No more poverty? Bill Gates, Microsoft founder turned philanthropist, makes a bold prediction in his foundation’s annual letter, released today: By 2035, the term “poor” will no longer be applied to any country, thanks to ever-increasing economic growth and stability. The Gates Foundation’s primary goal is to end extreme global poverty, but in the letter, Gates and his wife Melinda acknowledge that won’t happen without governmental policies that promote market-based incentives for business. But Gates also continues to champion foreign aid for countries still struggling to rise above poverty’s challenges. He focuses especially on spending for health and education initiatives. The annual letter’s chief message is that poor countries are not doomed to stay poor. Gates also addresses critics who say saving lives in developing countries just creates more mouths to feed. After leaving Microsoft, which made him the richest man on the planet, Gates announced he would spend the rest of his life giving his fortune away.
War crimes. Three international war crimes prosecutors have accused the Syrian government of systematically killing 11,000 people since the start of the civil war that has gripped the country for the last two years. The prosecutors’ report, released today, uses evidence from photographs smuggled out of the country by a defector who worked with military police taking pictures of bodies for death certificates. Many of the regime opponents who died in custody were tortured and starved to death. Although the United States is helping to broker a peace deal aimed at setting up a transitional government and ending the fighting in Syria, Human Rights Watch says Bashar Al-Assad’s government has not felt enough “real pressure” to end its campaign of murder and oppression. Peace talks begin Wednesday in Geneva.
Nasty weather. Another winter storm is bearing down on the Northeast, closing offices, canceling school, and disrupting at least one political celebration. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was sworn into his second term today, cancelled an evening party on Ellis Island due to travel concerns. The federal government shut down its offices in Washington D.C., where weather forecasters predict between five and eight inches of snow could fall. Airlines have already cancelled more than 2,000 flights. Although this storm will not bring the bitter cold sucked down from Canada by the “polar vortex” two weeks ago, it will still plunge temperates between 10 and 15 degrees below normal.
Feed plant blast. Nebraska officials are digging through the rubble of a feed plant leveled by a massive blast late Monday, hoping to find the cause of the explosion. Two workers died when the building collapsed, injuring ten others. The plant, just outside Omaha, makes additives for livestock and poultry feed. It does not use or store any hazardous chemicals, officials said.
Punished? A judged sentenced former Halliburton manager Anthony Badalamenti to one year of probation for destroying documents related to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Badalamenti pleaded guilty in October to destroying evidence and faced up to one year in jail. During his probation, he must serve 100 hours of community service and pay a $1,000 fine. Badalamenti ordered Halliburton employees to delete data that showed cement provided by the company for the Macondo well failed, contributing to the blow out.