- - Sunday, December 25, 2011

IRAQ

Biden calls Iraqi leaders after wave of violence

Vice President Joseph R. Biden reached out to Iraq’s leaders to discuss recent violence there and the country’s tenuous political climate.

Mr. Biden spoke Sunday with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and on Saturday with the president of the Kurdistan region, Massoud Barzani. The White House said Mr. Biden expressed condolences for the recent violence in Baghdad and discussed the political climate in Iraq.

Mr. Biden’s calls follow a wave of bombings in Baghdad earlier in the week that left at least 60 people dead. There are also concerns of a sectarian split in the government after Mr. al-Maliki’s Shiite-led coalition issued an arrest warrant for the country’s top Sunni political leader.

U.S. officials are closely watching the developments in Iraq, which follow the withdrawal of all American troops.

WHITE HOUSE

U.S. appears to soften ban on online betting

The Obama administration appears to have softened a U.S. ban on Internet gambling.

In a legal opinion posted Friday, the Justice Department said online betting unrelated to sporting events falls outside the reach of federal law. The U.S. government has long considered such gambling illegal when it crosses state lines.

The gambling industry is worth billions worldwide, but many operators are based overseas. Washington has cracked down on some of them, and a 2006 law forbade financial institutions from processing funds for most online wagering.

Because of the difficulty in enforcing age and other requirements, the issue has divided lawmakers and the industry. But several states have been studying plans for Web betting within states.

WHITE HOUSE

Obamas mark Christmas with gifts, carols, church

HONOLULU — President Obama exchanged gifts with his family, sang carols and attended church services as he celebrated Christmas in Hawaii.

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