This New Year could mean a new cost for the craft store chain Hobby Lobby. The federal health care law requires employee insurance plans to cover emergency contraceptives. Hobby Lobby's owners did not want to do that. They say drugs commonly known by names like the morning-after pill are tantamount to abortion.
Now, the Supreme Court has turned aside Hobby Lobby's request to block the mandate. So, starting today, the company could be fined as much as $1.3 million per day for defying the law.
Michigan's Lake Superior State University issued its annual list of annoying expressions to banish. The list includes: trending, bucket list, kick the can down the road and spoiler alert. The top one to ban: fiscal cliff.
Democracy sure works in mysterious ways. In Seguin, Texas, a December city council election ended in a dead tie. Both candidates received 141 votes. So it was up to the mayor to settle things. The law gave him some options: drawing straws or tossing dice. He chose an old coin toss. The silver dollar landed, it was tails, and immediately Jeannette Crabb was sworn into a four-year term. She's coming to office with quite a mandate.
The past year has seen more debate about the best way to find breast cancers.
A recent analysis concluded that regular mammograms haven't reduced the rate of advanced breast cancers — but they have led more than a million women to be diagnosed with tumors that didn't need to be treated.
It has been a busy year in Mexico's war on drugs. The administration of former President Felipe Calderon struck major blows to the country's largest cartels, slowing the violence that has claimed more than 50,000 lives.
But the new president, Enrique Pena Nieto, says he'll change tactics. He wants to go after the crime associated with drug trafficking instead of taking down crime bosses. His new attorney general says this is the right strategy, since the number of crime gangs working in the country has grown significantly.
Every year, banks handle tens of millions of transactions. Some of them involve drug money, or deals with companies doing secret business with countries like Iran and Syria, in defiance of trade sanctions.
But if the Justice Department has its way, banks will be forced to change — to spot illegal transactions and blow the whistle before any money changes hands.
Federal prosecutors have already collected more than $4.5 billion from some of the world's biggest financial institutions — banks charged with looking the other way when dirty money passed through their accounts.
Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider announced the discovery of the Higgs boson on July 4, the long-sought building block of the universe. This image shows a computer-simulation of data from the collider.
It's a year-end tradition to cobble together a list of the most important advances in science. But, truth be told, many ideas that change the world don't tend to spring from these flashy moments of discovery. Our view of nature — and our technology — often evolve from a sequence of more subtle advances.
Even so, chances are good that this year's list-makers will choose the discovery of the Higgs boson as the most important discovery of 2012.
2012 will go down as a year of orchestral turmoil in the U.S.: Strikes, lockouts and bankruptcies erupted time and again as once seemingly untouchable institutions struggled financially.
There's been particularly little seasonal cheer in Minnesota's orchestral community. Protests erupted after management at the Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra each locked out their musicians, after the musicians had rejected contracts that cut their salaries by tens of thousands of dollars and reduced the size of the orchestras.