In his first formal interview with an Arabic TV network, President Obama told Dubai-based Al-Arabiya Monday that he wants the US to do more "listening" than "dictating" in the Middle East. The point, he indicated, was imparted to special envoy George Mitchell as he headed off on an eight-day trip to the region with instructions to talk to "all the major parties involved."

Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) of Illinois skipped his impeachment trial in the state Senate Monday and opted to conduct nationally televised interviews with various TV outlets in New York. During the media blitz, he complained that "the fix is in" and that he couldn't get a fair hearing on corruption charges, which include trying to sell President Obama's vacant US Senate seat.

Stock dividends that often act as a security blanket for investors are being cut at the fastest pace since 1958, when annual payments fell 8.4 percent, according to new Standard & Poor's research. Among S&P 500 companies, the Bank of America has reported the largest decrease, from $1.28 a share to 4 cents in its annual dividend.

South Carolina and Indiana experienced the nation's biggest unemployment jumps in December, with each logging a a 1.1 percent bump, the Labor Department said Tuesday. South Carolina's jobless rate rose to 9.5 percent, Indiana's to 8.2 percent.

Former President Bush "held fast to his principles and kept our nation safe," his father, former President George H.W. Bush told an auto dealers convention in New Orleans Monday. The elder Bush said problems his son faced might have been avoided if Saddam Hussein had been forced to surrender under his own watch.

The Senate voted unanimously Monday to postpone the switch- over from analog to digital television broadcasting from Feb. 17 to June 12. The vote was a victory for the Obama administration and Democrats, who've been pushing for a delay amid growing concerns that too many Americans weren't ready for the change and could see their sets go dark. The issue now goes before the House.

Political maneuvering heated up Monday in the Massachusetts House after Speaker Salvatore DiMasi became the third speaker in a row to quit the powerful post against mounting ethics concerns.

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