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

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..

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