February 10, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 5:43 PM


McDonald's shamrock shake goes nationwide (Aaron Smith, 2/10/12, CNNMoney)

McDonald's extreme-green shamrock shake is going nationwide for the first time, the fast food franchise revealed on Wednesday.

The leprechaun-colored shake is currently available at every one of McDonald's (MCD, Fortune 500) 14,000 U.S. restaurants, according to company spokeswoman Ashlee Yingling.
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Posted by orrinj at 4:57 PM


Obama revises contraceptives rule (Ali Weinberg, 2/10/12, NBC)

 President Obama announced changes to a rule that would have required some religious institutions to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees on Friday in a bow to complaints from religious groups and conservative Republicans.

That was a whole lot of wasted hysteria.

Posted by orrinj at 4:40 PM


Gingrich Group Looks for New Money as Big Donor Checks Stop (Julie Bykowicz, Feb 10, 2012, Bloomberg)

Five losing contests later, Gingrich and Winning Our Future, an outside political action committee supporting him, are almost silent on television airwaves, offering free water and coffee at events, and revamping a fundraising strategy based largely on the support of a single wealthy backer, Sheldon Adelson, and the Las Vegas casino owner's family. [...]

For now, the Adelsons don't plan to deliver another big check to float Gingrich's campaign, according to a person familiar with their deliberations. The family has donated a combined $11 million to Gingrich's super-PAC in the past two months, according to interviews and Federal Election Commission records. An Adelson spokesman declined to comment.

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 AM


The toughest place to be a train driver (Eamonn Walsh, 2/10/12, BBC News)

It takes both skill and courage to control huge locomotives laden with mineral ore as they wind up and down the Andes mountains - making Peru possibly the toughest country in the world to be a train driver.

The Ferrocarril Central Andino (FCCA) travels from sea level to the mines at Cerro de Pasco, one of the highest cities in any country, at 14,200ft (4,330m) above sea level.

The ascent, on some of the steepest tracks in the world, is a slow grind, but the real skill is in bringing the fully loaded locomotive back down to the Pacific coast, west of the capital Lima.

"You need to have nerves of steel," says driver Daniel Garcia Zegarra. "This is how you need to treat the train, caress it little by little, no roughness, but slowly."
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Posted by orrinj at 6:52 AM


Hamas drifting away from longtime patron Iran  (AP, 2/10/12)

Hamas appears to be drifting away from its longtime patron Iran -- part of a shift that began with last year's Arab Spring and accelerated over Tehran's backing of the pariah regime in Syria.

The movement's top leader in exile, Khaled Mishal, wants Hamas to be part of the broader Islamist political rise triggered by the popular uprisings sweeping across the Arab world. For this, Hamas needs new friends like the wealthy Gulf states that are at odds with Iran. [...]

Hamas has reduced its presence in Iran-allied Damascus in response to Syrian President Bashar Assad's brutal crackdown on a popular uprising against him. Hamas also rejected Iran's demand that the group publicly side with Assad, standing firm even when Tehran delayed the monthly support payments Hamas needs to govern the Gaza Strip, according to a senior Hamas official who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss internal deliberations.

At the same time, Hamas is increasingly relying on political and financial support from the Gulf, particularly tiny Qatar, which also has close ties to the West.

This week, Qatar brokered a breakthrough unity deal between Mishal and his longtime rival, internationally backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. After five years of separate Palestinian governments in the West Bank and Gaza, Abbas is now to head an interim unity government and lead the Palestinians to elections.
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Posted by orrinj at 6:48 AM


China says top cop spent a day in US consulate (Scott McDonald, 2/10/12, Associated Press)

The Foreign Ministry spokesman's office said that Wang entered the consulate on Monday and "remained there for one day." The statement, carried by the official Xinhua News Agency, said the incident was being investigated. Dozens of newspapers carried the Xinhua report prominently on Friday without additional reporting, a sign that official censors were trying to limit potentially embarrassing coverage.

Wang was the top police officer in Chongqing until he was mysteriously removed last week.

He stayed on as a deputy mayor and was reassigned to duties involving the local economy and education. As the city's top cop, he had helped carry out a widespread crackdown on organized crime groups seen as part of a campaign to promote Bo Xilai, the city's Communist Party secretary and one of the country's most prominent political figures.

Bo has been seen as maneuvering for a seat on the ruling Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee, which will appoint new members later this year.

Wang's whereabouts is unknown. There were several unconfirmed reports online, including one that showed a photo of Wang's name on a plane ticket from Chengdu to Beijing. The report said he had been brought to the capital for questioning by anti-corruption officials, a claim repeated by the usually reliable independent Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Hong Kong.
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Posted by orrinj at 6:35 AM


Breaking Global Warming Taboos: 'I Feel Duped on Climate Change' (Der Spiegel, 2/09/12)

Will reduced solar activity counteract global warming in the coming decades? That is what outgoing German electric utility executive Fritz Vahrenholt claims in a new book. In an interview with SPIEGEL, he argues that the official United Nations forecasts on the severity of climate change are overstated and supported by weak science.

The articulate utility executive is nervous at the beginning of the conversation. He is groping for words -- not a common occurrence for the practiced provocateur. After all, Fritz Vahrenholt, 62, who holds a doctorate in chemistry, has been a rebel throughout his life. "Perhaps it's just part of my generation," he says.

He is typical of someone who came of age during the student protest movement of the late 1960s, and who fought against the chemical industry's toxic manufacturing plants in the 1970s. His party, Germany's center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), chose him as environment senator in the city-state of Hamburg, where he incurred the wrath of the environmental lobby by building a waste incineration plant, earning him the nickname "Feuerfritze" (Fire Fritz). He worked in industry after that, first for oil multinational Shell and then for wind turbine maker RePower, which he helped develop. Now, as the outgoing CEO of the renewable energy group RWE Innogy, he is about to embark on his next major battle. "I'm going to make enemies in all camps," he says.

He wants to break a taboo. "The climate catastrophe is not occurring," he writes in his book "Die Kalte Sonne" (The Cold Sun), published by Hoffmann and Campe, which will be in bookstores next week.