Just HOW EARLY is spring arriving in your neighborhood?


Click to enlarge

❝ How do you know when spring has begun? Is it the appearance of the first tiny leaves on the trees, or the first crocus plants peeping through the snow? The Spring Leaf Index is a measure of these early season events in plants, based on recent temperature conditions. This model allows us to track the progression of spring onset across the country. The map shows locations that have reached the requirements for the Spring Leaf Index model (based on NOAA National Centers for Environmental Prediction Real-Time Mesoscale Analysis temperature products).

Click through to the article and a dynamic model of this map.

The biggest global trade deal ever is now ratified. Think anyone in the Trump White House noticed?


Roberto AzevadoReuters

❝ An international agreement forecast to boost global trade by $1 trillion a year has come into force.

The Director General of the World Trade Organization, Roberto Azevedo, called it “the biggest reform of global trade in a generation”

Mr Azevedo said it would have a bigger impact than eliminating all existing taxes on imports, known as tariffs.

❝ It involves countries signing up to a long list of reforms, including easier access for businesses to information, reduced fees and simpler and faster procedures.

WTO economists estimated it would cut the cost of trading by 14.3%, and that developing nations would gain the most.

❝ TFA is one of the few successes of a much wider set of negotiations that were launched in late 2001 in the Qatari capital and known as the Doha Round…

The TFA was finally agreed at a meeting in Bali 2013, but could not come into force until 110 countries had ratified it. That is what has now happened…

BTW, the United States ratified this Trade Agreement in January, 2015.

The Pentagon decides on a new military handgun


Donald Trump Jr. holding a Sig Sauer MCX…brother Eric, 2nd from right

The US Army has confirmed that its new XM17 handgun is to be a 9 mm Sig Sauer model P320 and the contract allows the government to buy Sig Sauer’s proposed XM1152 Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) and XM1153 Special Purpose (SP) ammunition and training rounds.

The long-running XM17 Modular Handgun System (MHS) contract, intended to replace legacy 9 mm M9 Beretta pistols, was awarded…with a total $580+ million maximum ceiling.

It is understood that Sig Sauer bested bids from Beretta, FN Herstal, and Glock, after Smith & Wesson and partner General Dynamics Ordnance Tactical Systems (GDOTS) had earlier been dropped from the programme. A total of nine bids were submitted, according to a separate Pentagon statement. The US Army declined to reveal the other bids…

The MHS programme, which is expected to reach full-rate production in 2018, could result in buying between 280,000 and 500,000 weapons for the army, navy, air force, marines, and US Special Operations Command. The army has said it wants more than 280,000 handguns…

I’m not commenting, today, on the predictable waste of dollar$ from the Pentagon. This project or any other is subject to the politics of our military-industrial complex – which has little to do with defense or sanity.

I grew up in the “arsenal of America” – in Connecticut. Where mass production was invented as an innovation to produce muskets for the American Revolution. Where firms like Colt, Winchester, Remington and Ruger got their start because of talented, trained and experienced machinists and designers. Natives and immigrants alike.

It was only my generation that ended the lineage of folks from my family who worked on firearms, from assembly lines to talented prototype gunsmiths who spent their lives designing fine guns for peace – or war.

The furor over Beretta’s award years ago will not be matched over Sigg-Sauer getting this juicy contract. Their headquarters is in the US, nowadays – even though they’re a subsidiary of Lüke & Ortmeier Gruppe. And they love their friendship with the Trump family.