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About the size of an office building, asteroid 2012 DA14 flew by Earth on Friday — coming within about 17,000 miles of the planet.
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There was a lot of attention on the sky Friday..
While most of us were sleeping, an exploding meteor -- the size of an 18-wheeler -- pummeled parts of Russia with massive shock waves that injured thousands.
It also blew out parts of a zinc plant there, causing zinc prices to spike almost one percent. There were worries thay the damaged plant would crimp supplies of the metal.
Not so, says Alex King, who directs the Ames National Laboratory.
“This [facility] is a very small component of the world’s total supply,” he says.
Zinc prices fell back to terra firma by day’s end, actually closing slightly down.
A bit later in the day, a totally unrelated asteroid known as DA14 -- 150 feet in length -- skirted past the earth at a record-close 17,200 miles.
DA14’s passage didn’t trigger any fluctuations in metal prices. But in the near future, similar flybys might.
Take, for example, if DA14 had been 150 feet of platinum.
“That’d be pretty valuable,” says Stephen Fleming, vice president of the Enterprise Innovation Institute at Georgia Tech. “Actually, it’d crash the world markets.”
As DA14 passed, scientists hit the asteroid with radar to find out exactly what it’s made of. Most believe it’s probably just rock.
“Now that you’ve got two people in it, now you’ve got a horse race. Suddenly, it’s an industry,” he says.
Fleming believes early missions are on the horizon, although they’ll likely net only small amounts of precious metals at first. But there exists the potential for billions of dollars to be made.
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The prime minister proposed spending $2,716 a year on the treat for his household at the same time that his coalition government proposed austerity measures for the country.
Could the U.S. join Europe and share a common currency?
On the face of it, the question is patently absurd. Constitutional law and U.S. politics weigh overwhelmingly against the idea -- not to mention simple geography.
Nevertheless, here at Marketplace, we sometimes like to entertain patently absurd questions (don't ask us why), so we put together a fictional ‘what-if’ scenario sketching out an imagined U.S. campaign to join the eurozone (centered in the very real town of Brussels, Wisc., home to many descendants of Belgian immigrants to the U.S.).
To pull back the editorial curtain a bit: The idea for this ‘thought experiment’ came up in a brainstorm meeting we had at Marketplace early this year, after the short-term budget deal in Washington averted the so-called ‘fiscal cliff’ of large tax increases and deep spending cuts.
One of our editors pointed out that the EU member states that launched the euro were required to meet very stringent fiscal targets for annual government budget deficits and long-term national debt.
So we asked ourselves: Could such a mechanism work for the U.S., where there is now such a clamor for debt and deficit reduction? Would the U.S. qualify for eurozone membership today... or in the near future?
Here’s what we found: The Maastricht Treaty establishing the eurozone requires countries to achieve a deficit-to-GDP ratio of 3 percent or less, and a debt-to-GDP ratio of 60 percent or less, in the year prior to accession.
According to data from the OECD, the U.S. ratios in 2012 were 8.5 percent, and 109.8 percent, respectively. The short answer is (again, putting aside the geography): No, the U.S. could not join the eurozone today.
In fact, achieving such levels any time in the near future -- let’s say, within a decade -- would be virtually unthinkable, at least without massive revenue increases (i.e., tax hikes) and spending cuts (i.e., austerity). Even using deficit- and debt-ratio figures from the Congressional Budget Office, which show the U.S. in a considerably more favorable light, the targets are a long-shot in the near future. (For 2013, the CBO projects the U.S. federal deficit at 5.3 percent of GDP, and debt at 76 percent of GDP; the discrepancy with OECD figures is accounted for by the fact that the OECD includes state and local government deficits, as well as debts held by private and public investors, which would add the Social Security Trust Fund and other federal liabilities to total U.S. national debt.)
But here’s the rub: Most of Europe wouldn't qualify for eurozone membership right now, either. Many countries in Europe -- Greece (181.3 percent), Portugal (125.6 percent), Ireland (123.2 percent), Italy (127 percent), Spain (93.8 percent) -- are way over the debt-to-GDP line at this point. France (105.1 percent) and Germany (87.6 percent) have deficit-spent through the recession and now also have national debts significantly above the Eurozone accession targets.
At this point, Luxembourg (29.8 percent) and the Czech Republic (51.3 percent) would qualify, but not the Netherlands (82.5 percent) or Austria (83.1 percent).
And many of the eurozone’s original founding members turn out to have fudged their accounts to get in at the very start. Belgium (103.2 percent for 2012) bought and sold gold reserves and dealt in complex derivatives trades to make its debt and deficit appear to qualify, says Jacob Kirkegaard at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Similar creative accounting allowed Italy, Greece and other countries to qualify on paper, he says. And since then, as countries like France and Germany have busted the limits, he says little has been done to hold them accountable or even audit their national finances.
The bottom line in our examination is that the U.S. could certainly not join the eurozone right now; nor could most European countries, including our large-economy peers, like Germany, France and the U.K.
Some smaller peripheral European countries that are now seeking to adopt the euro, such as Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, would be in a better position than the U.S. at this point. And absent severe budget cuts and tax increases, the U.S. will likely fall more out-of-line with Eurozone accession criteria in coming years.