Contrary to popular belief, the Iowa caucuses are not a part of the state populated by Georgians, Armenians, and Azerbaijanis. Sorry, bad pun. (See Caucasus, a region of Eurasia.) But there is some confusion about what the Iowa caucuses are, exactly. So in a few easy steps, let us explain what will happen in the Hawkeye State the evening of Jan. 3 – the first presidential nominating contest of the season.
It’s been nice, 2011, but as we move into the new year, many consumers are no doubt wondering what 2012 has in store for them, particularly when it comes to their wallets. Is a double-dip recession in the cards? Will it be easier to get a mortgage? Is a checking account switch in order? What will interest rates be like in the new year? Here are my Top 6 predictions for consumers in 2012:
As state manipulators of the media go, few can compare to North Korea, which this week is mourning the death of Kim Jong-il. But even with all the careful orchestration of the ceremonies, the North Korean media still found it necessary to doctor an official photograph of the funeral procession. Just as governments are finding it easier to use technology to manipulate images, so too is the public finding it easier to spot such digital trickery. Here are six noteworthy attempts by governments to shape media coverage through image manipulation.
There’s nothing like a presidential campaign cycle to bring out big political gaffes – at times injecting doubt about candidates, but also offering some much-needed comic relief and glimpses of humanity. 2011 had some doozies, and some of the most memorable actually weren’t on the campaign trail. GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, who said the “shot heard round the world” was fired in New Hampshire (correct answer: Massachusetts), nailed the politicians’ dilemma perfectly: "People can make mistakes, and I wish I could be perfect every time I say something, but I can't." Here are five of the biggest political “uh-ohs” of 2011:
Vladimir Putin's "managed democracy" offers few opportunities for new leaders to emerge, build their own independent political base, and legitimately vie for power. That closed and controlled system is now teetering after tens of thousands of Russians marched in the streets of Russian cities in December to reject Mr. Putin's penchant for bureaucratic manipulation, media control, and vote-rigging. Fresh leaders are emerging without the Kremlin's approval and finding their voices. The following are seven to watch in coming months.
The US troop surge in 2007 helped quiet Iraq's bloody civil war. But it failed to deliver on what US officials and officers said was crucial for Iraq's future at the time: sectarian reconciliation. Rather than forging a new national identity out of the horrors of Iraq's war, Iraq's Shiite and Sunni Arabs and ethnic Kurds sullenly retreated to their own sectarian corners, and the country's political parties remain vehicles for ethnic or sectarian interests. The next year is probably going to be the most crucial for determining the future of Iraq since the US-led invasion of 2003, as Iraq's various political factions compete for power and influence without foreign troops getting in the way. Here are a few of the major players.
With more than 13 million Americans out of work and wage increases so modest they’re failing to keep up with inflation, voters have put the economy and jobs at the top of their checklist of presidential issues. The Republican candidates all share the same broad approach: Spur private-sector confidence and job creation through permanent tax cuts, reduced federal deficits, and lighter regulatory burdens on businesses. In the same vein, they generally call for efforts to boost trade, encourage domestic oil and gas production, and limit the power of organized labor. But who has the best economic plan?
More than two dozen Christmas toys on sale this year have too much lead, contain dangerous plastic additives, or pose choking or hearing hazards, according to a recent report from consumer group U.S. Public Interest Research Group (see my blog post on it). But often, the dangers aren’t discovered until after the presents are bought and opened. So how can parents ensure that their children’s new Christmas toys are safe? Here are five ways to stay informed.
It’s common practice, as the year draws to a close, to reflect on the past twelve months – to think back on what you did, how you spent your time, and who you spent it with. My years, more than anything, are shaped by books so when I look back I’m thinking about what I read. The same goes for thinking about the year to come: When I make my New Year’s resolutions, it’s pretty much just a long list of books that I want to get my hands on. And so, in looking forward to 2012, here are some things that I’ve already gotten my hands on; it would be wise of you to do the same. If what I’m reading (and loving) is any indication, 2012 is going to be a strange and wonderful year.
If you're going over the river and through the woods for a holiday trip to relatives, long drives (or plane trips) can make kids a little squirmy once the novelty of that new toy has worn off. Here are five books that are sure to keep them turning pages until you get there. (Just make sure to check out the age ranges listed so you're getting a book that's age-appropriate.)
A loose young woman in Nazi-era Berlin. A titanic failure of courage on the Titanic. A Supreme Court justice with a thing for hot blondes. An American president's scandalous love child. Book authors answered questions about these earthy topics and many more – from sandwiches to Shakespeare – during Monitor interviews with me this year. Here's a baker's dozen of the memorable things that these authors had to say. Click on the links to read the full interviews.
When it comes to presidential leadership, how should voters judge the candidates? The sheer number of books on leadership hint that not even the consultants and gurus can agree on a set of standards. Why not ask a historian, who spends a significant portion of life in the mental company of people who really did turn out to possess the Midas touch of leadership? Here, Prof. Allen C. Guelzo, an authority on Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg College, suggests five leadership standards, personified in such figures as Lincoln, Churchill, and Admiral Nelson.
Call this a wish list to publishers. Of course it's true that’s there hardly any major sports star who hasn’t already achieved hardcover immortality a time or two or more. So why check back in with some already familiar sports luminaries? With the passage of time comes fresh perspectives on playing days, teammates, and rivals. And maybe even a little more honesty. So here goes, in no particular order: the Monitor’s Top 10 sports figures we’d put in the publishing on-deck circle.
Amazon is known for its bargains, but did you know you can also use the site to fritter away colossal amounts of money? Of course you did. But do you have any idea how much money? We went through each of Amazon's departments looking for the most expensive item, and what we found was surprising. While there were some objects of genuine value, we found many others that were absurdly overpriced, with sellers often charging millions – or even trillions – of dollars for everyday products. Some of these prices are surely inadvertent. Maybe someone accidentally keyed an inventory code into the price field, or maybe they forgot to convert the currency from rupees. Perhaps others are simply attempts by the retailer to better understand Amazon's search algorithm. And just maybe a few of them are people with dreams of striking it rich. It is, after all, a free country. Note that this 26-item list was compiled in December 2011, and that Amazon's inventory changes quickly. To see what are currently the most expensive items on Amazon's, simply visit one of Amazon's departments and sort the items by "Price: High to Low." You'll probably want to disable one-click shopping first, just in case.
On issues of foreign policy and national security, stopping Iran, supporting Israel, and standing up to China are three themes GOP candidates are using to hammer at what they consider President Obama’s weakness and highlight what they hope will be seen as their own toughness. But Americans don't seem to see Mr. Obama as particularly soft, and even many Republican leaders rank Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as the administration's best asset. Take a look at where each of the GOP hopefuls stands on foreign policy and national security issues.
How do you compress a complicated novel into a two-hour, cinema-friendly format? The answer, most often, is: you can't. A better solution for many authors is to have their books turned into HBO series. The end result is often an in-depth adaptation – with story and characters intact – that would have been impossible get at the multiplex. Here are some of the best-known books that have been turned into successful HBO series – with many more to come.
The third son of North Korea’s “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-il appears well on his way to succeeding his father, in name if not in style and substance. He will lead the committee in charge of the funeral on Dec. 28 and will then be referred to as “successor.” Just when he will assume the real titles held by his father is a matter of intense speculation. Past precedent suggests a wait of as long as three years, according to Korean custom. For now, Kim Jong-un, 28 or 29 years old, faces the prospect of manipulation by high-ranking relatives and generals. “He’s very much an untested quantity,” says Shim Jae-hoon, a political analyst in Seoul. His lone qualification, according to Mr. Shim, is that “he symbolizes the house of Kim” – a reference to his grandfather, long-ruling “Great Leader” Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994, and his father.
Energy and the environment are typically “back burner” issues in national elections, but both are huge this year for Republicans. From tarring President Obama’s administration with allegations of mismanagement and favoritism for pushing renewable-energy and a “green jobs” agenda, to lambasting “job-killing” environmental regulations, GOP candidates have embraced both energy and environmental issues with gusto. Take a look at where each of them stands.