Collective reading is alive and well in the 2000s – thanks to large-scale online book clubs (think "One Book, One Twitter," for example) and also to community “One City, One Book” programs which encourage an entire metropolis to read the same book at the same time. What are cities reading this year? Here are the 2011 picks of five participating cities – all of them apparently drawn to books with strong cultural themes .
While Americans and Europeans bemoan the cost of gasoline at the pumps, people in some other parts of the world enjoy filling up their tanks cheaply thanks to subsidies provided by wealthy, oil-rich governments. But fuel subsidies tend to benefit the rich (who own motor vehicles) more than the poor. The IMF estimated that 65 percent of the fuel subsidies in Africa benefit the richest 40 percent of households (2010). Only 8 percent of the $410 billion in government fuel subsidies worldwide went to the poorest 20 percent of the population (International Energy Agency - estimates, 2010). The British insurance firm Staveley Head has released the latest list of the world’s gas pump prices. Here are the 10 cheapest countries on Earth to fill a gas tank.
The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, fundamentally transformed the way the United States military wages war. With the invasion of Afghanistan and, months later, Iraq on the heels of 9/11, the wars have caused the Pentagon to rethink the way it fights, how it spends money in times of crisis, and what it values in both its highest and lowest-ranking commanders. The Monitor asked experts to weigh in on the Top 5 ways in which 9/11 has changed the US military.
This fall is crowded with new releases from literary heavyweights from Tom Perrotta and Jeffrey Eugenides to Joan Didion and Haruki Marukami. But it also offers two new names worth searching out: Erin Morgenstern and Chad Harbach, both of whose debut novels offer readers a chance to dive into fully realized worlds. In one, it’s a 19th-century traveling circus that’s open only at night; in the other, it’s a Midwestern baseball field. Both novels feature protagonists who are the very best at what they do. (Morgenstern and Harbach are no slouches, either.)
Among the thousands of post offices under review for closure is a cramped branch in downtown Elmira, N.Y., bustling on a rainy summer afternoon. It was, until recently, a place retiree Charlotte Dumas took for granted. She visits the downtown branch about three times a week. "I would hate to see it close," she says. "It's so convenient." And it's a bargain. The United States Postal Service (USPS) delivers an average of 563 million pieces of mail a day, six days a week. For a 44-cent stamp, you can send a letter to the far reaches of the nation. Rain, sleet, and manic dogs don't stop the service, which carries mail by pack mule to the Havasupai Indian reservation at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and operates branches in towns of fewer than 100 residents. Too good to be true? It might soon be. To help close a $20 billion revenue shortfall by 2015, the USPS may be forced to shutter as many as 3,700 post offices nationwide.
Ten years ago, The Monitor had recently moved into a renovated newsroom on the second floor of the venerable Christian Science Publishing Society in Boston. It featured new, modular desks, carpeting instead of linoleum, and many large TV monitors hung from the ceiling. They were tuned to various network and cable channels, but with the sound turned off, normally. So the first indication of a crisis on 9/11 was a chilling silent image of smoke billowing from the North Tower of the World Trade Center, an image that spread from screen to screen across the newsroom. When the second plane hit, 17 minutes after the first, it was clear that the United States was under attack. We had four hours till deadline that day. Four hours in which to try to make sense of what had just happened. Reporters, editors, photographers, editorial writers, columnists, feature writers, even editors and writers of the religious article that appears in the Monitor daily, sprang into action. It was the beginning of days, weeks, and months of reporting and analysis of that incident and its aftermath that would follow. The list below represents some of the most significant reporting and writing we did that day and on subsequent days. The 9/11 stories and images are The Monitor's first draft of the history of that moment. Like most first drafts, some could do with some revising now. But give credit to the swiftness with which they had to be written -- especially those produced that first day and week -- and the decades (if not centuries) of accumulated wisdom, knowledge, and expertise they represent on the part of a staff that worked around the clock to bring them to you.
For the second year in a row, the United Kingdom’s University of Cambridge topped America’s Harvard University in the annual QS ranking of the world’s top universities. Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), a UK-based higher education consulting firm, released its much-anticipated list of the top 300 today. Academic reputation – a subjective assessment – accounts for 40 percent of the score that determines where schools end up on the rankings. You can get a closer look at the methodology here. This year’s top 10 dropped American universities Princeton and California Institute of Technology in favor of two other leading US schools. You can check out last year’s top 10 here and explore why QS’s rankings caused such a stir.
If the wild plunges and rebounds in stock prices have made a yo-yo of your portfolio, welcome to a very big club. The gyrations in stock markets worldwide have forced investors everywhere to confront an uncomfortable reality: Short of stuffing your money in a bank or under your mattress, you have to cope with volatility and risk. Fortunately, there are ways to tame risk – even turn it to your advantage. Here are four steps that you can take to begin to reduce the risk of falling stock prices for your long-term portfolio:
A stagnant job market has ramped up pressure on President Obama and Congress to find solutions. A Sept. 2 report from the Labor Department hammered the problem home: The US economy produced no net jobs in August. So, what can be done? There's no shortage of policy ideas. Here are 11 that include controversial proposals plus others that might win bipartisan support.
Nancy Grace and Chaz Bono will join the cast for Season 13 of ABC's Dancing with the Stars. The entire cast was revealed by America's Funniest Home Videos host Tom Bergeron and Dancing with the Stars Season 7 champion Brooke Burke, who co-hosted Monday night's announcement at the end of an episode of the reality TV show "Bachelor Pad." DWTS pairs celebrities with professional dancers (and choreographers) who perform in front of a panel of the three judges, Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli, and Carrie Ann Inaba. Viewers can vote for their favorite dancing couples. Last season's winner was Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward and professional dancer Kym Johnson. Six of the past 12 DWTS winners have been athletes. The DWTS head of casting says, “There are some strong personalities [in Season 13]," USA today reports, "Any time it gets people talking, obviously that's a good thing. It gets people watching. This first show is definitely going to be water-cooler talk." The show opens on Sept. 19. Who are the DWTS Season 13 contestants?
Pop divas Eguchi Aimi and Hatsune Miku have throngs of fans across Japan, an impressive feat considering both singers are computer generated. They lead a growing trend in Japan of artificial stars seizing the spotlight. Here are videos of some of the most popular. Look for "Uncanny Valley: Will we ever learn to live with artificial humans?" – the Monitor's full story on what these fabricated 'humans' tell us about real ones.
If getting a credit card is a rite of passage for college students, choosing the right plastic and learning how to use it responsibly is a matter of life and debt. Young people age 18 to 24, carry an average credit card debt of $2,002, according to CreditKarma.com. Before you end up as a debt statistic, learn to pick the right card and manage your credit before getting your hands on plastic. Here are five things every new credit cardholder should know:
Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs saw the company through its infancy, its early tremors of doubt, and its wild bouts of success. Among his more significant lessons was this: Being best is more important than being first. How does Jobs, who passed away Oct. 5, 2011, stack up against America's great business leaders when tested by his own rule? Here's a look at how he compares with five of the greats:
The push toward a post-Qaddafi regime in Libya is raising questions in Washington about how far a US commitment extends to ensuring a peaceful transition to democracy. The rationale for US and NATO engagement in Libya was to avoid a massacre of civilians in March. Now, as the civil war moves toward a resolution, the Obama administration and Congress appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach. But with an eye to lessons from regime change in Iraq, some lawmakers are urging steps now to help shape the transition in Libya, including some moves that put them at odds with the Obama administration. Here are five.