I've gotta say it. I'm burned out. Of fifty recent diaries showing on my screen, some forty-five are another rant or roar about the shooting in Connecticut and how we have to adopt some kind of increased gun control NOW. Or about how shooting children is Evil, or Schizophrenic, and definitely not related to Asperger's or Autistic Spectrum disorder. I'm not going to get into why I find all of this predictable, boring, and completely missing the core causes of violence in a society that keeps the majority of its citizens as permanently stressed out as underfed rats in a very small cage. Instead, I went out on the web to see what ELSE was going on in the world today. If you're interested in knowing what happens outside of the bubble, follow over the orange humpie-thing for my discoveries . . .
1) The EPA has established 20% stronger limits on soot emissions. A recent court ruling required that EPA upgrade these limits in keeping with current scientific standards instead of maintaining rules going back to the 90's. With Obama's victory, the agency was empowered to choose a more stringent standard than it might otherwise have been forced to accept by a Republican Administration. [WAPO, here]
2) Both The Guardian and Mother Jones report that water flow in the Mississippi River has declined so drastically that water-borne transport may be halted entirely in 2 weeks. This of course would wreak havoc with the transportation of major commodities including both food and fuel for both domestic use and export. [see: The Guardian online]
3) It may have slipped by you here in North America, but North Korea has successfully launched a multi-stage satellite. The development of this technology, possibly assisted by Iranian allies, could mean nuclear delivery capacity to at least the US West coast in the near future. [Foreign Policy]
4) The EU, after much hemming and hawing and negotiation has formally agreed on joint banking regulation under the ECB. This is widely seen as preliminary to increasing "integration" of EU national powers and economies, but sources curiously downplay the effect that oversight based in the German-controlled ECB is going to have on the relatively free-wheeling London banking community that handles the majority of EU commercial transactions. [BBC, of course]
5) Bad news for those true computer-lovers who have continued to make use of antiquated equipment despite all the flashy new toys that have been introduced in the last two decades. LINUX developers have decided to stop supporting the Intel 386 chip (dating back to the 1980’s) in new software updates [Physics News]
6) South African hero Nelson Mandela has an operation to remove gallstones. [BBC]
7) Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is once more recovering satisfactorily from cancer surgery in Cuba, for now. This can't of course go on forever, as it is becoming obvious that it's only a matter of time until the feisty dictator succumbs, leaving Venezuela to the tender mercies of imperialist operatives and the IMF. [BBC]
8) Egypt is in the process of a two-week, two step vote on a new constitution. If passed, it will regularize Egyptian democracy and provide some security for the way forward. It will also enshrine Sharia law and limit the civil rights of women and religious minorities.[BBC]
9) The UN Tribunal for Law of the Sea has ordered the release of an Argentine ship impounded by court order in Ghana in response to a suit by the vulture fund NML Capital, which was demanding repayment of Argentine debts pursuant to its 2002 sovereign default. This case sets a major precedent limiting the ability of vulture funds, which have purchased billions of dollars in defaulted sovereign debt, to force payment. The fund had been arguing that a warship constituted a physical asset of the debtor that it should be allowed to seize for non-payment.
10) BUSTED: New research shows what we all knew intuitively: that hedge funds manipulate the stock market to boost their reported returns [Physics News]. The practice of “market pumping” is economically significant and distorts investor behavior, contributing to inefficiency in the oh-so-perfect "free" stock markets.
11) According to a newly-published UCSF study, pelvic exams are frequently performed for reasons that are medically unjustified. Taken together with recent updates to the recommendation for annual Pap smears (not) by the American Cancer Society, this adds to questions as to just how many clinical tests which are routinely recommended for preventative purposes are unnecessary and even potentially harmful. Many doctors said they conduct the exam because patients expect it or because it ensures adequate compensation for routine gynecologic care (i.e., it gives them something to bill for). [Medical Xpress]
12) A trained dog has proven its ability to distinguish between hospital patients infected or not infected with “superbug” Clostridium difficile with a sensitivity of 83% and specificity of 98%. The use of a dog’s nose (technology dating to roughly 20,000 BCE) in making this determination could cut time required for testing from two days to ten minutes, at a fraction of the cost of modern high-tech diagnostic testing. [link].