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Podcast: Extreme weather, much ado about mutton, and more shopping madness

The eye of the storm: 2011 will go down in weather history as one of the most extreme and expensive on record.

This holiday shopping season has a sequel. It starts today. A Monday, where a whole lot of people are home from work with new shiny gift cards and dreams of two-for-one sweaters and 60-percent-off scarves. Some analysts expect today will be among the very busiest mall days of the year.

But all those bargain hunters should be wary. They're going to be competing with the folks looking to return that baby-blue bathrobe and others willing to brave the crowds to get an even bigger discount on they stuff they already bought before Christmas. That's thanks to a policy followed by many retailers to refund the difference on items that have dropped in price since they were purchased.

From extreme shopping we go to extreme weather; 2011 will go down as the year with the most extreme, most devastating weather ever, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Everything from tornadoes to hurricans to wildfires accounted for roughly $35 billion in insured catastrophe losses, the group said.

Financial losses are also being felt hard in Detroit. This week Michigan state officials will kick-off a three month "formal review" of the citys finances that could clear the way for a state takeover of Detroit's city management.

Meanwhile, around the globe today the world's second and third largest economies struck a currency deal. China and Japan announced plans to allow businesses to swap currency without dealing in U.S. dollars. And in Russia, where protests continued this weekend over the country's elections dispute, it's been precisely 20 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union. For American companies doing business in that country, things are still looking up.

Plus, there's a sheep-stealing epidemic in the UK. More than 60,000 sheep have gone missing this year - three times the usual number - as the rising price of Lamb presents opportunity for thieves.

About the author

Adriene Hill is the senior multimedia reporter for LearningCurve.

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