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--Barry Asmus

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Friday, May 27, 2011

World News!

  • The IMF has warned that they may refuse to release the June tranche of aid payments to Greece if the country does not start reducing its deficit and otherwise begin acting with more fiscal responsibility.
  • Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou met with opposition leaders in an attempt to win support for austerity measures required to prevent a) the IMF from withholding financial aid to the debt-wracked nation and b) the default on Greek sovereign debt that would result.  No consensus has been reached, but the Prime Minister remains positive.
The Group of Eight
  • The G8 has promised $20 billion in aid to Tunisia and Egypt, with a promise of possible further aid, to assist in the transition to a more western-style democracy.
  • A report made to the G8 by the IMF indicated that oil-importing countries in the Middle East and North Africa will need over $160 billion in external financing over the next three years, and it would only be able to meet about $35 billion of that need.
  • The G8 has stated that it is collectively "appalled by the deaths of many peaceful protesters as a result of the sweeping violence in Syria as well as by repeated and serious violations of human rights," and called on Syria "to immediately stop using force and intimidation against the Syrian people and to respond to their legitimate demands for freedom of expression and universal rights and aspirations."
  • You may or may not have heard President Obama proclaim that Guinness tastes better in Ireland, but there is now scientific research to back him up.  A research paper published in the Journal of Food Science states that "Guinness does not travel well and that the enjoyment of Guinness (for our group of nonexpert tasters) was higher when in Ireland".  It does also go on to state that the results are "subject to further verification because of limitations in the study design"[1].
  • In "there is such a thing as too much Facebook" news, a couple in Hod Hasharon has named their daughter "Like".  After the "Like" button on Facebook.
  • The ratings agency Fitch has cut its outlook on Japanese sovereign debt from "stable" to "negative" because of strain the costs of cleaning up after the earthquake and tsunami and the still-unknown costs of cleaning up after the nuclear disaster will place on the nation's finances.  They have not actually cut any ratings yet, but are ready to do so.
  • In a significant shift in opinion, Russia - which had criticized the NATO intervention in Libya for severely overstepping its UN mandate - has stated that Muammar Gaddafi should step down and has offered to broker his departure.
  • British Prime Minister David Cameron has authorized sending four Apache attack helicopters to join the British forces attacking Libya.
  • In a joint press conference, US President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have pledged to "finish the job" in Libya, making the claim that "meeting the UN mandate of civilian protection cannot be accomplished when Gaddafi remains in Libya".
New Zealand
  • Researchers in New Zealand have published a study showing a significant positive correlation between lack of sleep and childhood obesity.  The study tracked 244 children from ages 3 to 7, and found that "After adjustment for multiple confounders, each additional hour of sleep at ages 3-5 was associated with a reduction in BMI of 0.48 (95% confidence interval 0.01 to 0.96) and a reduced risk of being overweight (BMI ≥85th centile) of 0.39 (0.24 to 0.63) at age 7"
  • It turns out that I was a little premature yesterday.  General Ratko Mladic has been arrested, but has not yet been deported to The Hague.  He is currently going through extradition hearings in Belgrade.  He is also reported to be in poor health, which could delay proceedings.
United Kingdom
  • In "thank you so much, Andrew and Jenny, and would you please stop talking now" news, failure to vaccinate children is blamed for a tenfold increase in measels cases in England and Wales in the first four months of 2011.
United States
  • Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California have used a technique originally demonstrated in mice to directly transform human skin cells into funtioning neurons.
  • The Congress voted to renew three expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, allowing law enforcement officers to conduct continued surveillance on suspects who switch phones, monitor "lone-wolf" suspects who are not linked to known terrorist groups, and gain access to suspects' business transactions.
  • In an interview with Wired magazine, Senator Ron Wyden states that there are significant problems with the Patriot Act.  "We're getting to a gap between what the public thinks the law says and what the American government secretly thinks the law says.  When you've got that kind of a gap, you're going to have a problem on your hands."
  • EBay is suing Google, and two Google executives that used to work for Google's PayPal unit.  the suit alleges that the two executives "misappropriated PayPal trade secrets by disclosing them within Google and to major retailers".  Google states that they have not yet received a copy of the complaint, and so are not yet willing to comment.
  • The House of Representatives has passed an amendment - as part of the defense budget bill - barring all companies owned by or affiliated with the Chinese government from receiving any US defense contract.
  • Ralph Lang was arrested Wednesday night for firing a bullet through the door of his room at a Motel 6 in Madison, Wisconsin.  While being questioned by police, he told them that he was in town to kill a doctor at a local Planned Parenthood office the next morning, and then to drive to Milwaukee to repeat the process.  He would have done it the week before, but he was not "100 percent in sync with God" and so held off.
  • The Westboro Baptist Church[2] plan to be in Joplin, Missouri on Sunday to thank God for killing 125 people in the town.
[1]  If you're wondering, the design of the research was to have four scientists spend a year drinking Guinness in pubs and bars in 14 different countries.
[2]  You know, those guys that show Christian love and charity by picketing and celebrating at the funerals of soldiers....

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