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Thing One: Area Republican Dislikes Government: Every year like a sad and lonely comet, the Paul Ryan budget plan swoops briefly through our skies, stirring up a fuss among policy watchers before it hisses harmlessly back out into the depths of space.
Yesterday Ryan's Comet made its latest pass over Washington, generating lots of front-page headlines, despite almost certainly being dead on arrival, and despite being largely the same budget plan Ryan proposed last year and the year before that. Oh sure, there were a few differences: For example, Ryan's plan now includes the devastating fiscal-cliff tax increases and spending cuts that have come to pass since he last proposed his budget, suggesting the brutal austerity that most of Washington considered ridiculously onerous back in August 2011, when the fiscal-cliff time-bomb was crafted, is hunky dory by Ryan. He also proposes a cap on defense spending, which the Wall Street Journal suggests is some kind of major retreat that could be a source of compromise with Democrats -- which, ha ha, no.
No, what is truly astonishing is just how little Ryan has changed about about the social engineering plan, as Ezra Klein labels it, despite it being soundly rejected by the nation's voters just a few months ago. In fact, as Michael McAuliff and Sabrina Siddiqui of The Huffington Post point out, Ryan seems to be in denial about why he is still in the House of Representatives and not flossing his teeth each night at the Naval Observatory: "Are a lot of these solutions very popular, and did we win these arguments in the campaign? Some of us think so," Ryan said. Some of us think a lot of things, Paul Ryan. But, again, no!
The Washington Post's take is that the rehashed Ryan budget plan and the rehashed Democratic budget plan, to be microwaved and served up today by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), are so far apart that compromise seems all but hopeless at the moment. But the very fact that Ryan's budget is always taken so seriously, despite its rejection by voters and despite its lack of details and despite the fact that it could cost us 2 million jobs, is a symptom of the strange budget obsession that keeps us perpetually mired in stupid, self-defeating fights at the precise time the economy needs it least.
Thing Two: Mary Jo White Privilege: Despite promises of fireworks from the right and left, Mary Jo White's confirmation hearing at the Senate Banking Committee yesterday was smooth sailing, meaning she will almost certainly become the next head of the Securities and Exchange Commission. As The Huffington Post's Ben Hallman points out, White claimed she would be tough on Wall Street, that no institution would be "too big to charge." But of course the SEC has no criminal charging authority, and she also pointed out that she was duty-bound to consider the impact on the economy and innocent employees and shareholders when setting penalties.
Thing Three: The Fire And Ice Next Time: The trouble with natural-gas fracking is that it doesn't quite release enough methane into the atmosphere, speeding up global warming so that we can all hurry up and die already. Fortunately, Japan has finally figured out a way to tap deposits of methane hydrate, known as "flammable ice," long buried out of reach under the sea floor, a new carbon energy source that may be twice as plentiful as other fossil fuels. Awesome. See you in hell, planet.
Thing Four: The Hackers Are Coming: The U.S. is constantly vulnerable to devastating cyber-attacks from overseas, top officials told a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing yesterday. FBI Director Robert Mueller said cybersecurity keeps him reaching for the Lunesta, saying it's "right up there with terrorism" on the list of stuff to worry about. As if to hammer home the point, a web site yesterday posted Social Security and credit card numbers and other vital information about Michelle Obama, Jay-Z, Beyonce and other celebrities. The site "apparently originated in Russia," according to the WSJ.
Thing Five: Google Admits Privacy Breach: Google yesterday agreed to pay $7 million to settle claims by 38 states that it had violated people's privacy when building the Street View feature of Google Maps. While snapping pics of street corners, Google's data-gatherers also snapped up passwords and other private information from unsuspecting people.
Thing Six: Dreamliner Nightmare Nears End: The Federal Aviation Administration has given the OK to test Boeing's plan to fix battery problems on its massive new 787 Dreamliner planes. But the planes, which have been grounded for nearly two months, are still far from getting back in the air -- it could be at least another month or more, The New York Times writes.
Thing Seven: Sugar Bailout: Now here's a sweet government bailout: The Department of Agriculture may buy 400,000 tons of sugar, "enough for 142 billion Hershey's Kisses," to help sugar makers that are about to default on their government loans, writes the WSJ's Alexandra Wexler. Big Sugar has suffered from plunging sugar prices lately. Somehow this is going to leave us with higher food prices, though Wexler doesn't explain how.
Thing Seven And One Half: Where The Klingons Circle: On this day in 1781 British astronomer Sir William Herschel discovered what he thought at first was a comet, which was eventually determined to be a planet, which was eventually called Uranus, sparking countless adolescent jokes, including this one. It was the first planet discovered in modern history (the planets Mercury through Saturn were all known to the ancients) and the first to be discovered with a telescope. Herschel also discovered two of Uranus's moons, Titania and Oberon.
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Calendar Du Jour:
8:30 a.m. ET: Retail Sales for February
Heard On The Tweets:
The people that still use BlackBerry's impress me, its like eating a steak with chopsticks.
— thatlittlekitnerboy (@littlekitnerboy) March 11, 2013
i prefer chunky jazz over smooth
— lauren ashley bishop (@sbellelauren) March 12, 2013
Since Popes get to choose their names, I would recommend the new guy try Pope MC Ultra Relevant. **Cardinals please RT**
— Andy Richter (@AndyRichter) March 12, 2013
Just went to the gym, now eating my way through an entire sleeve of Thin Mints.I don't feel thin yet. Weird.
— angieMcSugarbutt (@LuvPug) March 12, 2013
Bad names for Restaurants: 1) Dead Things in Sauce. 2) End Of the Road. 3) This is a Tax Shelter.
— eddie pepitone (@eddiepepitone) March 12, 2013
-- Calendar and Tweets rounded up by Alexis Kleinman