Planning on going to Afghanistan as a soldier, consultant, diplomat, journalist, or aid worker? Or maybe you’re just curious about how a person navigates this war-torn country that’s so often in the news? Journalist Edward Girardet, who has been reporting on Afghanistan for more than 30 years – including for the Monitor – edits “The Essential Field Guide to Afghanistan.” Written by on-the-ground experts, it includes essays and travel and security tips that could save a visitor’s life. For instance, don’t wear sunglasses. Showing your eyes makes you more human to Afghans. And above all: Remember you are a guest in the country. So act like one. Here, he gives eight sample "essentials" for getting around Afghanistan.
Governments have collapsed. Bailouts have run into the hundreds of billions of euros. Greece is drowning in debt, Italy ousted longtime leader Silvio Berlusconi in a bid to claw its way out, and Spaniards rejected the ruling Socialists, hoping that political change might spare them the woes of their neighbors. Still, the two-year debt crisis builds. How did the eurozone get here? The graphics below paint part of the picture: untaxed shadow economies, low productivity, and deficit spending. While deficits have been curtailed significantly since 2009 due to austerity measures, some see deeper systemic problems. Take Greece. "For 10 years, investors basically believed that Greece was Germany," says Jacob Kirkegaard, of the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. But, he says, Greece is "fundamentally a corrupt, dysfunctional government that is unable to raise enough tax revenue to pay for all of its expenses." Then there's Spain. The size of its debt relative to its economy is a manageable 67 percent, but sluggish growth undermines investors' faith that it can repay loans. Those who lost money in Greece are in no hurry to lose more in Spain.
Searching out a gift for a bibliophile? From an annotated Jane Austen novel to an exhaustive plot compendium, one of these six books is sure to please.
It depends on which measurement you use. For most people, the ability to find a job is the most basic sign of a healthy economy. Changes in the unemployment rate signal whether getting a job is becoming harder or easier for US workers. But other numbers, also sent out by the Labor Department on the first Friday of each month, offer additional barometers to watch. Here are five ways to measure the jobless problem, with the latest numbers plugged in.
Accusations of sexual harassment ended the political career of Bob Filner, who resigned as mayor of San Diego Aug. 23. But sex scandals are not necessarily fatal to political ambition. Against all odds, some politicians survive them. How do they do it? Here’s a list of notable politicos whose careers continued in spite of their slips – and some who didn’t, and found themselves looking for work in the private sector.
Got a sports fan on your gift list? An Angophile? An art lover? No problem. Here are some gift book ideas that should allow you to please everyone on your shopping list this year.
Like last year, Congress is debating whether to reauthorize extended unemployment insurance. At stake as early as January are benefits for some 1.8 million Americans, including some 430,000 people who lost jobs as recently as July. Although Republicans and Democrats say they plan to reauthorize the law, they differ on how – or even whether – to pay for it. Here are the different scenarios and ramifications of what could happen:
Every year, the group Transparency International releases its Corruption Perception Index, which measures the perception of corruption – misuse of public resources, bribery, and backdoor deals, to name a few – in countries worldwide. On a scale of 0 (most corrupt) to 10 (least corrupt), no country scores a 10 and more than two-thirds of the 183 countries on the index score below a 5. The US comes in at 7.1. The index is built using data from surveys examining enforcement of anticorruption laws, tracking of public funds, kickbacks in government contracts, etc.
Wednesday's special Google doodle wished a happy birthday to Mark Twain. The American writer was born 176 years ago. Well, Twain wasn't born then. A fellow named Samuel Clemens was. The pen name "Mark Twain" came many years later. Twain stands among many great pseudonyms. Some are obviously fake – Vin Diesel and Sting. But others might surprise you – John Wayne and Alan Alda. Here are 30 of the best from books, movies, TV, and music.
Today is the 176th birthday of Mark Twain, or as his parents knew him, Samuel L. Clemens. Twain is best known for his American fiction, including “Tom Sawyer,” but he was also an intrepid traveler and travel-writer who paved the way for the Bill Brysons of our day. In “Innocents Abroad" he wrote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” Here are five delightful travel quotes from Twain's writings:
What's selling best in independent bookstores across America.
Samuel Johnson once famously noted that a man who is tired of London “is tired of life.” Some of us feel the same way about children’s picture books. While it’s true that many cover familiar ground – animals, the great outdoors, adventures with family and friends – no two ever do so in quite the same way. And the best of them rediscover the world with such a fresh and inspired gaze that they turn even the most adult of us into children all over again. Some of the gems that have arrived in bookstores this season include a couple of classic winter tales, a retold Aesop’s fable, poetry about dogs, a baby penguin, and a chicken awash in blue ink.
It's the 176th birthday of one of the most iconic of figures in US history. In honor of the day that Samuel Clemens was born, here are 10 reasons why we love the great American author known as Mark Twain.
Dunder Mifflin paper – the product at the heart of NBC’s hit comedy “The Office” NBC Universal – is now a real product. It's even on sale, $34.95 for a 20-pound carton, at online office supplier quill.com and the NBC online store. Manufactured by quill.com, the paper bears the Dunder Mifflin logo and slogans “Limitless paper in a paperless world” and “Quabity first." Dunder Mifflin paper is the latest in a long line fictional TV and film goods that turn into successful products. Will "The Office" office paper do as well as these Top 6 items?
William Faulkner called him “…the first truly American writer.” Ernest Hemingway declared that all American writing comes from “Huckleberry Finn,” and “there has been nothing as good since." And Norman Mailer said “Huck Finn” stands up “page for page” to the “best modern American novels.” Wednesday marks the 176th anniversary of the birth of the matchless Samuel Clemens, who wrote under the pen name Mark Twain. His genius lay in his distinctive ability to convey profound wisdom and profane wit in the same breath. Here, in tribute to the man Faulkner called the “father of American literature,” are 10 quotes from Mark Twain.
Invasive species are ones that don't naturally occur in an area and may have detrimental effects. Here are some eradication success stories. Sources: Global Invasive Species Database, International Union for Conservation of Nature, National Cotton Council, US Dept. of Agriculture
When public opinion in other countries turns on the West, the ire is often poured on the most visible representative of the West overseas – foreign embassies. The best-known example of what happens when hostility reaches a breaking point is the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979, but numerous embassies have been stormed since then, including the Nov. 29 attack on the British Embassy in Tehran. Here are five high profile attacks:
On Dec. 5, leaders from Afghanistan, NATO, and neighboring countries will meet in Bonn, Germany, to discuss the future of Afghanistan after US troops withdraw. The second conference comes 10 years after the first Bonn Conference, which took place months after the Sept. 11 attacks and the American-led invasion of Afghanistan. Here’s a look at what it is, what’s at stake, and why it matters.
Today Egyptians are wrapping up the first of several rounds of voting for the first Egyptian parliament since the ousting of former President Hosni Mubarak. Two-thirds of the parliamentary seats will be chosen via a proportional list system, and the other third will be chosen as individual candidates. Every voter will choose two candidates from their governorate and one local list of candidates, often including candidates from multiple parties. The more votes a list gets, the more candidates on its list will be in parliament. Below are the options facing Egyptians as they go to the polls.
With its whopping 2.5 million-copy print run, “Inheritance” is very likely the fantasy book in which your favorite teen has his or her nose buried this month. The fourth and final installment of Christopher Paolini’s books about Eragon, the orphaned farm boy-turned-dragon rider, offers all the action and answers its fans have waited eight years for. But “Inheritance” is also darker than its predecessors, and its graphic violence includes the prolonged torture of a young woman. Knopf recommends it for ages “12 and up,” and I wouldn’t hand it to anybody younger. For those seeking alternatives, this fall offers four excellent adventure tales for young readers. There are museums, pirates, gods, rodents, runaways, and lots and lots salt water.
With more Americans turning to the Internet for more of their holiday shopping needs, good cybersecurity is vital to avoid a raft of scams – from promises of "free iPads" to "holiday screensavers" that install malware on your computer. To shop safely, it's wise to avoid what might be called the "12 cyber scams of Christmas." They include:
A Scrabble match. A new school. Pie recipes. A lost coat. The ballet. For young teens and preteens, life is generally eventful. But nothing matters as much as relationships. With the right friends, everything seems possible. And without them, well – no one wants to go there. This fall’s crop of books aimed at readers from age 8 into the early teens offers an absorbing range of adventures – but none greater than the adventure of finding a true friend.
From the metals in your cell phone to the gas in your car, Congo is more connected to your life than you might think, and its stability matters.
Since the first Thanksgiving occurred, reportedly in 1621, historians and pop culture have spread a cornucopia of tall tales, half truths, and straight-up lies. But this Thanksgiving, we're thankful for the truth. So before you succumb to the delights of turkey day, allow us separate fact from fiction for you.
The Thanksgiving turkey on Google's home page comes with a full wardrobe. You can change the bird's feathers, hairstyle, and even footwear. In fact, by our calculations – keeping in mind that all of our finance and tech support staff have already left for the holiday, leaving us with an office full of liberal arts majors – Google's turkey has 2,985,984 possible combinations. Among those, there are 12 secret combinations. Find the right outfit and – poof! – the turkey reveals several bonus accessories. However, discovering all 12 could take you longer than cooking a Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings. Fear not! We found each of the outfits so that you don't have to. Sit back and enjoy.