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What the Iraq mess means for oil

Hint: It's not good.
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Oil in Iraq. Yeah, it's complicated. (Essam Al-Sudani/AFP/Getty Images)
If it sat on the self-help shelf, a book describing the current spike in oil prices might be called “When Good Things Happen to Bad People.”

US Economy: My county, 'tis of thee

Like politics, economics is all local.
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New homes under construction at a housing development in Gilbert, Ariz., are seen in this photo on March 6, 2013. In 2008, Phoenix was at the forefront of the United States housing crisis, but now the city is now undergoing a housing boom as sale prices have surged 22.9 percent, the highest price increase in the nation. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

BOSTON — Sure, in 2013 the US economy continued to bounce back from the Great Recession.

Here are three key stats that prove the thesis:

US gross domestic product surged 4.1 percent in the third quarter.

The unemployment rate fell below 7 percent in December (it now stands at 6.7 percent).

Housing prices in the US rose 12.5 percent in the third quarter from the previous year.

But can you spot the problem in these three happy figures?

Answer: they're all national numbers that don't tell the whole story.

In fact, these reports can hide what's happening in the economies of one particular region, state, or even county.

That's the big takeaway from an interesting report released Monday by the National Association of Counties.

Economics — like politics — is definitely local.

About half of America's 3,069 economies have still failed to recover from pre-recession levels, according to the Country Tracker 2013 report.

In it, the association — which promotes economic development and policy at the nation's county level — examined the key drivers of the world's largest economy: GDP, total jobs created, the unemployment rate and housing prices.

At every turn it found overall improvement, but wide discrepancies at the local level.

Here's how the Wall Street Journal's Real Time Economics blog put it:


Sriracha hot sauce factory in California told to take breather

Irwindale factory that produces the wildly popular hot sauce ordered to partially close down due to spicy emissions.
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Bottles of Sriracha chili sauce are displayed inside a supermarket in Rosemead, California, on October 31, 2013. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
A spicy red condiment made newly trendy by pop culture may face a threat to its continued production in California: irate neighbors.

Libyan MP says she needed handbag grenade for 'self-defense'

Libyan MP Souad Soltan was caught with a grenade in her pocket as she entered Tripoli's city hall on Nov. 21.
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These are not toys, but live hand grenades seized by police in Colombia on October 28, 2011. (LUIS ROBAYO/AFP/Getty Images)

A Libyan parliament member was caught with a decidedly unusual item inside her handbag as she attempted to enter Tripoli's city hall on November 21: a hand grenade. 

MP Souad Soltan's curious self-defense strategy was discovered as she walked through a metal detector en route to a meeting, according to the Libya Herald


Scientists discover monstrous, flesh-eating platypus

Australia once was home to a bitey platypus species that measured over three feet long, and had a full set of teeth.
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Just imagine this with bigger, pointier teeth, when imagining the now-extinct Obdurodon tharalkooschild species of platypus. (OK: they measured about three feet long). (Wikimedia commons)
Platypus aren't generally known for either their ferocity or their taste for the flesh of the living, but the newly described Obdurodon tharalkooschild proves the species family had a past that was decidedly nastier. Or at least bigger.

Bee afraid: Millions of bees swarm Georgia interstate (VIDEO)

Truck crash leads to the release of millions of unhappy bees onto a stretch of Georgia road.
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An overturned truck released millions of bees onto the interstate in Monroe County, Georgia on Nov 3rd. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)
A truck crash in Georgia spilled millions of unhappy bees and hives filled with honey out onto the interstate, prompting what must be among the more unpleasant cleanup operations in recent memory.

Costumed robbers put a scare into Mexico store

A gang of miscreants dressed as monsters robbed a Mexico City jewelry store on Saturday's "Day of the Dead" celebration.
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People disguised as 'Catrina' during the celebration of the day of dead in Guadalajara, Mexico on November 02, 2012. La catrina is the Mexican representation of death and this year celebrates 100 years of having been created by the Mexican artist Jose Guadalupe Posada. (Hector Guerrero /AFP/Getty Images)
A gang of thieves dressed as zombies and mummies robbed a Mexico City jewelry store on the Nov 2nd "Day of the Dead" celebration, taking advantage of the costumed holiday.

Brazilian surfer rides record wave in Portugal

Brazilian surfer Carlos Burle rode a wave that may have measured as much as 100 feet, a product of powerful storms in Europe.
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Brazilian big wave surfer Carlos Burle rides a wave in Nazare, central Portugal, on October 28, 2013. (Wikimedia commons)
A Brazilian surfer has likely broken a world record for surfing the largest wave ever, after cruising down the side of an enormous swell in Portugal.

Enormous oarfish sighted off California coast

The huge — and rare — fish resembles a dragon, and has been little studied by science.
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A rare Oarfish. (Wikimedia commons)
A gigantic and extremely rare oarfish has been found off the California coast, allowing researchers a rare look into the lives of these dragon-like creatures.

Lady problems: world's strangest laws applied to women

Guess where women aren't legally allowed to drive while wearing a 'housecoat.'
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An Activist calling herself 'Aziza' defies a ban on women driving cars in Saudi Arabia, in a rare protest coordinated through social media under the banner "I will drive the car myself day". Still image taken from a video posted to YouTube on June 17, 2011 user "aziza134". (Youtube/YouTube)
Women's rights have advanced across the world, and legislation is catching up with the times. But not everywhere.