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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

World News, In Which We Learn How Much Cash Fits In An Airplane

  • In "Gotterdammerung news", the ash cloud from the Puyehue-Cordon-Caulle volcano range has forced the cancellation of flights into and out of western Australia.  The eruptions started on June 4th, and are still going strong - and previous eruptions in the same range have lasted for as long as two months.
  • Citing concerns raised by Greek sovereign debt holdings and by credit extended to the Greek private sector, Moody's has placed France's top three banks (BNP Paribas, Societe Generale, and Credit Agricole) on review for a possible downgrade.
  • Greeks are throwing a national strike to protest the current wave of austerity measures, attempting to pressure the Greek Parliament into taking none of the steps required for the nation to qualify for another round of bailout loans from the European Union and the IMF.
  • In "no, we weren't sheltering Bin Laden, why would you think that?" news, Pakistan has arrested five alleged informants for the CIA on charges of having provided information that led to the raid that killed Osama bin Laden[1].  There are some reports that an army major is among those arrested, although the Pakistani government denies this.
  • More "armed terror gangs" have sprung up, this time in Maarat al-Numaan.  What other reason would there possibly be for the Syrian government to send tanks and helecopters there to arrest hundreds of people?
  • Now that the "armed terror gangs" and "militants" have been driven out of Jisr al-Shughour by tanks and helicopters, along with most of the populace (except for the "armed terror gang" members arrested with clubs), the Syrian government has called on the people of the town to return to their homes instead of fleeing to Turkey for sanctuary.
United States
  • Speaker of the House John Boehner has warned President Obama that, if he fails to get congressional authorization for United States actions in Libya by Friday, he will be in violation of the War Powers Act.  "Since the mission began, the administration has provided tactical briefings to the House of Representatives, but the White House has systematically avoided requesting a formal authorization for its action," he states in a letter to the President.
  • One C-130 Hercules cargo plane, with a cargo compartment roughly 41 feet by 9 feet by 10 feet, can carry $2.4 billion in shrink-wrapped bricks of $100 bills.  Why do I bring this up?  Well, 20 C-130s with this sort of cargo load were flown to Iraq by may 2004, to aid in reconstruction projects.  Seven years later, the Pentagon and the Iraqi government has wrapped up audits and investigations that have failed to account for 3 C-130s worth of $100 bills (or, if you just can't quire wrap your head around the C-130 scale, about $6.6 billion[2]).  The money is missing, presumed stolen, and nobody is particularly happy about it.
  • Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has advised the Congress that playing political games with the federal debt ceiling is a terrible idea.  "Failing to raise the debt limit would require the federal government to delay or renege on the payments for obligations already entered into," he said.  "Even a short suspension of payments on principal or interest on the treasury's debt obligations would cause severe disruptions in financial markets and the payments system."  His advice?  Come up with a credible long-range plan to reign in the budget deficit.
  • In an unsuprising party-line decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has upheld a law stripping most public employees' collective bargaining rights.
[1]  Not to put too fine a point on it, the BBC states that "Our correspondent says that the Pakistani authorities appear to be making every effort to unearth CIA informants while showing little interest in arresting Taliban and al-Qaeda sympathizers."
[2]  To put it yet another way, enough money went missing to pay for the 2010 budget for the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Small Business Administration, and the General Services Administration.  Or to give everyone in the United States $21.18.

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