Obscured by all the doom and gloom in Europe and the shaky stock market at home is one piece of news that could be as much of a game changer as any. And that's the rather startling fact that the U.S. may no longer be quite so dependent on other countries for energy after all.
You remember: the power grip that oil-dominating nations in the Middle East once had, which forced us to sit in long gas lines and don second sweaters as we huddled at home with the heat turned down. Fast-forward four decades, and we've discovered that there's much more oil under our own soil than we thought back then -- not to mention natural gas in amounts that boggle the mind. And thanks to recent technological advances, we can extract more of these fossil fuels. But the question at hand is just how a potentially "energy independent" America will affect everything from the economy to the green movement -- and what it all means to an investor's portfolio. Some of the answers are revealed in this month's cover story.
With just a few clicks, we can find out through online reviews which restaurants have the grumpiest waiters and which hotels took out their minibars. So is it too much to ask that we get the same dish on the people who are supposed to help us with the biggest purchase of our lives -- a home? You have to hand it to the real estate community, which somehow has found ways to prevent reliable ratings of agents from popping up in most of the country. In a detailed investigation, staff writer Alyssa Abkowitz takes a close look at this surprising information gap.