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News Wrap: Al-Qaida Group Claims Responsibility for Deadly Baghdad Bombings

December 27, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: Al-Qaida’s affiliate in Iraq claimed responsibility today for last week’s bombings in Baghdad that killed at least 69 people. The explosions tore through a dozen mainly Shiite neighborhoods last Thursday. They left blackened craters, blood-stained streets, and scores of wounded.

The al-Qaida group known as the Islamic State of Iraq said today it carried out the bombings in support of Sunni prisoners. It depicted the Shiite-led government as a tool of Iran.

A court in Egypt has ordered an end to forced virginity tests on women held in military prisons. The ruling came in a lawsuit by Samira Ibrahim, a woman who charged she and seven others were examined after being arrested at a Cairo protest last March. Egyptian officials initially denied similar claims by a number of women. Now the military says soldiers who took part will be prosecuted.

Democrats in the U.S. Senate suffered a setback today in their bid to hold a majority. Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who is 70, announced he will not be on the ballot in 2012. His statement appeared on YouTube.

SEN. BEN NELSON, D-Neb.: It’s time for me to step away from elective office, spend more time with my family, and look for new ways to serve our state and nation. Therefore, I’m announcing today that I will not seek reelection. Simply put, it’s time to move on.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The open seat in Nebraska could give Republicans a boost as they seek to win back the Senate in next year’s elections. They need a net gain of four seats.

There was new evidence today of a growing wealth gap between members of Congress and their constituents. The Washington Post and The New York Times reported the finding based on financial disclosure data. From 1984 to 2009, the median net worth of an average member of the U.S. House more than doubled, from $280,000 to $725,000. During that same period, the median worth of an average American family declined slightly, from $20,600 to $20,500.

The company that owns Sears and Kmart will close 100 to 120 stores. Sears Holdings Corporation announced the move today, after disappointing holiday sales. It said the closings will generate much-needed cash. There was no word on how many jobs might be affected. The firm currently has more than 4,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada.

In other economic news, home prices in most major American cities were down again in October for the second straight month. But consumer confidence surged in December to the highest since April. On Wall Street, the two reports more or less canceled each other out. The Dow Jones industrial average lost more than two points to close at 12,291. The Nasdaq rose six points to close at 2,625.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.