So far this month there have been several big buyouts -- US Airways merged with American Airlines, Warren Buffet paid $23 billion to purchase Heinz and Dell went private for $24 billion. Banks are lending again, the stock market is rising and companies have a lot of cash lying around. That means the return of the mega deal. But do these mergers and buyouts make companies stronger and more profitable?
John Steele Gordon is a business historian with deep ties to the financial world. Both his grandfathers held seats on the New York Stock Exchange. Business history, he says, "is littered with the corpses of really bad mergers."
It took him a minute to come up with an example of a successful merger.
"I think maybe the successful ones are the ones you don't hear about subsequently," Gordon says.
George Anders wrote Merchants of Debt -- a book about the private equity firm KKR, which was responsible for the RJR Nabisco merger. Anders figures that for every deal that's a success, "you've probably got two that aren't."
If adjusted for inflation, the Nabisco deal is the biggest buyout in history, which did not go so well. Anders says it should be a cautionary tale:
"Spend more money than anyone else, get more problems than anyone else."
Despite the one in three odds, most companies think they can pull off the big deal.
"It's totally a case of yes it's a problem for everyone else but my deal is special," Anders says.
There's always an optimist who is convinced they will beat the odds.
A pretrial hearing in the Sept. 11 case was suspended briefly last week to investigate allegations of eavesdropping. The commissions' chief prosecutor launched an investigation, and said no one was "listening, monitoring, recording" the proceedings. Defense attorneys seemed to take his word, which given the history of the commissions, is a baby step toward progress.
A famous doctor is on trial in Spain, accused of masterminding one of the world's largest sports doping rings. Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes' client list is believed to include at least one former teammate of disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong. The doctor says he treated athletes from other sports, as well.
Cancer patients often have to deal with side effects from their treatments. They may need speech therapy or help rebuilding their strength. The STAR program is helping break down the barriers to rehabilitation services.
Thanks to drugs recently approved by the FDA, patients with the blood cell cancer multiple myeloma are living longer and without the pain. Don Wright was diagnosed 10 years ago and is currently training for his training for his 71st marathon.
Carefully developed breeds are overpowering Eastern filbert blight, which had threatened to crush the U.S. hazelnut industry.
The federal government once considered whistle-blowers a nuisance, or worse. But over the past few years, that attitude has slowly started to change. More agencies have been reaching out for tips about fraud and abuse, even if digging through the stacks of complaints can present a challenge.
Patrick won the Daytona 500 pole Sunday, becoming the first woman to secure the top spot for any race in NASCAR's premier circuit. It's by far the biggest achievement of her stock-car career.
Mindy McCready, who hit the top of the country charts before personal problems sidetracked her career, died Sunday in Arkansas in an apparent suicide. She was 37. An autopsy is pending.
An environmental researcher argues the heavy phosphorus footprint of meat is good reason to eat less meat, given that phosphorus is a finite resource and critical for food security. But not everyone thinks we should be worried.
A draft of the plan, which was leaked to USA Today, proposes the creation of a "Lawful Prospective Immigrant" visa for those living here illegally. But GOP Sen. Marco Rubio dismissed the proposal, saying it was "disappointing" to those working on a solution to the issue.
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said the cuts would offset "pretty good" economic activity over the past few months. GOP Rep. Paul Ryan was pessimistic about a deal, while Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer said the two sides would come together for an agreement.
The explosions targeted mainly Shiite neighborhoods. The attack comes amid increasing Shiite-Sunni tension in Iraq.
Pope Benedict XVI asked those gathered in St. Peter's Square to continue praying for him and the next pope. He steps down as pope Feb. 28.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is responsible for reshaping the U.S. military after 10 years of war. At the same time, he's fighting to stave off the across-the-board cuts to the defense budget.
Fahrettin Gumus, a retired security guard from Turkey, recently traveled alone to Afghanistan in search of his teenage son Ibrahim, who left three years ago to join al-Qaida. So far, the father has found no trace of Ibrahim, but says he will continue to search.
The president of the United States has a lot on his plate. Is it too much? As we pause to celebrate our exceptional leaders on Presidents Day, perhaps it's time we start contemplating a new kind of presidency — a presidency that befits these fitful times.
To get the Distinguished Warfare Medal, no valor or bodily harm is necessary. But even safely away from combat, drone operators and cyber hackers can have a major impact on military operations. Until now, there hasn't been an award for those contributions.
If Chicago is a stronghold of American Islam, then Rami Nashashibi might be considered one of its most precocious proponents. On Chicago's South Side, his group, the Inner-City Muslim Action Network, works to end violence and improve residents' living conditions.
President Obama reiterated his goal of bringing America up to speed with new high-speed rail projects nationwide. Meanwhile, the freight-rail systems are still helping farmers keep costs down and getting their crops out. Any new kind of rail expansion would have to take these long-established networks into account.