2006, alphabetized

December 31, 2006

Anbar -- More than a third of all Americans killed in action have died in this oil-free Sunni province in western Iraq. The U.S. has been trying with little success to bring Anbar into the political fold. Now it's considering a switch in strategy: siding with Shiites from elsewhere in the country who want to subdue the Sunnis instead.

Bonuses -- The $24 billion or more in pay sweeteners that Wall Street is handing out at year's end exceeds the Gross Domestic Product of at least 91 nations. Defenders say the rewards are in keeping with the big risks involved in finance. It's interesting that the risk-takers all found a way to be winners.

Charles County -- Democrats did well all over in 2006, but their ability to recapture this Southern Maryland county is a measure of the demographic changes that are sweeping the Washington exurbs. This could redraw the landscape of Maryland life and politics.

FOR THE RECORD - An editorial in Sunday's paper should have said that the Bush administration intends to designate polar bears as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The editorial also misidentified the company commonly known as Utech; it is Union Technologies Inc. The Sun regrets the errors.

Doughnut hole -- Subscribers to the Medicare prescription drug program found a great gap in coverage waiting for them in September. Critics thought it would be the undoing of the nightmarishly complicated new benefit. But eligible retirees are soldiering on, researching scores of competing drug plan offerings for 2007 -- with the deadline for new sign-ups looming at midnight.

Electricity --The overloaded debacle over deregulation and rising BGE electricity rates tripped a major deal breaker for Constellation Energy. The planned merger with FPL Group short-circuited and customers in Central Maryland had their rate increase deferred until after the November election. The long-term meaning of it all? That's for 2007 to decide.

Fission -- Iran stubbornly maintains that its nuclear program is for power plants, not bombs; virtually no one believes this. North Korea makes no such claims. Its objective is to build bombs. It even detonated one -- or tried to. The test may have been a dud. Do the world's major countries have the will or desire to do anything about it? The tepid sanctions imposed on Iran by the United Nations suggest they don't.

General Motors --It's in better shape than Ford, but it shed 35,000 workers and is stuck in a financial crisis. Next year it will slip behind Toyota as the world's largest carmaker.

Hanging -- The executioner tied his noose for Saddam Hussein. It all seems a long time ago, doesn't it?

Intestinal bleeding -- Speaking of a long time, Fidel Castro stepped aside after 47 years to go under the surgeon's knife, and the betting is that he won't be stepping back into power. Brother Raul has Cuba under control. For now.

Janjaweed -- Horse-mounted militiamen continued for the fourth year to scourge the countryside of Darfur, emptying villages and attacking food aid convoys. Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir dickered over whether to accept the help of United Nations peacekeepers. Cease-fire negotiations are still in progress.

Kitchen -- With trans fats banned in the Big Apple and food-borne illnesses from contaminated produce threatening the land, there's a whole new meaning to creating a "killer kitchen."

Lame duck -- Disabled poultry littered the national political landscape as voters gave the boot to Republicans across the board. House Speaker Dennis Hastert withdrew to the back benches; Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist abandoned presidential ambitions and hobbled back to Tennessee. President Bush faces two years of Democrats controlling Congress with just enough of a margin to make his life miserable.

Most foul -- Murder's on the rise and not only in the usual places. Count Harford County and the city of Annapolis among the jurisdictions where killing has increased beyond last year's body count. Oh, yes, Baltimore, too. It's a national trend that defies easy explanation.

Newspapers -- Print suddenly seemed very old-fashioned, and decidedly unfashionable. Newspapers, inconveniently, still make lots of money, but in the Internet age the idea of making money with an actual product is embarrassingly out of date.

Oversight -- It was an all-but-abandoned practice of Congress: monitoring executive department agencies to review their performance. It is expected to gain new life with a Democratic-run legislative branch. (See lame duck above.)

Polonium 210 -- Critics of the Kremlin got into the habit of dying in untimely fashion. A reporter was shot in her Moscow apartment house, and, more exotically, a renegade KGB agent was done in by slow-acting poison in London. Then radioactive traces started turning up all over the city. The Brits were not amused -- except those who work for the tabloids.

Que pasa -- Suddenly, immigration from south of the border became the threat that millions of Americans wanted to worry about. Is America about to become Hispanicized? Not hardly. Does the country do a bad job of overseeing and regulating immigration? Absolutamente.

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