Bad weather is preventing rescuers from reaching the wreckage of the Costa Concordia, a luxury cruise ship that crashed off the Italian coast on Friday. Blame for the disaster, which has claimed at least six lives, is increasingly falling on the ship’s captain, who allegedly took the ship off-course and abandoned it before all the passengers were evacuated. The disaster has sparked outrage among officials and worry in the cruise industry, which is in the midst of its busiest season.
Mitt Romney’s new Spanish-language ad is cliché to the point of absurdity. Narrated by Mitt’s youngest son, Craig, it packs an impressive amount of feel-good stock footage into thirty seconds. A little girl grins, the sun flashing in her eyes, on a tire swing. Silhouetted against the sunset, a man raises an American flag while a youngster salutes. A smiling family enjoys a bountiful meal around the dinner table. “The United States represents liberty and opportunity, where anything is possible,” Craig says.
North Korea announced yesterday that the corpse of former dictator Kim Jong-il will be placed on permanent display in Pyongyang. This seems to be standard practice for Communist nations—after all, Stalin, Ho Chi Minh, and Mao were all embalmed and set out for public display after their deaths, and Kim Jong-il’s body will be displayed in the same sprawling mausoleum as his father’s body. But how do they maintain the most famous preserved corpse of them all—the body of Lenin? A 2010 book offers some helpful information.
Consumer sentiment is up for the fifth straight month in a row, a survey released today shows. Researchers are hesitant to see this as proof that long-term confidence has returned, but it is clear that more people are aware of the positive jobs news, and some believe the data could indicate a coming surge in consumer spending. How seriously should we take these numbers? A 2001 study suggests that surveys of consumer sentiment, while somewhat useful, are of limited use in forecasting trends in consumer spending.
Herman Cain, gamely trying to claw his way back onto the national stage, is promising an “unconventional” endorsement in the GOP primary race on January 19th. Cain, having never been elected to anything, is not a politician, and he’s no longer a businessman, so it’s fair to call this a celebrity endorsement. Do those ever have any impact? A 2008 study examined this question using the example of Oprah’s endorsement of Barack Obama during the Democratic primaries.
Today, the Pentagon announced the rescue, by the U.S. Navy, of 13 Iranians who had been held captive by Somali pirates since last November. The Iranians are on their way home, and the pirates are in U.S. custody. How can the international community crack down on piracy? A 2010 report from the Council on Foreign Relations offers some suggestions. The report gives reason to doubt the efficacy of onboard deterrents. For one, crews on most ships aren’t trained in the use of weapons, and they fear that if the ship is attacked, the people holding guns will be targeted.
Rick Santorum’s moment in the sun is proving to be quality entertainment, as the sweater-vested culture warrior takes his wackiness on tour across New Hampshire and finds himself outmatched by college students. Last night, Santorum was on the losing end of an argument about gay marriage, which he compared, as he often does, to polygamy. Aside from all the obvious reasons, is there an important (and often overlooked) way in which polygamy and gay marriage differ? Yes: One is much more popular than the other. Polling shows that a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage.
In remarks at the Pentagon today, President Obama outlined a new military strategy that scales back the size and goals of the armed forces.
News broke today that President Obama has decided to defy Senate Republicans by appointing Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Some thought this recess appointment would come yesterday, but as Brad Plumer notes in The Washington Post, “recess-appointing Cordray now rather than yesterday means his appointment will last through the end of 2013, rather than through the end of 2012.” What factors determine how long a recess appointee can serve? A 2011 report from the Congressional Research Service gives some insight.
Last weekend, Congress allowed the hated ethanol subsidy to expire. Decried as wasteful and inefficient, the subsidy had become a favorite target of both liberals and conservatives. It has even been blamed for worsening the global food crisis.