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Felgraf



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PostPosted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 10:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mars May Get Hit By a Comet in 2014
By Phil Plait

|

Posted Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, at 7:45 AM



Quote:


In case you just can’t get enough impact news, it looks like Mars may actually get hit by a comet in 2014! As it stands right now, the chance of a direct impact are small, but it’s likely Mars will get pelted by the debris associated with the comet.

I know. This is pretty amazing. Still, let me preface this with a caveat: Trying to get precise predictions of comet orbits can be difficult, and for this one we’re talking about a prediction for 20 months from now! Things may very well change, but here’s what we know so far.

Comet What May

The comet is called C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring), discovered on Jan. 3, 2013 by the Australian veteran comet hunter Robert McNaught. As soon as it was announced, astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey looked at their own data and found it in observations from Dec. 8, 2012, which helped nail down the orbit (I explain how that works in a previous article about asteroid near-misses). Extrapolating its orbit, they found it will make a very near pass of Mars around Oct. 19, 2014, missing the planet by the nominal distance of about 100,000 kilometers (60,000 miles).

Observations taken at the ISON-NM observatory in New Mexico just this week have tightened up the orbit a bit more, allowing for better predictions. Given this new data, the comet may actually pass closer to Mars; another veteran comet hunter, Leonid Elenin, predicts it may get as close as 37,000 km (23,000 miles) of the surface of Mars!

That’s pretty dang close. But this gets even more interesting.
orbiotal diagram for comet Siding Springs
Orbital diagram for the comet. The inner planets are labeled, and the comet's path is in blue (dark blue for when it's below the solar system's average plane, and light blue above). This shows the comet's position a few days before it passes Mars.

Image credit: NASA/JPL

Ice to See You

Comets are similar to asteroids: Big chunks of interplanetary debris, mostly rock, that orbit the Sun. Comets, though, have a lot of ice in them—what we normally think of as gases and liquids on Earth like carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and water. But in deep space, these are frozen (making up much of the solid part of a comet, called the nucleus). As the comet nears the Sun it warms up, and these substances sublimate; that is, turn directly from a solid into a gas. They can exist on and below the comet’s surface, so when they sublimate they can erupt from vents like geysers. These vents act like rockets, gently pushing on the comet nucleus. Over time, this can change the comet’s orbit a bit, which is why I said above that making accurate predictions of a comet’s position over very long periods of time can be difficult.
Comet Hartley 2
A closeup of the comet Hartley 2, visited by the EPOXI spacecraft in 2010. You can see several vents along the middle and end of the comet nucleus.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD

Right now, the comet is over a billion kilometers from the Sun, and is (pardon the expression) stone cold. Still, a small amount of coma activity has been seen (see the picture below), and as it gets closer over the next year or so, it may very well vent more gas. If it does, its orbit may change enough to push it farther from Mars. Or it may push it right into the planet’s path. We won’t know for sure until at least late summer 2013, when more observations are possible (it’s about to get too close to the Sun from our viewpoint here on Earth to observe).

Let me be very clear: We are in no danger here on Earth. The nudges in orbit I’m talking about are pretty small, and it will be many millions of kilometers from Earth at closest. We’re safe.

Slipping into the Coma

And there’s still more. Comets aren’t generally very solid; you can think of them as loose piles of rubble held together by those ices. As the ice sublimates, the comet dissolves a little, and that rubble can escape. This material, usually objects the size of grains of sand up to small rocks, orbit along very nearly the same path as the comet nucleus itself (which is why we get meteor showers). The gas expands into a large fuzzy cloud around the nucleus, called the coma (which is Latin for hair). Although the nucleus may be a few kilometers in diameter, the coma can be several hundred thousand kilometers across!

What makes this so very interesting is that the coma can be bigger than the predicted distance by which the comet will pass Mars. This means it’s entirely possible, even likely, Mars will pass right through this cloud of material. And the closer the comet gets, the more likely it is Mars will get pelted by the debris set loose from the nucleus itself.

If that does happen, it’ll be the gods’ own meteor shower for the red planet.

I’m not entirely sure what we’ll be able to see from Earth should this happen. Mars will be well-placed in the night sky, so we’ll have a decent view. But most of the debris would be pretty small, so the odds of seeing much are low. Plus, there will be a big honking fuzzy comet in the way, obscuring the view!

Mars has two small moons, potato-shaped lumps a few kilometers across. I’ll be very curious to see comparisons of before-and-after pictures, to see if they get any new impacts on them.

Deep Impact

If the nucleus does hit the planet, well.

That will be amazing, and by “amazing” I mean “apocalyptic”. The nucleus size is not well known, but may be as small as 15 kilometers (9 miles) or as big as 50 km (30 miles). Even using the small number means Mars would be slammed by an unimaginable impact. The comet is orbiting the Sun backward (more on that in a second), so it will be moving at a speed of about 55 kilometers per second (120,000 miles per hour!) upon impact. That means the comet has a huge amount of kinetic energy, the energy of motion. That energy will be released at impact as an explosion. A big one.

A really big one.

Doing a rough calculation, I get an explosive yield of roughly one billion megatons: That’s a million billion tons of TNT exploding. Or, if you prefer, an explosion about 25 million times larger than the largest nuclear weapon ever tested on Earth.

So, yeah.

The crater left behind would be hundreds of kilometers across, and be the largest impact Mars has seen in a long, long time. Mind you, once again, there is no guarantee this comet will hit Mars. The most likely scenario is a close pass, which is still incredible.

In one sense, an impact would be pretty bad for us on Earth: we’d almost certainly lose all our robotic probes in orbit and on the surface. An impact that size would blast debris all over the planet, and the rovers could be damaged or destroyed. Even something in orbit wouldn’t be safe; the ejecta would come screaming off the planet and sent every which way in orbit around Mars. It would be like orbiting into a shotgun blast.

Even a near miss may prove dangerous for the probes, since as I pointed out there will be debris anyway. If we’re lucky, they’ll make it through this just fine, and we may very well get some spectacular images from them (as usual, Emily Lakdawalla at The Planetary Society Blog has that story). We’ll just have to wait and see what happens over the next few months.
Comet Siding Spring
The comet seen using the Vatican Observatory VATT on Jan. 20, 2013, when it was still over a billion kilometers away from Earth. It was already showing a small amount of activity.

Image credit: Carl Hergenrother

Grabbing a Comet by the Tail

Even if this comet weren’t getting anywhere near Mars, it’s worth studying. For one thing, as far as we can tell right now its orbit is hyperbolic. Assuming the observations are accurate, that means that it’s actually traveling faster than the Sun’s escape velocity. It probably came from very deep space, well outside the orbit the Neptune, probably from the vast cloud of comets surrounding the Sun called the Oort cloud. It may have gotten a kick from some outer planet (Jupiter is the usual culprit), giving it a bit of extra speed.

This is pretty rare, with only a few dozen comets known with hyperbolic trajectories. If it survives the encounter with Mars, it’ll head back out into deep space, almost certainly never to return. This will be our only chance to observe it.

And what will this look like late next year, when the comet is so close to Mars in space as well as in our sky? It’s hard to say, but the comet may actually be brighter; the gas particles are highly reflective, and may form a cloud far larger than Mars itself. So what we might see is a bright dot (or maybe even a disk if the coma is large enough), slowly encroaching on the ruddy bright star-like point of Mars. Over the course of a few weeks they’ll get closer, and closer…and for a day or so you might actually need a telescope to separate the two.

And then my best guess is that we’ll then see them pull apart, as the comet heads back out into the frozen vault of deep space, with Mars little worse for the wear.

But we’ll see.


http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2013/02/28/mars_impact_the_red_planet_may_get_hit_by_a_comet_in_october_2014.html

Oh man oh man oh man. I really, REALLY hope it hits mars. Even if it means the rovers get voiped. I hope this for a few reasons.

1) We'd get the chance to observe the effects of a CATACLYSMIC impact.
2) It might help jump-start more interest in space, at the very least in a "Oh holy shiat, that could be us one day!" sense.
3) It would, in theory, deposit a heft chunk of water onto the martian surface, which could be useful in the future if we ever go terraforming.
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ShadowCell



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PostPosted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 10:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

and 4) GIANT FUCKING EXPLOSION HELL YES
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Felgraf



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PostPosted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 11:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ShadowCell wrote:
and 4) GIANT FUCKING EXPLOSION HELL YES


Well yes, that too!
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Darqcyde



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PostPosted: Fri Mar 01, 2013 2:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Artificial sweeteners? In my milk?:

Quote:
Got diet milk? In a highly controversial move, the dairy industry wants to market artificially sweetened milk—without any special label to alert consumers.

In a petition filed with the FDA, the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) seek to change the definition of “milk” so that chemical sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose can be used as optional ingredients not listed on the product label.

If the petition—originally filed in 2009 and now under consideration by the FDA—is successful, these hidden additives could also be included in 17 other dairy products—including whipping cream, low-fat and non-fat yogurt, eggnog, sweetened condensed milk, sour cream, and half-and-half—without requiring any special labeling.

A Move to Boost Kid Appeal of Milk Products

The dairy industry contends that using artificial sweeteners like aspartame as optional ingredients in milk and other dairy foods without any special labeling would “promote more healthy eating” and boost kid appeal. Currently, milk consumption is dropping among both children and adults.

In part, the petition states:

IDFA and NMPF argue that nutrient content claims such as "reduced calorie" are not attractive to children and maintain that consumers can more easily identify the overall nutritional value of milk products that are flavored with non-nutritive sweeteners if the labels do not include such claims. Further, the petitioners assert that consumers do not recognize milk—including flavored milk—as necessarily containing sugar. Accordingly, the petitioners state that milk flavored with non-nutritive sweeteners should be labeled as milk without further claims so that consumers can "more easily identify its overall nutritional value.”

The goal of the petition is to persuade the FDA to drop a requirement that milk and other dairy products be labeled as “artificially sweetened” if they contain aspartame or other calorie-free sugar substitutes. Last week, the FDA asked the public to submit comments and data about using artificial sweeteners in dairy foods. So far, there is no FDA ruling on the petition.

Currently, dairy producers can label products as “milk” if they are unsweetened or contain sweeteners with calories, such as high-fructose syrup or sugar, according to the Huffington Post. Examples of sweetened dairy products include chocolate or strawberry milk and flavored yogurts.

In addition, aspartame and other chemical sweeteners can currently be used in dairy products as long as they are clearly labeled accordingly.


Full story includes a bunch of stuff about aspartame being bad: http://health.yahoo.net/experts/dayinhealth/artificial-sweeteners-milk
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Last edited by Darqcyde on Fri Mar 01, 2013 2:16 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Dogen



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PostPosted: Fri Mar 01, 2013 6:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
consumers can more easily identify the overall nutritional value of milk products that are flavored with non-nutritive sweeteners if the labels do not include such claims

How does that work? I'm guessing they assume that people will gravitate toward the chocolate milk with fewer calories, not knowing it's artificially sweetened. Of course, that's gotta suck for people with phenylketonuria, who can't really eat artificial sweeteners (or a lot of other things). It's a big enough deal that it's one of the few things every baby born in the US is supposed to be tested for... but we probably don't need to warn them about their milk, you know?
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 01, 2013 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

57 Terrible Consequences of the Sequester
By CHRIS GOOD (@c_good) Feb. 21, 2013

Quote:
If the heads of 20 federal agencies are to be believed, disastrous consequences await if President Obama and Congress fail to reach a budget deal, triggering the automatic, across-the-board cuts known as "sequestration."

Those cuts are slated to begin March 1, and earlier this month, the Senate Appropriations Committee asked agency heads to explain what would happen in such a scenario.

In separate letters to Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., they warned of terrible things: Greater risk of wildfires, fewer OSHA inspections and a risk of more workplace deaths, 125,000 people risking homelessness with cuts to shelters and housing vouchers, neglect for mentally ill and homeless Americans who would lose services, Native Americans getting turned away from hospitals, cuts to schools on reservations and prison lockdowns. There's also a higher risk of terrorism with surveillance limited and the FBI potentially unable to disrupt plots, closed housing projects, and 600,000 women and children thrown off WIC.

In short: Unless a budget deal is cut, the country will be in deep trouble, according to the Obama administration's highest-ranking agency officials.

The White House disseminated some of these projected cuts in a press release this month, and it seems possible that some alarmism is going on: No agency head wants to see his or her budget cut, and President Obama has lamented the sequester's unfortunate consequences while browbeating House Republicans to vote for tax hikes. Obama called them "meat-cleaver" cuts in a speech on Tuesday urging Congress to avoid them.

At the same time, some of the projected cuts would leave vulnerable parts of the population without vital services.

With the House in recess and with Obama playing golf over the weekend, a deal does not appear imminent. More likely, sequestration will kick in for a few weeks, a deal will get done later, and the cuts will be undone, rearranged, or replaced by revenue from higher taxes. But if no deal happens, here's what the agency heads warned will occur under a full year of budget sequestration:


Full list of 57 here: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/OTUS/57-terrible-consequences-sequester/story?id=18551994

Or, to look at it another way:

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/10-industries-hurt-most-sequester-143213615.html
By Rick Newman | U.S.News & World Report LP – 4 hours ago
Quote:
President Barack Obama says the sequester will kill "hundreds of thousands of jobs." But where?

To find out, I analyzed data provided by industry-research firm IBIS World to identify sectors of the economy most dependent on government spending. IBIS World counts 94 industries, employing 36 million people and accounting for about $6 trillion in revenue, that are vulnerable to government cutbacks. That doesn't mean those industries will start shedding jobs immediately. Some analysts think the sequester may only be in effect for a couple of weeks in March before Congress replaces the abrupt spending cuts with a more rational plan.

If the sequester stays in effect, however, it will cut spending by about $44 billion during the rest of 2013, according to the Congressional Budget Office, with cuts spread evenly across most federal agencies. (A few programs, including Social Security and Medicare, are largely exempt). Annual cuts will eventually rise to about $110 billion, with the austerity measures meant to trim about $1 trillion in total spending during the next decade. If that happens, these industries will be most heavily affected:

Defense. The sequester legislation stipulates that half the spending cuts must come from defense, which will hurt contractors that build airplanes, tanks, ships, electronics and many other types of battlefield gear. That will hit big contractors such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin along with hundreds of smaller subcontractors.

Public schools. Just a few years ago, federal stimulus measures boosted funding for schools. Now, sequester cuts could lead to layoffs of teachers, administrators and support staff, plus lost funding for transportation, school maintenance and extracurricular programs. Most education funding is local, but a considerable portion trickles down from the federal government.

Road, bridge and tunnel construction. About three quarters of the money spent to build and maintain the nation's transportation infrastructure comes from the government, so many projects will be scaled back or delayed, and some canceled outright.

Remediation and environmental cleanup. Washington provides one-third of the funding for this industry, which involves the cleanup of mining sites, old industrial facilities, unsafe buildings other environmental hazards.

Guns and ammunition. Despite the standoff over new gun control proposals, gun makers need the government as a customer--for sales to both the military and to law enforcement agencies. If there's a silver lining, it's that new gun control efforts have boosted sales to civilians, which could help offset reductions in government orders.

Colleges and universities. Most revenue comes from tuition and fees, but the government funds university research and provides loans and grants that help students pay for school, including community colleges that focus on technical training. Less money for students could force schools to offer more aid or lower tuition.

Steel framing. Companies in this industry build heavy steel products used to construct buildings, bridges, water treatment facilities and many other types of infrastructure. This industry will suffer as infrastructure funding gets cut.

Public transportation. Bus, subway and rail networks are typically financed in part by government funds. If gas prices stay high and the migration from rural to urban areas continues, an increase in ridership might make up for less government money.

Airports. Funding cutbacks that reduce employment could worsen air-traffic delays and security lines, while slowing development projects and leaving airports more crowded.

Social services facilities. Healthcare facilities funded by Medicare or Medicaid are largely exempt from the sequester cuts, but homeless shelters, job training centers, adoption agencies, food banks and other community centers that rely on aid from Washington aren't. Federal cutbacks could be a double whammy, since many such facilities have already endured state or local funding reductions.

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ShadowCell



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PostPosted: Fri Mar 01, 2013 7:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

my libertarian friends have been rejoicing at the sequester because apparently the fact that the deadline has passed and we have not all instantly regressed back to the stone age is proof that we don't need government
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Mindslicer



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 02, 2013 11:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The idea that reducing the government's expected spending increase (as opposed to actually cutting spending) by $44 billion of a $3.6 trillion dollar budget (a terrifying 1.2% 'cut') will lead us to the stone age is laughable already.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 03, 2013 5:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ShadowCell wrote:
my libertarian friends have been rejoicing at the sequester because apparently the fact that the deadline has passed and we have not all instantly regressed back to the stone age is proof that we don't need government


it's amazing how changes never seem to happen all of a sudden isn't it
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Darqcyde



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PostPosted: Mon Mar 04, 2013 2:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

911 Dispatcher Pleads With Nurse Who Refuses to Perform CPR:
http://gma.yahoo.com/video/gma-911-dispatcher-pleads-nurse-080000658.html
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Vox Raucus



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PostPosted: Mon Mar 04, 2013 2:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

First Child cured of HIV.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/04/health/for-first-time-baby-cured-of-hiv-doctors-say.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0. Super cool!
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 04, 2013 3:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's more like the baby may be a super-controller than that the baby's cured. There are still viral elements in the bloodstream, but at levels only detectable with the most sensitive tests.
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CTrees



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PostPosted: Mon Mar 04, 2013 4:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Darqcyde wrote:
Artificial sweeteners? In my milk?:


Aspartame (and most other artificial sweeteners) give my wife migraines. It's a nasty allergy, and she has to read the labels on nearly everything (because they sneak them into products to lower the calorie count). If they were added without being labeled? She would pretty much have to avoid all dairy, period.

This is a horible idea.
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Darqcyde



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PostPosted: Mon Mar 04, 2013 4:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

CTrees wrote:
Darqcyde wrote:
Artificial sweeteners? In my milk?:


Aspartame (and most other artificial sweeteners) give my wife migraines. It's a nasty allergy, and she has to read the labels on nearly everything (because they sneak them into products to lower the calorie count). If they were added without being labeled? She would pretty much have to avoid all dairy, period.

This is a horible idea.

I was too lazy to do this before, but I think I will now. Yogurt, BTW, usually has aspartame in it.
Quote:
Health Risks of Diet Drinks and Aspartame

Aspartame is a chemical sweetener that’s widely used in diet soda and other low-cal foods, including yogurt. It’s about 200 times sweeter than sugar and was originally sold under the brand name NutraSweet. At least 90 countries have declared it safe, but several new and recent studies link artificially sweetened drinks (particularly soda) to a wide range of health threats.

While not yet carved in scientific stone, the emerging evidence is disturbing. Here’s a rundown:

Higher risk for type 2 diabete:While the link between sugar-laden drinks and diabetes is well-known, a new study by French researchers also finds that sugar-free soft drinks also boost the threat. The study, to be published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, tracked 66,118 women over a period of 14 years. While sipping both diet and regular soda magnified risk, the diet drinkers had higher risk for diabetes. However, this type of study is not designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

Link with depression: A new study funded by the National Institutes of Health, involving more than 260,000 adults ages 50 to 71, surveyed beverage drinking habits. Ten years later, the participants were asked if they had been diagnosed with depression. Those who reported swilling four or more cans of soda daily were 30 percent more likely to develop depression than those who shunned soda. Overall, risk was higher in people who drank any of the diet beverages studied (soda, iced tea, and fruit drinks), compared to those who sipped the full-calorie versions. Drinking unsweetened coffee, on the other hand, was linked to a 10 percent lower rate of the mood disorder, prompting the researchers to recommend dieting and grabbing a cup of joe.

Heart Attack and Stroke: Drinking diet sodas daily may increase the risks for heart attack and stroke and other vascular events by 43 percent, but no such threat exists with regular soft drinks or with less frequent consumption of diet soda. These results come from a study including more than 2,500 adults published online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine on January 30, 2012. So far, no one knows what it is about diet sodas that could explain the added risk.

Kidney Trouble: In 2009, researchers at Harvard found that drinking two or more diet sodas daily could lead to a 30 percent drop in a measure of kidney function in women. No accelerated decline was seen in women who drank less than two diet sodas daily. The drop held true even after the researchers accounted for age, high blood pressure, diabetes, and physical activity.

Preterm Delivery: A Danish study including more than 59,000 women found a link between drinking one or more diet sodas daily and a 38 percent increase in the risk of giving birth to preterm babies; the risk was 78 percent higher among pregnant women who drank four or more diet sodas daily. No such risk was seen with regular soda.
What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?

Weight Gain: Wouldn’t it be ironic if instead of helping you lose weight, diet drinks had the opposite effect? A study at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio found that compared to those who drank no diet sodas, study participants who did had a 70 percent greater increase in waist circumference; worse, drinking two or more diet sodas daily led to ballooning waist circumference that was 500 percent greater than those who drank none. This doesn’t prove that diet soda is to blame since the study was observational—it could be that participants began gaining weight and then started drinking diet sodas.

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Darqcyde



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PostPosted: Thu Mar 07, 2013 2:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I found it interesting, and very sad, that these three stories popped up in todays news for me:

http://news.yahoo.com/wait--wealth-inequality-the-new-harlem-shake---214735978.html

With the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPKKQnijnsM

**********************************************
**********************************************

Quote:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Ten years and $60 billion in American taxpayer funds later, Iraq is still so unstable and broken that even its leaders question whether U.S. efforts to rebuild the war-torn nation were worth the cost.
In his final report to Congress, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen's conclusion was all too clear: Since the invasion a decade ago this month, the U.S. has spent too much money in Iraq for too few results.

The reconstruction effort "grew to a size much larger than was ever anticipated," Bowen told The Associated Press in a preview of his last audit of U.S. funds spent in Iraq, to be released Wednesday. "Not enough was accomplished for the size of the funds expended."

In interviews with Bowen, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the U.S. funding "could have brought great change in Iraq" but fell short too often. "There was misspending of money," said al-Maliki, a Shiite Muslim whose sect makes up about 60 percent of Iraq's population. Iraqi Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, the country's top Sunni Muslim official, told auditors that the rebuilding efforts "had unfavorable outcomes in general."

"You think if you throw money at a problem, you can fix it," Kurdish government official Qubad Talabani, son of Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, told auditors. "It was just not strategic thinking." The abysmal Iraq results forecast what could happen in Afghanistan, where U.S. taxpayers have so far spent $90 billion in reconstruction projects during a 12-year military campaign that, for the most part, ends in 2014.


Full Story: http://news.yahoo.com/too-much-money-spent-iraq-too-few-results-051221182--politics.html


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And then there is this:

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/dow-punches-time-high-us-143119493.html?desktop_view_default=true

Which, among other things, shows these charts:




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