Signs and Wonders
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.
Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.

Signs and Wonders: Does the U.S. really need to buy more stuff?

Newsworthy

Don’t raise debt ceiling? Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., is saying there’s no need to raise the debt ceiling, and he has an interesting argument. The reason we raise the debt ceiling is so we can borrow more money, most of which goes to pay interest on previously borrowed money. It’s like calling your bank to raise your credit card limit when you’ve reached your current limit but you want to buy more stuff anyway. Democrats say, “Yes, but we’ve already bought this stuff. We can’t not pay for it.” That’s true, but there are many more ways to pay for it than just borrowing more money. You can, for example, cut back on spending elsewhere. You can sell stuff. You can look into accounts long forgotten or under the cushions on your couch. Also—and this is Toomey’s point—the federal government has more money coming in every day from taxes and fees. Some analysts think such a move would take us too close to the brink of default for comfort, and that such a move would unset the capital markets. However, there’s also a strong possibility that many analysts would see such a move as a sign that the U.S. is finally serious about reducing its debt.

Sly like Fox. The shakeup at Fox News seems to be working. Megyn Kelly, now in the 9 p.m. time slot, is beating CNN’s Piers Morgan and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow combined. According to The Wrap, a media and entertainment website, Kelly’s new Fox News Channel show, The Kelly File, is also way up in the key 25-54 demographic group. Fox’s new lineup debuted last Monday. On Tuesday, Kelly had 2.8 million viewers.In the demo, including 623,142 viewers in the key demographic group.CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight had just 590,858 total viewers, with 168,828 in the demo, while MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow had 1,082,177 total viewers, with 290,767 in the demo.

The greening of the deserts. Carbon emissions are bad for the planet, right? Well, perhaps not. According to a publication called Geophysical Research Letters, the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 levels may be the cause of a “greening” of Earth. According to the report: “Satellite observations reveal a greening of the globe over recent decades.” It makes sense. We learned in middle school biology that humans breathe in oxygen and breathe out CO2. Plants breathe in CO2 and breathe out oxygen. Geophysical Research Letters says this greening is the result of a “CO2 fertilization” effect. The effect could end up being especially pronounced in arid climates, where additional CO2 helps plants use water more efficiently. According to authors of the study, the 14 percent increase in atmospheric CO2 between 1982 and 2010, led to an 11 percent increase in green foliage cover in warm, arid environments. The study concluded: “CO2 fertilization effect is occurring … and that the fertilization effect is now a significant land surface process.” OK, I’ll admit there are a lot of numbers and jargon here, but the point is easy to grasp: CO2 emissions are not killing the planet.

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Weekend box office. Gravity is defying gravity at the box office. In its second week, it held on to the top spot, raking in an additional $44.3 million. According to Box Office Mojo, through 10 days, Gravity has pulled in $123.4 million, approaching non-holiday records. Despite the Gravityjuggernaut, Captain Phillips managed an excellent take of $26 million. The Christian movie Grace Unplugged squeezed out another half-million dollars at the box office this weekend, bringing its two-week take to more than $1.7 million, despite mostly bad reviews. One demographic note: The movie business typically lives and dies by teenagers. But the audience for both Captain Phillips and Gravity is more than 60 percent over the age of 35. The Top 12 movies this weekend earned an estimated $108.2 million, off about 10 percent from last year.

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., is vice president of WORLD News Group and the host of the radio program Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.

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