Meteorite Injures 1,200 in Russia
Around 1,200 people were hurt as a meteorite exploded over Russia today, causing a shock that rattled buildings and destroyed windows. People were heading to work in Chelyabinsk near the border with Kazakhstan, saw a ball of fire illuminating the dark sky, followed by a white trail before what felt like an explosion as windows shattered. The object was made mostly of iron and weighed about 10 metric tons (9.84 tons) before it broke apart at 30-50 km (19-31 miles) above ground, according to the Russian Academy of Science. This happened on the same day asteroid 2012 DA14 passed 27,700km (17,200 miles) from the Earth at 2:24 p.m. Eastern Time, 11:24 a.m. Pacific, within the ring formed by the satellites’ orbit. This is the closest passage ever predicted for an object of this size.
EU Opens Inquiry into Lobbying, Conflicts of Interest
The European Ombudsman, the European Union’s (EU) watchdog for transparency, has opened an investigation into the way the European Commission, which functions as a cabinet for the region, handles conflict of interest and lobbying. P. Nikiforos Diamandouros will look into “revolving doors” cases at the request of the Corporate Europe Observatory, Greenpeace, LobbyControl, and Spinwatch, examining how members of the European Commission are hired by closely related private companies or lobbies, and vice-versa. The case was opened after complaints were made that the Commission does not deal well with such cases, exposing agents of the government to potential conflicts of interests.
Facebook Pays No Taxes on $1.1 Billion U.S. Profit in 2012
Despite making $1.1 billion in profits from the U.S., Facebook did not pay federal or income taxes, and will in fact receive $429 million in tax refunds. Thanks to its initial public offering of stocks when it went public in May 2012, Facebook was able to taking advantage of a tax loophole that allows executive stop options to be deductible. The California-based company will also carry forward another $2.17 billion in tax-option tax breaks for the next few years, for a total of $3.2 billion. The loophole works by giving executives the option to buy stock in the company at a preferential price in the future. When they choose to exercise that option, the company is then able to deduct from the taxable income the difference between the preferential price and the actual price. Facebook is only one of many corporations to use this loophole. Facebook announced today it was targeted by hackers in a “sophisticated attack” last month, saying no user data had been compromised.
Venezuela Releases Chávez Photographs
Venezuela released today photographs of its President Hugo Chávez, the first since he underwent cancer surgery in Havana, Cuba over two months ago. The images came as there was increased speculation about the state of his health, forcing a delay of his swearing-in ceremony after he was elected to a third six-year term. The December 11 surgery was the fourth to treat his cancer, and unlike previous times, Chávez has remained silent and out of sight. Doctors said he suffered from a pulmonary infection that required him to breathe through a tracheal tube and makes it difficult for him to speak at the moment.
Former U.S. Soccer Player Rogers Says He’s Gay, ‘Steps Away’ from Sport
Former player of the U.S. soccer team Robbie Rogers said on his personal web site that he is gay, adding he will retire from the sport at age 25. “Now is my time to step away,” Rogers wrote from London. “It’s time to discover myself away from football.” Rogers has won 18 caps and scored two goals for the U.S. team, and has been on loan to Stevenage, a team in the third tier of English football. He is only the third soccer player to admit to being gay. “Football was my escape, my purpose, my identity. Football hid my secret, gave me more joy than I could have ever imagined,” he goes on to say.
Weekend Read: The Shooter
The man who killed Osama bin Laden retired early, losing benefits and protection for his family. At the Center for Investigative Reporting.