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Iran has been stepping up its threats to close one of the most important waterways in the world, the Straits of Hormuz, one of the main global routes for the world’s oil supply. The US is responding with warnings of its own. Guest host Sara Terry explores what's really going on. Is Iran trying to deflect attention from its nuclear program? How are new regional realities, brought on by the Arab Spring, affected by tensions over Iran? Also, candidates try to close the deal as caucuses near, and pass the popcorn. We kick back for a look at the year in movies and a preview of what's to come. (Thanks to KCRW volunteer Gideon Brower for special production assistance.)

Banner image: An Iranian Army soldier stands guard on a military speed boat, passing by a submarine during the 'Velayat-90' navy exercises in the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran on December 28, 2011. Photo by Ali Mohammad/AFP/Getty Images

Making News Candidates Try to Close the Deal as Caucuses Near 7 MIN, 40 SEC

With five days to go before the Iowa caucus, Mitt Romney is stepping up his efforts there, while Michele Bachmann struggles to recover from the loss of her top advisor in the state, who jumped ship to support Ron Paul. Candidates continue to move up and down in the latest polls, with Romney now in a statistical tie with Texas Congressman Ron Paul. Donna Hoffman is Professor of Political Science at the University of Northern Iowa.

Donna Hoffman, University of Northern Iowa

Main Topic Tensions Escalate as Iran Threatens to Close Strait of Hormuz 35 MIN, 7 SEC

The US has warned Iran that it will not tolerate interference with the Strait of Hormuz. Only 34 miles wide, 40 percent of the world's tanker-borne oil passes through it. Closure of the strait would wreak havoc on global oil markets. Angry over the threat of new sanctions, Iranian leaders have upped their rhetoric in recent days, claiming that closing the waterway would be as easy as drinking a glass of water. With pressure growing again on Iran over its nuclear program, amid warnings of new sanctions, what's the agenda being pursued by Iranian leaders? How is the oil market responding? Is this a serious sign of increasing tensions in the region?

Borzou Daragahi, BuzzFeed News (@borzou)
Farideh Farhi, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Eli Lake, Bloomberg View (@EliLake)
Trevor Houser, Rhodium Group (@trevor_houser)

Reporter's Notebook The Year Past and the Year to Come in Movies 7 MIN, 55 SEC

Hollywood played it safe in 2011, with a big slate of sequels and re-makes. Hollywood, studio executives thought they were in for a banner year, predicting a year-end finish with record revenues. That happy ending hasn't happened. Projected revenues for the year are actually down by four percent, and movie crowds have dipped to a 16-year low. Steve Pond of The Wrap.com, has been writing about popular culture and the entertainment industry for more than 25 years. He's also author of The Big Show: High Times and Dirty Dealings Backstage at the Academy Awards.

Steve Pond, The Wrap (@stevepond)

The Big Show

Steve Pond


Sara Terry

Anna Scott
Katie Cooper

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