USA

A dramatic rise in property taxes remains on the fiscal radar screen nationwide, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In 2008, more legislatures are expected to seek ways to provide home-owners with relief from local and state property taxes that census data indicate have increased 50 percent between 2000 and 2006.

The campaign of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney brushed off an unusual anti-endorsement editorial by The Concord (N.H.) Monitor, which said the former Massachusetts governor "surely must be stopped" in New Hampshire's Jan. 8 primary. The Romney camp said the paper's view was not surprising, given its liberal stance. Meanwhile, in Iowa, which kicks off the presidential nominating process with caucuses Jan. 3, Romney picked up the endorsement of the Sioux City Journal, which cited what it called his "success as an executive in both the private and public sectors."

Researchers at the University of California at Davis have determined that the forces that initiated our solar system occurred roughly 4.5 billion years ago, according to a Washington Post story. Scientists analyzed meteorites known as carbonaceous chondrites to make their calculations.

Department stores have slashed 247,100 jobs since 2001, according to an Associated Press analysis of Labor Statistics. Economists believe technology has played a significant role in the downsizing. The industry spends $34.5 billion annually on all kinds of in-store and stockroom technology, including self-service checkout stations, the National Retail Federation says.

Scott Southworth and two other soldiers he served with in Iraq are leading an effort to place 21 disabled boys from a government-run Baghdad orphanage with American families. So far they've found homes, mostly in Wisconsin, for about half the youngsters, who were stuck in squalid conditions – some even tied to the outside of their cribs.

Hair stylists at five salons in the Latino Washington Heights area of upper Manhattan have trained as part of a growing national effort to combat domestic abuse by building on the trust between salon workers and their clients. The idea is to help salon workers identify abusive relationships and help them serve as the first line of defense.

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