Walter Shapiro is a special correspondent for The New Republic.
Twenty-six years ago — as part of the price for raising the federal debt ceiling to a shocking $2 trillion — Congress, in a wave of fiscal self-flagellation, approved the Gramm-Rudman bill. If a spendthrift Congress failed to meet prescribed deficit targets, then Gramm-Rudman would slice the budget with the across-the-board subtlety of Sweeney Todd.
The March earthquake and tsunami in Japan devastated parts of that country and shook the economy around the world. It did not, however, shake the resolve of several Kentuckians who are headed to Japan this weekend to start new jobs. The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program hires English-speaking college graduates to teach in Japanese public schools. Adrienne Ledbetter is from Bowling Green and is headed to a city near Mt. Fuji that recently faced a food crisis after authorities found radiation-tainted beef.
Less than a week before the annual Fancy Farm picnic, a new poll shows Democratic Governor Steve Beshear with a crushing 24-point lead over Republican challenger David Williams in the Kentucky 2011 gubernatorial race. According to the survey of 512 likely voters, Williams, who is the state Senate President, has a likability problem that is holding him back among likely voters.
Plans for a possible rail line connecting Louisville, Lexington and Frankfort are moving forward, but that progress could soon stop. The man behind the concept is leaving his job. Executive director of the Kentucky Capital Development Corporation Ralph Tharp first released his plans for the line earlier this year. But his contract with the corporation will not be renewed. Tharp says he has the support of mayors along the route and he will continue to work on the project until his contract expires in October.
Brattleboro, Vt., is a bucolic town — pricked with picturesque church steeples — and home to a vibrant arts community. So it's an unlikely setting for gruesome murder and gritty crime, but that's just what goes on in Archer Mayor's Brattleboro-based Joe Gunther detective series.
A mannequin maker in Colorado is helping retailers boost clothing sales by creating more life-like models. These are custom-made mannequins that look like the real people who shop in stores — or the way shoppers imagine themselves.
In a Disney Store in Southern California, an employee helps a young customer wave a purple wand at a talking mirror. It's part of the store's redesign, which includes playful child-size mannequins that encourage shoppers to interact with the merchandise. The mannequins appear to curtsy and jump after balloons.
Domestic protests have dominated the headlines in Israel in recent weeks, as strikes over the high cost of living have spread across the country. But while the local media have termed it Israel's own Arab Spring, the protesters say they are far from calling for revolution.
After weeks of mounting anxiety and collapsed deals, Congressional leaders and President Obama reached an agreement Sunday night to end the debt ceiling crisis. Those leaders will attempt to sell that deal to fellow lawmakers Monday, and if all goes well, a bill increasing the debt ceiling by nearly a trillion dollars could await the president's signature Tuesday.
That's the day the Treasury Department had said the nation's first-ever default could occur if Congress failed to act.