Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Week In Review:12/22/2012

The Week In Review
Nick Dobis

Apocalypse Now…Or Later

If you are reading this, it means the world didn’t end yesterday, and our Empirical community is intact, to which our staff is tremendously grateful. The anticipation of the “Mayan Apocalypse” was certainly the talk of not only the nation, but also most of the world on Friday. There were those who shrugged it off as nothing from the start, and there were those who had prepared survival bunkers or traveled around the world to wait for aliens to bring them to salvation. Then there were those who, like myself, wished the world would swiftly end in order to cease the unforgiving onslaught of apocalyptic social media updates. As it turned out the date set by the Mayans, 12/21/12, didn’t bring about the end of the world, but indeed brought about the end of a Baktun, roughly 144,000 days in the Maya Long Count Calendar. 

Another misconception regarding the Maya is the myth of their complete annihilation by the Spanish Conquistadors in the 16th century. According to a report by the BBC on Friday, the descendants of the Mayans who built Chichen Itza, still breathe 21st century air. The report stated between 800,000 and 1 million native Mayan speakers are alive and well, designating them as the second-largest ethnic group in Mexico.

Plan B Fails

The world may as well have ended for House Speaker John Boehner, whose “Plan B” for adverting the fiscal cliff was so unpopular with his Republican piers he pulled the measure without putting it to a vote and sent the House home for the Holidays. Boehner expressed confidence Thursday morning of the bill’s likelihood of being passed by the House and breezing through the Senate. He was greatly mistaken. 

Boehner’s “Plan B” essentially called for extending tax cuts for Americans earning up to a $1 million, but would have raised taxes for those who made more than $1 million. This apparently upset a majority of the conservative controlled House, who failed give Boehner the assurance needed to make a serious effort to pass the bill on to the Senate. This move may be an indication Boehner has lost the credibility to rally his party to compromise, and takes the nation another step closer to starting the new year with automatic tax increases and spending cuts. 

A Call to Action

Less than a week after the tragic shootings in Newton, Connecticut President Obama announced Wednesday he has assigned Vice President Joe Biden to lead a task force responsible of composing “concrete proposals” to reduce gun violence. The aim of the task force will likely focus on a ban on the sale of military-grade weapons (like the AR-15 rifle used in the killings in Newton), guns with high-capacity ammunition clips, and stricter background check requirements on all weapon purchases. Obama promised the task force would not be “something the folks are going to be studying the issue for six months and publishing a report that gets read and then pushed aside,” and set a goal for the proposals to be finalized no later than January. The National Rifle Association, facing intense scrutiny since last week’s slayings, broke its silence on Friday. NRA Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre defiantly opposed stricter gun laws, proposing instead an unprecedented deployment of armed guards at every school. The proposition makes the Empirical staff wonder if the real solution to guns in our schools, is putting more guns in our schools. 

80 and 28 > 81 and 29?

When NFL fans and pundits across the nation didn’t gripe over the quagmire that is New York Jets football, the hot question has been whether two of the league’s brightest stars will eclipse season records set by former greats and current legends of the game. Minnesota Viking’s running back Adrian Peterson, who shredded defenses this season after shredding his ACL a year ago this month, needs 294 yards to surpass Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards. His NFC North receiving counterpart Calvin Johnson needs 182 yards to top Jerry Rice, debatably the greatest athlete to ever play the position. Both players have two regular season games left to accomplish their historic feats, and based on their consistent performances for most of the season, both have legitimate chances of setting new milestones. Some will say the new records, if broken, can’t be compared fairly with Rice and Dickerson’s, who played in an NFL with one less scheduled game. Despite this technicality, football fans should celebrate Peterson’s phenomenal return from an often career subduing injury, and a receiver who exhibits the same level of class and character as the man he aims to beat. 

Sea Sanctuary Saved

A 13-year long struggle came to an end this week as the Los Angeles Times reported the state of California finished the final touches of what has become the largest network of undersea parks in the continental United States. According to the report, the reserve stretches 848-square miles, spanning from the Oregon state border to the edge of the U.S./Mexico border. The effort to preserve the undersea refuge began in 1999 when state legislatures passed the Marine Protection Act, but faced the American Sportfising Association’s lobbying efforts to stymie the process. After surviving budget shortfalls and attacks from special interests, 16% of California state waters will hopefully remain marine reserves for future generations of Americans to appreciate. 

US Soldier Faces Death Penalty

The United States Army announced this week it will seek the death penalty against Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, charged with 16 counts of premeditated murder, six counts of attempted murder, and seven counts of assault. According to military prosecutors, Bales left his outpost in southern Afghanistan the morning of March 11 and murdered 16 Afghan civilians, nine of which were children. Bales, who was serving his fourth combat tour at the time of the alleged murders, has pleaded not guilty due to post -traumatic stress and a concussion suffered from an IED in one of previous three tours. If Bales is found guilty, military code requires death sentences to be approved by the president, which hasn’t happened since 1961. No matter the verdict, this case should force the Pentagon and both executive and legislative branches to re-examine the implications of sending soldiers on multiple tours of duty in a volunteer military. 

The Price is Right for NYSE

Stocks and commodities are exchanged at a feverish pace on a daily basis, but rarely does a market itself become a commodity. This week NYSE Euronext, operator of the New York Stock Exchange, has reached an agreement to sell itself to the Intercontinental Exchange. How much does a stock market cost you may ask? The Atlanta based electronic exchange operator agreed to pay $33.12 a share, stock-and- cash deal totaling $8.2 billion. The ICE, founded in 2000, has surged over the past decade as a leading market for commodities and energy futures exchanges. Both board of directors unanimously approved the deal, which is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2013 pending the approval of national and European regulators, as well as company shareholders.

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