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January 3, 2013

From NASCAR to rum, the 10 weirdest parts of the 'fiscal cliff' bill

(Continued)

But the production tax credit isn't just for renewable energy sources like wind. There's also a provision, section 406, to continue subsidizing coal produced on Indian lands at about $2 per ton. Again, this isn't new. Nor is it a huge deal (it will only cost about $1 million). But it's a reminder that not all of the clean-energy provisions in the bill are entirely green.

6. Promote plug-in electric scooters.

For years, Congress has been trying to promote electric cars through various tax breaks and subsidies. But what about electric bikes and scooters? Section 403 of the bill extends a credit for "2- or 3-wheeled plug-in electric vehicles." Yes, these things do exist: The Observer recently reported that e-bikes have become ubiquitous in New York City, used for everything from Chinese food deliveries to expensive joyrides. Only problem? They might well be illegal to ride in New York, although the rules here are awfully confusing.

7. Repair the railroads

Section 306 of the fiscal cliff bill will extend a hefty tax credit to railroads for maintenance work. Congress originally passed this credit because there was a worry that many of the hundreds of "short line railroads" would abandon their small sections of track, which would in turn fracture the national shipping network. This credit costs about $165 million per year and will survive another year.

8. Subsidize Hollywood films

The fiscal cliff bill renews "special expensing rules for certain film and television productions," at a cost of some $75 million per year. Studios in Hollywood and elsewhere can deduct up to $15 million of their costs if more than three-fourths of the movie's production takes place in the United States. (They can get up to $20 million in deductions if they produce the film in a low-income community.)

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  • Why a see-through mouse is a big deal for scientists

    A group of Caltech researchers announced in Cell Thursday their success in making an entire organism transparent. Unfortunately, this isn't any kind of "Invisible Man" scenario: The organism in question is a mouse, and the mouse in question is quite dead.

    July 31, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 2.12.55 PM.png VIDEO: Five-year-old doesn't want her brother to grow up

    Sadie, an adorable 5-year-old from Phoenix, wants her brother to stay young forever, so much so that her emotional reaction to the thought of him getting older has drawn more than 10 million views on YouTube.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

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    What seems to be a data entry mistake by a small town police department in western New York has turned into a social media firestorm centered around the word "negro" and whether it's acceptable to use in modern society.

    July 31, 2014 3 Photos

  • The virtues of lying

    Two computational scientists set out recently to simulate the effects of lying in a virtual human population. Their results, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, show that lying is essential for the growth of a cohesive social network.

    July 31, 2014

  • Sunburn isn't the only sign of summer that can leave you itchy and blistered

    You've got a rash. You quickly rule out the usual suspects: You haven't been gardening or hiking or even picnicking, so it's probably not a plant irritant such as poison ivy or wild parsnip; likewise, it's probably not chiggers or ticks carrying Lyme disease; and you haven't been swimming in a pond, which can harbor the parasite that causes swimmer's itch.

    July 30, 2014

  • Survey results in legislation to battle sexual assault on campus

    Missouri U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill joined a bipartisan group of senators Wednesday to announce legislation that aims to reduce the number of sexual assaults on college campuses.

    July 30, 2014

  • An alarming threat to airlines that no one's talking about

    It's been an abysmal year for the flying public. Planes have crashed in bad weather, disappeared over the Indian Ocean and tragically crossed paths with anti-aircraft missiles over Ukraine.

    July 30, 2014

  • Sharknado.jpg Sharknado 2 set to attack viewers tonight

    In the face of another "Sharknado" TV movie (the even-more-inane "Sharknado 2: The Second One," premiering Wednesday night on Syfy), there isn't much for a critic to say except to echo what the characters themselves so frequently scream when confronted by a great white shark spinning toward them in a funnel cloud:
    "LOOK OUT!!"

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • 20140729-AMX-GIVHAN292.jpg Spanx stretches into new territory with jeans, but promised magic is elusive

    The Spanx empire of stomach-flattening, thigh-slimming, jiggle-reducing foundation garments has expanded to include what the brand promises is the mother of all body-shaping miracles: Spanx jeans.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Medical marijuana opponents' most powerful argument is at odds with a mountain of research

    Opponents of marijuana legalization are rapidly losing the battle for hearts and minds. Simply put, the public understands that however you measure the consequences of marijuana use, the drug is significantly less harmful to users and society than tobacco or alcohol.

    July 29, 2014

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