Elizabeth Smart's New Mission

Last month Elizabeth Smart stared defiantly into the face of her kidnapper for the first time in nearly a decade, telling him, “I want you to know that I have a wonderful life now.” And so she does.

Pyramid of Profiteers

What was David Sokol thinking? The Berkshire Hathaway golden boy shocked the business world last month after he came under scrutiny for possible insider trading. He's hardly alone.

Jon Huntsman's 2012 Campaign Conundrum

Does moderate Jon Huntsman, who’s resigning as Obama’s ambassador to China to mount a bid to take on his boss in 2012, really believe he can win the GOP nomination? McKay Coppins on why the answer appears to be yes.

Florida School Vouchers Take a Makeup Test

Four new GOP governors have backed voucher programs, including three that also have Republican majorities in their legislatures. The most intriguing reforms are in Florida, where Gov. Rick Scott is the first to propose making vouchers available to all students, not just those in low-income areas.

The Hidden World of Corporate Subsidies

Transparency and job creation receive great gusts of political lip service. Just not at the same time. Programs for job creation—each state’s unique mix of tax breaks and other inducements to new business—are among the least transparent parts of state government, according to a recent report by Good Jobs First. The D.C.-based watchdog looked at economic-development efforts in all 50 states, a total of 245 initiatives worth more than $10 billion. What it found would make an open-government activist cringe: most states fail to disclose the details of at least one key subsidy program—and 13 states are entirely dark on the subject. That prevents people from evaluating corporate-welfare programs, even as politicians tout their benefits.

The Manchurian Candidate

The Huntsmans’ new home in the posh D.C. neighborhood of Kalorama is the prototype of pricey Washington real estate: a tall, boxy structure defined by red brick and right angles. Last spring, Bravo used the space to film its reality show "Top Chef: Washington, D.C."

A Way to Keep Miners Safe in West Virginia

When a mine collapses, it’s often silence that kills. After the 2006 Sago explosion, for example, rescuers blindly probed the earth as 13 West Virginia miners hammered a ceiling bolt for help. All but one suffocated. In response, Congress required coal mines to install wireless communication systems. But that has proved to be a tricky mandate: explosions can result when high-voltage electricity—the kind needed to power through thousands of feet of rock—connects with methane, and traditional routers need line-of-sight contact (rare in a mine).

Do Bureaucrats Make Too Much Money?

Civil servants have emerged as political bogeymen, scorned for their supposedly outsize compensation packages. In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie wants to cap their raises at less than 3 percent, while New York Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo warns that current pay levels are “unsustainable.” Support for state workers is perhaps weakest in California, where they were furloughed this year so the state could save about 15 percent in salaries. According to a new study, however, the wisdom of such policies may be lacking: the lowly government employee, it seems, is a pretty good deal.

North Carolina Tries 'Instant Runoff Voting'

The logic of general elections is simple: winner takes all. This, of course, can encourage nasty campaigning—and at the end of a race with more than two candidates, the victor often wins with only a plurality (not a majority) of support. Searching for a solution, a handful of cities have experimented with an alternative approach: instant run-off voting, in which voters rank candidates in order of preference. If no one receives more than half of the first-place votes, a winner is picked by tallying second and third choices. (You may not get your first pick, but chances are the winner won’t be your worst nightmare.)

Managers Are Hard to Find, Even Amid Unemployment

A good boss is hard to find. Make that very hard, according to the annual Manpower labor survey, which listed “executive/management” slots among the five hardest positions to fill in 2009, even as unemployment topped 10 percent. Now, with an estimated 10 million baby boomers eligible to retire by the end of the year, economists seem more worried than ever about an impending “corporate-leadership crisis.” Theories abound to explain the workplace phenomenon, but Stanford business professor Jeffrey Pfeffer may have cracked the case by observing his students. “The problem,” says Pfeffer, author of the new book Power: Why Some People Have It—and Others Don’t, “is that ambition has become unfashionable in the younger segment of the workforce.” Whereas motivated young professionals used to slug it out for coveted pro-motions, many of today’s B-school graduates find such interoffice competition uncouth. Famously team--oriented, millennials would rather collaborate with their co--workers...

Connecticut's Corporate Tax Breaks Hinder Hiring

Every year, dozens of governors, particularly Republicans, win plaudits for curbing business taxes and state expenditures. The Cato Institute, for instance, recently gave A’s and B’s to those (Rick Perry, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty) who have supported “spending cuts and pro-growth tax cuts.”

Georgia's Model Jobs Program

Unemployment means, on average, at least 20 weeks of unreturned phone calls and e-mails to nowhere. In Georgia, however, there’s an important difference: the search is more than a month shorter. That’s thanks to Georgia Work$, a novel jobs program that offers people a subsidized shot at self-reinvention.

Waterworks Get Failing Grade From Civil Engineers

On Labor Day, president Obama announced plans to upgrade “roads and rails and runways.” But according to a new report by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), another class of infrastructure is in more desperate shape: waterworks. National drinking and wastewater systems earned a D-minus in the group’s annual report card, the lowest grade in their analysis—and among the most troubling. Each year, according to the report, as much as 10 billion gallons of sewage flow through America’s taps; more than 19 million people are sickened. And every day, thousands of miles of old pipes—some made of wood or terra cotta—leak more water than people actually drink, resulting in sinkholes and floods.

Oklahoma's Smart Job-Creation Strategy

During the ’30s, waves of Oklahomans moved to California to flee the Dust Bowl and find work. Now the exodus has reversed. Each year since 2000, Oklahoma has added several thousand net migrants from California, making the Golden State the primary pipeline for new Sooners; the flow is a big part of the reason that Oklahoma ranked eighth nationally in net migration last year. In the past two decades, Oklahoma has added about 600 new companies or divisions, including part of Boeing, which last month moved 550 jobs from Long Beach, Calif., to Oklahoma City.

The Most Notorious Bloggers

The Internet gave birth to a new type of rabble-rousing big mouth: the blogger. The most successful writers to harness this medium have been the ones to realize the Internet’s unique power to tick people off. Here are some of the more notorious (and often successful) in the business.

Illinois: Deficits Tied to Lawmakers' Salaries?

The recession has been blamed for a series of record state budget shortfalls. But perhaps there’s another factor at work: overpaid lawmakers. A new Illinois Policy Institute study finds that the deficits in the 10 states that pay their legislators the most are 12 percent higher than the deficits in the 10 stingiest states.

Spies Among Us: Modern-Day Espionage

Long after the Cold War’s end, nations still send secret agents across borders. But corporations, terrorists, and private investigators are also part of the sleuthing underground.

How to Reduce Emergency-Room Wait Times

The American health-care industry is often accused of placing profits over people’s care. But the profit motive may help alleviate at least one perennial issue: slow service in the emergency room. Patients sit for an average of 37 minutes—twice the federally recommended goal—before seeing a physician, according to a 2009 report by the Government Accountability Office. But while most industry experts predict longer delays as millions of newly insured people join the market, some hospitals are solving the problem—slashing wait times in an effort to win the new business.

The Vanishing 9-to-5 Job

The workplace is a vastly different environment than it was just 10 years ago. A look at how the recession is accelerating a cultural shift in the corporate world toward more flexible workdays.

The Tea Party's Missed Opportunity in Utah

With two Tea Party candidates competing for the Republican Senate nomination in Utah last night, the movement was bound to notch another victory. But it also lost an opportunity to talk about how activists would govern.

Will Utah Republicans Play Dirty Today?

Something rotten in Utah? Rumors are swirling that Republican voters may crash the Democrats' "open primary" today to nominate an unelectable candidate. Will it happen?