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Everything you need to know about the ‘fiscal cliff’

(Updated November 8, 2012)

Now that the election is over — everyone’s attention has turned to impending fiscal cliff. It’s a term seeped into the national psyche — the “fiscal cliff” is debated, interrogated, and endlessly hyped in the media. But most of us are still asking: What is it, exactly?

Recently Need to Know convened a panel of experts on the topics of federal budgets, entitlements — such as social security and medicare — and economics to gauge their opinions on these complex issues. And we followed that up with a pre-election analysis on the consequences for country after November 6.

Check out that coverage but before you watch, here’s a primer on the “fiscal cliff.”
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Learning to vote all over again

At the Open Door Senior Center in Manhattan, voters learned the paper ballot method. Photo: Nicole Kenney

New York City has new voting machines. Voters, long accustomed to the 1960s mechanical booths — which made a satisfying thunk as votes were cast — were suddenly confronting shiny new optical scanners and paper ballots on Primary Day in September.

But this transition was far from seamless. Many locations opened hours late, poll workers didn’t know how to use the scanners and there were some ballot irregularities. Last week, likely in response to this debacle, the executive director of New York City’s Board of Elections was fired.

Ever since, the Board of Elections has embarked on an outreach program, demonstrating the new equipment to nearly 530 senior centers, churches and community groups across the city.
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When it comes to carbon, Gibraltar’s got some big feet

Who knew? The tiny British territory of Gibraltar is a climate terror. According to a graphic posted by Miller-McCune last week, Gibraltarians are caught between their rock and a hard place when it comes to CO2 emissions per capita.

Looking at total carbon emissions per nation, there aren’t a lot of surprises — China tops the list, followed by the United States. India, Russia and Japan all run close behind. Asia, Europe and North America are the worst regional offenders.

However, when you start breaking it down by population, a different story emerges. Divided up by China’s 1.3 million people, the country’s carbon footprint shrinks right down to a pretty modest level. Even the U.S. takes on a relative semblance of climate respectability. It’s the greenhouse gas-guzzling Gibraltar that leads the pack, along with the U.S. Virgin Islands and Qatar. Generally, countries that require lots of imports have higher CO2 numbers.

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Hitting the books in Virginia

In this week’s “Karr on Culture” podcast, NTK contributor Rick Karr talks to NPR librarian Kee Malesky about the hazards of research in the age of Google. Case in point: A history textbook used by Virginia fourth-graders is at the center of a growing controversy after its author, Joy Masloff, admitted to finding some of the disputed information in her book on the Internet.

Our Virginia: Past and Present” claims that “thousands of Southern blacks fought in the Confederate ranks” – an assertion that many historians reject flat out as a strand of revisionist Confederate history. When The Washington Post investigated the author’s supporting materials, all three of the Web pages were found to have been authored by the Sons of the Confederate Veterans – a group that is dedicated to recasting the Civil War as the “second American Revolution.”

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The university of the web

Students are settling back into college campuses all over country: receiving syllabi, cracking reading lists and (hopefully) attending class. But what about the rest of us? For those inclined to feel nostalgic about this fall ritual, the Interwebs has a solution: In fact, it’s now possible to virtually audit classes all over the country at a fraction of the cost — or really, none of the cost.

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