Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Starbucks Buys Teavana

Back in June, Starbucks opened it's first tea bar, in Seattle.

Now they've gone even further with that, buying out Teavana for six hundred and twenty million dollars.

Teavana's three hundred stores are spread across the US, Mexico, Canada, and Kuwait, in various malls, and sell loose leaf, exotic teas.

Starbucks plans to expand their locations and add stand alone sites, as well as adding tea bars with prepared drinks to the stores.

The company plans on using Teavana to do for tea, what Starbucks did for coffee.

FDA Lists 5 Hour Energy as Being a Possible Killer

According to the Food and Drug Administration, 5 Hour Energy drinks could be deadly.

They are investigating thirteen deaths, which may have been caused by the highly caffeinated energy shot.

The FDA has also linked ninety cases of confirmed serious illnesses, in which the drink had been taken just before illness occurred.

Those cases include heart attacks, convulsions, and a case of spontaneous abortion.

Reports filed with the FDA do not necessarily mean the drink was at fault, just that it was in play at the time of the incident.

In October, the FDA reported five deaths in which Monster Energy drinks may have been at fault.

Living Essentials, the company which produces 5 Hour Energy stated that they are taking this revelation very seriously.

Toyota Announces Two Separate Prius Recalls

Toyota has announced two recalls of 2004-2009 Priuses.

Six hundred and seventy thousand Priuses are being recalled due to a problem with the steering intermediate extension shafts.

A manufacturing error could have caused the shaft to not harden properly, allowing it deform.

Three hundred and fifty thousand are being recalled due to issues with the electric water pumps.

The pumps can randomly shut off, during use, causing the vehicle to forcibly stop using it's hybrid system.

Those numbers are for the US alone.

Over two million more are being recalled worldwide.

In both cases the vehicles will need to be inspected, to determine if the part needs replacing.

No crashes or injuries have been reported due to either problem.

Russia Loses Control of Civilian Satellites

Russia is scrambling to regain communications with it's civilian satellites.

A communications cable was accidentally severed, Wednesday night, causing control to be lost.

Ground based tracking, communications, and control are all supposedly inoperative at this time.

Military and space program satellites were not affected, as they are on a different system.

It could take up to forty-eight hours to regain control of the satellites.

International Reaction to Israel and Gaza's Fighting

As rockets continue to rain down on Israel, her government weighs it's options, as it begins Operation Pillar of Defense.

Carefully aimed strikes, on Wednesday, took out the head of Hamas's military and other military targets.

The government and Israeli Defense Forces are considering whether or not a ground campaign will be necessary to end the barrage from Gaza.

In case that becomes necessary, the Cabinet has authorized the call up of all reserve troops, and the placement of infantry along the border.

Hamas and the President for Gaza both called for Arab nations to help them in their struggle against Israel, calling Israel's actions illegal.

Meanwhile, the international community has started giving some reactions.

The US backs Israel's use of precision targeting, in self defense, against the Gazan terrorists.

Mark Toner, spokesman for the US State Department said, "There is no justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organizations are employing against the people of Israel."

However, other countries haven't been so favorable.

Qatar demanded that Israel be "punished" for defending itself, and called for an Arab League meeting on how to help Gaza. 

Egypt, who has been working with Israel to get terrorist groups out of the Sinai, called Israel's actions a threat to regional security and stability.

They also called for an emergency session of the UN Security Council, while recalling their ambassador to Israel.

Terrorists Renew Rain of Rockets on Israel

At least eighty-three rockets were fired into Israel, from Gaza, during Wednesday evening and night.

The Iron Dome defense system was able to stop twenty of the rockets.

Populated areas like Ashdod and Be’er Sheva were struck by the projectiles.

Apartment buildings and a parked car were amongst the things struck when rockets came roaring down.

Fourteen people have been treated by emergency workers, in cases related to the attacks.

Terrorists also targeted the nuclear facility at Dimona, but luckily that rocket missed hitting anything.

Israel began Operation Pillar of Defense, earlier on Wednesday, killing the head of Hamas's military.

The government announced that schools and any non essential workplaces will be closed, during Thursday, which will also be covered by a ban on gatherings of more than one hundred people.

Must See: The Mask of Dimitrios (1944)

Mix The Usual Suspects, The Third Man and The Maltese Falcon and you get this fantastic film, about a Dutch mystery writer's (Peter Lorre) obsession with a murder victim, a mysterious figure who used people and destroyed lives, who's revealed through flashbacks and stories as a heartless, ruthless, fearsome monster like Th Usual Suspects' "Keyser Soze," of whom it is said: "I've known many men, but I've only been afraid of one of them... Dimitrios." Turns out, not only is Dimitrios not dead, he’s now on Lorre’s tail. 

The character of Dimitrios was based on a real life intelligence operative and arms dealer, the mysterious Basil Zaharoff, who moved everything from guns and cannons to submarines in the early years of the 20th century. He bought up stock in the companies whose products he peddled, stole and broke a number of hearts, including some from notable royal families, and built a near mythic reputation. He was like Forrest Gump crossed with a James Bond villain, someone bent on influencing history and somehow showing up everywhere in it; he owned a bank, shipping docks, and a Monte Carlo casino, and made generous political and charitable donations which helped him get a knighthood in 1918.

In this classic movie that juicy role was reduced a bit and handed to an actor making his screen debut, Zachary Scott, who was so good at being cold and elusive in this and many other noirs that it became his signature screen persona.

See it Thursday, November 15 at 10:00 AM (ET) on TCM.

See me at the Speakeasy for much more classic stuff.

Congress Begins Investigation of Meningitis Outbreak

Congress is set to begin investigations on the deadly meningitis outbreak.

Thirty-two people died and 435 were sickened, in nineteen states.

All of the illnesses and deaths were caused by a contamination in anti inflammatory steroid shots, most of which were given via the spine.

Seventy-six locations, in twenty-three states, were sent the shots, which were given to as many as fourteen thousand people.

Two different committees are set to hold hearings, on Wednesday and Thursday.

There are various issues facing the committees.

One of the top ones is how the New England Compounding Center, which made the shots, kept running despite issues with contaminates first showing up in 2002.

Government officials will eventually have to be questioned as they could be considered part of a cover up, of the NECC's lack of sterility.

Secession Petitions in Forty-Seven States

South Dakota, Wisconsin, Virginia, Rhode Island, Idaho, Illinois, New Hampshire, Minnesota, New MexicoMaine, Iowa, Washington, Massachusetts, Alaska and Hawaii all now have secession petitions, according to the White House.

This brings the total number of states to forty-seven.

Only Maryland, Vermont, and Connecticut are without petitions, at this point, with expectations that they won't be far behind.

One petition, asks that all the states that have asked to secede, be allowed to do so as one group, rather than individually.

Counter protests continue, with one asking that the city of Austin, Texas be allowed to leave the state, and remain in the US.

China Nears Next Government

In Beijing, more than twenty-two hundred delegates have been meeting for the last week as they discuss the selection of a new Central Committee.

That committee will then meet, on Thursday, to endorse China's top decision making body, the Politburo Standing Committee.

The Standing Committee will then announce one of their number as the next President.

Every ten years the Congress occurs, and the new selections are made.

All the decision making occurs behind closed doors.

Normally, it mostly means younger men come in to replace those who are now among the oldest.

That's especially true, as most of it's members are past the retirement age.

This time, rumors suggest that the Central Committee might be reduced from nine people down to seven.

Experts don't expect much policy change from the new Committee and President.

EU and Jordan Strikes Against Austerity

Austerity protests seem to be the theme of the day, as a dozen major protests have broken out across Europe and Jordan.

General strikes have been announced in Spain, Portugal, and Greece as workers try to coerce the government into cancelling new rounds of austerity measures.

Italy, Belgium, Austria, and France have all seen smaller strikes, with four cities in Italy seeing protests.

The European Trade Union Confederation is organizing the international strikes, and is hoping to get other countries to join them.

Supposedly forty unions, in twenty-three countries agreed to join them.

Violence in Spain saw over eighty people arrested, when they tried to keep buses from leaving a station. Eighteen police were amongst the dozens injured.

Transportation and electrical companies have been hardest hit by the strikes.

In Jordan people massed to protest an end to fuel subsidies.

View Protests around Europe, November 14 in a larger map

Israel Takes Out The Military Head of Hamas

Israel claims to have taken out the head of Hamas's military, Ahmed Jabari.

The Israeli Air Force also says they took out twenty long range launchers, that had been hidden underground.

With the strikes, Israel marked the beginning of Operation Pillar of Defense.

IDF spokesman Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai said, "The first aim of this operation is to bring back quiet to southern Israel, and the second target is to strike at terror organizations."

Operation Pillar of Defense follows several days of rocket attacks, from Gaza, against southern Israel.

The Israeli government states that it will do whatever it takes to end the terror.

The IDF posted this youtube video of the strike:

Obama to Announce His Desire For Tax Increases

President Obama is set to have a press conference at 1:30pm EST.

During the conference he is expected to focus on his $1.6 trillion in tax increases, that he desires, and his demands of what he expects from the country, for it.

Part of his plan is to raise most of it from those who make more than $250,000 a year, in order to cut at the national debt.

Economic experts point out the intelligence of that, by wondering who then will pay for new job creation, or maintain current payrolls.

If the business owners have less money, many of them will have to make job cuts, to stay in business.

Simple things like that are ignored by the administration, who refuses to focus on it's own unwillingness to cut costly, ineffective government programs, which caused the debt in the first place.

Congressional Republicans are pledging to block the tax hikes, who have offered to work on closing loopholes and deductions.

Either way, the nation looks to be headed straight for the "fiscal cliff", in January.

On January first, a combination of expiring pro growth tax policies from 2001 and 2003, the end of the once temporary payroll tax cut, and some of Obamacare's eighteen new tax hikes, will all hit.

Together they represent five hundred billion dollars over the course of just one year, making it the largest tax increase to ever hit the US.

Here's a per person breakdown of that $500 billion, according to The Heritage Foundation:
  • Families with an average income of $70,662: tax increase of $4,138
  • Baby boomers with an average income of $95,099: tax increase of $4,223
  • Low-income workers with an average income of $24,757: tax increase of $1,207
  • Millennials with an average income of $23,917: tax increase of $1,099
  • Retirees with an average income of $42,553: tax increase of $857