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..There's a little Samuel Pepys in all of us..

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Some reports one reads, have an immediate visceral effect.. disbelief based on our immediate outrage.. a cold fury when the facts are presented..
A BBC Panorama program, concerned with the treatment of the disabled left in 'reputable' care homes by families who can no longer care for them..
Winterbourn View is one such home in Bristol.. police have made 4 arrests so far.. staff caught on video mistreating their charges..
In the words of Joe Casey, the BBC reporter who went into the home 'underground', and served as an orderly..
"The hitting, slapping, bullying, dousing with water, cruel and often pointless use of physical restraint on people.. many with a child-like understanding of the world ..all happened in front of my eyes.
On a near-daily basis, I watched as some of the very people entrusted with the care of society's most vulnerable targeted patients - often, it seemed, for their own amusement. They are scenes of torment that are not easily forgotten.
The targets had no way of defending themselves or speaking out. Anyone who questioned the abuse met a wall of silence.
They spent most of their days locked on the top floor of a three-story non-descript building in a business park on the outskirts of town."
The hospital's owners, Castlebeck, have apologised unreservedly and suspended 13 employees... police are continuing their investigations and more charges are expected to be made..
But.. how can we allow such abuse to go un-noticed..? This 'home' was a 24 bed facility, funded by the taxpayers.. and as such, it's the government's job to monitor such places, not journalists such as those who work for the BBC..
Are we that close to the days of Bedlam,.. slatted boxes.. cold baths.. high-pressure hosing.. a subject not for the public to think about? We have abrogated the right to say, with any degree of truth, that we are 'humane and knowledgeable' society.
Shame the likes of this, shrouds all of us.. We, all of us, stand blissfully aware of but removed from the realities of the torturous lives some of our fellows are leading..
Those in charge of caring for abused children released figures today indicating they had 'saved' 400 children from those who should never have been parents to begin with.. One can be happy for those 400, for they, at least, escaped that which twenty times their number still face on a day to day basis..
And the situation is worsening.. The country's largest care home provider, Southern Cross Healthcare, which runs 750 care homes, has run out of money to pay their rent..
This leaves the residents of these homes in a somewhat bewildered state, as they wonder if the company will go bust, and leave them wafting in the breeze.. Mind you, local Councils are watching this develop, for there is not only a moral, but a legal action for Council to step in to ensure quality of care for the residents is up to snuff..
Mind you, with local Councils records in other areas of social service..

There has been some noise about 'western boots on the ground', filmed and broadcast by al Jazeera..
What utter nonsense.. There were Westerners filmed in a crowd in Dafniya, the most westerly suburb of Misrata , but none were in uniform, and could quite possibly be Western contractors working to keep the oil infrastructure intact..
Now while NATO has escalated it's attacks on Libyan positions, now using attack helicopters, and while there are some 2 dozen French and British 'advisers' in Libya, helping the 'freedom fighters' to coordinate their efforts against Mohammar.. none of these are carrying arms..
Not yet.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has issued a general amnesty to those arrested during protests that have now spanned more than three months.. This includes members of the Muslim Brotherhood.. This move follows more than a thousand killed, and ten thousand wounded by government troops..
Abdel Razak Eid, an activist from the "Damascus Declaration" group... says this is not nearly enough.. that the demand from the people for Assad to step down remains intact.. and they want those who've caused these deaths and wounding, brought before a Court of Law..
Mind you, it's hard to verify these accounts of killings.. foreign journalists are banned from Syria..

Looks as though Ratko Mladic will face the Courts in the Hague.. his appeal against extradition has been denied, and he'll soon be off to the Netherlands to face charges of 'crimes against humanity'..
Speculation that the authorities had known all along where to find Mladic was again denied last night by Boris Tadic, the Serbian President...
Of course..

It is a source of constant amazement, the number of people who blame the United States for all the world's ills.. those who label the US as 'warmongers', and 'economic destroyers'..
The US is presently doing it's best to withdraw itself from world conflicts, trying to deal with the multitude of disasters, both economic and natural, that it has faced over the past three years..
The Western World in general, looks to the US to pick up the lions share of responsibility when peace is needed to be enforced. The US is still the largest economy in the world, and while, as mentioned, it's got it's own major problems to deal with, it's still the benchmark for all currencies..
American-bashing is just too easy.. it allows those involved in it the luxury of abrogating their own responsibilities..
It's a sad, sad point of view..

Now we've all heard this before.. but new studies by the World Health Organization suggests that mobile phones may be tied to a specific type of brain cancer.. glioma to be precise..
Experts are not taking this too seriously.. saying the evidence is too inconclusive..
Ed Yong, the head of Britains' information service for the Cancer Research UK.. said "The risk of brain cancer is similar in people who use mobile phones compared to those who don't, and rates of this cancer have not gone up in recent years despite a dramatic rise in phone use during the 1980s."
He added the caveat though, that the use of mobiles has risen sharply since the studies began.. and a 'risk' of cancer cannot be ruled out..
Encouraging, that..

And of course, it must be noted that an era comes to an end today, with the touchdown of the space shuttle Endeavour.. it's being retired after 19 years in service..
This is end of NASA's shuttle program.. It's expensive.. just keeping the shuttles in repair costs more than contracting shuttle flights out to the private sector..
the first of these expected to be in operation by 2015 or so..
The last shuttle left.. Atlantis is scheduled to undertake its final mission on the 8th of July. The vehicle was due to make the three mile trip to the launch pad from its assembly hangar late yesterday.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Some ten thousand Serbs protested in their capital Belgrade.. to demand the resignation of Boris Tadic and his government over the arrest of Bosnian Serb wartime general Ratko Mladic.
As has been previously mentioned.. Mladic, indicted for genocide in the 43-month siege of Sarajevo and the massacre of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica during Bosnia's 1992-95 war, was found on Thursday in a village 60 miles northeast of Belgrade, after 16 years on the run...
In Belgrade, Radical Party official Lidija Vukicevic told the crowd .."With the arrest of General Mladic...with its pro-Western policies, Boris Tadic's regime betrayed all interests of the Serbian nation,".. Many supporters of the former General believe he had nothing to do with the massacre at Srebrenica in 1995..
However, as mentioned here yesterday, the European Union has smiled upon Serbia with the arrest of Mladic.. seeing it as a step towards joining the Eurozone..

Syrian military officials say hundreds of Islamic militants cemented control over a town in southern Yemen on Sunday.. seizing army tanks.. while breakaway army units encouraged other military forces to switch their loyalties and join the uprising.
The growing number of defections in the military posed the most serious threat yet to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 30 year grip on his country.
But the government's not finished yet.. doctors in the southern city of Taz says six were killed, and more than 150 injured by government troops, who turned water cannon, and the live fire, on protestors..

Figures released by Social Service Departments would indicate that there are some 800 thousand senior citizens in this country, who, because of a variety of reasons, have fallen through the cracks and receive no social aid whatsoever..
Eight hundred thousand..
The report.. based on previously published data by the government and independent researchers.. pointed out while the NHS had received significant budget rises in recent years, social care increases had stalled.
Once inflation is taken into account, funding has only been rising by 0.1% a year since 2004 - equivalent to £43million.. by comparison, the NHS budget rose by £25billion..
Golden years, indeed..

The unprecedented weather continues in the States.. Montana's the latest..
Officials warned ongoing flooding could ultimately be the worst in decades for the state, with an unusually heavy snow pack in the mountains, persistent spring rains, and waterlogged ground incapable of soaking up any more moisture.
And on the other end of the ecological scale..With Northern Europe facing its worst drought since 1976, politicians in the West are expecting protests from farmers.. consumer discontent.. and a strain on budgets.
Third World nations are braced for riots as Europe’s heat wave creates a rise in food prices and drives millions deeper into poverty..
According to Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, the French Ecology Minister..“We are in a situation of crisis and of crisis management..” . Meteorologists say that Northern Europe has had 50 per cent less rain than normal over the past two months, while temperatures have been 7.2F higher than usual..
And a similarly catastrophic drought in China, has those in the north of the country left with two basic choices.. change their crops to one's which will grow with less water.. or leave their farms entirely and migrate to the cities to look for casual labour.. The country's second largest lake is seven meters below it's normal level.. And the hot weather is not expected to change..
And the Camping Countdown continues..

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Alex Salmond is flexing his muscles already.. his Cabinet is making a move against the Supreme Court in the UK, effectively keeping Scotland bound by Scottish Law.. Here, for example, we have a binding verdict of 'not proven'.. a verdict that reflects directly on the police and the Crown Prosecution, for not providing enough evidence for a clear guilty, or not guilty verdict..
The SNP wants to have Scottish Law recognized by the European Court in Strasbourg..
"We believe the UK Supreme Court should have no role in matters of Scots criminal law .. a view supported by Scotland's leading legal figures.." A quote from Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill..
Yet another devolutionary step.. and so quickly..

The Institute for Public Policy Research..IPPR.. is an independent think tank.. and it's estimates of Britain's jobless is frankly, amazing..
850 thousand people have been out of work for at least a year.. This report says the proportion of unemployed men out of work for more than a year increased from 25% (338,000) in 2009 to almost 40% (568,000).. for women. figures rose from 19% (169,000) in 2009 to 27% (282,000).
Now the government has devised what it calls the 'Work Project'.. Employment Minister Chris Grayling said "organisations will be paid to help people get into work and, more importantly, stay there...We're also introducing Universal Credit, which means people can no longer be financially better off on benefits than in work."
Now all that remains, is to find these long term unemployed, re-educate them, and get them into jobs which have yet to exist..
This type of thinking is 'pie in the sky'.. 'a car in every driveway and a chicken in every pot'.. Rather than waste money on profitless ventures the likes of the 'Works Project'.. it should be dreaming up strategies to entice foreign investment in this country..
For it is only with the creation of new jobs, will any government even start on reducing unemployment..

The battle to replace Strauss-Kahn at the helm of the IMF rages on.. but it would appear French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde is leading the pack.. Mexico threw it's hat in the ring today.. naming their Finance Minister as a candidate.. and the African Nations are still trying to agree on a suitable candidate of their own..
But while the African States have been making a fair bit of noise about the next head of the fund be European.. it would seem that's exactly what she's going to be..
She has some big shoes to fill, for whatever his crimes, Domenique was a very capable businessman and banker..

And this has been in the offing for a while.. Moody's will likely downgrade the credit ratings of some 14 British banks.. mainly because regulators have become reticent with their bail out funds..
Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland..Santander UK, Co-Operative Bank, Coventry Building Society, Nationwide Building Society and Bank of Ireland UK could be looking at losing a point.. Moodys is also looking at Newcastle, Norwich & Peterborough, Nottingham, Principality, Skipton, West Bromwich and Yorkshire building societies.. while maintaining a 'negative' outlook on HSBC..
We were warned last month by Moody’s that it could cut its ratings for this country's smaller banks, as it assessed how they would fare without a tacit agreement that the Government would always bail them out if they got into financial difficulty.
The powers that be here.. the Bank of England, the Financial Services Authority and the Treasury.. have said that banks that fail in the future should not expect capital injections from the public purse..
And it gets a bit worse.. Financial markets were staggered today among fears that the debt crisis is spreading across the Eurozone.. with policy makers wrangling over how to deal with Greece as it slides inevitably into bankruptcy.. a complete debacle for Spain's Socialist Party this past weekend.. the eternal problem of getting a quick answer from Italy.. the decline of the Euro.. there appears to be a sense of panic in their machinations..
Erik Berglöf, chief economist of the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, said that public and private sectors should be brought together soon in an “orderly process” that addresses Greece’s mountainous public debts..
The important thing is that this should be done now rather than later, and you should find a consensual solution, an orderly process, that involves both the private and public sectors,” he told The Times.
One might wonder why the question was even asked of Berglof.. his answer is so patent, a first year economics student could have come up with the same..
Unless some European countries decide to move, lock stock and barrel, to Greece, and hire locals.. or unless Saudi Arabia say, began building a series of luxury hotels along the Greek shore, again using local labour.. Until there is a viable increase in foreign investment, and a concomitant increase in tax revenues.. no country as deeply in the hole as is Greece, could climb out..
The same applies to Eire, to Portugal, to Spain, to the Eastern States who want to join the Union.. more jobs are needed... More private and government funds on profitable ventures.. funds administrated honestly and invested in areas in which it would both have an available workforce, and the nous to make a profit..
Until we see these jobs... we'll continue to slide..
So again, the whole structure teeters just a little bit more..

It's odd.. one man's hero is anothers monster.. history abounds with examples, with, in any conflict, the winner coming out looking better..
Tens of thousands of Serbia have turned out to protest the arrest and extradition of Radko Mladic, accused of the massacre at Srebrenica back in '95.. 75 hundred Serbian Muslim men and boys were machine-gunned to death.. To these supporters of Radko, he knew nothing of this atrocity.. that he was concerned during the civil war with preserving their way of life.. protecting the weak and the wounded.. commanding their forces..
Gen Mladic's lawyer.. Milos Saljic.. says his client knew he would be transferred to a UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague..but Radko's legal team is to appeal against the transfer on Monday, after a court said General Mladic was fit to be extradited.
Speaking yesterday he maintained that Mladic's health had deteriorated in the two days since the court's decision.. saying "I can tell you that his health condition today is much worse then yesterday. It is worse psychologically.."
No doubt..
However.. politically speaking..Serbian President Boris Tadic says the arrest brought the country closer to reconciliation.. and opened the doors to European Union membership for Serbia. At least, a crack..

Yesterday.. a suicide bomber wearing a police uniform detonated a vest loaded with semtex at a provincial governor's compound in northern Afghanistan, killing two top Afghan police commanders and wounding the German general who commands NATO forces in the north.. Two Germans and two other Afghans died..
The April 18 attack.. brazen and cleverly orchestrated by al Q' indicative of the high-profile guerrilla attacks that are trademarks of the Taliban's spring campaign. Unable to match the firepower of the U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces, 'martyrs' conduct suicide bombings and assaults on government buildings, figuring these types of attacks will prove their resolve.
The terrorists are in a position wherein they need to take back part of the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand, their traditional strongholds.. if they hope to retain their power base and the opium fields that fund their movement..
Both military and NATO commanders say this is going to be a tough summer.. with al Q'aida desperate for money, and highly incensed at the death of Osama..

It's unclear how deep of a dent the U.S.-led military campaign made in the Afghanistan 'war on terror' over the winter,or if these attacks are preludes to more widespread fighting by the Taliban this summer. Insurgents need to take back part of the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand, their traditional strongholds, if they hope to retain their power base and the opium fields that fund their movement.

Just a line on Nepal.. this 'Arab Spring' seems to have hot this Himalayan nation as well.. An agreement has been reached through governmental concessions.. But something else to keep an eye on..

It appears some agreement has been reached between the various tribesmen who lead those involved in the Yememi protests and the government.. The political crisis has already cost the economy as much as $5 billion and immediate aid is needed to prevent a meltdown in the country with a nominal GDP of $31 billion,according to the Trade Minister.."The economy should not be held hostage to the political crisis, because the situation is alarming," Hisham Sharaf Abdalla said...
This fighting between government troops and armed tribesmen has overshadowed a largely peaceful protest movement that started months ago, aimed at ending President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33-year-long autocratic rule.. inspired no doubt by uprisings that brought down the long-standing leaders of Tunisia and Egypt.
We'll see how far the need to keep the economy running versus the rule of Saleh goes.. and how long it will be before government troops are called again to quell a march..

A telling trend demonstrating what some might say is the decline of Western Culture..
New statistics show that married couples in the US.. are in the minority.. That most relationships involve no formal commitment..
The flip in the 2010 Census happened in 32 states... in another seven states, less than 51 percent of households were held by married couples...
And attitudes on marriage are changing, too. About 39 percent of Americans say marriage is becoming obsolete, according to a Pew Research Center study published in November, up from 28 percent in 1978.
What is this world of ours coming to..
More floods, with more rain expected in Montana..
Onward with the Camping Countdown..

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Barack and his advisers are poring over Constitutional Issues, as the deadline for American involvement in Libya's uprising..
There's a mechanism in place, the War Powers Resolution, which allows that the US can only be involved in an armed conflict for 60 days, unless it's approved by Congress..
That deadline ends today..
Bruce Ackerman, a law professor at Yale University, says continuing without Congressional consent sets a dangerous precedent..
"A future president not as reasonable as President Obama is going to use this case to engage in something much more ambitious..From the point of view of long-term constitutional development, this is an important decision which will have precedental force in a very different context."
It's not a popular war in the States, what with their internal problems looming larger and larger.. and whether Congress will allow American Forces, even those with NATO, to continue their actions against Mohammar, is very much in the balance..
Meanwhile, barack continues his European mini-your in Poland.. where he's taken aim at perhaps the last of the Eastern Bloc dictators, Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko. His hard handed attitude towards protestors in that country.. He's called the governments actions 'unacceptable'.. and that means the eyes of the world will be watching this situation now..
And, to soothe Polish security fears.. Barack has promised a gesture of reassurance towards Nato’s most important East European member, Administration officials said that a US military detachment would be based permanently in Poland to train Polish personnel assigned to fly American F-16 fighters and C-130 transport planes.
Warsaw breathes easier..
Back to the Libya problem for a moment.. Russian President Medvedev has thrown his hat in the ring, and is saying he'll try and broker a peace in that country..
Apparently, Thursday, as NATO war planes prepared fresh strikes against the compound of Muammar Gaddafi, his prime minister, Baghdadi al-Mahmudi, put in an urgent call to Moscow. After months of civil war, he said, Gaddafi was ready to negotiate a ceasefire and he needed Russia to mediate the talks...oddly enough, that same day,the French and U.S. presidents, who have been leading the bombing raids against Mohammar, reportedly came to their Russian counterpart with a similar plea: Help us convince Gaddafi to leave so that a ceasefire can move forward.
But the question remains, is Medvedev up to the job..?
The answer, at best, is a qualified 'maybe'..

Syria now. Reports are that if the protestors fail to bring down the government of President Bashar al-Assad, the economy surely will. Forecasts had that country's GDP growing at about 6% this year before the protests, today, because of the unrest, the forecast has been revised to a 3% retraction..
Once food and essential commodities begin to disappear, so likely will support for the present government..
Only a matter of time..

Egypt has, today, effectively ended the siege of Gaza by permanently opening the Rafah border crossing.. bringing home the harsh truth of Israel's increasingly isolated position..
While the U.S. would stand by Israel unconditionally, Barack has warned that "the march to isolate Israel internationally..and the impulse of the Palestinians to abandon negotiations..will continue to gain momentum in the absence of a credible peace process and alternatives.. And for us to have leverage with the Palestinians, to have leverage with the Arab States and with the international community, the basis for negotiations has to hold out the prospect of success."
Not with Beni Netanyahu in power though. His opposition to reducing Israel into a State surrounded by antagonistic States is anathema to the Israeli President..

It's interesting to take a geographical sweep around the North African Coast.. and examine those countries affected by popular uprisings..
In Morocco..King Mohammed VI promised "comprehensive constitutional reform" in response to nationwide protests in February, but unrest still continues.
Protesters want some of the king's powers to be handed over, with a Constitution and elections..
In Algeria..President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been under pressure to change the constitution and limit presidential terms following protests that have been going on since January..Strikes, opposition protests and riots have prompted concern among the ruling elite that the country may succumb to popular unrest..Attempts by protesters to march through the capital, Algiers, have been broken up by huge numbers of riot police.
The cause of the protests appears to be mainly economic..particularly the sharp increases in the price of food.
We're all aware of what's going on in Libya..
In Egypt.. The military have been running the country since Hosni, in power for three decades, resigned on 11 February. He resigned after 18 days of protests in the capital, Cairo, and other cities.
The military are to oversee Egypt's transition to a genuine democracy this summer and Essam Sharaf, a popular former transport minister who sided with the protesters, has now been appointed caretaker prime minister.
The opposition Muslim Brotherhood group is expected to do well in any free and fair election, and there is areal fear of a lurch towards Islamist rule worrying the West.. and Israel.
In Jordan..a Hashemite country with little in the way of natural resources but much in the way of strategic location.. Unrest has been simmering since January but while protesters have clashed with security forces, the country saw nothing like the deadly violence in Syria and Egypt until 25 March, when a man was killed in the capital, Amman.
Protesters have been demanding better employment prospects and cuts in food and fuel costs, as well as electoral reforms that would see the prime minister directly elected and more powers granted to parliament.
King Abdullah II has replaced his prime minister with Marouf al-Bakhit, a former general and ambassador to Israel, together with a new cabinet.
But, and it's a big but.. a powerful Islamist opposition group, the Islamic Action Front, has called for the dissolution of parliament and criticised the king's efforts to initiate reform..
Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia itself.. will all be looked at over the coming days..
But back to Barack for a moment.. there have been calls for the US to take a more active role in this 'Arab Spring'.. while Obama has set up plans for a 'Marshal Plan' type of intervention.. pledging $200 million dollars for the effort.. there are those who are still unsatisfied with the American level of involvement in Libya..
Just how Barack's going to deal with the international community and NATO, while keeping his constituents back home happy.. is going to be an act to watch..
Better than a circus..

The legal battle of Domenique Strauss-Kahn has begun with an opening salvo from the defence team for the former head of the IMF..
They're recounting the events, as told by the 32 year old chambermaid who's laid the rape charges.. saying they believe “the forensic evidence . . . will not be consistent with a forcible encounter”, and say they possess “substantial information” that will “undermine the credibility of the complainant”.
By far the largest unknown, however, is the maid.. We now know that she came to America from Guinea seven years ago.. that she worked at the hotel for three years, and that the hotel felt her record was “satisfactory”.
That's it.. Now she claims is She cleaned the living room and dining room and it was only when she entered the bedroom that she encountered Mr Strauss-Kahn, naked and emerging from the bathroom.
What followed will be the crux of the trial.
According to the charge sheet, the chambermaid was subjected to five sexual assaults.. an attempted rape.. and was falsely imprisoned at some point in the suite.
Mr Strauss-Kahn denies all the charges.
This should be even more interesting than Barack's back flips in the Senate and the House over the Middle East..

Speaking at the G8 summit in Deauville on Thursday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy described Radko Mladic's arrest as "..a step toward integration of Serbia into the European Union someday soon.." Since the atrocities committed during the partition of Yugoslavia, Serbia's been something of a pariah in Europe.. This move to legitimatise itself, to prove to the world they are trying to erase their past.. and gain entry into the European Union..
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the G8 meetings, that Serbia has brought itself closer to the ideals held by the rest of the Union, and may well find itself favourably looked upon in the near future..
Meanwhile, there is still a faction among Serbs that see Mladic as a hero of the revolution, and deplore the fact he's been arrested..
The sectarian problems between Muslims and Christians in that country, will not be solved any time soon.. and there's much more work to do..
After all, we've still got the same problems here in Scotland.. if not throughout the British Isles..

As the death toll from the massive tornado's which have swept through Missouri last week reaches 139.. The National Weather Service has announced that this has been the deadliest year for twisters, since 1950..
The total dead this year, has reached 520.. the previous record was 519 in 1953, and while there were deadlier storms before, the cost in lives was estimated, not recorded..
Missouri says there are still 170 people unaccounted for from the Joplin tornado..
And Campers Countdown continues..

Friday, May 27, 2011

The NATO role in breaking the deadlock in Libya has taken a step up the ladder.. The Royal Navy has deployed 4 Apache helicopters, to be used against smaller targets and urban warfare..
Russia has joined the other NATO members, in demanding Mohammar step down.. and has even gone so far as offering to help negotiate a change in power..The final G8 declaration contained tougher-than-expected language after changes late on Thursday night. It read: “[Gaddafi] has no future in a free, democratic Libya. He must go.” Sergei Ryabkov, the deputy Russian foreign minister, went farther, saying: “We think that Gaddafi has stripped himself of his legitimacy and it is necessary to help him leave.”

And Radko Mladic is now in custody.. and extradition proceedings are on the way to send him to the Hague.. But the judge last night said the man was frail.. and he would decide in a couple of days if the hearing will continue.. latest reports have it that doctors have said he is healthy enough to attend hearings today.. and so it continues.. The latest is that he's well enough to travel to the Hague, to face charges of genocide.. However, this man's arrest has split Serbia.. the village itself where he was found and arrested, seem to look on it as a bad day.. They would have protected him..
To some, and just how many that 'some' might be might be demonstrated over the next few days.. the man's a Hero..
How odd..

A rather interesting discussion about what was not said, in Barack's speech to the combined Houses.. He said the right thing on Afghanistan.. the right thing on supporting the 'Middle Eastern Spring'.. but conspicuous by it's absebse was any mention of Saudi Arabia..
Saudi Arabia is an absolute Monarchy.. the House of Saud has been in power since 1932.. and in this day and age it is something of a bi-shoreline Society.. with those on the Persian Gulf, and those on the Red Sea, are almost entirely Westernised.. The money's all made in these two parts of the country, and they understand the world outside.. The middle, is not quite as interested in what goes on beyond that which affects them.. still tribal..
There have been some demonstrations in Riyadh, but nothing that goes beyond concessions the House of Saud were already in the process of instituting..
Saudi, and Israel, are the two most important countries in the Middle East, as far as the West is concerned..
And Saudi, is the final voice in the Islamic world..

David Cameron has taken the other G8 countries are lagging behind in their commitments of funds, for a resolution in the Middle East.. britain, says David, will meet it's moral obligation and pay out it's share.. but others owe some 19 billion dollars in aid.. promises made, but not yet kept..
An expensive proposition, this bringing the West to the Middle East..

Yet another unusual weather front caused Heathrow to shut down for a few hours yesterday.. high winds and thunderstorms cancelled near 80 flights.. and caused hours of delays..
Less than 4 months now on the Camper Calendar..

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Official figures released today, indicate the number of alcohol related hospitalisations, has topped the one million a year mark in the UK.. that's up 12% from last year..Now those figures include liver disease, mental problems caused by prolonged abuse, cancers, accidents, and of course, injuries.. two of three admissions, were men. The charity 'Alcohol Concern' says their figures put it at a million and a half a year in three years..that translates to £3.7 billion a year in NHS costs..
Rather makes the arguments against Cannabis risible, doesn't it..?

But, here in Scotland, we have Alex Salmond laying out a five year plan to eradicate the alcohol and bigotry problems here.. "..bigotry and booze.." as the First Minister called it..
This Scottish culture culture is in itself.. exceedingly caustic, immediately distrustful, perhaps as much of those from the village three miles down the road as those from villages thousands of miles away. There's an unwritten tradition that we Scots have been the fiercest fighters, the best engineers, the brightest minds, and the backbone of the expansion effort of almost any Western country you could name. It allows even the most unaccomplished of us, assume an air of inherent, inherited superiority.
Within this culture, is embedded the sacral right to ingest alcohol until the age old cry of ' worries... Piper down..a Piper's down..' echo's through the pub.. it's a part of our heritage that even the highest of our luminaries, aside perhaps from the religious ones, could not honestly say there had never been time he, or she, was utterly legless.. Australia has it's Bunderberg Rum.. so we have our Buckfast..
For Alec to tackle this, is going to be quite a formidable task.. educating the young.. when must of them are out of work.. ill-educated.. on benefits.. and likely drinking Irn-Bru with vodka from the can.. is a task that would daunt Hercules..
And as for sectarianism.. it's roots are unfortunately as deep as those of alcohol consumption.. in fact, in many cases the one problem manifests itself after the other..
There were many Irish who came to Calvinist Scotland in the 18th and 19th centuries.. joining the Jacobite's who still followed the Stuart succession..coming for the jobs industrialised Scotland afforded. And Scotland needed these immigrants.. there simply weren't enough of us to fill all the jobs..
But the Irish brought Roman Catholicism with them.. and with the Orange Order having as much political clout here as it did in Ulster.. there was born an age-old schism that split the major cities in this country.
Not so much the countryside.. they were busy.. and somewhat of a closed community in their own right.. the harvest mattered more than the manner in which the Sacrament was taken..
But in the cities.. where wages were being paid on a weekly basis, and the pubs were full on a Friday night.. and sectarian feelings ran high.. they'd play Football.
The 'Auld Firm' was and is, of course, Celtic and Rangers.. Rangers representing the Protestant culture.. Celtic the Roman..
Then, after the game, they'd fight.
Now these days, it must be said, these scenes of violence are few and far between. The culture has evolved to where the old rivalries are so deeply repressed, they're considered 'bad form' when they bubble up to the surface. Political correctness has relegated 'sectarianism' to that which inspires shock, when it's shoved in our faces by a sensationalist media.. We're not, in Scotland, a population that, for the most part, wears football strips in public..
However, the alcohol problem.
It may well be the one area Alex will fail badly in.. while he will doubtless target youth culture.. the Friday night 'binge drink' is already firmly entrenched.. and that's a problem throughout the Union..
And as a sidebar here.. 'migration' into Britain, which is the official number of those leaving the country as opposed to those entering.. has jumped a hundred thousand this past year. This influx of those from Eastern Bloc countries is another issue Alex is going to have to address.. for while the problem is, for the time being, a southern one, it will certainly bleed into Scotland..

The G8 is meeting.. on the agenda so far has, of course, been the Middle East.. the stalemate in Libya.. Egypt.. Syria.. Tunisia..
But something which might slip under the radar, are discussions on how to regulate the Internet.. Internet movers and shakers, including the founder of Facebook, are attending these meetings..
Now, China has already admitted the existence of a 'super elite group of cyberwarriors'.. designed to penetrate the defence secrets of the West.. specifically the US.. this group.. known as the 'Blue Army' has Western governments exceedingly concerned.. they've been worried for quite a while that China's been hacking into their economic and strategic files.. Now this group was only in existence for two years apparently.. It's been disbanded , for the now, at least..
And Frances President Sarkozy wants the Internet to be 'government controlled'.. policed by a government agency which would tag certain words, published or transmitted, which would raise 'red flags' in dark little offices.. Sarkozy's one of the most militant of all the G8 leaders, in wanting strict controls on the net.. Britain, on the other hand, is somewhat detached.. saying whatever agreement came out of meetings concerning the Net, would be 'uncontroversial'..
A bit of an update.. the Middle East has dominated today's talks.. with plans discussed for delivering aid to the various insurgent groups.. Britain has pledged £110 million..

An interesting article in 'Nature' implies there are different physical characteristics between the brains of 'normal' children, and those which are 'autistic'.. Those terms in quotations for the sake of avoiding the labelling of those afflicted..
Apparently the unique characteristics of the frontal and temporal lobes differ.. that in 'normal' children the genes are active in a certain pattern.. in 'autistic' children, that pattern is consistently different..
Autism and Aspergers affects some half a million Americans.. with the cause split between genetic and environmental.. or a combination of both..

It bears a mention, that Ratko Mladic has appeared before a Serbian Court.. to be doubtless charged with Crimes Against Humanity.. he being the military chief of the Bosnian Serb Army.. Doubtless he'll face the International Court in the Hague before all this is said and done.. Then he'll be found guilty.
It's a non-story in effect.. except for those who are directly inbolved..the families and friends of the men and woman this man exterminated..

India and Pakistani diplomats met today, with the Kashmir situation as the sole item on the agenda.. the official repease read 'Union Minister and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah today said an amicable solution is needed for the Kashmir problem which satisfies the people of the state as well as India and Pakistan... but this assumes the Kashmiri want to be part of either of these two countries..
Just as there is a Palestine within Israel faction.. so is there a Pakistani/Kashmiri/Indian State stance..
Should be watched, especially since they all share a border with China..

The latest is, that full civil war is looming in Yemen.. President Saleh treated an agreement brokered by the African Council, and agreed to by the Opposition, with utter contumely.. preferring instead to continue to throw his armed forces against protestors.. More than 40 were killed in the capital of Sanaa yesterday.. and it's only a metter of time before the erstwhile peacefull protestors, turn to using armed force themselves..
Foreign governments have either evacuated their personel already, or are preparing to.. Foreigners are advised, to leave..

There are those who have taken the stand, that Benjamin Netanyahu's address to the joint houses, was a definite slap in the face to Barack.. That while Benjamin took the hard line that Islael would never consider a return to pre-1967 borders.. a matter that while discussed, was never presented as a feasable condition, but as a starting point.. Barack mentioned some 'partitions'.. and offered what could be a roadmap for a peaceful ending to this conflict..
But, Benjamin decided to take the hard line.. and ignore any conciliation which may have been offered..
Why..? Perhaps because he can.. He has Republican support firmly in his pocket.. and canny politician he is, he knows when to play a card..

Another warning from the IMF to Greece.. tighten up another notch, or risk the funds still to come in the bailout package. Greece is staggering, having already defaulted on it's interest repayments, and it's dpowngrading by Moores to B-...
Now Athens says it will bankrupt the country is they don't get the £12 billion instalment on their bailout.. But it begs the question.. is this indeed throwing good money after bad..?

And to continue with the subject of the brain.. researchers have found that the size of your brain can be 'faith' related.. Mainline Protestants have had it hard these past few years.. declining membership.. shrinking economic base.. But they can now say a Duke University study has shown their brains to be larger than Roman Catholics, born-again Christians, and non-believers..
Amy Owen, a psychologist who did a post-doctoral fellowship at Duke and was the main writer for the study, said she hoped others would try to reproduce her methods or offer other reasons for the association.

It's interesting, when studying Islamic tradition, for it is always best to know one's enemy, as they say, that it's development was much a mirror of that of Christianity.. the first recorded quotation from the Q'ran goes 'round the lower roof of the Dome of the Rock, corresponding to Sura 4:171.. a warning to 'the People of the Book' that there were not three Gods, but One.. Although in 1972 in the Great Mosque in Sanaa in Yemen, that even as the Dome was being built, Islamic doctrine was still in flux.. and a cache of Q'rans which have been dated to the late 8th century show there are two versions of text, one written atop the other.. which suggests the Q'ran, and therefor Islam itself, was evolving for at least a century after Muhammad's death..
It was the original tolerance at the heart of Islam which allowed many of the Christian 'heresies' to thrive during the 8th century.. in fact the Roman and Orthodox Church's' originally took Islam to bet yet another one..
It was about the same time as the Q'ran began to take a universally accepted form..
And thus, Islam became not only a faith, but a political force..

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Palestinian Authorities response could well have been written before Israeli Prime Minister made his address with Barack this week..
Of course, in those talks he flatly refused a return to pre 1967 borders.. and in so uncertain terms said Israel would not consider a split Palestinian State, in the West Bank and Gaza..
'This will not lead to peace'.. is the word from Palestinian Authority leader Mahmood Abbas.. that in fact Netanyahu has thrown 'more obstacles in the path to peace'... that this was 'a declaration of war'..
It will be interesting to see what happens this Fall, when the Palestinian Authority approaches the UN for a seat.. to be recognised as a State..
If Israel and the US have anything to say about it.. nothing at all..
Oddly enough.. the thought is that Britain will either support the Palestinians, or abstain..

President Obama is going to address the joint Houses in Westminster later today.. and he's going to talk about a 'new dawn for the West'.. that we have turned the corner, and are on the road to stable growth and increasing prosperity coupled with sweeping democratic reform.. He will be referring of course, to the changes in the Middle East.. He will try to encourage diplomatic talks with the Taliban.. an effort to draw the line under a war impossible to win.. He will mention the 'special' relationship the US has with Europe, and stress the need, despite the emergence of gigantic new economies the likes of China and India, for a trans-Atlantic alliance to remain strong.. But, asserts Barack.. 'the West still leads the world'..
It will be an interesting speech.. but the delivery of it will be the telling point..

Something for Barack to be concerned about though, is that reports are Pakistani Army officers are fed anti-American propaganda.. and that hate for the States is rife within the ranks..
Now Pakistan gets billions of US dollars on a yearly basis, to help in the fight against terrorism.. In the light of Osama being found, apparently living in Abbotabad beside a military academy for 6 years without the Pakistani authorities knowing about it, beggars the truth.. Relations between, Pakistan and the US are, to say the least, strained.. and recent visits to Russia and China, and now North Korea's Kim Jong Il making the trek to China as well, it would all seem to be indicating a move away from the Western alliance..
Fortunately.. A Taliban spokesman said militants had "so far" no plans to seize Pakistan's nuclear weapons.
Good to know..

According to the OECD..the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Bank of England had best start raising interests quickly through what's left of this year, and into 2012 as well.. this, to curb the inflationary spiral we're just beginning.. it's at 4.5% in Britain today..
In its flagship 'Economic Outlook', the OECD lowered its UK growth forecast for this year from 1.5% to 1.4%, and for next year from 2% down to 1.8%...
Now that came on the back of a downgrade to the OECD’s growth forecasts in March.. showing a far weaker outlook than that of the Government’s Office for Budget Responsibility, which predicts growth of 1.7% this year and 2.5% the next.
Someone, hopefully in the government, had better start sharpening their pencils, and working this all out again..
For while we may well put up with the privations which will put us back on a firm economic footing.. we at least want to know the truth about projected recovery figures, and how long we're going to have to bite the bullet..
That, at the very least..

But again, why not a Balfour Act for the Palestinians.. the establishment of a homeland they could all migrate to and call their own. Say the south of Yemen. Have the Palestinians leave their homes, as did the Jews throughout Europe and the US, and turn what was, for the most part, a desert.. into the Israel it is today.. it took 60 or so years.. but it can be done..
I'm sure the US would happily pump cash into the reclamation effort.. perhaps with the caveat Hammas give up it's terrorist attacks..
It worked for Pakistan, again 60 years ago..
And look where they are now..

There's some noise among the Developing Nations, concerning the selection of a new head of the IMF..
The so called Brics.. that's Brazil..Russia..India..China.. and South Africa.. points out that choosing a replacement for Domenique should have nothing to do with nationality..
Now herein the problem.. these emerging economies have been lobbying for years for a greater voice in the international financial community.. If they should group together, and present more candidates for the post, it could really muddy diplomatic and economic minds throughout the Eurozone..
It's a growing threat..

Meanwhile, our Icelandic ash cloud appears to be heading for Germany.. That means Bremen and Hamburg will close early today.. with British airports to be given an all clear..
For the time being, and as long as the wind holds..

It seems odd these days, to read of more than 600 deaths were caused by flu this past winter. It's one of those diseases, the likes of polio, which for the most part trivialised, or forgotten..
There is an amazing campaign in Britain at the outset of 'flu season, to go to your GP and get a free injection of vaccine.. but it would seem that in at least 600 cases, those ads had no impact..
Of course.. cost came into the equation.. Some surgeries ran out of stock, underestimating the demand.. delays in restocking simply put some off rescheduling.. and if the surgery was left with unused vaccines, they were stuck with them.. suitable only for the bin..
And after all, it's not the plague.. Just as deadly for those 600 though..

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Interesting, this 'essential' relationship Barack and David have agreed on, as it pertains to the UK/US relationship.. It speaks volumes to diplomats around the world, indicating the dependance Barack has on those Americans with British backgrounds as a voting base, and the dependance Britain has on the American market.
The joint article published in the Times.. the two leaders stressed ""The reason it..(the relationship) thrives is because it advances our common interests and shared values. It is a perfect alignment of what we both need and what we both believe."
They continued to say that whith this accord, the rest of the world can be more secure, and prosperous..
In this current economic climate, one wonders when this accord will have some visible effects..
It will be very interesting to hear what Barack has to say, when he addresses both the Houses tomorrow in Westminster..

Here, as tax revenues declined, April borrowing, leaving out bank bailouts and the such, rose by some £3.5 billion pounds higher than expected by most analysts.. That represents 60.1% of projected GDP.. Inflation in the UK has risen to 4.5%.. and if economic growth does not expand, it's going to get worse yet..
And to add insult to injury, Moody's says there is weakening in the banking sector, and it's eyeing us for a drop in credit rating. Any downgrade could up the interest on any borrowing our financial institutions might be considering..
Just what we need..

New York has just lost at least one visitor to that city.. It's instituted an outdoor smoking ban..
Beaches, municipal parks, even Times Square, are now smoke free..
This popular, or unpopular movement, depending on your view.. is a blatant infringement of personal rights.. a blow against significant taxpayers, the tobacco vendors, producers, and farmers.. Not to mention the consumers themselves..
It is abhorrent for a government to turn into a 'nanny'.. and when legislation is introduced which reduces personal freedom.. it spells the end of more than just smoking outside, but it raises the question 'what will they turn their eyes to next'?

This Islandic volcano may cause more problems than first thought.. some 500 flights have been cancelled to date, and British airports won't get closer to an all clear begore one o'clock Wednesday morning..Services at Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Barra, Prestwick, Cumbernauld, Tiree, Carlisle and Durham Tees Valley are the one's currently affected.. not to mention those in Europe.. But south-westerly winds were predicted for the next two days which would move the cloud away from the UK.
One can only hope..

Now while refusing to give 'financial advice' to those among his followers who gave their money and belongings to others in expectation of the Rapture.. Harold Camping has revised his end of the world to the 21st October this year. He said, that upon reading his Scriptures, he had not taken into account the 'merciful aspect' of his God, who's allowing a 5 month break from the Tribulation for those who want to convert..
If at first you don't succeed...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Taliban rebels, still peeved at the killing of Osama, have attacked a Pakistani Naval Airbase.. destroying at least one aircraft..
If anything demonstrates what lengths al Q'aida elements will go to, this is certainly it.. This attack was carried out by twenty men, armed with sophisticated weapons..
The authorities say they have them cornered in a single building now, and they'll either capture, or kill them..
Bet they try and keep at least one alive..
Now they say several planes have been destroyed.. with 11 killed.. The latest is that they've taken Chinese personel hostage..
But the utter hubris.. 20 men attacking a well defended Naval Base.. it seems to put the lie to the recent assurances, that al Q'aida's a dead organization..

It's been two months now since the Japanese tsunami.. and voices are being raised, saying the government's got it wrong..
Two months of cleaning, and still there are hundreds of wrecked cars in berms of sand and dirt.. There are still rolling power blackouts throughout the island, and with plans to build another 5 reactors shelved for the time being.. it's going to be quite the job to get anywhere near to normal again..
With the country officially in recession again, the government's going to be hard pressed to rush the reconstruction process in any sense that the common man will see it.. Their prime concern will be the reopening of the three ports closed by radiation pollution. The only road for Japanese recovery is to re-establish their international trade.. and that depends on those ports..

Spain has jumped on the 'lets revolt against the government' wagon, with thousands taking to the streets protesting the state of their economy..
Also it was voting day, os course.. But even as they went to the polls, some 100 or so politicians were facing corruption charges, both from the ruling Socialist Party, but the opposition party as well.. Many voters were urging that the ballots be left blank.. demonstrating how there was no particular party that deserved their support..
As the Euro totters in that country.. Kahn picked a great time to be charged in New York on a rape charge..

Israel seems somewhat split on it's take on these Arab uprisings.. some think it would be a good opportunity for trade, and for investment in countries the likes of Egypt, where labour's cheap..
While others see it as a possible threat.. a coming together of Arab States, still intent on destroying Israel..
As for the Palestinian point of view.. Egypt seems willing, for the now, to stick to the 1979 borders set after their infamous conflict.. but there's a sentiment..
"Once Egypt is strong, the regional situation will be different because there will be Turkey, Egypt and Iran. When these three are strong and allies, Israel will choose to go away." was the view of one Egyptian businessman..
Dangerous thinking..

Of course, it wouldn't do to pass by Baracks European Tour, which begins today in Ireland.. There, the President will retrace his 'family roots'.. He's also coming here to the UK.. and to France and Poland as well..
It's a week long itinerary, which includes his participation in a Group of Eight meeting, a three day visit here where he'll stay as guest of the Queen at Buck address to the combined Houses in Westminster..and private talks with David Cameron.. Odd that nick Clegg's not invited..
But nevertheless, Barack will be here long enough to get a good feel on the tenor of the country..
And then on to France, a declining power on the world stage, but one which is posting a higher GDP increase than we are..
And Poland.. where there is muttering beneath the surface of a withdrawal from the Eurozone, and the re-adoption of the Zloty.. indurial investment is what Poland will be looking for.. A solid friend among the pre-USSR countries, would be of great strategic value to the US...
It promises to be an interesting visit. But one must wonder, how much will Barack rely on smoke and mirrors.. and how much he can do of substance..
Now here's an aspect of the talks Barack will have with Cameron that could be cause for some concern.. they're announcing a joint task force for 'national security'..
The NSSB.. National Security Strategy Board that is.. will be announced after tomorrows' meeting.. That's just what we need.. another think-tank with weapons at it's disposal.. and what's sure to be a further intrusion of our private lives..
It can only be said, that we are the victims of our own folly.. That we have abrogated the right, the essence within us.. that made us care what the government does for us.. What it does for us, is lauded in the Commons.. what it takes from us, is strictly backroom business..

Yet another disappointment for the pre-Trib believers.. as Rev. Camping's prediction fizzled out..
Point in fact, the Reverend himself hasn't been seen since his deadline passed..
Such a shame.. Campings Ministry, by way of donations, takes in millions..
But today, his radio station remains silent.. his audience on 66 American stations, and those to whom he broadcast overseas is disappointed..
Perhaps he alone, was Raptured..
But hey.. we've got a volcano in Iceland who's ash will likely drift over Europe.. we have a tornado today that tore a huge swath through Joplin Missouri.. and the forecast calls for more to come..
Maybe he meant the biginning of the end...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Seems our Chancellor, George Osborne, is backing the French Economic Minister Christine Lagarde for the now vacant seat at the head of the IMF Boardroom table.. He's backing a horse that has firmly stood behind sweeping austerity measures in her own country.. and who will bring a fresh view of the role of the IMF itself..
But while France itself is's projected rise in GDP at 1.0% for the next fiscal year.. Lagarde has set programs in motion which could shorten the time the French will have to tighten their belts..
With this woman at the helm, countries the likes of Greece, which has defaulted on it's loan already, may find it difficult to get more help without a demonstrable rising trend.. same with Eire.. Portugal.. and soon, Spain..
Lagarde also has a good relationship with Angela Merkel, and that is an imperative for the job...
We'll see..

No group has yet claimed responsibility for a bomb tossed into a Londonderry bank yesterday afternoon.. but it serves well to underscore the fact there are still homegrown terrorists to be dealt with.. What was thought to be yet another device was found in the city centre, but it was nothing after all..
But one has to wonder where this is all leading, when three masked men can run up to a branch of Santander, and lob a bomb in.. And then, they escaped.
Nobody hurt.. the device went off about an hour after the trio had tossed it in..
But when will we get to semtex vests in Eire and Ulster..?

Another Middle Eastern government falls, as Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh says what while this is effectively a coup.. he will step down from office.. This deal was brokered by Gulf Arab mediators.. and following three months of daily protests by the Yemeni people.. with more than 150 killed by government forces..
There's to be an official announcement from the Opposition parties later today, on what the details of the contract signed by Saleh amount to..
However, Saleh's not leaving without warning the West, and the other Arab States, that with him gone, it leaves a clear road open to al Q'aida.. He warns the group could take the country over..
And there's also the problem that the Opposition parties don't have popular support, and if they're left in interim power, the demonstrations may well continue..
We've not seen the end of this Middle Eastern transition..
Not my a long shot..

In Syria.. the death toll has risen above 900.. protesters killed by government forces.. with no sign that condemnation by the UN and the US has had any effect at all on President Assads approach to the popular uprising..
Interesting, that Syria, they've amassed the second largest casualty count in all the Middle Eastern uprisings.. first, of course, is Libya, with perhaps thousands killed by government forces and NATO strikes..
Settle in.. this could be a long time on the boil...
The Arab Co-operation Council has thrown up it's collective hands, and given up on trying to broker a deal for President Assiz to step down with some semblance of dignity, and bring to an end going on three months of bloodshed.. The Opposition leaders signed the deal earlier, but Ali Abdullah said there was no chance..
This means either the UN steps in, or the Syrian people are left on their own..
900 dead so far... amazing..

And in an interview today, when asked about the unilateral strike against bin Laden, Barack said that while he respected Pakistani autonomy, and diplomatic channels.. he said they'd do it again.. he told the BBC's Andrew Marr that his job was to protect the United States, and further operations against al Q'aida in Pakistan would be authorized, if necessary.. without informing the Pakistani authorities.
This will not go down well in Islamabad, where the relationship with the US is already strained following the raid on bin Laden on the 2d this month.. and the obvious reason for the Pakistani government's being kept in the dark about it is that the US doesn't trust them as far as they can be thrown..
And as US/Pakistani relations crumble.. Pakistani/Chinese relations are burgeoning..

Analysts are saying that if something isn't done to lower the price of petrol and diesel soon, it could stall the American climb out of recession..
Prices are climbing towards the six dollar per gallon (4 liters) mark.. and this has some, the likes of those who drive SUVs, paying up to $75 a fillup..
And there's the downstream effect. The average American is paying a thousand dollars more a year on goods which depend on freight carriers.. who depend on oil and gasoline..
Barack says he'll do something about it.. but in effect, the only choice he has at the moment, is to drop the tax at the pumps.. and it's doubtful he'll get that through the House and Congress..

Not quite the end of the world as the Reverend Camping would have had it.. but Iceland's biggest volcano, the unpronounceable Grimsvotn, has erupted again..
The last time was in 2004..
You'll recall back in 2010, clouds of ash from Iceland's even more unpronounceable Eyjafjallajokull volcano, caused weeks of air travel chaos across Europe...the largest closure of European airspace since the Second World War..
It would be interesting to draw a chart of all the anomalous weather we've had over, say, the past ten years..
Who knows.. while Camping is 89.. he might have yet another date in mind..
Third time lucky...
Now, while they've closed their own main airport because of the dusty cloud.. they say this eruption should not cause the same problems we saw a year ago..

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Our Business Secretary, Vince Cable, has said it's difficult for the government to explain to the general public, just how bad our economic shape is..
He explained in an interview to the Guardian, that Britain is no longer a 'price setting nation'.. ceding that to India and China..
Inflation has hit 4.5% here.. and Vince blames the worldwide recession, plus the changing economic climate in general.. He admitted it will take years to dig ourselves out of the hole we find ourselves in today.. and said it was problematic for the government to get the public to imagine what this mess entails..
Bottom line would seem to be, that we're in for a very rocky ride for the foreseeable future, and there will be no quick fix to get us back to where we were before Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae..

An interesting discussion on the British Monarchy this morning.. it was said 'the Queen knew she had to develop the common touch.. or she'd be out..'.
It's amazing how many Brits are anti-monarchists without really understanding what the Royals do for the country..
They are Ambassadors to the world, without agenda.. They bring in far more in tourist revenue than is ever paid to them by the Exchequer.. They represent a tradition that goes as far back as British history itself.. and their very presence affords many a sense of security, of continuity..
As was said in this morning's exchange..'The US would buy the Monarchy, if it were for sale..'
Such an institution though, is priceless..

Spain's the next domino in line to fall in the Eurozone..
Thousands of protestors took to the streets in most of that country's major cities.. angry at that country's 45% youth unemployment..
Now these protests were banned, in the leadup to local elections slated for tomorrow.. but a total of some 60,000 protesters has gathered across Spain, in Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Bilbao as well as the capital Madrid..
Police are on the scene(s), but so far no violence has been reported..
The overall unemployment rate in Spain now stands at about 21.3%.. the highest in Europe.. and it's a wonder Sapaniards haven't taken to the streets before this..
What they want, is a reorganization of the countrys' debt, and an end to the domination of Parliament by the two main parties..
Spains Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero says he sympathises with the protestors..
But this is the same movement we've seen in London, Paris, Rome, and Brussels.. with students and the older unemployed have expressed their opposition to the strict austerity programs set in place by their respective governments.. these same governments who, while paying attention to the public furore, have staunchly defended their measures to bring them back into economic stability..
It's a hard luck life, these days...
Interesting to note, the same protests are taking place in Chile.. One has to wonder when it will hit the US..

More later...
It was a solid, if defensive stance that Israel's President Netanyahu took when facing reporters after his meeting with Barack..
He stated categorically, that a return to Isaeli borders pre-1967, was not up for consideration. Israel, in that war, took control of Gaza, the West Bank,and the Golan Heights.. and to date there are some half million Israeli citizens living in those areas. Benjamin said there could be some concessions to the Palestinians, who want to make Gaza and the West Bank a Palestinian State, but there would be no ceeding of territory from Israel as it now stands, to provide for such a State.
Benjamin reiterated there were Israeli settlements in those area.. that a slit state would be impossible to defend.. that Hammas is in control of Gaza and is a recognized terrorist organization, and Fatah's not entirely trustworthy either.. It was pointed out that these groups have pledged themselves to the eradication of Israel..
And what this has done, has left the US in a cleft stick situation.. where they must support Israel as the one firm ally the West has in the area, but they've put diplomatic commitment into keeping the Palestinian people satisfied that something is being done.
When all is said and done, it would be a safe bet that Israel will keep it's territory intact.. but this Palestinian objection to it, will least as long as Benjamin Netanyahu remains in power..

Meanwhile, Syrian troops have killed at least 30 protestors as Syrians again took to the streets after Friday prayers.. These rallies, across the country, come a day after Barack told President Assad to 'get out'..
This uprising has world opinion completely behind it, but is facing a well armed force loyal to the government..
Oddly like Libya.. but without NATO blowing targets in Damascus..

Friday, May 20, 2011

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is 'disappointed' with Barack, after the American President opened a rather large can of worms with yesterdays speech on the changing diplomatic relationships in the Middle East.. as mentioned, Barack suggested that Israel revert to 'pre-1967' borders, allowing a de facto Palistinian State to form in Gaza and the West Bank. It would seem Barack had forgotten that Israel has been firmly against Palestinian control of these areas, and in fact has thousands of Israeli settlers in them. Or he chose to ignore those facts.. hoping perhaps the Israeli's would too.
They will meet this afternoon for discussions, and while the topic was meant to be concerning American/Israeli relations, this bombshell of Baracks' will, likely, dominate the talks..
Oh to be a fly on the wall for this one..
This is a late update.. and will be brief.. Netanyahu left the talks he had with Barack this afternoon, saying 'there were differences'.. Somewhat curt, but speaking volumes..
More to come..

And Baracks' speech has Syrian President Assad, who's forces are, as we read, doing their level best to put down a popular revolt, up in arms. Reports are that he's accusing the US of 'meddling' with an entirely internal matter..
"Obama's speech confirms the reality of American intervention in the internal affairs of the region's countries, including Syria," is the quote released by Bashar to the Syrian media..
He has a point. American, and NATO involvement in the matters of the Middle East could well be said to be seen as a 'humanitarian imperative'.. that we are simply allowing the voice of the people to be heard and protecting those who cannot protect themselves from the forces of a corrupt regime.. but meanwhile, behind political and diplomatic hands, one can almost hear the words 'Monroe Doctrine' and 'manifest destiny'..
We are doing that which we would not allow, should it happen to be us. Case in point, Scotland, under a devolution government, will go to the polls to vote again, for the third time, on the issue of separation from the Union. While we have the right to determine this issue peacefully, this legislative right was granted following centuries of bloodshed. We saw in the States, the Civil War. Our own history is peppered with movements fomented by 'popular demand' and moral imperatives which reflect our particular, and to a large portion of the rest of the world, pollyanna view of 'right'.
Many are of the mind, that while we should finish that which we've started in the Middle East,when that's done, we should turn to minding our own house and leave the Middle East to mind it's to speak..

Something to keep an eye on..
Chinese leader Hu Jintao welcomed the Prime Minister of Pakistan to China, as 'an old friend'.. Youseff Gilani's in Beijing, modestly proclaiming Pakistans' 'all weather friendship' with the Chinese..
This, at a time when American/Pakistani relations are at a new low, while they hash out who did what and said what to whom over the killing of Osama..
Barack may be leafing through his Q'ran.. looking for some Sura or other that preaches against Communist systems of government..
And while diplomacy is diplomacy after all, it is somewhat strange for a Theocracy the likes of Pakistan to be among the list of Chinas' 'old friends'.
Nuclear capabilities have clout, apparently..

Time to eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow...
Well, according to Harold Camping, an 89 year old Radio evangelist in the States, the world will come to an end tomorrow..
He also said the world would end in September, back in 1994. Interesting though, that the O.J. Simpson trial did start that day.. he said at the time he was 99.9% sure though..
This time, he's saying the old Rapture was a 'mathemetical error', and this new date's the one for the start of the Tribulation..
Something to look forward to for the weekend...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

This was a very bad week for a break from the internet and from work.. much to be blogged, and no new entries..
Items the likes of Domenique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the IMF, being indicted in the US on charges of sexual assault and rape, which has brought about world attention. He appeared in a New York courtroom Tuesday, in handcuffs, and was denied bail because the prosecution convinced the Judge he was a flight risk. This is the man who was meant to be the successor to Nicholas Sarkozi.. He was the man to offer a reasonable alternative to Dominique la Pen, the candidate for the far right. So far right is she, that it’s a small step from her platform to that of the Nazi Party.. Should she be elected, it would mean stringent reforms on immigration from especially African countries.. Muslim countries.. In fact any country at all. It would not be surprising to see many Muslims sent back to their countries of origin, and an end to accepting those who would claim asylum from deadly regimes.. it would mean a throttling of free speech.. and, quite possibly an end to the Euro affiliation..
This arrest has also caused some great concern among the Eurozone, with Portugal asking for some 80 billion Euros to bail them out, Greece defaulting on it’s interest payment for money already received, and Eire looking for more favourable interest rates on the bailout loan they’ve already received..
Strauss-Kahn was on his way to talk with Angela Merkel when he was hauled from his seat on a flight to Germany, and charged by the American authorities, so obviously that meeting will not take place.. Germany has posted the best recovery forecasts for those countries in the Eurozone, with an expected rise in GDP in the range of2.5%.. France is running second with their GDP expected to rise a point.. Britain, meanwhile, has posted a .5% increase over the past quarter, erasing the .5%lost the quarter before, and this has the opposition Labour Party howling about how this is a flat situation.. Disregarding the fact that even a .5% increase is a step in the right direction, and if it continues, we’ll see further growth in future months.. The Bank of England is expected to raise it’s Prime Rate this Fall, from 0.5%, at least to 0.75%, or possibly higher.. This will stimulate the incomes of those on fixed pension plans, and those who are dependant on living their retirement on their savings
This situation in the Eurozone is something of great concern for global markets, both for exports to, and exports from. If say, the Euro falls, and I have every confidence it will, it will throw all the member countries into chaos as they look for the levels their old currencies will arrive in the global financial market..
Certainly the Greek Drachma will be almost worthless.. The Eireish Punt will be the same… The French Franc is dependant on the transfer payments from Germany and could totter.. God alone knows what the Polish Zloty will enter the market at, and the Eastern Members will be left flying in the wind.
This simple arrest, could bring further recovery loans from being made, and should that be the case, thus endeth the Euro..
Meanwhile, it seems the Canadian economy is flying away.. The $Can is worth more today than it’s American counterpart, and while one might think this would make exports from Canada to the States slow, the commodities Canada produces will be needed Stateside regardless of the cost.
It is somewhat amazing what the arrest and detention of one man can have on the world scene.
It might be added, that the pictures seen in France of their possible future President in handcuffs, and facing charges that would have amounted to a mere bagatelle in his home country.. have caused a rift between the US and France..
The French are much more tolerant of the indiscretions of their political leaders.. Jacques Chirac, for example, quite publicly flaunted his mistress, and in fact had a child with her. Going all the way back to De Gaulle, it would seem French leaders have always had a penchant for extra-marital affairs, and such is accepted, if not expected. The sexual morality of their leaders is second to their ability to run the country, and indeed, so it should be.
One supposes the blame for all of this could be laid at the feet of the American Judiciary, which still hold firm to the Puritanical ethic. Even a bail offer of a million dollars was turned down, for fear Domenic might take a powder..
And what is more, while in the States a man is innocent ‘til proven guilty, the media has had such a field-day with this case, that it may well be impossible to find an impartial jury to deliberate on the merits of the defence. It seems, a decision has already been reached on the basis of hearsay, and American media broadcasting.
A pity.
And with Strauss-Kahn in custody in Rykers Island, the authorities there have put the IMF Chief on suicide watch. His trial by media seems to have put some great amount of stress on the man, as could well be imagined..
Meanwhile, officials in the IMF are pressing to replace Strauss-Kahn as soon as possible. He was planning on stepping down later this year, to pursue a political career, and it’s part of the constitution of the IMF that those in the Executive may not occupy political office. Just who will replace Strauss-Kahn has yet to be decided upon.. he leaves some very large shoes to fill, having brokered the deals which, so far, have kept the Eurozone solvent..
However, there are more and more members of the IMF Executive calling for Strauss-Kahn to resign.. or at least an interim head named to keep his seat warm while he fights off a possible 25 year jail sentence.. with today calls coming fro the leading economic forces in the teetering Eurozone saying there should be a European replacement for Strauss-Kahn.. at the moment, John Lipsky, Strauss-Kahns' Deputy, has been put in charge until there's a vote on a successor.. at the moment, it would appear French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde would be the horse to put your money on..
As of today, it would appear Domenique will be released subject to bail conditions of course. It is profoundly important that it be remembered this was the head of the IMF we're writing about here.. whose bail conditions will be $million,house arrest, and tagging.
American legislators must be calming their beating hearts for the provision that allow for Diplomatic Immunity..

The Queen visited yesterday Eire, with a full schedule..
She laid a wreath at the Cenotaph which commemorates those Irish soldiers killed in the First and Second World Wars.. She’s also visited Croke stadium, where in 1920, 14 Irishmen, including one who was actually playing on the field at the time, shot and killled in retalliation for Michael Collins’ shootings of British policemen and Intelligence Agents.. and the visit will conclude with an address at Dublin Castle, where, it’s been suggested, she made a very veiled apology for the heavy hand played by British forces during the uprising. However, it must be understood, that this speech would have been handed the Queen by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, and an outright apology may well not be a part of her speech.
While there remains a fair level of resentment in Eire concerning the violence which eventually led to the formation of the Irish Republic, it would appear there is consensus to lay this to rest.. to let the past remain in the past, and better to look to the future..
An important stance, considering the state of the Republics’ economy..

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has suggested that it could well take a generation before we’re out of this financial mess.. While growth figures continue to be optimistic, we have lost so much in this recurring recession, and are paying so much interest on our loans from the government and the IMF, it would seem Nicks’ announcement is close to the truth of the matter.
Clegg has also stated that as far as the NHS is concerned, he’s against further privatisation moves, saying the framework he’s worked out with David Cameron should be allowed to continue as laid out, in the sincere hope that it brings stability to our national health service. However, with the issue of a ‘monitor’ being appointed to gauge the progress of the individual trusts, Clegg insists whomever this might be must not be a ‘financial regulator’..
Now what the public is more concerned with, is the plan to allow individual surgeries to handle their own grants and allowances. This plan has some concerned that this will promote profligate waste throughout the system, with administration costs eating funds which should be going to the individual doctors who see the individual patients..
And the ‘grand plan’ to keep an electronic record of all patients throughout the UK, so their records would be available wherever they may be, has been called ‘too ambitious’, and will likely be scrapped..
That too, is a pity.. But in these times, the cost must be taken into account..

Yet another of our essential services, this time our Police Force, is looking at a 20% cut in funding over the next four years. This, for the individual Bobby, could mean as much as a £4 thousand cut in annual earnings..
They are not amused.
Warnings have been issued from the highest levels of Scotland Yard, that this will mean many fewer coppers on the beat.. and many fewer recruits in years to come..
After all, who would willingly put their very lives on the line to protect the public, if the government is seen as indifferent to the degree of threat involved in the job.

The latest unemployment figures indicate that 36 thousand of those out of work, managed to find employment again over the past 3 months.. The number of those on Jobseekers Allowance though jumped some 12,600 over the same period..
A disturbing trend is demonstrated in the number of young people who, when interviewed for benefits while they look for work, indicate they have no chance of reaching a high paying job, or indeed of even reaching their base aspirations.
Businesses are expressing some concerns about the inevitable drop in disposable income right across the board of the middle classes, and they’re looking to the government to have a more favourable attitude towards them, as they approach the banks for investment, or loans.
Venture capital’s in short supply, and it does not seem as though that situation will change for quite some time. This spells a good climate for ‘stagflation’, and is something to be studiously avoided if at all possible…

That summed up most of what was for today..

Barack's speech was his first reponse to the sweeping changes throughout the Middle East.. he said: "It will be the policy of the US to promote reform across the region and to democracy,". He continued to say the US was bound to the Middle East by forces of economics.. security.. history.. and would continue to play the role expected of them by both the peoples of the Middle East, but those in the entire International Community..
Now, it might be interesting to see what these 'commitments' might lead to..
The position of the States on Libya so far, has kept them at arms length from the change of regime.. While maintaining a presence, they've allowed NATO to be the prime force. Understandable, what with their presence in Afghanistan and Iran, the financial burden of these actions has to be a considerable drain on their defence budget. It becomes increasingly obvious, with this statement, that while they'll approve sanctions to the hilt, they'll not send their boys in. However, it also would suggest that should NATO send 'advisors' in in increasing numbers, it will be will an American blessing.
This speech underlined the commitment Barack has, if not to the Middle East, to his American constituents. It's what they wanted to hear.. that the American Ideal of democracy above all will be supported, but not at the cost of more American lives.
It was a 'feel good' speech.. a " chapter in American diplomacy.." has arrived, with the emphasis being on 'diplomacy'..
But in Baracks speech, he reiterated that Mohammar must step down in Libya and make way for democratic elections..Western powers are likely to stress their determination to keep the pressure on Gaddafi when heads of state from the Group of Eight industrialized nations meet the end of May in France.. More sanctions for the Triploi regime may well be presented to the UN Security Council following these talks..
An interesting point of this speech, was the call for Israel to return to the borders set in 1967, before the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank..
There is an international plan in the works to turn these two areas into a true Palistinian State, but the problem is, Fatah controls the West Bank, and Hammas.. a known terrorist organization.. runs Gaza. It seems emminently possible that Israel will tell it's biggest supporter, the US, that they will certainly not cede any real estate to terrorists, and such a demand is risible..
We shall see..

As expected Japan's economy has slid back into recession due to the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami back in March..
Secotors hit the worst were consumption and exports.. With only two of Japan's five western ports open, there's been a huge impact on the amount coming in, and the amount leaving the country.. Japans' GDP shrank 0.9% in the last quarter.. a 3.7% annualized rate.. Knowing the Japanese though, one would expect them to bounce back quickly..
The ripple effects are being felt here.. auto construction in the UK was down 7% from the same month last year, due to the lack of parts needed to build the cars..
The same trend is seeing a heavy blow dealt to the US, and to a lesser extent, in Canada.. Here, where all three Japanese carmakers have plants, it's thought this shortfall will be short lived..

Gold demand is expected to remain high over 2011.. the price of the metal has risen some 50% since last year, now standing at some $1500 an ounce..
It remains at this level due to the boom in buying in 2010, and considering the current economic climate, may well reach thr $1600 mark over the next couple of quarters..

Monday, May 09, 2011

Well, they're going through the motions anyway.. The White House has demanded answers from Pakistan, as to who in the government might have known Osama was hiding scant yards away from a Military Academy..
But of course the Pakistani government knew where bin Laden was.. and it could have been at the highest levels that he was allowed to live, in hiding, for so long. There have been suspicions all along that the Pakistani Intelligence Service, which has contacts within radical groups, had knowledge of Osama's whereabouts..
Now the US doesn't want to disturb the anthill too much.. It could prove to be yet another embarrassment for it's own Intelligence services, and indeed, if Pakistan itself is pushed too far, it could well damage already stretched ties with that country..
So it's a case of 'softly softly, catchee monkey' for the US.. the public and the media will serve to instigate further investigations, while the White House itself can stand back, with clean hands..
Now, with bin Laden dead and buried, it's thought his deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri, will grab the reins of al Q'aida.. However, this Egyptian is not the charismatic type, and may have problems keeping the various factions a cohesive force..
Time will tell.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has denied any complicity within the government.. saying it was a complete surprise that Osama was hiding in Abbottabad..
There will be an investigation launched, says Yusuf, but again, it's the dog and pony show expected, following the death of bin Laden. It will be announced later, that no government official had the knowledge, or perhaps there will be a couple of scapegoats flung to the crowd..
Again, time will tell..
However, the government is suspected of leaking the name of the CIA's head operative in Islamabad, in retaliation for the American stories which imply Gilani's government was aware of bin Laden's whereabouts.. That makes two 'outings' in the past six months..
The Pakistani Intelligence and Military are suffering at the hands of their own people as well. Firstly for 'not knowing' bin Laden was in the country, and secondly for allowing foreign troops into Abbattabad to carry out a black ops..
Seems they can't win... damned if you do, and damned if you don't...

It's been a while since Japan's nuclear disaster has been mentioned, but their troubles continue..
The Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, has asked that yet another reactor be shut down, this one owned by another private company, until they've constructed berms high enough to withstand another tsunami, the likes of one which crippled the Fukashima Diiachi plants..
Power shortages are now a huge problem in Japan, with rolling blackouts in effect.. Prior to the Fukashima disaster, there had been plans to increase the number of nuclear facilities on the island to boost their power input to 50%..
This latest shutdown will affect industrial concerns throughout the island, especially Toyota. This plant in Hamaoka, owned by Chubu Electric, supplies power to central Japan..
Just more straws on the camels back, it would seem...

Sunday, May 08, 2011

A thought to begin the day..
It was written here just a few days ago.. that it would likely be some two years before Alex Salmond calls for a devolution referendum..
Today the Scottish Secretary in Westminster said the coalition government would not oppose such a vote. Indeed, the resolution of the issue would be welcome to the coalition of the Conservatives and the LibDems..
One wonders how much England would save, if there were no transfers of payment..
Now if Alex, being an economist himself, recognises that his first concern should be the issues facing Scots.. education.. the benefit system.. unemployment..
And, if he can demonstrate his majority government can deliver on these issues, he might at that point feel comfortable in presenting the question, while maintaining a functioning government. But this is a process that should take at least until the half way point of his mandate..
Two years is still a good bet..

The release of some home video's of Osama, sitting and watching himself preaching, would seem to indicate a frail, older man.. a shadow of the gun-toting bin Laden of old. In fact, profilers are appearing in reports from the States, indicating his body language, his demeanour, was confirmation of that assessment..
But it begs the question.. if so much information was gleaned from that fatal raid, why is this the only picture we have of Osama at home...?
Reports from his youngest wife, the one shot and wounded trying to protect bin Laden, seemed to state that the man had lived in a tiny village for two and a half years, before moving to the compound in which he was shot. The excerpts we've seen include her saying that he remained in one room for six years...
Now that may well be true,, but what's not said is deafening.
al Q'aida was still being run my bin Laden.. the issue of money problems within the group is questionable.. and if the man stayed incognito for all these years, one can be assured he was visited on a regular basis. Indeed, the mole who led the US to the man, was once of many who saw bin Laden daily..
It serves the US.. to portray the architect of 911 as a failing and, in the end, inconsequential man.. will please the public, and bolster the fulfilment of a sense of justice.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

The Euro has lost ground against the $Am, with rumours flying around that Greece could leave the single currency, and return to the Drachma... Greece has been using the Euro since 2002.. This rumour started with an article in 'Der Spiegel', a German magazine..
But for the Greek people, a return to their old currency might be seen as a positive move.. a step away from the massive debts the country owes Britain, France, Germany, and the IMF.. The Greek government has already defaulted on it's interest payments, and a move back to the Drachma could well see the government creating a financial black hole.. and shoving the entire debt into it..
Eurozone Ministers have strongly denied this eventuality, saying that the story is nonsense.. But then, what would one expect Eurozone politicians to say after all..
Something to keep a close eye on...
Apparently, Eire, on the other hand, is about to get a break on the rate of interest it's paying on it's bailout loan.. the actual figure hasn't been released as yet, but a 1% drop, would amount to some £400 million in savings.. But there could be a price..
One of the issues Eire has firmly clung to, is its 12.5% corporate tax rate. Both Germany and France have stated baldly though, that this must be ajusted..
What Eire might be forced to do is effect a compromise.. by broadening the corporate tax base.. allowing the 12.5% only on funds generated in Eire.. and not applicable for those generated in the Eurozone..
There are quite a few international companies headquartered in that country, and if the base rate floats higher, we might see a few less..

More erratic weather in the US.. as the Mississippi's about to burst it's banks.. Cities along the length of the river are preparing for the possibility of massive flooding.. it's some 12 feet above it's normal level this morning, and more rises are expected.. Memphis has already evacuated parts of the areas closest to the river.. further evacuations along the length of the Mississippi will be necessitated..
And they say the climate's not changing...

'A strong international reaction' has been announced by the US, aimed at Syria..
Barack's spokespeople have said that if the 'bloodshed' caused by President Assad's forces does not end.. the result will be 'determined'..
The UN Security Council has yet to agree on strict sanctions against the present Syrian regime.. but doubtless they will declare that Assad's government is creating a 'humanitarian crisis'.. and come to some consensus on what will be cut off..
More than 500 have been shot and killed by government forces over the past two months.. and still we see tens of thousands of protesters have been taking to the streets of the major cities around the country..
But NATO's already embroiled in Libya.. and there are few in the West who would want to see military action against yet another Middle Eastern country..

And finally, for the moment, Seve Ballesteros has died.. he had surgery two years ago to remove a tumour on his brain.. but the condition has finally taken his life..
A sad moment for those who follow golf.. and for those on the tour that knew him..

Friday, May 06, 2011

While NATO forces continue their bombardment of Mohammar's government forces from the air, the Libyan Opposition Party has delivered a 'road map' for the country, once Gaddafi's been removed. This would include an interim government, comprised of some of the technocrats now in Gaddafi's regime, a group of senior rebel army generals and advisers, and a Supreme Court Judge.. they would hold power while a Constitution was drawn up and voted upon my the Libyan peoples, to be followed by General open elections..
The 22 countries currently supporting the Libyan uprising have approved the plans, and most have pledged more cash for the rebels, to be used for humanitarian purposes the likes of food and medicines, and the re-establishment of a day to day infrastructure..
Still, there appears to be a stalemate, with the rebels controlling most of the west of the country, and those loyal to Mohammar controlling the east..

Meanwhile, Syrian government forces have killed at least 13 people, as the protests continue despite the government crackdown..Of course President Assad says he is taking 'decisive' action against terrorists and dissidents.. and he is indeed.. the death toll in Syrian protests has passed the 500 mark.. and still, the populace takes to the streets..
And what we, meaning the West, doing about it..? Well we've frozen the assets of at least 13 highly placed Syrian diplomats and businessmen.. and the UN Security Council has announced there is a good possibility of sanctions..
That's about it.
Now the Syrian people are asking for electoral reforms, and some for the removal of the present government.. Their complaints revolve around the disparity between the uber-rich, and the uber-poor.. and in a country with such an impressive GDP, it would seem those demands are sensible..
But again, we're dealing with a Middle Eastern mindset, in which 'baksheesh makes the world go round'.. just as it has for millennia..
It would be quite a surprise of the government didn't react in the manner they have.. it's always worked in the past...

In the Scottish elections, held yesterday, the SNP has dislodged the LibDems from most of their seats, and has managed a majority government..
Now, Alex Salmond, the leader of the Scottish National Party, has always been dedicated to separation of this country from Great Britain, and what this will mean for the Scottish people, is likely yet another referendum on the issue of leaving the Union.. Just when this vote will be held has not been announced, but with Alex in firm control of the National Assembly, the odds are it will be within two years or so..
The Nationalists took many seats Labour thought were impregnable in this vote.. although the Conservatives were hit as well, and the LibDems so hard that they're not a factor in this new Assembly..
However, it's one thing to vote SNP for our National Assembly... and quite another to vote the same in a General Election to send representatives to Westminster..
Labour, the LibDems, and the Tories, are looking hard at the strategies they'll put in place in three years time...

Commodity prices took a whack yesterday, with most of the selloff concentrating on the oil sector.. Brent Crude fell to $105Am in early trading, as the profit taking trend and the rise in the value of the American dollar continued.. but recovered to above $110Am by the afternoon session..
Gold remained steady though.. and while analysts say the price of oil could indeed fall below $90Am a barrel as the market fluctuates, that eventuality will depend on world demand..
Other commodities, the likes of wheat and cocoa, are still holding firm, and might still offer a good return on investment at the current price..
Just look at the price today, of a chocolate bar...

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