Thursday, March 8, 2012

Syrian carnage

The United Nations humanitarian chief, Lady Amos, said she was shocked by the devastation she witnessed on a visit to Baba Amr, the suburb of the Syrian city of Homs that has suffered a month-long siege.

Amos, who visited Baba Amr on Wednesday for 45 minutes, was speaking on Thursday after meeting ministers in the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, who permitted her to visit Syria and Homs after weeks of refusing her access.

She said: "The devastation there is significant. Part of Homs is completely destroyed and I am concerned to know what has happened to the people who live in that part of the city."




http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/08/homs-devastation-un-humanitarian-chief

Feds: we are champion overspenders.

The federal government recorded its worst monthly deficit in history in February, according to a preliminary report Wednesday from the Congressional Budget Office that said the deficit in fiscal year 2012 is already more than half a trillion dollars.

The CBO’s figures show that despite repeated efforts to trim spending, the government has borrowed 42 cents of every dollar it spent during the first five months of this fiscal year.

Diving to 5 miles under the sea

Titanic" director James Cameron will try in the coming weeks to dive to the deepest place on Earth, further than any other human has on a solo mission, to return with specimens and images.

Cameron would seek to accomplish his feat aboard a submersible "as futuristic as anything in his movies," the National Geographic scientific institution, which has partnered with the Canadian filmmaker for the Deepsea Challenge project, said Thursday.

Coke, Pepsi make changes to avoid cancer warning

Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. are changing the way they make the caramel coloring used in their sodas as a result of a California law that mandates drinks containing a certain level of carcinogens come with a cancer warning label.

The companies said the changes will be expanded nationally to streamline their manufacturing processes. They've already been made for drinks sold in California.

Coca-Cola and PepsiCo account for almost 90 percent of the soda market, according to industry tracker Beverage Digest. A representative for Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc. said all its caramel coloring now meet the new California standard.

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_SODAS_CANCER_WARNING?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2012-03-08-17-59-05

Give it to them.

Israel has asked the United States for advanced "bunker-buster" bombs and refueling planes that could improve its ability to attack Iran's underground nuclear sites, an Israeli official said on Thursday.

Messi scores five goals in one game.

For all the astonishing feats in his young career, Lionel Messi had never scored five goals in a professional game. And no one had ever scored five times in a Champions League match.


Well, check both of those off.


With another mesmerizing performance, Messi helped defending champion Barcelona crush Bayer Leverkusen 7-1 Wednesday night to advance to the quarterfinals with a 10-2 aggregate win.

Wind farms in Pacific Northwest paid to not produce




Dan Springer:


Wind farms in the Pacific Northwest -- built with government subsidies and maintained with tax credits for every megawatt produced -- are now getting paid to shut down as the federal agency charged with managing the region's electricity grid says there's an oversupply of renewable power at certain times of the year.

The problem arose during the late spring and early summer last year. Rapid snow melt filled the Columbia River Basin. The water rushed through the 31 dams run by the Bonneville Power Administration, a federal agency based in Portland, Ore., allowing for peak hydropower generation. At the very same time, the wind howled, leading to maximum wind power production.


http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/03/07/wind-power-companies-paid-to-not-produce/?test=latestnews

D.C. government can't account for $885 million in stimulus funds

Despite receiving more than $885 million in federal economic stimulus funds since 2009, the D.C. government — whose residents face one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation — cannot say how many jobs it actually created for those who live in the District.

Most of the money has been spent, and data suggest that overall regional job growth did occur as a result of the massive infusion of capital. But a review by The Washington Times of figures provided by D.C. officials shows that the city spent hundreds of millions of dollars without being able to demonstrate any significant improvement in the city’s jobs outlook.


http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/mar/7/dc-has-no-count-of-jobs-from-stimulus/

Libtalker: 'Cut Off Ovaries' Of Conservative Women

Gallup: unemployment UP in February

U.S. unemployment, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, increased to 9.1% in February from 8.6% in January and 8.5% in December.

Link.

Martian tornado captured in photo by NASA's Reconnaissance Orbiter

Scientists estimate that the dust devil rose to a height of more than half a mile (800 meters), with a plume that's about 30 yards (meters) in diameter. A westerly breeze adds a delicate arc to the plume, and the afternoon sun creates a curving, stretched-out shadow.

Dust devils on Mars, like their cousins on Earth, are spinning columns of air that are made visible by the dust they stir up. They typically arise on a clear day when the ground is heated by the sun. As the atmospheric layer near the surface warms, air rises through a pocket in the cooler layer above it, taking on a spin when the conditions are just right.




http://photoblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/03/08/10605706-twisty-dust-devil-captured-on-mars

Is all Middle East intervention futile?

Victor Davis Hanson:


Let us review the various American policy options for the Middle East over the last few decades. Military assistance or punitive intervention without follow-up mostly failed. The verdict on far more costly nation-building is still out. Trying to help popular insurgents topple unpopular dictators does not guarantee anything better. Propping up dictators with military aid is both odious and counterproductive. Keeping clear of maniacal regimes leads to either nuclear acquisition or genocide — or 16 acres of rubble in Manhattan.

What have we learned? Tribalism, oil, and Islamic fundamentalism are a bad mix that leaves Americans sick and tired of the Middle East — both when they get in it and when they try to stay out of it.


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More of Hanson's op-ed here: http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/292917/we-give-victor-davis-hanson?pg=2

Student loan debt>auto loan debt

Jason Fertig writing at National Review:

The total outstanding student-loan balance in the U.S. being greater than total outstanding credit-card debt — old news. But total outstanding student loans are now also greater than total outstanding auto loans ($870 billion vs. $730 billion).

Antitrust case coming soon against Apple and five other e-book publishers

Thomas Catan and Jeffrey Trachtenburg writing at the WSJ:


The Justice Department has warned Apple Inc. and five of the biggest U.S. publishers that it plans to sue them for allegedly colluding to raise the price of electronic books, according to people familiar with the matter.

Several of the parties have held talks to settle the antitrust case and head off a potentially damaging court battle, these people said. If successful, such a settlement could have wide-ranging repercussions for the industry, potentially leading to cheaper e-books for consumers. However, not every publisher is in settlement discussions.

The five publishers facing a potential suit are CBS Corp.'s Simon & Schuster Inc.; Lagardere SCA's Hachette Book Group; Pearson PLC's Penguin Group (USA); Macmillan, a unit of Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH; and HarperCollins Publishers Inc., a unit of News Corp. , which also owns The Wall Street Journal.


http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203961204577267831767489216.html?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories

The 'Chicago Way' in full view

T.W. Farnam writing in the WashPost:


Big donors considering whether to work the phones raising money for President Obama’s reelection campaign might consider the fate of his 2008 bundlers. Many of them, it turns out, won plum jobs in his administration.

Obama campaigned on what he called “the most sweeping ethics reform in history” and has frequently criticized the role of money in politics. That hasn’t stopped him from offering government jobs to some of his biggest bundlers, volunteer fundraisers who gather political contributions from other rich donors
.

More than half of Obama’s 47 biggest fundraisers, those who collected at least $500,000 for his campaign, have been given administration jobs. Nine more have been appointed to presidential boards and committees.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/the-influence-industry-obama-gives-administration-jobs-to-some-big-fundraisers/2012/03/06/gIQA9y3txR_story.html?hpid=z2