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.


In Wal-Mart's Earnings Report, A Lesson On The Tax Code

Feb 21, 2013

The New York Times points out something rather interesting about an otherwise mundane business story. Wal-Mart's fourth-quarter earnings report tells the tale of how changes in the tax code has both helped corporations and hurt them.

As the Times puts it, during the fourth quarter of last year, "the tax code gave and the tax code took away."

The paper explains:

"The company reported higher-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings on Thursday of $1.67 a share, up from $1.51 a share a year ago, largely because of tax credits that brought its corporate tax rate lower than usual.

"But the recent payroll-tax increase and an Internal Revenue Service delay in processing tax returns hit consumers, and that affected the holiday period and sales in February. For the fiscal fourth quarter, which ended Jan. 31, sales at stores open at least a year rose 1 percent at Wal-Mart stores in the United States; analysts had expected a 1.7 percent increase."

The earnings report today adds a bit of context to the internal emails published by Bloomberg last week.

In them company executives worried about early February sales which Jerry Murray, Wal-Mart's vice president of finance and logistics, said were "a total disaster."

In another email Cameron Geiger, senior vice president of Wal-Mart U.S. Replenishment, wonders, "Where are all the customers? And where's their money?"

The official word from the earnings report, this morning, was less dire.

According to CNN Money, Wal-Mart U.S. CEO Bill Simon told investors that the company was well aware that that payroll-tax increase was affecting its customers.

"Customers know about it and are adjusting," he said. "We don't have a clear vision of how they'll continue to behave throughout the year."

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