Before Congress shuts out the lights and goes home for the holidays, one last bit of business is to extend the tax breaks or tax fixes that, though designated “temporary,” get renewed year after year. They are typically grist for some of the most important dealmaking in any session. Sixty-seven tax provisions are set to expire Dec. 31. At least half are typically extended retroactively.
Plenty of bookstores vanished this year, but books sure didn't. More readers discovered the joys of reading them on screens, leaning in to peruse everything from blockbuster bios and zombie adventures to the latest hot novels from the chilly confines of Scandinavia. Here's a look at 10 stories that captivated us as we turned the pages of 2011:
In politics, a gaffe is often described as a "truth told by accident." Mitt Romney has had relatively few of them during his time in politics, but lately, the former governor of Massachusetts has had a bunch. The most recent: a leaked video that shows Mr. Romney dismissing President Obama’s supporters as ‘victims,’ dependent on government. The video stoked criticism of how the candidate’s unforced errors are preempting debate on Mr. Obama’s record, especially on jobs and the economy. Here’s a list of the most memorable verbal missteps.
If Mom and Dad want to use an an iPad, why shouldn't Junior get a tablet computer, too? Many parents appear to be following that line of reasoning, judging by the popularity of tablet-style toys and gadgets this holiday season. Not that everyone loves the idea. Many child-development experts say it's best for kids not to have too much "screen time" each day, for one thing. At the same time, there's a long tradition of kids using gadgets modeled on those used by adults. For shoppers weighing a purchase, here's a look at five options that have been reviewed by Consumer Reports or other reviewers.
Houses have an almost magical ability to accumulate junk, and everyone seems to have stuff they don’t really want and won’t ever use. Instead of letting that box of unused electronics or your great aunt’s porcelain cat collection turn you into an unwilling hoarder, why not sell it off and make some extra cash? You can try doing it yourself (check out 13 Tips for a Super Yard Sale) or take your stuff to a local consignment shop (although you’re going to pay a large commission fee – at least 40 percent of the sale price, according to MSN). Like everything else these days, online is where’s happening. But if you want to earn top dollar, make sure you target the right market:
You've undoubtedly read Dr. Seuss's "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!," but did you know that the Rankin/Bass TV favorite "The Year Without a Santa Claus" (you know, the one with the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser) also began as a children's book? For millions of children today Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without certain beloved TV specials. But here's to remembering that the best of the lot all came from the printed page.
The Opportunity Project (opportunityindex.org) calls itself a campaign to promote "access to the American Dream." Its state-by-state report ranks upward mobility. Instead of looking only at gross domestic product and poverty, the index weighs such things as household income, percentage of children in preschool, and crime. Here are 5 states that scored high in the Opportunity Project's report.
Everyone has Google on his or her computer these days – and that includes publishers. So why, in this day and age, would any author dare to plagiarize from the work of another? Nevertheless, the accusations continue to fly. Currently, Lenore Hart, author of "The Raven's Bride" is the latest on the hot seat, defending herself against charges that she plagiarized from another novel about Edgar Allan Poe's wife. Her publisher says she's innocent. While the outcome of the Hart incident is still to be determined, here are five high-profile cases in which an author was accused of plagiarism and fraud. Each – in its own way – rocked the book world in its time.
Thailand's lèse-majesté laws, which include prohibitions on posting anti-monarchy slurs online, are among the world's strictest, meriting jail terms of 3 to 15 years, and in some cases, more. The rising number of lèse-majesté accusations comes as the reign of octogenarian King Bhumibol Adulyadej nears its end. Some worry that a crackdown could intensify as Thailand prepares for a transition. While it's rare for foreigners to be prosecuted, they aren't exempt. Here are four high profile cases in the past decade, three of which involve foreigners:
Pentagon planners have plenty to deal with these days – Iran in search of nuclear-weapons technology, suicide bombings in Afghanistan, and the final pullout of US troops in Iraq potentially leaving behind a security vacuum in the Middle East. But in war games in Washington this week, US Army officials and their advisers debated three nightmare scenarios in particular. Here are the doomsday visions that Pentagon planners have been poring over:
This year’s list of the worst toys is brought to you by plastics, those bright synthetic polymers that threaten to overtake the living rooms of middle-class parents. They can be classified into three categories: those that assault our senses, those that skank-ify our daughters, and those so bizarre they deserve a spot on late-night TV. Don’t be fooled. Many of these toys make great gifts, at least for someone else’s child, ideally someone who lives out of state. Here's my list of the Top 7 worst Christmas toys for 2011:
With P. D. James' new book 'Death Comes to Pemberley,' Jane Austen's novel 'Pride and Prejudice' is getting another makeover. In James's story, it's six years after the end of the original book, and Elizabeth and Darcy's idyllic life is turned upside down when Lizzy's sister Lydia shows up claiming that her husband, George Wickham, has been murdered. But James' novel is hardly the first to revive the classic. Since its publication in 1813, Austen's most famous novel has had enduring popularity, inspiring everything from movie adaptations to a satire that adds zombies. Here are a few of the most memorable 'P&P' incarnations over the years.
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.
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.