Friday, September 23, 2011

Morning Brief: The 'little' story with big implications provides a much needed diversion from economic news; CIA pulls, then restarts is advertising in Detroit area paper

At first it was just a tweet and a small story from the BBC. But now major media outlets are printing and posting the story: Faster than light particles found, claim scientists.

Maybe much of the media simply sees the story as a respite from all the bad financial news, or the GOP debate, but the implications contained at the core of the story are enormous for science.

Some background: during a seminar conducted at the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) outside Geneva, Switzerland, scientists revealed that in tests conducted with neutrinos have found that their particles has traveled at a rate faster than the speed of light, something that is not allowed by Einstein's theory of special relativity. The rule has been at the foundation of physics for a century.

Shooting particles from the accelerator at CERN to a facility at Gran Sasso, Italy, scientists have regularly found that their particles have traveled faster than they supposedly should. Because this is a violation of the laws of physics, as we have understood them, they have been extremely cautious in claiming a discovery. Now they are calling on other scientists to conduct further tests to confirm or dispute their findings.

One has to be grateful for the news from CERN if only because it is not another story about the Congress or world stock markets – the news from both is not good.

Last night the House of Representatives finally passed a stop gap spending bill that would keep the government operating for seven weeks past the start of the new fiscal year that begins October 1. The bill provides some disaster relief for communities effected by the floods, wildfires and hurricanes, but only half the amount contained in the Senate passed version. Further, the House bill cuts a Energy department loan program designed to promote the development of energy-efficient cars.

European stock markets continue to sink today, with the German DAX right at the 5000 point mark, The Dax, French CAC 40 are both at 52 week lows, and many investors fear that they are on the verge of breaking through their current levels to sink to new lows. While stock futures initially showed that U.S. markets might open higher, news from the trading desks in Europe have soured the mood and futures now point to a lower open on Wall Street.

Update: Wall Street opened down then quickly recovered, though in fits and starts (and now down again). But the modestly higher open has apparently settled the nerves of the European markets which have recovered some of their losses. This has all the hallmarks of a market intervention, though I doubt investors will complain if there are currently attempts to calm the markets.

The Detroit Free Press, a paper I once worked at as an intern, is reporting a rather strange story today. According to the paper, the "CIA abruptly yanked all of its advertisements this month from metro Detroit's largest Arab-American newspaper because it ran an Associated Press report that said the intelligence agency was helping spy on Muslim Americans."

The Free Press goes on to report that it contacted the CIA who said that they would reverse the decision and begin advertising again. "The CIA has a long history of advertising with the Arab American News, and we regret any misunderstandings in this instance," CIA spokesman Preston Golson told the Free Press Thursday.

OK, all well and good, but I have a question: at how many papers is the CIA considered a major advertiser? Would that be an account for the major accounts department? or would a retail sales person handle the account? I could love to sit in on one of those sales calls? "So, Mr. Advertiser, any big events coming up that you would like to promote?"

According to the story, the advertising agency that handles the CIA is Gravity Media, but not surprisingly, the agency does not list the agency on its clients page.