Nation roundup for November 30


Economy grew at 2.7 percent rate

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy grew at a 2.7 percent annual rate from July through September, much faster than first thought. The strength is expected to fade in the final months of the year because of the impact of Superstorm Sandy and uncertainty about looming tax increases and government spending cuts.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that growth in the third quarter was significantly better than the 2 percent rate estimated a month ago. And it was more than twice the 1.3 percent rate reported for the April-June quarter.

The main reason for the upward revision to the gross domestic product was businesses restocked at a faster pace than previously estimated. That offset weaker consumer spending growth.

GDP measures the nation’s total output of goods and services — from restaurant meals and haircuts to airplanes, appliances and highways.

Most economists say economic growth is slowing to below 2 percent in the current October-December quarter. That’s generally considered too weak to rapidly lower the unemployment rate.

GI: I thought I’d die in custody

FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — An Army private charged in the biggest security breach in U.S. history testified Thursday that he felt like a doomed, caged animal after he was arrested in Baghdad for allegedly sending classified information to the secret-spilling website WikiLeaks.

Speaking publicly for the first time about his May 2010 arrest and subsequent confinement, Pfc. Bradley Manning testified about his time in a cell in a segregation tent at Camp Arifjan, an Army installation in Kuwait.

“I remember thinking I’m going to die. I’m stuck inside this cage,” Manning said in response to questions from defense attorney David Coombs. “I just thought I was going to die in that cage. And that’s how I saw it — an animal cage.”

Manning was later sent to a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va., in July 2010. His lawyers are seeking dismissal of all charges, contending his pretrial confinement at Quantico was needlessly harsh.

Manning’s testimony came on the third day of a pretrial hearing at Fort Meade, the sprawling Army post between Washington and Baltimore.

The compact, 24-year-old intelligence analyst looked youthful in his dark-blue dress uniform, close-cropped hair and rimless eyeglasses. He was animated, often swiveling in the witness chair and gesturing with his hands.

Mercury harbors ice, NASA says

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Just in time for Christmas, scientists have confirmed a vast amount of ice at the north pole — on Mercury, the closest planet to the sun.

The findings are from NASA’s Mercury-orbiting probe, Messenger, and the subject of three scientific papers released Thursday by the journal Science.

The frozen water is located in regions of Mercury’s north pole that always are in shadows, essentially impact craters. It’s believed the south pole harbors ice as well, though there are no hard data to support it.

Messenger orbits much closer to the north pole than the south.

“If you add it all up, you have on the order of 100 billion to 1 trillion metric tons of ice,” said David Lawrence of the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University. “The uncertainty on that number is just how deep it goes.”

The ice is thought to be at least 1½ feet deep — and possibly as much as 65 feet deep.

There’s enough polar ice at Mercury, in fact, to bury an area the size of Washington, D.C., by two to 2½ miles deep, said Lawrence, the lead author of one of the papers.

“These are very exciting results,” he added at a news conference.

For two decades, radar measurements taken from Earth have suggested the presence of ice at Mercury’s poles. Now scientists know for sure, thanks to Messenger, the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury.

The water almost certainly came from impacting comets, or possibly asteroids. Ice is found at the surface, as well as buried beneath a dark material, likely organic.

Messenger was launched in 2004 and went into orbit around the planet 1½ years ago. NASA hopes to continue observations well into next year.

Columbia University’s Sean Solomon, principal scientist for Messenger, stressed that no one is suggesting that Mercury might hold evidence of life, given the presence of water. But the latest findings may help explain some of the early chapters of the book of life elsewhere in the solar system, he said.

”Mercury is becoming an object of astrobiological interest, where it wasn’t much of one before,” Solomon said.

 

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