The Boston Citgo sign, all 3,600 square LED feet of which has served as the backdrop to Red Sox games since 1965, is now officially a "pending landmark."

Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dalí spent much of the 1940s in the U.S., avoiding World War II and its aftermath. He was a well-known fixture on the art scene in Monterey, Calif. — and that's where the largest collection of Dalí's work on the West Coast is now open to the public.

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The middle of summer is when the surprises in publishing turn up. I'm talking about those quietly commanding books that publishers tend to put out now, because fall and winter are focused on big books by established authors. Which brings us to The Dream Life of Astronauts, by Patrick Ryan, a very funny and touching collection of nine short stories that take place in the 1960s and '70s around Cape Canaveral, Fla.

When the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union last month, the seaside town of Port Talbot in Wales eagerly went along with the move. Brexit was approved by some 57 percent of the town's residents.

Now some of them are wondering if they made the wrong decision.

The June 23 Brexit vote has raised questions about the fate of the troubled Port Talbot Works, Britain's largest surviving steel plant — a huge, steam-belching facility that has long been the town's biggest employer.

Solar Impulse 2 has landed in Cairo, completing the penultimate leg of its attempt to circumnavigate the globe using only the power of the sun.

The trip over the Mediterranean included a breathtaking flyover of the Pyramids. Check it out:

President Obama is challenging Americans to have an honest and open-hearted conversation about race and law enforcement. But even as he sits down at the White House with police and civil rights activists, Obama is mindful of the limits of that approach.

"I've seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change," the president said Tuesday at a memorial service for five law officers killed last week in Dallas. "I've seen how inadequate my own words have been."

Mice watching Orson Welles movies may help scientists explain human consciousness.

At least that's one premise of the Allen Brain Observatory, which launched Wednesday and lets anyone with an Internet connection study a mouse brain as it responds to visual information.

The FBI says it is giving up on the D.B. Cooper investigation, 45 years after the mysterious hijacker parachuted into the night with $200,000 in a briefcase, becoming an instant folk figure.

"Following one of the longest and most exhaustive investigations in our history," the FBI's Ayn Dietrich-Williams said in a statement, "the FBI redirected resources allocated to the D.B. Cooper case in order to focus on other investigative priorities."

This is the first in a series of essays concerning our collective future. The goal is to bring forth some of the main issues humanity faces today, as we move forward to uncertain times. In an effort to be as thorough as possible, we will consider two kinds of threats: those due to natural disasters and those that are man-made. The idea is to expose some of the dangers and possible mechanisms that have been proposed to deal with these issues. My intention is not to offer a detailed analysis for each threat — but to invite reflection and, hopefully, action.


Economists See Budget Cuts Putting The Recovery At Risk

Feb 27, 2013
Originally published on February 28, 2013 4:52 pm

Getting economists to agree with each other isn't easy. But Congress and the White House have managed to unite them.

More than 95 percent of top U.S. economists believe growth is "likely to be negatively affected" by the automatic federal spending cuts that are scheduled to kick in Friday, according to the latest survey by the National Association for Business Economics.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke joined the economists' chorus Tuesday, telling Congress that the spending cuts' harm will be "significant," with "adverse effects on jobs and incomes."

Americans nodded in agreement. A poll by the Pew Research Center and The Washington Post finds that by a margin of 62 percent to 18 percent, people think the sequester will have a mostly negative impact on the economy.

This nearly universal disdain is being directed at the blunt budget ax known as sequestration. Unless Congress takes action, across-the-board cuts, effective Friday, will chop $85 billion in federal spending over the seven months remaining in this fiscal year. Half the cuts must come from the military and half from "discretionary" domestic programs, such as those involving medical research and border patrol.

But while economists are clear that sequestration will cost jobs and depress growth, they differ over how long the harm will persist, and how deep the damage will be.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office offered a typical assessment, estimating that the cuts will knock 0.6 percentage point off the annual growth rate and cut 750,000 jobs by year's end.

In the NABE poll, most economists agreed with that ballpark estimate, figuring sequester will shave roughly a half-percentage point (or maybe a little less) from this year's gross domestic product. In other words, instead of growing at a rate of, say, 2.9 percent in 2013, the GDP might expand at only 2.4 percent. That's enough to retard job growth, but not to derail the recovery.

But some economists are much more worried. In the NABE survey, a third of economists see more harm coming than the CBO does, and 13 percent fear growth could be cut drastically — by more than a full percentage point. Given that in 2012, the U.S. economy grew just 2.2 percent, losing a full percentage point could put the economy on track for another recession.

Some conservative economists, however, have a more sanguine outlook. While agreeing that growth will take a brief hit, they say it's better to cut spending now — even if with an ax — rather than do nothing as federal borrowing grows to unsustainable levels.

Besides, in a $16 trillion economy, the budget cuts would sting for a bit but "would not amount to a lot, especially since the private sector appears to be picking up more steam," Gary Becker, a conservative economics professor at the University of Chicago, wrote on his economics blog.

No matter how things turn out in the long run, this much is clear: Friday could be a depressing day for people who earn their living with the help of government funds. Threatened workers would have to start bracing themselves and reducing personal spending — even if it takes a few weeks for the sequester cuts to make their way through the funding pipeline to finally smack them.

In general, economists are concerned about four big areas of impact:

The Military

Half of the coming cuts, roughly $45 billion in this fiscal year, are concentrated in the defense sector and aimed at private contractors, such as those involved in replacing the aged aerial-refueling tankers or maintaining ships. Last week, the Pentagon notified Congress that it may have to furlough some 800,000 civilian employees, asking them to take a 20 percent pay cut — by staying home one day a week without pay through this fiscal year.


At a media briefing, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he would institute unpaid furloughs for air traffic controllers, which could cause "delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours" at major airports. Also, the Transportation Department would have to shutter more than 100 air traffic control towers. Disruptions at popular destinations might also depress travel. Just one example: workers at Yosemite National Park will have to put off plowing snow from the road leading into the park, leaving many visitors stranded until the snow melts.

Local Government

Many jobs related to law enforcement and emergency response rely on federal funding. For example, the Federal Emergency Management Agency would cut grant funding that supports firefighter positions and emergency-management personnel. About 1,000 FBI agents and hundreds of federal prosecutors also could lose jobs or be ordered to take unpaid furloughs, which could undermine local crime-fighting efforts. Title I education funds also would be cut for more than 2,700 schools, putting the jobs of about 10,000 teachers and aides at risk.

Consumer Confidence

The coming job cuts and unpaid furloughs could reduce consumer spending at a time when many people already are feeling squeezed by higher payroll taxes and gas prices. In a written assessment of the latest consumer data, Chris Christopher, director of consumer economics for IHS Global Insight, said rising confidence could quickly reverse. "Rising gasoline prices and the sequester are on many households' radar screens," he said.

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