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.
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.
Real estate -- Hot or cold, the news was bad. The stalled market may fuel the next recession -- or uncontrolled growth may ruin Maryland's quality of life. Name your poison.
Summer war -- The kidnapping of Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah militiamen morphed into a summer air and ground war in Lebanon, which devastated swaths of the country and destabilized the Western-backed government in Beirut. A cease-fire ended hostilities, but democracy proponents are engaged now in a political tug of war with Islamic supporters of the Party of God over the country's future. Stay tuned.
Takeover -- A precipitous move by the state to take more responsibility for 11 poorly performing Baltimore schools was supported by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., but put on hold by the General Assembly. The state backed off, though many of the problems remain. What will Martin O'Malley do, now that he's moving from City Hall to the Governor's Mansion? And can he and Nancy Grasmick, the state superintendent, learn to get along?
Utech -- An indictment against the president of United Technologies Inc., a minority subcontractor that employed the sister of City Council President Sheila Dixon, won't end the speculation about a state investigation of the mayor-to-be. The upcoming trial of Mildred E. Boyer on theft, tax and other charges may just prolong questions about Ms. Dixon's earlier defense of the firm and her oversight of a City Council computer contract.
Vice President -- Where is that secret, undisclosed location? Who was on the energy task force? How did you talk the president into invading Iraq? Questions for Dick Cheney abound. But lawyers for former aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby will actually get to put the vice president on the witness stand as part of Mr. Libby's defense on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with a leak of a former CIA agent's identity.
Watery -- The signs aren't good for polar bears, which depend on a shrinking supply of sea ice. The Bush administration's bid last week to put them on the Endangered Species List was a rare acknowledgement that the world is in the throes of climate change -- if not necessarily of the contributing role that scientists believe is played by carbon dioxide emissions from cars and smokestacks.
Xmarks the spot -- Osama bin Laden may be dead or alive, but he still hasn't been brought to justice, frontier-style or any other style.
YouTube -- Google's purchase of this popular Web site for $1.6 billion demonstrated the value of playing around with a home video camera. With a sale price of $580 million, the collection of personal ads and random thoughts known as MySpace was pretty eye-opening, too.
Zapped -- That's how Maryland Republicans are feeling. With the departure of a whole generation of Democratic heavyweights in top statewide posts, 2006 could have been a historic opportunity for the GOP. Instead, it's Ben Cardin, Martin O'Malley and a lot of fellow Democrats for the foreseeable future.