The Madeleine Brand Show for December 21, 2011

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Washington is uncharacteristically empty today. Most lawmakers are on holiday break. Before they left, members of the House rejected a Senate bill to extend the payroll tax cut for two months. House Speaker Republican John Boehner wants some of his members to meet with senators, and try to work out their differences, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid rejected that idea. All this transpired despite the fact that leaders on both sides of the aisle say they support extending the payroll tax cut. We get more details on this December debacle.
Sherman and Berman

Berman and Sherman battle for House seat

In the San Fernando Valley a political race is shaping up that presents a real dilemma for many voters. Because of redistricting, two incumbent democrats will be running against each other for a seat in Congress. Both men have been stalwart supporters of Israel, both are Jewish and both have lots of money.
An Ecuadorian shrunken human head from t
Author Mary Roach has become known for writing about fascinating and bizarre topics, from cadavers to life on Mars. Her latest piece, "Say Hello to My Little Friend," explores the history of shrunken heads, from the Ecuadorian tribe that created them for ceremonial purposes, to the huge trade in counterfeit heads that grew up in the early 20th century. Roach even shares her "recipe" for shrinking the head of a bobcat. The story appears in the current issue of Outside magazine.
Christmas Presents

'No more gift giving!' says writer Dave Bry

Writer Dave Bry has a modest proposal for the holidays: don't give gifts to anyone over the age of 12. He argues that there is too much stress, disappointment and wasted money when adults give each other gifts. After all, he writes, "I think adults get the things they need or want when they need or want them. That’s one of the joys of being an adult." But what about when someone gets that perfect, thoughtful present? Or the surprise item that ends up being really useful? Madeleine and Dave Bry discuss the pros and cons of gift giving.
As critics around the country prepare their best-of lists for the year, David Kipen offers up different favorites for 2011. Kipen joins the show to share the best books published in California during the past year.
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Luke Burbank, host of the podcast Too Beautiful to Live, joins Madeleine for his weekly analysis of the week's obscure headlines: Awesome/Not Awesome. This week Luke talks about a Norwegian internet star's rant against comedians making light of the weighty matter of Norway's butter shortage. Plus, Nielsen releases a study about how people friend and unfriend on Facebook.
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