- PS4 Announced—After months of rumors and gossip, Sony unveiled the PS4, becoming the 2nd major game console maker to unveil its next-generation of consoles (after Nintendo’s Wii U, Microsoft is expected to unveil the “Xbox 720” (supposed name) sometime this year). It will go on sale this fall (likely right before the holiday shopping season i.e. Black Friday), its price is tbd. Notable parts of the announcement include: more social aspects (being able to watch and post videos from gameplay), quicker startup/save times, a controller with a small touchscreen, however, because of using a new CPU, old Playstation games will not work on the PS4.
- Car bomb detonates in Damascus, Syria, kills 59—200 are also wounded in the attack, which is among several other bombings in the area. The blast went off near the offices of the ruling Syrian Baath Party. Both the Syrian government and the opposition forces condemn the attacks, which killed mostly civilians and children. The government would not have a detonation so near its own offices while the opposition forces have not had a history of attacks that mostly harm civilians. Suspicions are cast on militant Islamic groups.
- UK Credit Downgraded—Moody’s downgraded the UK’s credit rating from top-rank AAA down to Aa1. citing “continuing weakness in the UK’s medium-term growth outlook, with a period of sluggish growth which [it] now expects will extend into the second half of the decade.” The UK’s large debt and challenges to decreasing it also factored into the decision. This comes on the heel of the largest 2-day stock market drop of the year following ongoing financial weakness in Europe and news from the Federal Reserve spooked investors. The markets has since gained.
- Afghan Gov’t Orders US Troops out of Province—While US troops will withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014, that apparently isn’t soon enough for the Wardak province. The Afghan government cites increased hostilities and terrorist attacks in the province (which contains Afghanistan’s capital Kabul), as well as hostility from US troops towards the Afghan people in the province along with US trained-Afghan forces attacking other Afghans in the region: “After a thorough discussion, it became clear that armed individuals named as US special forces stationed in Wardak province engage in harassing, annoying, torturing and even murdering innocent people.” This comes as a surprise to the US.
Looking Ahead to this Week:
- The Sequester is due to take effect March 1, this Friday. Sequester basically being Washington-speak for ‘we’re gonna cut a lot of money out of the US budget.’ It will slash money across domestic programs (education, FAA, Food Safety & Inspection services, unemployment insurance) as well as from the Defense Department, which outgoing Defense Secretary Panetta warns will endanger America and compromise the US’s ability to protect itself. A slightly hyperbolic-titled list of “57 Terrible Consequences of the Sequester” can be found here. The sequester was ½ of the fiscal cliff from way back at the beginning of the year, Congress voted to delay it to March 1.
Fear not, the sequester does not immediately chop billions from the budget in one fell swoop. It is part of a larger debt reduction plan meant to cut out $1.2Tr over 10 years. Even now, departments must give employees 30-day notices before furloughing/laying off government workers (so around March 31) then. And Congress can retroactively come to an agreement to override the Sequester. But then again, it’s Congress.
Prospects? Not great. Whereas in past government-financial crises, there was a risk of defaulting on loans or higher taxes for everyone almost immediately, the effects of Sequestration are a bit more drawn out and there doesn’t seem to be as much urgency in backroom last-minute dealings. Prospects don’t seem too bright in an agreement before March 1, even with both sides saying the effects of Sequestration can harm the economic/financial/safety of America (see above doom-prophesying list). The short of it: not optimistic for deal before March 1, effects not immediately terrible, can get terrible.