The National overview

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A map of the US

With a slur of national events hitting big news stations and subsequently bombarding the public with a perpetual torrent of information, sometimes its difficult to know what’s really going on in the nation. Within this article several national topics of interest recently prominent on the American stage will be outlined and briefly described as a way to summarize some of this information and allow for a quick update or introduction to the important happenings occurring within the country. Several international stories may also be discussed if substantial or unique enough.

Chuck Hagel For Secretary of Defense
The most significant political event occurring within Washington right now is the appointment of former Senator Chuck Hagel to the position of Secretary of Defense by president Barack Obama and the resulting conflict surrounding it.

Though choosing the senator to be the Secretary of Defense is the job of the president, the Senate must approve the presidents choice, and as of now it seems even Hagel’s fellow Republican senators are not backing him up. “While I respect Sen. Hagel’s service to America,” states former Pennsylvania senator and Republican presidential nominee candidate Rick Santorum, “I cannot stand by and support his nomination. Santorum goes on to say “His anti-Israel, pro-Iran mindset makes him uniquely unqualified to serve as our Defense secretary”, interpreting Hagel’s attitude towards the two nations as inappropriate for a Secretary of Defense.

Hagel, refuting the validity of such statements, told defense officials in several private meetings last week that he backs strong international sanctions against Iran and that no option, including military action, should be ruled out as of yet to deal with them.

Flu Picking Up Steam
Just as significant in a practical sense, this year’s flu season is proving to be more virulent than was initially expected. The frequency of doctor visits starting in December for flu-like symptoms as well as the number of Google searches for flu related terms in recent weeks indicates that activity of the hardy virus has not been so severe and widespread since 2003-04.

This late in the season, manufactures of influenza vaccine are having a tough time keeping up with demand, having already sent most of their built up product for the year.

Most pharmaceutical companies still produce the vaccine through the use of chicken eggs, inoculating them with the virus, allowing them to incubate, and a few days later harvesting the contents, killing the virus, and separating it out from the rest of the substance of the egg. While generally effective, the process takes time; though usually not a problem as they have a good portion of a year to do it, manufacturing extra vaccine to doll out in the case of a more active season can prove problematic and is certainly proving to be now.

“Django Unchained” Minus the Ketchup
The hit Hollywood film of a slave turned bounty hunter, “Django Unchained” has turned out to be one of director Quentin Tarantino’s most successful films to date, grossing over 100 million dollars in profits less than a month after release.

Starring popular actors such as Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson, and Kerry Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio, portraying the white sadistic slave owner Mr. Candie in the story, took the definition of ‘a good actor’ to new heights in the form of an impassioned and accidental improvisation in the script.

In the midst of an extremely tense dinner party of sorts, DiCaprio slammed his hand down onto a table and inadvertently smashed a crystal cordial glass beneath it, opening a sizable gash in his palm which immediately started to stream blood. Dicaprio didn’t flinch and continued on with the scene, actually utilizing the blood to add to the already charged environment shortly after. “Blood was dripping down his hand.” recalled set producer Stacey Sher,“He never broke character. He kept going. He was in such a zone. It was very intense. He required stitches.”

8.5 Billion Settlement Reached to End Foreclosure Reviews
Last Monday federal regulators, after negotiating with 10 major lending firms, worked out a settlement of 8.5 billion dollars to resolve alleged cases of foreclosure abuse due to flawed or inaccurate paperwork and loan modifications that may have led to unlawful evictions.

Proposed as a means of putting to rest an unsightly foreclosure review mandated by banking regulators, all proceeds of the case will be going to homeowners already evicted or in danger of being evicted due to shoddy banking. Some of the banks included under the settlement are JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Bank of America.

A few banks that did not agree to the settlement, Ally Financial, HSBC, OneWest Bank, and Everbank, are continuing to review their loan statements, which, unless another deal is reached, will probably go on for some time.

The Cat That Could
Prison guards stationed at a Brazilian penitentiary in northeast Alagoas were shocked to see a cat with some odd luggage attempting to enter on the Monday of New Year’s eve. Taped to its body, guards found a cell phone, several drill bits, assorted batteries, and two saws.

Prison officials believe the cat had been directed to enter the prison to deliver its cargo to an impatient inmate with friends on the outside trying to assist his escape. Unfortunately, due to a communication barrier, guards have not be able to ascertain to whom the cat was headed or where it had come, so for now officials are unsure who is involved.

The incident is currently under investigation and the cat was transferred over to animal control services.