For those who have everything
June 7, 2012

Some people find HBO's sprawling fantasy epic Game of Thrones convoluted to a baffling degree. Others, presumably, are such fans that they'll plunk down 30 grand for a full-scale replica of the eponymous Iron Throne ($31,800, including shipping). Made of what HBO calls "hand-finished, hand-painted fiberglass and fire-proof resin" — not 1,000 swords from vanquished foes, as in the show — the throne is more than 7 feet tall and weighs 350 pounds. "It might not match your living room decor," says Mike Wehner at Tecca, but you can always redecorate. The Week Staff

fowl language
10:56 a.m. ET

You might want to skip getting your true love a partridge or a pair of turtle doves this season if you don't want to break the bank: This year's "12 Days of Christmas" price index, which totals the cost of all the items named in the song, is the most expensive yet. Oddly, the birds are to blame for the .6 percent price increase from 2014, while items like gold rings didn't change in cost (a surprise to economists, who saw the value of gold dip this year).

The cost of partridges rose an entire 25 percent over 2014 due to the bird's "growing popularity as a gourmet food and in backyard farming," according to PNC Wealth Management, who produces the list. A partridge, then, will run you about $25 — the pear tree you stick it in costs $189.99, only a 1.2 percent increase over last year by comparison. The price of turtle doves was additionally up 11.5 percent due to increased grain prices, costing $290 for the pair.

This year, the cost of all the items named in the "12 Days of Christmas" would total $34,130.99, up from $33,933.22 in 2014. Online purchases of the items in 2015 would be higher, at $43,626.73 once it's all said and done. Jeva Lange

Your tax dollars at work
10:44 a.m. ET
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Following in the annual tradition of former Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, current Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford has released a list of 100 "federal fumbles" — questionable and sometimes comical spending decisions made by the government this year.

The football-themed report targets expenses like a silent production of Shakespeare, energy-efficient dishwashers that used so little water they had to run two cycles to work, llama showcasing regulations, and marketing for raisins. Headlining the list is the $43 million spent on a single gas station in Afghanistan, an expenditure which was lambasted in a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction in November.

"Cited here are not only prime examples of wasteful spending, but also federal departments or agencies that regulate outside the scope of the federal government's constitutional role," Lankford wrote in the introduction. "I firmly believe my staff and I have the obligation to solve the troubles of our nation, not just complain, which is why for every problem identified, you will also find a recommended solution." Bonnie Kristian

Box office report
10:36 a.m. ET

If Forbes' "Hollywood's Biggest Turkeys of 2015" list is any indication, not even an A-list star can guarantee a movie will make money at the box office.

The year's biggest financial flop was Bill Murray's Rock the Kasbah, which features Murray as a "washed-up tour manager [who] finds himself in Kabul trying to turn a young Afghani woman into a TV singing competition winner." The film grossed $2.9 million on an estimated $15 million budget — meaning it made back only 19 percent of the money that it cost to produce.

Murray was far from the only A-lister with a flop on his hands this year. Sean Penn's The Gunman ranks second-least profitable, with only a 27 percent return rate. Also on the list are Chris Hemsworth's Blackhat, Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone's Aloha, and Johnny Depp's Mortdecai:

1. Rock the Kasbah (19 percent return)
2. The Gunman (27 percent)
3. Blackhat (28 percent)
4. Unfinished Business (41 percent)
5. Jem and the Holograms (46 percent)
6. Self/Less (47 percent)
7. American Ultra (55 percent)
8. We Are Your Friends (60 percent)
9. Aloha (71 percent)
10. Mortdecai (79 percent)
11. Pan (80 percent)
12. Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (94 percent)
13. Jupiter Ascending (104 percent)
14. Tomorrowland (110 percent)
15. Crimson Peak (114 percent)


These 15 flops aside, 2015 has been a really good year for box office sales. Forbes reports that this year's sales are projected to hit record levels and top $11 billion for the first time in industry history. According to IMDb's estimates, the year's number-one earning movie was Jurassic World, which raked in a whopping $652 million — nearly 225 times Rock the Kasbah's earnings. Becca Stanek

10:21 a.m. ET
TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

A bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives is expected to pass a bill this week repealing key elements of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the Bush-era education program that has been widely criticized for its transfer of educational authority to the federal government and emphasis on standardized testing.

The new bill is called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and it will continue standardized testing but return significant discretion in these programs to the states. The federal government will also be completely removed from the teacher evaluation process, in contrast with the NCLB waiver program.

ESSA has been endorsed by the National Governor's Association, and it is anticipated to pass in the Senate and win the president's signature by the end of 2015. See more details of what the bill will entail here. Bonnie Kristian

refugee crisis
9:49 a.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Following up a strategic visit to a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, Ben Carson blasted Syria's Arab neighbors for their failure to accept and provide for the massive displaced populations flowing over their borders. "The media has focused on Europe and the United States' willingness or unwillingness to welcome these refugees. This focus is all wrong. The solution to the Syrian refugee crisis is with Syria's neighbors," Carson wrote in an op-ed for The Hill.

Syrian refugee resettlement should be concentrated in Arab countries, which are in the best position to help. The rich Persian Gulf states — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and United Arab Emirates — have the resources to provide services that refugees require. With no language barrier and no religious or cultural gaps to overcome, refugees can find new and fulfilling lives with only enough support to make the transition. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other refugee aid organizations can best use their resources to train these Gulf states to provide housing and social services effectively. [The Hill]

Experts on the refugee crisis disagree with Carson's assessment of the situation, however. Speaking with Reuters, Melanie Nezer, a policy director at the Jewish nonprofit agency HIAS, explained that the neighboring nations of Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan have already taken in massive amounts of refugees; one in every four people in Lebanon, for example, is a refugee.

"They can't absorb all these people and they really need help from the rest of the world. We can't just say to these countries that the burden is completely on them," Nezer said. "I could watch brain surgery for a day or two; that doesn't make me a brain surgeon. You cannot get an appreciation for the scale of this crisis and the global implications of it by spending a day or two talking to a few refugees in one location." Jeva Lange

Blank space
9:37 a.m. ET

When Tuesday's edition of the International New York Times hit newsstands in Thailand, a front-page story on the country's economy was nowhere to be seen. In place of the article "Thai economy and spirits are sagging" was a blank white space. Page six — where the article was intended to continue — bore this message: "The article in this space was removed by our printer in Thailand. The International New York Times and its editorial staff had no role in its removal."

The cover story reported that "Thailand is in a rut," with its households "among the most indebted in Asia," property crimes up 60 percent in the last year, and the public dissatisfied with the unelected leaders ruling the military junta-led country. "No one feels like smiling anymore," one merchant told The New York Times. "Life is so stressful. I don't know how to explain it, but it feels like nothing is working in Thailand anymore."

In Thailand, it is against the law to "criticize, defame, or insult members of the royal family," and dissenters can face jail sentences of up to 15 years on each count, The Guardian reports. The article's removal marks the second time this fall that the paper's local Thai printer blocked an article. The Sept. 22 Asia edition of the International New York Times was only partially published because it featured an article about Thailand's king's declining health. Becca Stanek

Ted talks
8:40 a.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

In a Monday interview with conservative radio show host Hugh Hewitt, Texas senator and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz doubled down on his claims that Planned Parenthood shooting suspect Robert Dear is not part of the anti-abortion movement. "Now, listen, here's the simple and undeniable fact: the overwhelming majority of violent criminals are Democrats. The media doesn't report that," Cruz said, after agreeing with Hewitt that he had never met a "single pro-life activist who is in favor of violence of any sort."

"And I would note that this whole episode has really displayed the ugly underbelly of the media," Cruz continued. "You know, every time you have some sort of violent crime or mass killing, you can almost see the media salivating hoping, hoping desperately that the murderer happens to be a Republican so they can use it to try to paint their political enemies." At a Sunday campaign stop, Cruz said Dear might be "a transgendered leftist activist."

A request by Politico for the senator's "source of information on the political affiliations of criminals" was not returned. Becca Stanek

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