Remember this thing?

Last Thursday, Army General Ray Odierno appeared on the Colbert Report to announce the end of the War in Iraq, and over the weekend, the last U.S. troops rolled across the border from Iraq to Kuwait. Most troops will be home for Christmas, but some 4,000 will remain in Kuwait as a quick reaction force. (Hulu, Mother Jones, AP)

It’s the rule of threes! On Thursday, British journalist and intellectual Christopher Hitchens passed away at the age of 62. The Nation, New Yorker, and Atlantic have put together collections of his best work and tributes. The next day, Václav Havel, President of the Czech Republic until 2003 and former Columbia artist-in-residence, passed away at the age of 75. Finally, North Korean authorities announced late last night that Kim Jong-Il had died, only 10 hours after the country agreed to suspend its nuclear weapons program. (Hulu, NYT, AP)

The West Harlem Local Development Corporation, an organization that’s supposed to distribute $76 million of Columbia’s money to the West Harlem community as consolation for the Manhattanville expansion, is in hot water after it was discovered that one of its board members tried to spend $85,000 without telling anyone. Now Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer has added his voice to the chorus calling on the group to disband. (NYPost, DNAinfo)

California public schools may be broke (and about to get more broke), but that’s not stopping UC-Berkeley from greatly expanding financial aid for middle-class families. All students whose families make between $80,000 and $140,000/year will only have to pay 15% of their income, plus an $8,000 student contribution. It’s not as generous as Columbia’s financial aid policy, but it’s unprecedented for a state school. (LAT, NYT)

This reddit-famous GS grad isn’t the only anonymous Santa’s helper this holiday season. Across the Heartland, poor families that have put Christmas purchases on layaway at Kmart (meaning they agree to pay for them in installments and get their money back if they can’t make all the payments) have discovered that generous strangers have anonymously paid off most of their balances. (Reddit, AP)

The mayor of Troy, Michigan may want to throw out her “I <3 NY” tote bag now that marriage equality is legal in New York, but for most people, the fact that Columbia alum John Spofford Morgan can finally marry his life-long love, Lou Halsey, is just another reason to love New York! According to Columbia researchers, marriage equality also makes gay men healthier. (Detroit Free-Press, NY Mag, BBC)

Speaking of Christmas romance, why not let Columbia alum Chris Beam explain why we kiss under mistletoe? (Slate)

Blues clues via Wikimedia