3:46 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

Teen Daughter Of New NYC Mayor Admits Drug And Alcohol Abuse

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 7:28 am

The teenage daughter of New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio released a video on Tuesday discussing her struggle with clinical depression and substance abuse.

In the nearly five-minute video, Chiara de Blasio acknowledges that she drank alcohol and smoked marijuana, but says she's now clean after being treated at an outpatient center.

"Getting sober is always a positive thing," she says, encouraging others in her situation to also get help.

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The Two-Way
1:50 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

Highway In Iceland May Be Sidetracked By Elves

New Line Cinema Reuters /Landov

Here's a sentence we didn't expect to read today:

"Elf advocates have joined forces with environmentalists to urge the Icelandic Road and Coastal Commission and local authorities to abandon a highway project building a direct route from the Alftanes peninsula, where the president has a home, to the Reykjavik suburb of Gardabaer."

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The Two-Way
11:07 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Money Seen As A Motive In Execution Of North Korea's No. 2

Before their split: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, and his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, in February 2012. Earlier this month, Jang was executed.
Kyodo/Landov

Initial suspicions focused on personal dislike and a desire to send a "don't mess with me" message.

Now there's a report from The New York Times that:

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The Two-Way
9:48 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Yes, Virginia, NORAD's 'Santa Tracker' Is On

The view Friday morning on NORAD's "Santa Tracker."
North American Aerospace Defense Command

Some critics — perhaps others would say Grinches? — don't like the North American Aerospace Defense Command's annual online "Santa Tracker."

At WBUR, author Ethan Gilsdorf writes that "real-time digital imagery of Santa and his route, or calculations of the loot he's delivered, take the imagination out of Christmas."

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The Two-Way
8:57 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Mass Graves Discovered In South Sudan; Is Civil War Coming?

Troops sent to South Sudan by the U.N. watch as men walk to a camp for refugees near Juba, the nation's capital.
James Akena Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 3:20 pm

The already alarming news from South Sudan grew even more worrisome Tuesday with word from the United Nations of mass graves.

In a statement, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said "we have discovered a mass grave in Bentiu, in Unity State, and there are reportedly at least two other mass graves in Juba," the new nation's capital.

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The Two-Way
8:10 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Book News: Efforts To Ban Books On The Rise

Joe Songer AL.COM/Landov

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 10:03 am

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

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The Two-Way
7:38 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Snowden Says His Mission Is Accomplished; 'I Already Won'

Edward Snowden in an image from an October TV report.
AFP/Getty Images

In his first in-person interviews since his explosive revelations last June, "NSA leaker" Edward Snowden tells The Washington Post that in his mind, "the mission's already accomplished."

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The Two-Way
6:52 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Top Stories: Spacewalk Resumes; Fears Grow In South Sudan

Good morning.

One early Tuesday headline and two from Monday evening:

-- WATCH LIVE: Space Station Spacewalk

-- Alan Turing, Who Cracked Nazi Code, Gets Posthumous Pardon

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The Two-Way
6:31 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Repairs Done, Astronauts Wrap Up Spacewalk

Astronaut Mike Hopkins during Saturday's spacewalk. He's going out again Tuesday.
NASA.gov

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 4:12 pm

Spacewalking astronauts have successfully replaced a failed coolant pump on the International Space Station.

NPR's Joe Palca reports that American spacewalkers Michael Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio had to bolt the massive pump in place (on the ground, it weighs 780 pounds), connect four ammonia lines and plug in five electrical cables. The ammonia is a refrigerant used in the station's two-part cooling system, which is necessary to dissipate heat from the onboard electrical equipment.

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The Two-Way
8:52 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

Alan Turing, Who Cracked Nazi Code, Gets Posthumous Pardon

Detail of a Turing Bombe machine in Bletchley Park Museum in Bletchley, central England. The device, the brainchild of Alan Turning, was instrumental in cracking the German code during World War II.
Alessia Pierdomenico Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 4:18 pm

British mathematician Alan Turing, who helped crack Nazi Germany's 'Enigma' code and laid the groundwork for modern computing, was pardoned on Tuesday, six decades after his conviction for homosexuality is said to have driven him to suicide.

Following his singular contributions toward winning the war against Adolph Hitler, Turing's 1952 conviction is believed to have led two and a half years later to him taking his life by ingesting cyanide.

The Associated Press reports:

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The Two-Way
7:33 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

150 Marines To Be Sent For Possible Mission In South Sudan

The Pentagon has announced it is sending 150 U.S. Marines to Africa, for a possible mission to evacuate Americans in South Sudan, where political and ethnic violence has claimed hundreds of lives and left hundreds of thousands homeless.

NPR's Tom Bowman says the Marines are being sent from Spain to beef up the U.S. military presence at a base in Eastern Africa. Officials say they'll await orders and could head into South Sudan.

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The Two-Way
7:14 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

Al-Qaida Group Admits 'Mistake And Guilt' For Botched Raid

A photo provided by Yemen's Defense Ministry shows damaged vehicles after an al-Qaida affiliate attacked the ministry's complex in Sanaa on Dec. 5.
AP

An al-Qaida affiliate has taken the rare step of apologizing to the families of victims killed in a botched attack in Yemen earlier this month.

The attack on the Defense Ministry in the capital, Sanaa, was meant to hit an area of the complex where al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) says U.S. drones are being controlled. But a hospital on the grounds was also hit in the Dec. 5 attack, and many of the 56 victims were doctors, nurses and patients.

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The Two-Way
5:06 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

On Anniversary Of Apollo 8, How The 'Earthrise' Photo Was Made

The iconic "Earthrise" photo taken by astronaut Bill Anders through a window on the Apollo 8 command module on Dec. 24, 1968.
Bill Anders NASA

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 7:24 am

The first humans to catch a glimpse of the Earth rising over the moon nearly missed seeing it at all, let alone capturing the snapshot that became one of the most iconic photos of the 20th century.

NASA has released an animation commemorating the 45th anniversary of Apollo 8, the first manned mission to orbit the moon. The famous "Earthrise" photo was taken on Christmas Eve 1968.

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The Two-Way
4:47 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

Obama Gives Federal Workers A 1 Percent Raise

People exit a Metro subway station, by escalator, along Pennsylvania Ave., NW, in Washington.
Cliff Owen AP

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 5:46 pm

President Obama signed an executive order on Monday, giving federal workers and military personnel a 1 percent raise.

As Government Executive reports, the pay raise is the first across-the-board increase the federal workforce has gotten since 2010. The publication reports:

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The Two-Way
2:36 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

WATCH: A 'Mistletoe Drone' Descends On San Francisco

A couple kisses under a drone mistletoe.
YouTube

Most would agree: We don't usually think of drones as charming.

But two artists — George Zisiadis and Mustafa Khan — have produced a piece of performance art that mixes the unmanned aerial vehicle with a long-loved holiday tradition.

The artists propped a mistletoe on a Parrot AR Drone 2.0 and flew it over San Francisco's Union Square.

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The Two-Way
2:23 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

White House Grants Extra Day For Obamacare Sign-Up

This image shows part of the HealthCare.gov website in Washington on Friday noting a Dec. 23 enrollment deadline for coverage starting Jan. 1.
Jon Elswick AP

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 3:03 pm

A midnight deadline to sign up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act that starts Jan. 1 has been extended by a day in what the White House describes as an effort to accommodate people in different time zones.

The deadline that had been midnight on Dec. 23 has been pushed to Christmas Eve at midnight.

The Washington Post reports:

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