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

Thursday, June 30, 2011

This may be the start of a series of bad moves by our Unions..
But nevertheless, today's the day hundreds of thousands of teachers, civil servants, job center workers, court workers, will hit the bricks ib a mass protest against pension reforms and age of retirement..
Now as has been written before, these are hard times, and while the British man on the street may well be as outraged as another on the cuts the government's making.. But a significant number of them, including those who will today be out on strike, realize the necessity of austerity.. They understand the dangers of falling into the same spiral as Greece, and are fully aware nobody's come up with a better plan to avoid that situation..
But it hurts. And above all, the Unions must give the impression of being proactive for their memberships.. even if it means rabble rousing, and the masses taking to the streets.. even though those at the top realize whatever they may gain in the way of concessions, will be eaten up by the commensurate rise in inflation.. doing their membership no good, and making it even harder on those without their ranks..
Public opinion is not going to be with those on strike today.. Those who must scramble to find a carer for a child, or an elderly relative for the day.. those who find their normal traffic routes clogged with crowds waving placards.. those who still must appear at their jobs.. those who make less than those on strike and wonder where they get their cheek.. they'll make their voice known..
Perhaps even more so those among all of the above, who realize, just as their grandparents had to after the Second World War, that they must bite the bullet, and ride this out 'til the debt's paid..
And to insult to injury, the Teachers union has stood up, puffed out it's chest, and said we'd best get ready for further strike action when the Fall term starts as well..
This action today comes just days before Summer break begins.. it's a mere inconvenience..
But to display the hubris to threaten further action..
One has to shake one's head..
And as an update, while thousands were on the streets protesting.. Labour leader Ed Miliband has gone against the Unions, saying the demonstrations were well premature, that talks were still going on..
Now, the Unions, longtime stalwart Labour supporters and in fact the faction that shoved Ed into the leadership role over his brother.. have said Ed's refusal to back this action as a 'disgrace'..
Ed told the Local Government Association annual conference in Birmingham that he understood "the anger of workers who feel they are being singled out by a reckless and provocative government"..
But he said: "I also believe this action is wrong".
The Labour leader's stance sparked an angry response from Mary Bousted, leader of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, when she addressed an audience of striking workers in Westminster Central Hall..
"I am pleased we are not affiliated to Labour.."
Not what a Labour leader wants to hear.. at all..

Back to the E-coli outbreak for a moment.. Scientists now say there could be a tie with seeds imported from Egypt.. Now the report does say there is 'much uncertainty'.. but certain seeds from Egypt have been linked to two farms which produced tainted vegetables..
44 died in the recent outbreak.. hundreds hospitalised.. but one must wonder hos many more countries will be loosely tied to this disease, before they simply throw up their collective hands and say "We don't know.."

Bring the point home that the worst is yet to come, the Bank of England published it's report today, indicating that High Street Banks will be looking at record numbers of loan defaults.. mortgages are expected to be the hardest hit..
Surprisingly, the pressure on unsecured loans has eased.. but that trend could well reverse as those on fixed incomes, who are already robbing Peter to pay Paul, find themselves overwhelmed with what were formerly budgetable items, now stretching them to the limit.
The case could be made, that the Bank of England's biggest problem, is inflation. And while keeping the Bank Rate consistently low, they are fueling a trend that will eventually drive a significant proportion of those in this country, to poverty.

In Greece, George's government has passed a severe austerity program in spite of public protest.. It's a five-year austerity package that includes tax increases, cost cuts.. plus a host of privatisations and sales of state assets..
Now this will free up the next €12 billion tranche of last year’s €110 billion emergency bailout loan from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.. It is due next month and will help the debt-stricken country avoid default and avert crisis in the wider Eurozone..
This plan come to €28 billion in higher taxes and cost-cutting over four years, as well as the creation of an agency to oversee €50 billion worth of privatisations and asset sales in coming years..
Just whether this will be enough to keep the country from defaulting on the next tranche has yet to be seen.. The problem with these bailouts, is eventually they must be repaid.. and not from further borrowed funds..
Greece's intrinsic problem is it's lack of viable industry.. That will not change within the timeframe for this new legislation..
Where the machinery of the world is still motoring away.. it's much like a ten year old Cortina.. rusted.. patched, and held together with gaffer tape..

More to come..

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In action being taken by members of the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers..some 3 thousand English schools will be shut tomorrow.. some 22 hundred others working under skeleton staffs.. That's a million students with an unscheduled day off..
The Issues are pensions, that government changes will mean they will have to work longer, pay more and get less when they retire..
Education Secretary Michael Gove told the Commons the strike would cause "massive inconvenience to hard-working families" and would hit working women particularly hard..
The move by the Unions.. in fact any strike action by any of the Unions, is a development no government needs at this point.
One would think that while it may be a bitter pill to swallow, previous governments and investment controls has put us all in a situation wherein sacrifice must be made.. and that this would be fully recognized by all who have the privilege of a job to go to.. There are many, outside the influence of a Union, who would happily take their place should the opportunity present itself.

Case in point. Statistics indicate that the disposable income of the average British household has fallen to it's lowest level since 1977..
The Office for National Statistics said that in the year to the end of March real incomes.. adjusted for inflation.. fell 2.7%, a fall not seen since that year..
A disturbing trend for a society which has grown used to substantially more.. either through easy credit, or through increases in wages..
The difficulty in this, is the effect it has on those who live on fixed incomes.. Those who perhaps worked all their lives, invested their savings in what they believed to be the wise hands of those who's business is nothing but investment..
But lest it be forgotten, swept under the carpet, it was speculative houses and banks which, to a large part, put us in this hole. It might well be said this was coming anyway, what with the 'easy money' generations which followed the 50's and 60's..
But regardless who's shoulders the blame is laid upon, the fact remains we are in a position today, wherein we have had a drastic margin call..
The Piper must be paid.

As a sidebar, the Police Association reports there has been a 'significant' increase in robberies, burglaries, and muggings since the start of the economic slowdown..
No surprise, really..

Greece is perhaps the harbinger of what's to come throughout the Eurozone..
Parliament is due to vote today and tomorrow on a series of new austerity measures in a bid to sort out the country's finances and secure another bailout..
Proposed by Prime Minister George Papandreou's Socialist Party, the measures include lowering the income tax threshold from 12,000 to 8,000 Euros..
They also feature a tightening of means-tested benefits.. 150 thousand redundancies in the public sector.. and yet another clampdown on tax evasion..
Other proposals being voted on are the privatisation.. read 'selling off'.. of some of Greece' ports, airports, banks, railways and energy companies, as well as the part-privatisation of the postal service..
The Greeks are not happy.. Papandreou has said that only his 28billion Euro austerity plan would get Greece back on its feet.. but police have fired tear gas in running battles with stone-throwing youths in Athens, where a 48-hour general strike is being held against the parliamentary vote on these tough austerity measures..

One has to wonder how long it will be, before demonstrations the likes of those in the Eurozone spread worldwide.. The US has 9.2% unemployment, and a trillion dollar debt.. taking the Eurozone as a whole, the growth ion GDP, if any, will be bolstered only by Germany, and to some small extent, France.. The Middle East is in utter chaos as the average Arab wants to join in on what's seen as a better Western lifestyle..
This next decade is going to be exceedingly interesting to watch.. as China begins to control it's own unemployment problems..
Just an observation..

And just a note.. Christine Lagarde.. the French Finance Minister.. was named as the next head of the International Monetary Fund.. the first woman to lead one of the institutions charged since the end of the Second World War with maintaining global financial order..
Best of British luck to you Christine. With all his pecadillo's, Domenique leaves large shoes to be filled..
And the global financial system will fight tooth and nail to resist any 'restrictions' that could lead to order..

Monday, June 27, 2011

It's almost a sign of desperation on the part of the government.. Ministers and representatives of the teachers unions are in frantic meetings to avert a strike slated for Thursday.. Projected figures suggest at least 1 million students will get the day off, and their instructors lobby for pension reform, job security, and an end to the State takeover of schools which show poor performance records.
This is a sad time for British education.. At one time a Certificate or Degree from this Island meant quality.. an excellence of education..
While it's not quite hopeless, this economy seems to be an issue the Unions are ignoring.. still demanding unrealistic benefits for their memberships..
One can only hope, this can be resolved in an amicable manner, and the Unions will henceforth ensure their members meet the standards which used to be the norm..

The operator of Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant moved closer to ending its radiation crisis on Monday with the start of a system to cool damaged reactors that could also help avoid dumping highly contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean..
The move was hailed as "a giant step forward" by Goshi Hosono, an adviser to Prime Minister Naoto Kan..
Plant operator.. Tokyo Electric Power Company.. is running out of space to store a huge amount of radioactive water that has accumulated during efforts to cool the reactors.. It hopes the new system, which decontaminates water and re-circulates it to reduce reactor temperatures, will help achieve its goal of bringing the plant to stability by next January..

In a sign of international unease.. the U.N. Security Council voiced "grave concern" with the deteriorating security situation in Yemen, putting aside disagreements that had prevented the 15-nation body from speaking unanimously on the unrest there..
This was accompanied by the news that President Saleh was planning a return to Damascus, and would make a television address upon his arrival.. "He will appear within the next 48 hours despite our fear that the burns on his features and on different parts of his body will be an obstacle.. given that his appearance will not be as the media expects it.." said Ahmed al-Sufi, the President's media secretary..
Yemen has been rocked by months of protests against Saleh's three decades of rule. Before that he was grappling with a rebellion in the north, separatist violence in the south and a resurgent wing of al Q'aeda.
This will not bode well for any stability in the country for the immediate future.. for those against the government will only have their fervour refuelled by the return of the man, who for more than 30 years, has run their lives..

And in Libya.. the government yesterday renewed its offer to hold a vote on whether Muammar Gaddafi should stay in power, a proposal unlikely to interest his opponents but which could widen differences inside NATO..
Pressure is growing from some quarters within the alliance to find a political solution, three months into a military campaign which is costing NATO members billions of dollars.. has killed civilians.. and has so far failed to topple Gaddafi..
Moussa Ibrahim, a spokesman for Gaddafi's administration, told reporters in Tripoli the government was proposing a period of national dialogue and an election overseen by the United Nations and the African Union..
"If the Libyan people decide Gaddafi should leave he will leave. If the people decide he should stay he will stay," said Ibrahim..
But.. he said Gaddafi.. who has run the oil-producing country since taking over in a military coup in 1969.. would not go into exile whatever happened.
"Gaddafi is not leaving anywhere, he is staying in this country."

Here at home, an economic warning..
The Bank of England came under fire Saturday from the Bank for International Settlements for failing to raise interest rates despite inflation having persistently exceeded its target..
In its annual report BIS, often described as the central bank for central bankers, also called for an end to cheap money elsewhere.. warning that global economic growth would need to slow to curb inflation worldwide..BIS said that many of the challenges facing the world were a direct consequence of a third consecutive year of “near zero” interest rates in many leading economies. It said this risked a “reprise of the distortions they were originally they were originally designed to combat”..
BIS added: “The logical conclusion is that, at the global level, current monetary policy settings are inconsistent with price stability..
“Tighter global monetary policy is needed in order to contain inflation pressures and ward off financial stability risks.”
In what will be seen as a criticism of the Bank of England, BIS highlighted the fact that UK interest rates have been held at a record low of 0.5% since March 2009, despite consumer price inflation being higher than the Bank’s 2.0% target since December of that year..

Sunday, June 26, 2011

An interesting fact.. that there are more Asian millionaires than European now..
The Asia-Pacific region was home to 3.3 million people in 2010 worth $US 1 million or more.. not taking into account their homes.. that's an an increase of roughly 10 per cent from the year before, according to the 15th annual World Wealth Report by Merrill Lynch's wealth management division and consultancy Capgemini.
And yet, while there are those at the top who can boast Western worth.. there are serious questions being asked about their business practices.. The travails of Xianburg and Sino-Forest, whose stock has collapsed by 84 per cent following allegations it inflated revenue and assets, are far from unique. A review of the approximately 60 Chinese companies listed on both the Toronto Stock Exchange and the more speculative Venture Exchange has found the sector abounds in extreme levels of risk for investors – with frequent, lengthy trading halts, numerous auditor changes, illiquid stocks, and even the odd zombie company.
This might be something that turns into a worldwide reassessment of Chinese companies..
Timber company Cathay Forest Products Corp.. CFZ-X.. has been halted since the first of February.. the company didn’t provide notice or seek exchange approval for four non-arm’s length deals and failed to adequately disclose these transactions, according to a statement issued by the company about the halt.. Cathay has also been unable to file its 2010 financial statements, is unable to estimate when the filings will be issued, and is facing a shareholder class-action lawsuit.
To continue.. Kaiyue International..YU.P.. shares have been halted at the company’s request since early December.. That company is proposing to buy another company that, through two subsidiaries, owns a Chinese firm that processes prepaid mobile phone accounts.. CFO Joseph Chan said the trading is halted pending an exchange review of the acquisition. Meanwhile, shareholders are in limbo..
It poses the question.. how long will it take for the Chinese to learn Western business practices, and adapt their millennia of machination to that of the International standard..
Yet, having said all that, Chinese President Wen Jaibao's in Britain.. set to meet with David Cameron tomorrow to hold their annual meeting on bi-lateral trade agreements.. Wen will also take the time to visit the MG plant in Longbridge.. MG now owned by China's Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation...
China, for all it's failures in European investment, still has a strong interest in broadening it's scope on the Eurozone, and the West in general..
There is real money in China's coffers.. and in itself is a vast and as yet barely touched market.. It is the second largest economy in the world at the moment.. and in spite of some speculators doubting the viability of a 'good offer' from a Chinese House.. each must be taken on their merit.. their well researched merit..
Wen's initial remarks concerned the Euro.. and the predicament the Eurozone now finds itself in.. His were words of encourgement.. saing China had increased its holdings of Euro Bonds in recent years and was confident the Eurozone could overcome its problems..
Mind you, if it doesn't sort out this mess, one wonders how long it will take China to dump those bonds on the market..
An update on the talks Wen had with David this afternoon.. China's anxious to increase trade relations with Britain.. increased investment such as that in Longbridge, at the MG plant.. Up to £1billion worth of business deals are expected to be announced during Mr Wen's three-day UK tour.. a mere drop in the bucket tell the truth, but an encouraging start..

It's always good to have what one has written proven by the media..
We have been saying for months that the Libyan rebels, while not receiving any more than token support as far as 'advisers'.. have been supplied with arms and materiel by Britain and France for months.
Today's Times will 'break' the story that these illicit arms have been shipped through Qatar, with the full knowledge of the authorities..

Saturday, June 25, 2011

An interesting statistic from researchers from Imperial College London and Harvard University have discovered after an exhaustive survey, that those worldwide suffering from diabetes, a potentially deadly disease, has risen from 153million to 347million..
Blame television.

Just an example of how this global recession has hit Greece.. Hospitals and doctors surgeries are running short of drugs to treat their patience, as the drug companies react to the economic state of the country.. even essential services can't get credit..
Greece is between the proverbial rock and a hard place.. Prime Minister Pappandreous has been told by the IMF, France, Germany and Britain, those being the countries about to cough out another £110 billion in loans, that he'd better stick to his strict austerity programs, increase taxes, cut social services, tackle unemployment, or that's they'll not shell out..
Meanwhile there are riots in the streets of Greece, with the public both vehemently and violently opposed to these measures, and the drop in their standard of living which they would bring about..
But.. supposing Greece fails to meet these conditions.. what then..?
There are a few possibilities.. Greece could shovel this debt into a hole.. and hope their economy could survive the return to the Drachma..
Or.. France and Germany could decide enough was enough.. good money after bad and all that.. and request Greece leave the EU.. again, a case of sink or swim, but no lifeguards on duty..
Or.. Moody's could downgrade Greece even further, causing a run on what commodities Greece deals in, the likes of shipping.. Bankruptcies would only add to an already unbearable problem...It's going to be interesting to watch this Game play out.
How important is the Unity of the EU..?
Now Mervyn King.. the Governor of the Bank of England, has warned that British involvement in propping up failing economies is only adding to our own rick of sliding back into recession..
The whole issue boils down to solvency. King suggested that the ultimate answer may lie in either alleviating the burden of its debts through 'gifts' of cash, or engineering a “significant improvement in competitiveness”..
Now while that certainly has it's merits, the fact remains that it renders down to getting the populace back to work.. That may well take the return to the old currency, and devaluing it.. with the open invitation to rejoin the ranks of the Union, as soon as it's finances were sorted out.
But how to get jobs into Greece..?
Certainly a devalued Drachma would increase tourism, and might be enough to entice foreign investment.. Tax incentives would certainly be on the table..
That option, in the long run, might be the best for all concerned.. It would allow France to divert much needed funds back into public sector projects, and would allow Angela perhaps yet another term in the Reichstag's..

Now while they're telling patients not to panic.. to keep taking their meds as prescribed.. a study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society seems to show that the cocktail of drugs some people are taking for various conditions, not always associated with geriatric patients but those who have longstanding medical problems requiring large doses of medication as well.. could be subject to premature dementia or Alsheimers..
Some of the drugs tested fell into Category One, meaning mild effects.. those the likes of codeine, warferin, and some eye drops, timonol maleate..
What the 'mild'effects are long term was not explained..
Perhaps it is a symptom of what our society has become, this addiction to medication..
Perhaps it started in the 60's with 'mother's little helper'.. perhaps even far earlier with the first bar fight..
But we have a predilection to use medication to excess, simply because 'if one's good, two must be better'.. This includes those doled out by physicians who have become little more than prescription pads, and if they can't prescribe it, they refer you to someone who can..
It's treating the symptoms.. not the problems..
It's a pity. There was a time the family doctor not only made housecalls, but knew his patients personally..
Makes one feel old, to say that..

What could be some rather disturbing news from Afghanistan..
As Barack plane's a phased withdrawal of 33 thousand troops from the country.. it's President Karzai, is having meetings with Akmadenejad in Tehran..
There have been some concerns about the relationship between Iraq and Afghanistan.. and what it might develop into once the West is gone..
But it's a no win situation for Barack.. He can promise to pour money into Karzai's government once the last American boot has left, but that still leaves Al Q'aida, and Iraq..
One has to feel some sympanthy for Barack.. he's not been much of a President, but he did inherit a lot..
But he's not made things any better either.. His unemployment figures are staggering.. the forecasts call for worse times to come and it's exceedingly difficult to see what magic policy is going to reverse this juggernaut..

A Brief word on the passing of Peter Falk.. While best known for his 'Columbo' character, he was an actor of some great talent beyond television.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

You'll recall that we wrote, back in 2003, that there was something not quite right with the death of Dr. David Kelly, a Middle Eastern analyst for the government who disclosed to the media that he had 'doubts' about there being weapons of mass destruction in Iran.. He was found, at the time, on a path not far from his home, wrists slashed, with his glasses and wallet left neatly on the ground beside him..
There are questions still left unanswered, but the decision today from the Attourney General is, that there's not enough evidence to suggest anything other than the death was a suicide.. and there will be no further investigation..
Quite frankly, this comes as no surprise.. at the time, when the circumstances of his death and the hours before it were released, we wrote that this would be swept under the closest carpet available.. that the death was 'too convenient'..
But the government has drawn a line under Dr. Kelly's killing/death.. and for the now, that's the end of it..

For the 27th month straight, the Bank of England has left it's benchmark interest rate unchanged, at 0.5%.. This, in spite of inflation rising to 4.5% in April, which was up from 4% in March..
This is good for those who have a mortgage to pay.. bad for those retiree's who live in the income their savings produce.. also bad for those on fixed incomes, such as state benefits, who see increases tied to the central rate, not inflation..
One can see where the BofE is heading, and what they're trying to do.. To keep this flagging economic recovery on any sort of track, there must be incentive for small businesses to borrow, thus expanding the job base, and reducing unemployment..
But it's hitting what will soon be the majority of Brits.. those close to or in retirement.. who've been saving to see them through their 'golden years'..
But those who determine financial policy walk an exceedingly thin tightrope these days..
And you can't please everybody..

A brief word here on the upcoming 90th birthday of our Queen's ever faithful consort, Prince Philip..
It seems over the years, he has become something of an object of ridicule in the media.. it seems journalists don't quite know what to do with someone who speaks their mind without internal censoring.. so they exploit some of the less politically correct statements the man has made..
But it's to be kept in mind, that over his years the Duke of Edinburgh has been involved in some 800 charities.. with perhaps the most successfull being the Duke of Edinburgh Award, which has tested the abilities of more than 7 million young people worldwide since 1956.. He was one of the first environmental activists, but describes himself with being concerned with the overall picture.. not a 'bunny hugger'.. He was the first Chairman of the World Wildlife Federation.. the list goes on..
But the man's a modest one.. He candidly admitted to the BBC that he had no interest in doing a 'special' to commemorate his 90th.. To quote Prince Edward, when asked about his fathers reticence: "My father plain and simply is very modest about himself and doesn't believe in talking about himself. One of his best pieces of advice he gives to everybody is talk about everything else, don't talk about yourself - nobody's interested in you."

The Education Institute of Scotland has raised it's collective eyebrows at a proposal from Glasgow City Council.. The largest employer of teachers and the authority for maintaining schools in the country has come out with a proposal that would see new teachers spend two years, rather than the current one, as 'assistants'.. and they call for these teacher's wage to be cut in half to just over £10 thousand a year for those two years..
The EIS, which is beginning its annual conference, said that if the suggestion was adopted, low pay would be an added burden for new teachers who may have student debts and significant problems finding work..
Mind you, the student loans wouldn't actually be a factor in this.. the proposed wage is below the threshold for payments to begin..
But.. the union has asked for 'clarification' from Glasgow Council.. and no doubt will have much more to say if this goes to a vote..

Economically.. the Pound Sterling has fallen sharply in the wake of a Moody's warning that Britain might lose it's AAA credit rating, is the economy begins to show signs of slowing.. the pound dropped more than half a cent to $Us1.6356 and by 0.2% to 89½p against the Euro..
This is going to serve the government to some degree.. George the Chancellor's plan has positive projected growth potential.. and he'll be sticking to his guns in spite of the Opposition, to ensure the mechanisms he's put in place have a chance to start pulling us out of the mire..
One wonders when the US will get a call from Moody's.. with a trillion in debt.. foreign expenditures galore.. and immense unemployment problems.. it might not be long before the world's leading economy begins to show cracks..

Into the Middle East for a moment..
Britain and France have finally gone to the UN Security Council with a draft condemning the Syrian government's violent reaction to the protests in that country.. but they stop short of recommending direct action.. The text has faced stiff opposition from some Security Council members.. who fear a resolution could be the first step towards military intervention..
But realistically speaking.. who's left to put 'boots on the ground'..?
NATO would find it's resources stretched to their very limits if it was the instrument of the UN.. The US would never send more troops in to help with this development of the 'Arab Spring'..
The Russians and the Chinese would likely veto any initiative that went beyond embargos.. and that will effectively reduce the West to a role of spectator.. with the surreptitious shipment or two to tribal factions known to be favourable to the West..
It's the first step..

According to former PM Tony Blair.. Europe needs an elected president with a democratic mandate to drive sweeping reforms and give the European Union leadership on the world stage.. When talking to 'The Times'.. Tony said that the EU risks losing out to the economic and military might of China and other booming economies such as Brazil and India..
The popular consent enjoyed by a directly elected president of Europe.. chosen by an electorate of more than 386 million from 27 countries.. would give the EU clear leadership and enormous authority on the world stage, says Tony..
The post of EU President would represent a seismic development in the 50-year history of the Union.. and pave the way for sweeping economic reforms, including collaboration over tax policies..
“I put this on the agenda.." said Tony.. “The rationale for Europe today is about power, not peace.”.. He sets out five areas where the EU should forge closer links to “make us more powerful as a unit”.. They are.. tax policy and fundamental reform of the social model.. completion of the single market.. forging a common energy policy.. a common defence policy.. and a common immigration and organised crime policy..
One wonders if this 'United States of Europe' would adopt a Republican nature..
And one can thank the gods that Britain's not intimately involved.. We would do well to revert to the old Free Trade Agreement, and steer clear of EU politicking..

The depth of the financial problems of Southern Cross.. Britain's largest care home provider.. became evident last evening.. as it shed 3,000 frontline jobs, and according to The Times.. the company can no longer fully pay its taxes..
The company said it's taking a step that could have dire implications for thousands of elderly people.. in cutting more than 1,600 nursing and home-care assistants’ jobs, and would tear up contracts for most of the 41,000 other staff..
Described last week as being in a “critical financial condition”, the company has gone, cap in hand, to Revenue and Customs.. asking if it can defer income tax payments for three months..
Social services Directors across the country have emphasised the need for individual local Councils to continue sending residents to Southern Cross homes.. to keep the company afloat.. but families or residents will worry about standards of care, if staff are laid off or paid less..
The GMB union was told yesterday that all Southern Cross staff would now be put on a standardised contract.. What this means is workers will allow their hours to be varied up or down by 20% ..
Staff who retain their jobs will now face huge uncertainty over their weekly wage..
Paul Kenny.. the GMB’s general-secretary.. called for immediate financial backing from the Government to avoid any home closures.. “This is the start of a disaster for the residents as well as a kick in the teeth for the staff,” he said..
The union was told job losses would include 300 nurses, 1,300 care staff, 400 domestic workers, 700 catering staff and 250 maintenance workers..
And then there's the thirty thousand residents who could be looking at finding new accommodation.. or an inevitable deterioration of services should this company go belly up..

OPEC Ministers met yesterday afternoon, and through the evening as well.. and still the gathering couldn't come to an agreement on oil production, leaving existing quotas in place in spite of rising world prices and pressure from major oil-consuming countries to increase production..
In the short term, the stalemate.. which is a rare public disagreement within the cartel.. is unlikely to have more than symbolic importance. OPEC members are already pumping above their quota levels, and Saudi Arabia, the only OPEC country with the ability to increase production significantly, has promised to continue raising its output to satisfy world demand..
This left oil traders largely unruffled, with the price of the American benchmark crude rising less than 2 percent to settle at $100.74 a barrel..
Now what is confusing, is the rational presented to the British Public by our Power Companies..
Scottish Power started yesterday by announcing that the price of gas could go up 25%.. the price of electricity up 15%.. The oil they're buying today is cheaper than it was, say six months ago.. and while the cost is expected to rise from the $100Am mark.. it's going to be a while before it gets back up to $115Am a barrel.. And it's a far cry from the $140 mark we saw it reach just two months ago..
Not good news.. and not a good excuse from the power supplier..

They exist for only seconds at most in real life, but they've gained immortality in chemistry: Two new elements have been added to the periodic table..
The elements were recognized by an international committee of chemists and physicists.. they're called elements 114 and 116 for now.. permanent names and symbols will be chosen later.
Both elements were discovered by a collaboration of scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Russia. They made them by smashing calcium ions into atoms of plutonium or another element, curium. The official recognition, announced last week, cites experiments done in 2004 and 2006..
Science marches on..

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Home Secretary Theresa May announced in the Commons this afternoon, that a new crime fighting unit's to be formed.. in what looks to be a move towards a British form of the American Homeland Security Agency..
This new unit, according to Theresa, will be called the 'National Crime Agency'.. which would have the powers to coordinate Police work, and identify matters of national security..
Agents of this new agency will have powers that 'go beyond' those of the Police Force..
She told MP's that organised crime cost up to £40 billion a year, with around 38 thousand members of 6 thousand gangs operating in the UK..
But, only 11% of those gangs were being hit "in a meaningful way" by law enforcement agencies..
It's always a concern when a government announces it's formed a new police force.. just how much power we're willing to give to new agencies is something we should all examine.. Closely..

The Man at the top of China's General Staff of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) says their first aircraft carrier is under construction.. It's a remodeled decommissioned Soviet carrier..
The PLA is one of the most secretive agencies when it comes to it's defence planning.. But Chinese diplomats are saying this ship poses a threat to 'nobody'..
One wonders then, why it was built.. Those in Taiwan, might be somewhat concerned..

Ramadan is upcoming, and American officials are thinking it would be the perfect time to begin a strategic withdrawal from Libya.. some 30 thousand troops are expected to be on their way home by late next year.. Britain's expected to follow suit, and begin bringing ours back.. Barack's set to address the nation on this topic tomorrow, and likely he'll explain that after having talks with Libyan President Karzai, this withdrawal will be the 'bookends' of the American surge which began two years ago..
This venture is costing the US some $100 billion a year to maintain and this option of ending their involvement within 18 months or so.. would be a bright political move some months away from the election..
Now, Barack has to choose between the advice of his generals, who want a full complement of combat troops for another fighting season against the Taleban, and civilian advisers.. including Joe Biden, the Vice-President.. who see the death of Osama bin Laden as the chance for a rethink of US strategy..
This is becoming a trend..the States backing away from involvement in the Middle Eastern conflicts.. at least as far as manpower is concerned.. No doubt the country could use the savings.. there are problems in the Union which need desperate attention.. Prime among which is unemployment, for without a realistic plan in place in the near future to deal with the problem, it alone could seriously put Barack's possibilities of re-election in doubt..
But bringing the boys home..
It has a ring to it that will resonate with a majority of American voters..

They've started to come out with the actual figures..
With this risible rise in fuel bills, which Scottish Power has started and the rest are expected to soon follow.. a million British households face 'fuel poverty' when the heat goes back on again..
Now as mentioned yesterday, the Power Companies are claiming the high cost of fuels has driven their costs through the roof.. But that's little consolation to those who have to face a rise in their bills to the tune of over £130 a year..
It's a problem the government's going to have to face.. those on fixed incomes are looking at 5% inflation across the board, plus this added expense for hot water and heat.. television use.. computers.. It's hitting the middle class hard.. but those below the poverty line will be crippled..
Just what Westminster can do here.. beyond increasing social service.. pension.. and disability payments to a level which recognizes the increases in daily living.. is moot.. Perhaps an injection of funds to those mentioned services could come from the monies saved in our planned withdrawal from Iraq..
It must come from somewhere..

Still in the Middle East.. NATO's stepping up it's own agenda.. dropping some 60 bombs in targets in Tripoli yesterday..wiping out large areas of Muammar's el-Qaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya command compound..and Mohammar struck back immediately with a radio broadcast denouncing NATO..the US.. Britain.. vowing 'never to accept defeat'..
“We welcome death..” he said.. “Martyrdom is a million times better.”
Better than living, is moot.. but then who among us can say they fully understand that man's layered mind..
In a city grown accustomed to the NATO raids.. the attacks caused a heightened level of alarm, partly because they began so early in the day when Tripoli.. two and a half million people.. was busy with daily routines.. Most of the nearly 4,000 strike sorties flown by NATO since the air war began in March have been carried out deep into the night, partly, according to NATO officials, to minimize the risk of civilian casualties.. But yesterday’s daylight raids emptied much of the city of traffic, with stores in large areas of the city shuttered and the few people out hurrying to complete their business and find shelter..
Mohammar may be willing to continue.. His Army stands, for the most part, behind him.. but how long with the civilian population hold to their up 'til now, unshakable faith in Qaddafi..? Many an Arab leader has lost power, through the use of the bowstring..

Syrian President Saleh is pretty well a no show, at least for the foreseeable future.. in Damascus.. And now the Game shifts into high gear, as the US and Saudi Arabia diplomats begin their maneuvering to ensure there's no 'power vacuum in Yemen..
While mediators move toward establishing a transitional government, Saleh’s condition.. and his prospects for recovery.. emerged as the crucial factor in determining who will rule the nation.. an important ally of the Untied States in fighting terrorism..
While Washington and Riyadh have wanted Mr. Saleh to step down in the face of months of protests and increasing violence.. there was no agreement yesterday on how to proceed while he is in hospital in Saudi Arabia..
The reports on the President's condition differ, depending on which camp you speak with.. Those who support Saleh, say he'll be back in a couple of days.. those who want him gone, say he has burns to 40% of his body, and a punctured lung caused by flying splinters of wood.. and won't be back at all..
The source of the explosion, which killed several guards.. the imam of the mosque.. wounding a dozen government officials and Saleh allies.. has also been mysterious.. It was initially believed to have come from a mortar or rocket attack from outside the compound..
But as the investigation continued, there have been reports by officials in Yemen and in the press suggesting more of an inside job..
Not quite a bowstring.. but with the same result intended..

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The government told us today, that it's wasted millions of Pounds chasing terrorist shadows in the Middle East.. while neglecting 'homeland security'..
But.. there's an initiative, called 'Prevent'.. that will work in prisons to rehabilitate those in there for terror related reasons.. and in the community with those released..
This, no doubt, will be funded through the reallocation of monies now spent abroad,on English classes for imams and courses to empower Muslim women..
Home Secretary Theresa May, will also concede that money from the £63 million per year anti-extremism budget has been given to groups that promote hardline beliefs. The budget is divided between the Home Office, the Foreign Office and the Communities Department..
Sometimes, you have to shake your head...
And indeed, Theresa did admit to all of the above in the Commons this afternoon.. saying "In trying to reach out to those at risk of radicalisation, funding sometimes even reached the very extremist organisations that 'Prevent' should have been confronting.. We will not make the same mistakes"..
We'll see..

Apparently Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh was more seriously injured in a rocket attack on his compound last week than thought.. Saleh suffered 40% burns and has bleeding inside his skull after Friday's attack, according to American sources..
The country's acting leader, Vice-President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, has said Saleh intends to return within days.. however that seems highly unlikely..
Those keeping a close eye on the situation say that the severity of his injuries will have a direct impact on when .. and if.. he can come back to the strategically important country he has governed for 33 years.. and on who could take power if he can't..

Something for those on fixed incomes to worry about.. Scottish Power has become the first utility company to increase its prices, raising gas prices by almost 19% and electricity prices by 10%..
An average annual dual fuel bill for Scottish Power’s 2.4 million customers will rise by £171 to £1,382..
The company blamed rising wholesale energy costs over the last six months.. with the increases will taking effect from the first of August..
Other companies such as British Gas, the UK’s largest supplier, are expected to follow suit soon by also raising their prices..
Utility bills are expected to rise by at least 15 per cent across the board by the end of the year.. saddling consumers with record bills..
It begs the question, which will be more important come next winter.. eating, or heating..

Now this was mentioned yesterday.. but the government now admits that Ministers are in discussions to pass Legislation that would ensure that some sectors stay on the job.. maintaining essential services..
Unions would be forced to keep open schools, hospitals and fire stations and to keep public transport running..
Now it's a system that's been in place in many countries for quite a while.. Canada, for example, has legislation in place to guarantee 'essential services'.. Firefighters.. Police.. hospital personnel the likes of Doctors..Nurses.. cleaning staff.. must at least provide normal services.. But in Canada.. the unions can call on their membership to 'work to rule'.. which means they do their jobs at a basic level..refusing overtime.. sticking as close to the book as possible..
Things slow down, but never stop..
Here it's much the same.. But this legislation would effectively put demands on the unions themselves when it comes to calling a strike.. mandatory threshold for example
aimed at those unions who, in the past, have had a low turnout when a ballot's offered..
And..Ministers are resigned to strike action in the coming weeks by hundreds of thousands of civil servants.. probably teachers and lecturers as well.. over the Government’s reforms to public sector pensions and the ongoing pay freeze.
It may prove to be a hot Spring and Summer.. both in temperatures, and temperament..

As much as it might gall Alex Salmond.. Scotland does not have the right to hold a referendum on withdrawing from the Union.. Alex has a clear Majority in the Scottish Assembly, and plans to hold just that vote somewhere near the middle of his 5 year term..
But Westminster's Scottish Secretary, Michael Moore says there are two referendum necessary.. one, an 'advisory vote'.. the second to actually ask for independence..
But, as said above, this 'new state' would need to hold talks with the UK government at Westminster to work out an agreed position..
So we won't hold our collective breaths..

Yet another disturbing trend evolving.. It seems the number of people who're saving, or making other preparations for their retirement has gravitated to those above 50.. A poll conducted by Scottish Widows shows 59% of 'over 50's' are getting their affairs in order.. only 47% of those between 30 and 50 are doing the same..
And what's perhaps more disturbing.. one fifth of the 52 hundred people polled are making no preparations whatsoever..
on average people would like £24,300 a year to live comfortably at the age of 70..
Pensions experts say it would require a large pension pot to be saved by each individual to achieve this level of retirement income, and this report suggests that there are those falling some way short..

Beansprouts are relieved to hear they're not the cause of this E.coli outbreak.. Tests on the suspected sprouts have proven them innocent..
The finding, though not excluding the possibility that beansprouts might have carried the germs in the past, raises pressure on the German Government to track down urgently the source of the mutant bacteria.
Not a joking matter, actually..
A development on this story.. this afternoon the EU Commission suggested that at least 150 Euro's should be given to farmers who's crops rotted in the fields, while speculation on what's caused this outbreak.. Germany has been criticised for it's handling of the outbreak..
Producers of salad vegetables have seen sales plummet during the outbreak, which has killed 24 people and sickened nearly 2,400..
Germany's Health Minister Daniel Bahr said there was cause for optimism, saying there were "some arguments suggesting the worst is behind us"..
That's not much in the way of any consolation for the farmers, or the sick..

A brief mention on the floods in southern China.. tens of thousands have been left homeless.. as rains and swollen runoffs have inundated many towns and villages..
Drought in the north.. floods in the south.. China's going to be looking into increasing it's imports of foreign grains and soy..

Monday, June 06, 2011

Our Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, is breathing a deep sigh of relief this afternoon.. after the IMF announced it's approval of Britain's plans for reducing debt.. The IMF predicted the UK economy would grow 1.5% in 2011, down from its forecast of 1.7% in April and 2% in November 2010..
But it maintained its medium-term forecast at 2.5%..
Consider though, that India's growth forecast calls for something just over 7%, and that's come down from the 7.5% they projected last year..
While the government's facing opposition from all sides on it's austerity program, it would appear they're on a track the international economic community can accept..
But Business Secretary Vince Cable was heckled and boo'd as he addressed a meeting of the GMB.. a Union which represents some 700 thousand workers from both the private and public sectors.. They have threatened significant public sector strikes on the 30th of this month.. Vince told the meeting that co-ordinated strike action could lead to tougher union laws.. but, if the level of strikes remained low there would not be a compelling case for tighter legislation..
The last time this happened.. Maggie Thatcher was forced to take on the miners.. and the miners lost..

The rolling postal strikes in Canada.. an ongoing problem for decades.. is causing major disruptions for the private sector.. Charities and businesses have been deserting Canada Post for alternative mail carriers for a number of years.. Canada Post says it's business is down some 17%..
Dan Kelly, senior vice-president for Legislative Affairs at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.. said today that “There’s no question there will be some delays, but if the rolling strikes continue, the system could get gummed up. There could be a cumulative impact after a couple of weeks..
There is also fear among some businesses.. particularly the smaller ones that tend to still rely on the postal system for such things as invoicing and bill payments.. that the rolling strikes will escalate into a general strike..
The two sides remain at odds over several issues..including workplace safety related to new mail-processing machines..reduced wages for new employees and a fresh look at how sick days are accumulated..
This is exactly the scenario we could be looking at in the near future here in Britain..

On the E-coli outbreak.. Local German officials said yesterday.. that they had evidence that tainted domestic sprouts had caused the deadly outbreak that has afflicted Germany and unnerved fresh-produce markets throughout Europe.. and they've shut down the farm in the northern part of the country where the sprouts were grown.. The suggestion that sprouts may be the cause of the outbreak.. one of the most catastrophic food-borne illnesses in years.. was met with caution by public health experts though..
The German authorities had acted prematurely once before in their investigation, blaming cucumbers grown in Spain for the outbreak after preliminary tests showed that they might have contained toxic E. coli bacteria. Further tests showed that the Spanish cucumbers did not contain the strain making people sick, and investigators then backtracked.. That episode infuriated Spanish farmers who lost tens of millions of dollars in sales and were forced to abandon ripe vegetables to rot in the fields, as demand collapsed..
Meanwhile.. hospital staff in northern Germany are working overtime dealing with the increasing numbers of infections.. to date, 22 have died from this new strain.. Intensive care and dialysis units are particularly short of trained personnel..
German Health Minister Daniel Bahr said some hospitals had to deal with "bottlenecks" in providing sufficient numbers of staff.. Some 2 thousand people have been infected with enterohaemorrhagic E. coli.. or EHEC.. bacteria.. 600 of those have the new strain..haemolytic-uraemic syndrome.. or HUS.. which can lead to bloody diarrhoea, kidney failure, neurological damage and death.. Most of those suffering from HUS, are women..
Further tests are being conducted in farms throughout the region.. but for the now, avoid Continental sprouts.. and cucumbers..

Portugal’s Social Democrats unseated the governing Socialists with a resounding parliamentary election victory yesterday.. giving the next government a strong mandate to enact a tough austerity program in return for 78 billion Euros, or about $114Am billion, international bailout..
In recent opinion polls, Passos Coelho.. who is expected to be the next Prime Minister.. had been leading José Sócrates, the Socialist caretaker prime minister.. but by a narrower margin than in yesterday’s vote.
The result is expected to be welcomed by international creditors who had feared that a less clear-cut outcome could have extended the political squabbling over fiscal strategy that set off the collapse of the government of the last Presidency..

Baracks National Securities people are looking at the war in Afghanistan, and saying 'it's too expensive'.. and 'Osama's dead..' Time, they recommend, for a drastic troop reduction..
Now what could be interesting here, is the announcement of talks between the Afghani Government, which the US supports wholeheartedly, and the Taliban leaders, whom the US would like to lock away somewhere and lose the key.. If the US does begin a wholesale withdrawal, it's in the knowledge the Taliban may well become a force within the government of that country..
However, that scenario is now effectively out of the hands of the US.. If diplomatic truces are forged with the Taliban.. the purpose of the American presence is unnecessary.. The government in place is is charge.. not the White House..

The rapid growth in farm output that defined the late 20th century has slowed to the point that it is failing to keep up with the demand for food, driven by population increases and rising affluence in once-poor countries..
Consumption of the four staples that supply most human calories.. wheat, rice, corn and soybeans.. has outstripped production for much of the past decade, drawing once-large stockpiles down to worrisome levels.. The imbalance between supply and demand has resulted in two huge spikes in international grain prices since 2007.. some grains more than doubling in cost..
Those price jumps.. though felt moderately in the West.. have worsened hunger for tens of millions of poor people.. destabilizing politics in scores of countries, from Mexico.. to Uzbekistan.. to Yemen.. the Haitian government was ousted in 2008 amid food riots, and anger over high prices has played a role in the recent Arab uprisings..
Now, the latest scientific research suggests that a previously discounted factor is helping to destabilize the food system.. and that's climate change..
Astounding how the scientific community can be precise about the obvious..
Many of the failed harvests of the past decade were a consequence of weather disasters, like floods in the United States.. drought in Australia.. blistering heat waves in Europe and Russia..
Scientists believe some, though not all, of those events were caused or worsened by human induced global warming..
With the amount of coal China's using.. along with economies the likes of India and the US.. it would be a miracle if carbon emissions didn't have something to do with the climatic extremes we've seen of late..
And what. realistically, are we going to do in the immediate future to change our fuel consumption and reduce the resulting emissions..?
It's the same as this ridiculous Law passed in NY City.. banning smoking out of doors in parks and other public places.. One might ask how many cigarettes worth of carcinogens are pumped into the City's atmosphere by the number of cars, and especially busses, on it's streets..
Our scientists waffle about when it comes down to pinning the blame for our changing climate on the industrialisation of the world.. But the uncomfortable truth is there to see..
Ask the residents of Joplin, Missouri..

Back to Canada for a moment.. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is set to visit Quebec’s flood-devastated Richelieu River region today in his first tour of the area, several weeks after the disaster hit..
Steven's expected to meet with local officials and also fly over the flood-damaged valley for a first-hand look at the extent of the damage..
Two local Mayors have asked that the Army, dispatched at the start of the flooding to help fill and set sandbags around the flooded areas.. be brought back to help with the cleanup.. But the MOD says troops are not meant for that type of work.. that it's the responsibility of the affected communities to fund their own cleanup efforts..
There had been some loud criticism aimed at the Prime Minister, for not having visited the flooded area.. yet he found time to go out to the Manitoba flood zone and to fire-ravaged Slave Lake, Alberta..
And still.. the Camper Countdown continues..

Sunday, June 05, 2011

An early story's breaking in Canada..
Prime Minister Steven Harper government’s plan to enlarge the House of Commons has touched a raw nerve with Jean Charest’s Quebec government, even as Western premiers praise the idea..
With Quebec marginalized within the federal Conservative caucus, and with the Quebec government also vowing to take the Conservatives’ plans for Senate reform to the Supreme Court.. the risk is increasing of French Canada becoming more estranged both from Ottawa and from Provinces to its west.
The Conservative government plans to introduce legislation this fall to increase the number of MPs from Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, so that their growing populations are properly reflected in the House of Commons... A great idea is the consensus of the western Provinces.. They've felt somewhat marginalized over the past few decades.. Protesting their share of Parliamentary seats didn't reflect their numbers..
But Quebec..
Well the new legislation could see Quebec’s share of the total seats in the House of Commons drop below its current level of 24 per cent, which is slightly above the 23 per cent that is province’s share of the national population..
That's not going to please 'les pequistes'.. those who want to leave Canada and form an independent state, but will fight to the death for the lions share of Transfer Payments and representation in Ottawa..
Good luck Steven..

Economically.. The EU's European Investment Bank suspended all lending to Glencore..
citing "serious concerns" with governance at the world's biggest
commodities-trading company, which recently made its stock market debut..
The EIB is investigating a $50m loan it made to Glencore's Mopani
copper mine in Zambia, but says its concerns "go far beyond" that
investment. Glencore said it welcomed the inquiry and expects to be
"completely exonerated".
There are quite a few investors who have used that company to trade the commodities market.. and malfeasance is something the market could well do without.. especially concerning a house the size of Glencore..

America is a country of 310million people for whom free speech is a founding principle.. So it should be no surprise that it is inhabited by a large number of individuals with some pretty strange views. Largely due to local radio and more especially the Internet.. they are able to disseminate them to many others rather than just muttering away to themselves..
Jonathan Kay, an editor and columnist at Canada’s National Post, has chosen to shine a spotlight on one particular group of them.. the “truthers”.. who believe that when America was attacked on September 11th 2001 the American government was in the know, or even staged the whole thing in order (take your pick) to impose draconian social controls in the name of national security or to occupy the oilfields of the Gulf.
Americans.. of course.. have no monopoly on eccentric views.. one of the looniest is David Icke, one of our own, an Englishman who believes that the world is secretly run by a group of shape-shifting intergalactic lizards..
Nor is there any sign that the truthers are gaining much ground: in fact, they are puny in number compared with those who follow another nutty conspiracy theory, namely the “birthers”, who believe that Barack Obama was born outside the United States and is therefore, they hold, ineligible to be president. A significant minority of Republicans, according to opinion polls, hold this view. Birthers, however, get much less attention in Mr Kay's book..
This is a read thoroughly to be recommended..

Germany has reversed course on nuclear energy in the wake of the Fukushima
disaster in Japan.. now saying that all of its nuclear power stations
will be phased out by 2022..
Nuclear power supplies around a quarter of German electricity.. The government hopes to fill the gap with renewable energy, but critics say that this will be hard to achieve and that more gas- or coal-fired power generation may mean Germany misses its target for cutting carbon emissions..
It saves the country money in the short run.. but it will be exceedingly interesting to see how Angela plans to raise the profile of this 'renewable energy'.. and how she goes about avoiding the use of hydrocarbons for energy production..

The following's a quote from an article in the latest Economist.. It's worth a read..
"One day in 2008 an anonymous Twitter user posted a message: “I am certainly not bored. way busy! feel great!” That is all well and good, one might think, but utterly uninteresting to anyone besides the author and, perhaps, a few friends. Not so, according to Johan Bollen, of Indiana University Bloomington, who collected the tweet, along with plenty of others sent that day. All were rated for emotional content. Many proved similarly chirpy, scoring high on confidence, energy and happiness. Indeed, Dr Bollen reckons, on the day the tweet was posted, America’s collective mood perked up a notch. When he and his team examined all the data for the autumn and winter of 2008, they found that Twitter users’ collective mood swings coincided with national events. Happiness shot up around Thanksgiving, for example.
The idea of tapping web-based data to build a real-time measure of users’ emotions and preferences is not new. Nor is that of using the results to predict their behaviour. Interest in internet forecasting was sparked by a paper published in 2009 by Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist. He found that the peaks and troughs in the volume of Google searches for certain products, such as cars and holidays, preceded fluctuations in sales of those products. Other researchers have shown that searches for job-related terms are a good predictor of unemployment rates and that mentions of political candidates on Twitter correlate with electoral outcomes."
One will definitely see some reaction to this by conspiracy theorists.. along the lines of Big Brother..

Pope Benedict XVI denounced the "disintegration" of family life in Europe today, and called for couples to make a commitment to marry and have children, not just live together.. as he reaffirmed traditional Catholic family values during his second and final day in Croatia.
Benedict also voiced the Vatican's opposition to abortion at an open-air Mass this morning at Zagreb's hippodrome, the highlight of his trip to mark the local church's national day of families.. Tens of thousands of people, waving small plastic Croatian and Vatican flags, began arriving before dawn..
This is Benedict's first visit as pope to Croatia, an overwhelmingly Catholic Balkan nation that is poised to soon join the European Union. The Vatican has strongly supported its bid, eager to see another country with shared values join the 27-member bloc.

And finally.. Mercury breached the 40 degrees Celsius mark at several places in north India, with people in the national capital sweltering under oppressive heat..
In Delhi, mercury climbed to 42.2C.. two places above normal.. However, the pre-dawn temperature was two notches below normal at 26.3C..
Met officials said similar condition will prevail today.. it's expected that the mercury will fluctuate between 43C and 28C..
And the Camper Countdown continues..

Saturday, June 04, 2011

The latest news is that Yemen’s embattled president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, agreed to be flown to Saudi Arabia today for urgent medical treatment, a day after being wounded in a bold attack on the presidential compound..
According to Saudi officials.. this is a move that would leave Yemen leaderless amid an intensifying political crisis.
Now the word from Yemeni sources is, that Saleh has not left the country.. But if he has..Analysts fear that a sudden departure by Saleh, after 33 years in power, would create even deeper chaos in Yemen.. the government has already lost control of some outlying provinces and Al Qaeda and other jihadists have appeared to exploit the political turmoil to move more freely.
Tribal confrontations continue in the country, with the Presidential compound attacked yesterday.. seven members of Saleh's staff were killed in the attack.. and Saleh himself injured.. But still the man remains defiant, urging the army to confront his tribal opponents, who he blamed for the attack..
Now this is quite the humiliation for the President.. and with the escalation of the fighting between government troops and tribal rebels.. he must be looking for an equitable way out..
He had put several conditions for his departure and, when an initiative by the Gulf Co-operation Council was signed by the opposition, he changed his mind.. this escalation against protesters and rival tribes appears to be calculated to press his case.. President Saleh wants more than what is being offered by the GCC initiative.. It seems the whole deal hinges on the resignations of three of the sons of the Opposition leader.. to compensate for the resignation of the President, and his three sons.. a nephew might be part of this nonsense as well.. It's hard to tell..
Middle Eastern politics is something of a Gordian Knot..

Residents and a militant active in the area announced today that one of Pakistan’s most wanted militant commanders, Ilyas Kashmiri, was killed in an American drone strike in the tribal territory of South Waziristan.. .. But Pakistani and American officials cautioned that they had not been able to confirm his death.. This man was touted as 'the new bin Laden..

Meanwhile, in Greece.. Jean-Claude Juncker, the chairman of the Eurogroup, said after meeting the Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou that he expected eurozone nations to provide fresh aid on top of the €110 billion (£98 billion) bailout agreed in March last year.
No figures have been mentioned.. but analysts said that at least €30 billion of new loans would be needed, two thirds of which are likely to come from eurozone nations and the rest from the International Monetary Fund. Private sector creditors such as banks and fund managers will also have to shoulder some of the burden of shoring up Greece’s finances.
This may well be a case of throwing good money after bad..

If a maybe-candidate for president does not issue an “official schedule” to the news media as she tours around in something that closely resembles a campaign bus, did the tour really happen..? It did.. as evidenced by the all-terrain coverage that..true to precedent.. trailed Sarah Palin wherever she motored last week.
But how dare she disregard the media like that?
“I don’t think I owe anything to the mainstream media,” she said in an interview aboard her bus with Greta Van Susteren of Fox News... why Fox god only knows.. But..whatever... This is all part of the familiar Palin approach..
Call it “The Politics of Doing Whatever the Heck I Want.” There she went again, disrespecting the almighty “process,” playing by her own rules and seeming not to give a flying hoot what anyone thought about it. That included the so-called key Republicans, party insiders and self-important activists whom she also seemed to ignore en route. These are many of the same people who trashed Palin’s bus tour as ill-conceived and disorganized in ..often anonymous.. comments to the wild-goose-chasers.
Mitt Romney.. look out..

This story is one to bring a wry smile..
Two identical twin brothers, both Franciscan Monks, died today within hours of each other... they were 92..
Both died of heart failure..
Julian and Adrian Riester did it all together.. school.. travelling.. joining the Franciscan order together... Most of their lives were spent at St Bonaventure University in New York... and a spokesman for the university said "It really is almost a poetic ending to the remarkable story of their lives.."

Friday, June 03, 2011

It's been the bloodiest day so far in Syria.. reports are that as many as 70 protesters have been killed by government troops in Hamas.. Thousands have taken to the streets to protest the killing of children during the ten week uprising against President Assad.. further reports have a group of 150 thousand in the streets today in the northern city of Maarat an-Numan..mind you those figures are unconfirmed..
One must wonder.. It took much less to get NATO involved in the removal of Mohammar from Libya.. What's keeping the international community impotent in this Syrian struggle..
Might it be, that so many terrorist organizations have bases in Syria, and Assad has managed to keep some sort of leash on them..?
Could it be a case of the Devil we know, against the Devil we don't..?

Israel is bracing for more Arab Spring showers this Sunday, as Palestinians plan to mark the June 5 anniversary of the 1967 war with a new round of protests.
That war left Israel occupying East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza (it also won control of Sinai, but returned that to Egypt under the 1979 Camp David agreement)..which could be the focus of Sunday's actions.
Just two weeks ago.. on May 15.. "Nakba Day' demonstrations saw Palestinian refugees trying to breach Israel's borders in protest against the confiscation of their families' homes in 1948 after the war that accompanied Israel's creation.. As many as 16 Palestinians were killed in that day's protests, and the Israeli security forces hope to avoid a repeat, well aware of the political damage they suffer by firing on unarmed challengers..

A mention of Ratko.. When he appeared before the Court in the Hague today, he refused to enter a plea to the 'appalling' crimes he was accused of..As the Bosnian Serb army commander during the 1992 to 1995 war, Mladic is accused of orchestrating atrocities including the killing of 8,000 men and boys in Srebrenica.. the worst massacre in Europe since the second world war..
As expected, Mladic declined to enter pleas to the 11 charges set out in a 37-page indictment.. saying they are "obnoxious charges levelled against me".
The circus continues..

Analysts are pondering the fate of the Eurozone and the single currency with some concentration.. The system, as set out in the beginning, simply ignored the fact the future of such an European State, as it has become, would only be as financially as strong as that of it's weakest member..
The need for more centralised intervention in the economies of the Eurozone was offered in a lecture this week by Jean-Claude Trichet, the President of the European Central Bank... Trichet argued that a “union of tomorrow” should give European institutions a power of veto over budgetary decisions by member states, and establish a single European finance ministry.. Effectively, calling for a central government would be the next logical step.. We already have the Courts in the Hague..
But this would, of necessity, be a Republican entity, this United States of Europe..
And we here in Britain, need a strong Europe.. they're our biggest trading partners.. We can also thank our government for remaining somewhat Euro-sceptic.. reflecting the mood of the country.. and staying clear of the single currency..

A surprise announcement from Moody's has American legislators heading back to the bargaining table, so a budget can be drawn up that will realistically make a dent in the country's trillion dollar debt..
The credit rating agency said it would be reviewing the rating of the States in July.. threatening a downgrade unless there is some agreement reached between the Democrats and the Republicans..
Nothing like lighting a fire under then, to get them to jump..

Still with the US economy.. While Barack's waiting to announce this until tomorrow.. his government is going to sell off Chrysler to Fiat.. leaving about $1.8 billion dollars of the total handed to that company to keep it afloat, unpaid..
In fact.. a report by the White House National Economic Council this week projected that the government will fail to recoup about $14 billion of the $80 billion it put into rescuing the auto industry.
Not now.. not ever.. There's the financial 'black hole' we mentioned months ago..

And with a look to what will soon be our competition.. India's economic growth rate slowed again in the first three months of the year, to 7.8% year on year.. This isn't expected to deter the central bank from its policy of raising interest rates to tackle inflation...
Considering the size of their consumer base, inflation's not much of a surprise..
But a growth rate slowing to 7.8%.. it must give some pause to European Finance Ministers who're looking at 3.5% at Germany, and it's by far the best among all..
And the Directors of the Bank of England will be wondering just how far they can go in bumping our rates..

It's a hot topic.. one which causes a fair amount of contention in these British Isles.. The issue of asylum seekers..
MP's are saying the government is so far behind in processing amnesty claims, that it's allowing those looking to stay the right to do so without proper scrutiny.. Opposition MP's are shouting 'amnesty' as though it were a curse, saying that due courses are being ignored for the sense of expediency..
And they may well be right too.. there are currently some 450 thousand cases to be reviewed.. tens of thousands more have been 'shelved'.. and those involved now free to take citizenship.. and that means, according to those who're afraid of being over-run by foreigners, they're now free to not only to bring their relatives over, but also eligible to collect social benefits..
But that is not the real issue.. It is perhaps, that this economic bust we're crawling through is making everybody suspicious of anyone who hasn't a British accent.. for fear they might take a job a true Brit would never consider..
This is a small island, and the room for expansion is limited, especially in this 'recession'.. and regardless of how enlightened most would profess to be, we're leery of our generosity being taken advantage of..
Ands still, the refugees come..

Yesterday it was an entirely new strain of E-coli sweeping the continent.. and by the way the figures of those displaying symptoms is on the increase..
But today, it's a new strain of MRSA..'Mad Cow Disease'.. the infection that decimated British herds and kept British beef off Continental shelves for some 18 months a couple of years ago.. This new bug has the ability to infect humans as well as our bovine friends..
Researchers are saying there are no 'additional' threats to our consuming milk and meat.. which begs the question, what risks have we been exposing ourselves to on an everyday basis..?
Now.. MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a drug-resistant form of a usually harmless bacterium which can be deadly when it infects wounds.. Its discoverers have dubbed it "New MRSA"... They're not much for originality at the research center where the bug was isolated..
Of course, environmentalists have blamed this mutation on farmers.. saying they're feeding their beasties far to many antibiotics..
It's a case of damned if you do.. damned if you don't..

Now we're back to the E-coli outbreak.. Germany has appealed for blood, as the number of cases has swolen in two days by two hundred.. 1730 cases so far, and rising..
This new strain has killed 17 people in Germany, and one in Sweden, but the infestation has been spread as far as the States, carried by a tourist returning from Hamburg.. There is a need for blood, because treatment of some patients requires multiple transfusions, and stocks of whole blood and plasma are running short in northern Germany..
As mentioned earlier, Russia has banned all exports of vegetables from the EU.. and in spite of pleas from EU Ministers, he remains firm.. Russia is the largest agricultural market in Europe..

An option other than Sarah Palin for Republican voters in the States has popped up today.. Mitt Romney, the former Governor of Massachusetts has thrown his hat in the ring for next years Presidential election.. Romney blamed Barack for the economic woes frustrating voters, the likes of federal spending and unemployment..
Now we mentioned this yesterday.. that no American President has ever managed to be re-elected, with unemployment over 7.3%.. Barack's boys are looking at fresh unemployment figures, which show a full 9% of the American workforce idle..
Now, there are those who will say 'but Barack got Osama'.. and hold that up as a trophy worth another 4 years in the White House..
Maybe not.
Economics, and a concrete plan to pull the States out of the huge hole it's in, is the main concern of the man on the street.. They may not understand how they got there, and they may not understand how they can get out.. But they know who bailed out the banks and the important trading houses.. and that was Barack..
Meanwhile.. Republican Presidential hopefuls will be heading to Washington for the 'Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference'.. The event, hosted by coalition Chairman Ralph Reed, will bring together some of the most influential conservative activists in the country — an important constituency for those seeking the GOP nomination..
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said the current platforms of the candidates will be just as important as their past records.
"They have to understand the interconnections between the fiscal issues that are at the forefront of the debate and the underlying social issues that contribute to our fiscal problems," he said..
Such is the lot of a right wing politician in the States.. association with 'moral majority' groups..
And one more issue for Barack to contend with.. As gas prices rise across the United States, there is some worry that they may start to threaten the fragile economic recovery..
In his weekly radio address, Obama acknowledged the growing price of gas, and told listeners that he "feels their pain," but he added, "There's no silver bullet that can bring down gas prices right away."
One of the perks of being President.. he doesn't have to fill up, at $5US per American gallon..

It comes with the job.. but research by the Hansard Society would indicate that the 200 or so new MP's elected last year, are working close to 70 hours a week.. what with their duties both in the House and their Constituencies..
This report suggests that in many cases, it's putting a strain on home life..
Perhaps it would be best, if it were introduced into Law, that MP's must be single men or women.. the responsibilities take up more of a Members time than can be imagines prior to being elected..
Now this problem was addressed to some extent back in 2005.. the House sits earlier on some days, amid complaints of sessions that continued past midnight..
But apparently it's not been enough to ease the pressure of balancing being an MP with being a husband/wife and a father/mother..

Here in Scotland.. Finance Secretary John Swinney laid out the plans the SNP has to take this country forward..
The Finance Secretary explained that a "jobs agenda" would be at the heart of their programme for government... As expected, he said ministers were committed to tackling unemployment, particularly amongst those aged 18-24 which he said remained "unacceptably high."
No joke there, they say..
John said it was private sector growth which would be the "principal driver of job creation in Scotland."
And good luck with that John..
He explained the government's short term focus would be on trying to secure more economic levers for Holyrood such as more capital borrowing powers and control over corporation tax and the crown estate..
And that's not encouraging.. his emphasis should be on drawing in foreign investment.. not aiming towards a Keynesian scenario..
The SNP is a young Party.. and has never before had such a plurality in the Assembly.. One has to hope against hope that Alex Salmond and his boys and girls don't drag us down into irreversible debt..

A mention must be made here, to mark the passing of one of the first to openly defend euthanasia, and as a medical practitioner, helped many to end their suffering..
'Doctor Death'.. Jack Kevorkian, has died at the age of 83.. a coronary embolism caused by the breaking of a blood clot in his leg..
Jack helped at least 130 terminally ill patients take their own lives.. and served eight years in prison for it..

Thursday, June 02, 2011

A thought to start the day..
Canada's predicting a hotter than usual Summer.. last year was the hottest since records started in the 1940's, but Environment Canada's forecasters have agreed this summer should top the last.. It's thought that no part of the country will escape the above average temperatures..
Mind you they're hedging their bets on precipitation.. saying the Prairie Provinces shouldn't be looking at a draught..having said that they may well be saying this simply because predicting precipitation patterns is far more difficult.. No threat to the wheat in Saskatchewan.. not yet at any rate..
But what of those in the cities..? Environment Canada has issued a humidex advisory that stretches from Windsor and Sarnia, around the Golden Horseshoe to Ottawa and Cornwall and as far north as Algonquin and Grey-Bruce. That's an area far larger than the entire UK.. some 650 miles in length and 450 miles to the north..Temperatures yesterday hovered near the 40C mark.. with more of the same for the immediate future..
In June, no less..

There's some concern over a new strain of E-Coli that's beginning to circulate Europe..haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS)which attacks the kidneys and digestive system.. Germany's where it all began, and at the time they blamed contaminated Spanish cucumbers.. Britain has reported 7.. Even the US has one case, a tourist returning from Hamburg..
Germany, the centre of the outbreak, confirmed 372 new infections yesterday alone, 97 of them with HUS. The country has so far reported 470 cases of HUS and a further 1,064 with bloody diarrhoea.. as disgusting as that might be, it is the symptom.. Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK have reported cases, almost all in people who have just returned from Germany. Overall in Europe, 499 cases of HUS and 1,115 of bloody diarrhoea have been reported...
So far 18 people have died from this variation of the disease..
“This is a unique strain that has never been isolated from patients before,” said Hilde Kruse, a food safety expert at the World Health Organization..
Russia's taking no chances.. it's banned all imports of vegetables from the EU...

Japan still is considered the third largest economy in the world.. and the problems it is enduring since the earthquake and tsunami are being dealt with, as quickly as the government can..
However, the lot must fall on someone, and the man at the top is usually the goat..
Naoto Kan survived a vote of non-confidence in the Diet after pleading with his Democratic Party of Japan to allow him to lay the groundwork for recovery from the triple disasters... After that, he will resign, making the way clear for an election that will see the country's sixth Prime Minister in five years..
This is not going to do any good whatsoever for the immediate financial future of many countries.. Japan itself of course.. with it's lack of power and reduced production, the downstream is getting hit harder and harder..
It might well be that the top priority would be twofold in the Diet.. the cleanup of the three contaminated ports.. and the restoration of full power to it's manufacturing sector, and it's population..
But in fact, the last thing this country needs, is yet another election.. it's all time wasted..

Employment figures released in the US today caused a fair drop in the Dow.. some 9% of the American workforce, can't find jobs..
This puts real pressure on Barack.. no American President has ever been re-elected with unemployment over 7.2%, other than FDR of course..
It's only 17 months before the next election.. and analysts are not optimistic that the employment market will open at any great extent before November next year..
Barack's only hope of a clear cut victory, is on the back of the Republican Party allowing Sarah Palin to stand for the White House..

Despite his repeated public offers to step aside to ease the crisis in the country, Yemen’s authoritarian president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, appeared to be gearing up for a major assault on the Ahmar family, his tribal rivals and political opponents... there was heavy fighting today in the Capital of Sana..
The violence in Yemen has transformed a largely peaceful uprising into a tribal conflict with no clear end in sight.. The US and Yemen’s Arab neighbours the likes of Saudi Arabia, which have tried and failed to mediate a peaceful solution to the country’s political crisis, are reduced to merely watching.. and pleading for restraint..
The deterioration of this uprising into tribal factional wars, leaves little hope a solution will be found anywhere in the near future.. There is no one faction that will recognize another as supreme.. and a coalition, has so far, been beyond arrangement..

And the screws are turning on Greece.. Moody's has piled the pressure on the government by downgrading it's critical credit rating from B1 to CAA1.. Last month Moody's dropped Greece by three notches.. and this cut is even deeper..
Portugal's watching these developments closely.. with the possibility of their falling under the same hammer quite likely.. as is Eire..

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Things are looking bleaker for Mohammar.. a UN investigation says they've found evidence of crimes against humanity by government forces.. and these investigations are not all one sided.. the UN officials also accuse the 'freedom fighters' of war crimes..
But the bulk of the report condemns Gadaffi and his men, and once this conflict is settled, unless Mohammar reaches an internationally accepted deal to step down, he will find himself standing in the dock in the Hague.. along with Ratko..

And while on the subject of Ratko.. prosecutors have amended their charge sheets to speed up the prosecution of the former Serbian General.. Prosecutor Serge Brammertz said "The problem will not be the prosecution, we have our updated charge sheet ready, it will be a question of how long the defence needs to prepare their case."
He thanked the president of Serbia and the country's security services for the arrest of Mladic.. but he said the detention of another key war crimes suspect, former Croatian Serb leader Goran Hadzic, should go ahead "without further delay".
If this man is brought into custody, the EU could be looking at a new member State..

Now.. an exabyte is equal to one quintillion bytes. In 2004, global monthly internet traffic passed one exabyte for the first time.. Internet giant Cisco is predicting that by 2015.. global demand for the net will exceed 966 exabytes a year...
By that time.. 40% of us.. all of us.. will be online..

The latest from the Met Office, is that we've not had a drier Spring in a hundred years.. Some farmers are losing their crops, and there are fears that many foods will go up in price... and what with close to 5% inflation anyway.. that's the last thing this country needs..
And the Camping Countdown continues..

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