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

Friday, July 22, 2011

A massive bomb blast has hit government buildings in the Norwegian capital Oslo this afternoon.. killing at least seven people and injuring several others..
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg described the situation as "very serious"..
The bomb was followed by a fatal shooting incident near Oslo at a youth meeting of the Labour Party, which Mr Stoltenberg leads..
Norwegian media said at least four people were killed when a man opened fire indiscriminately..
Police said the suspected gunman had been arrested..
People across Oslo and Norway itself were in shock..
Stoltenberg announced .."We have never had a terrorist attack like this in Norway.. if that's what it is.. but of course this has been a great fear for all Norwegians when they have seen what has been happening around the world.".
The United States has condemned the "despicable acts of violence" in Oslo, while the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, said he was "deeply shocked" by "these acts of cowardice for which there is no justification"..

An update on this story..
The Senate on Friday rejected a House plan to substantially cut government spending and raise the federal debt limit contingent on a balanced budget proposal.. leaving Congress up in the air about how to resolve its impasse over the federal debt ceiling, and avoid a government default..
Senators voted 51 to 46 along party lines to set aside the measure, known as the “cut, cap and balance” bill.. which was sent to the Senate by the House this week and seen by conservative House members as their preferred option for increasing the debt ceiling.. For many House Republicans, the legislation was their best offer in the continuing standoff with Barack and Congressional Democrats..
Barack and the Republican House speaker.. John A. Boehner.. once again struggled against resistance from their respective parties yesterday.. as they tried to shape a sweeping deficit-reduction agreement that could avert a government default in less than two weeks..
And new hope of one ran instantly into old resistance.. from Republicans opposed to higher taxes.. and Democrats loath to cut benefit programs..
While talks on a major, long-term agreement continued, a fresh, shorter-term backup plan appeared to be gaining momentum. Under discussion among some House Republicans, that proposal would cut spending by $1 trillion or slightly more immediately and raise the debt limit by a similar amount.. enough to postpone a final reckoning until early in 2012..
But then, with an election looming later that year.. all this will have to start again, with Democrats fully understanding their candidate could stand or fall on an economic recovery of some substance..
Both sides maneuvered for political advantage and for leverage in negotiations about which little was publicly known.."At the end of the day, we have a responsibility to act," said Boehner of Republican lawmakers..
Across the Capitol, however, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, blamed some of the same Republicans.. "Tea Party Extremists," he called them — of blocking a deal..
The sometimes-conflicting information underscored the frenzied final days before a threatened default, when the Treasury would no longer be able to pay all its bills in full and the economy could go into a tailspin as interest rates spiked..
Some Democrats confided they were worried Obama would sign off on an agreement that cuts benefit programs without raising tax revenue.. and they peppered Budget Director Jack a closed-door meeting in the Senate.. with questions about the high-level negotiations..
Democratic officials familiar with Obama's talks with Republicans said that while some cuts could be agreed upon and even enacted relatively quickly, there were major differences on taxes and savings from benefit programs like Medicare and Social Security..
As an example, there is no agreement on how much additional revenue would be raised through an expected overhaul of the tax code, or how to require Congress to enact cuts to benefit programs..
Now recall.. these are issues which have not needed to be raised for decades.. since Hoover was voted out of office by FDR..
Barack's going to have to come up with something of his own.. a new 'New Deal'.. because considering the other problems facing the country, and if the Republicans can come up with their own 'Hughie Long' agenda..
Barack will find himself hog-tied by the economy.. unemployment.. and the real possibility of spiralling interest rates..

European markets have reacted favourably to the news Greece is not yet going under..
But the more details of this financial bailout that appear, the worse, and in fact, how blatantly false the deal is..
UK, French and German markets gained more than 0.5% in early trading, while Japan's Nikkei closed up 1.2%. The Euro also rose further against the $Am.. Eurozone leaders pulled the single currency back from the brink of disaster last night as they agreed a second plan to bail out Greece and ambitious proposals to overhaul the embattled Euro area..
This deal amounts to this..
109bn euros in new loans to Greece..
Various options to extend Greece's repayment terms and reduce the amount it repays on existing loans..
Voluntary private sector participation in these options, so that banks share taxpayers' burden..
Doubling the length of repayment terms for the Irish Republic and Portugal, both of which have received financial assistance previously..
Additional powers granted to the 'European Financial Stability Facility' to buy up bonds and to make credit available to countries such as Spain and Italy that are not at immediate risk of insolvency..
Now, todays' market rally followed as the 17 leaders hammered out an agreement that economists said marked a step forward in Eurozone co-ordination and gave comfort to European banks.. but still fell far short of full economic integration..
After months of dithering, a second huge rescue deal was agreed for Greece of €109 billion.. £95 billion.. including €37 billion from the private sector and a significant lowering of interest rates..
Christine Lagarde, the IMF Managing Director, described the decision at the emergency summit to support a country in difficulty until it could return to the markets to raise finance.. as “game-changing”.. She was implying, that to prevent such catastrophic economic flatlines such as pushed Greece to a state close to insolvency.. that we're now one step closer to a Euro Bank..
The powers of the Euro’s bailout fund were also enhanced in a move hailed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy .. who emphasized private lenders would contribute a total of 135bn euros of financing to Greece..
This is expected to provide some 50bn euros of debt relief..
Three of the four options offered to lenders to swap or relend existing debts would extend Greece's repayment terms by 30 years, while the fourth would do so by 15 years..
They all offer a much lower interest rate than Greece's current 15%-25% cost of borrowing in financial markets..
Sarkozy of France sees this as a key step towards the creation of an EU treasury in the form of a “European monetary fund”..
He said: “By the end of the summer, Angela and I will be making joint proposals on economic government in the Eurozone.. Our ambition is to seize the Greek crisis to make a quantum leap in Eurozone Government.. We have done something historic. There is no European monetary fund yet.. but nearly.”
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: "We have sent a clear signal to the markets by showing our determination to stem the crisis and turn the tide in Greece, thereby securing the future of the savings, pensions and jobs of our citizens all over Europe".
Be Afraid.. be very afraid..

Mere days after Energy Ministers met in Alberta in Canada to lay the foundations for a national energy strategy.. an accord is already running into roadblocks..
Quebec is pledging its opposition to a national plan.. there's no surprise there.. while Ontario and Alberta openly bicker about endorsing the oil sands as a sustainable supplier of energy..
Quebec’s defiance is likely to slow momentum that has been building over the past few years, with corporate and politic leaders increasingly making the case for a co-ordinated national effort on energy.. A national approach is needed.. according to supporters.. to streamline regulations.. pursue Asian oil and gas exports.. and support energy research..
Federal, provincial and territorial energy ministers met in Kananaskis, Alberta this week to begin work on what they'd like to see as a unified national energy plan.. The goal of those meetings, Alberta Energy Minister Ron Liepert said, was to “set in place some general principles, goals and objectives that will ultimately lead us to a National Energy Strategy..”.
But it has not taken long for cracks to appear in that nascent effort..
The day an initial “action plan” was released, Ontario said it did not support language describing the “responsible and sustainable” development of the oil sands..
And now Quebec is saying it wants no part of such a plan..
“Quebec doesn’t want a federal energy strategy because first of all, energy is a provincial competence,” said Marie-France Boulay, director of communications for Nathalie Normandeau, Quebec’s Minister of Natural Resources and Wildlife..
The province will support some collaboration on energy, but does “not want a coast to coast” plan, Ms. Boulay said in an e-mail, pointing out that Quebec already has its own strategy emphasizing hydro, wind and energy efficiency..
In fact, Quebec as a Province only has two main sources of export income.. one being lumber, the other hydroelectricity.. Quebec supplies a large part of the Eastern Seaboard of the States with their power, and any move by a Federal initiative that could reduce Quebec's income, would be met with defiance..
History has shown that even the most ambitious efforts at creating a unified national voice often founder among regional differences in Canada. And if Quebec is only prepared to support some collaboration, other political leaders may have to scale back their expectations to something less ambitious than a national strategy, warned Jack Mintz, executive director of the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy..
“It’s going to be very hard to have a single strategy that applies to the whole country because the provinces do have certain of their own responsibilities.. and individually they may want to do some things that are different..” he said..
The Canadian penchant for understatement is at much the same level of the English and Scots who formed the country, it would seem..

Still in Canada here.. New statistics show the national crime rate is continuing its 20-year decline.. reaching levels not seen since 1973.. even as the Federal Conservative Government prepares legislation that would put more Canadians behind bars for longer periods of time..
It is a juxtaposition of politics and reality that has prompted critics to accuse the government of ignoring facts at taxpayers’ expense as it pursues a criminal-justice agenda focused on punishment, rather than prevention..
Statistics Canada released it’s annual survey of police-reported crime on Tuesday. It shows the overall volume of criminal incidents fell by 5 per cent between 2009 and 2010, and the relative severity of the crimes took a similar dive..
Homicides, attempted murders, serious assaults and robberies were all down last year from the year before. Young people were accused of committing fewer offences. Even property crime was reported less frequently with reductions in both break-ins and car thefts..
“These are police-reported statistics so they don’t necessarily reflect all the type of crime that’s taking place in society..” said Steve Sullivan, Executive Director of Ottawa Victims Services, and former Federal Ombudsman for 'victims of crime'..
“However, if the government is telling taxpayers it is going to spend millions and billions of dollars on getting tough on crime, I think the government at least has to have some evidence that they are addressing a real problem. And neither these statistics nor the other surveys that we have would suggest that we are in some kind of crime wave..”
In fact, the figures would indicate the exact opposite..
It's excellent news that crime is at it's lowest levels since the 70's in Canada.. but touting a program which would spend billions on addressing crime, would appear to any casual observer, to be a waste of money..
The system's not broken.. why fix it..?

A seismic event occurred on the Senate Floor this past Monday night.. By an 80-13 vote, the Senate confirmed the appointment of J. Paul Oetken to serve as a Federal Judge for the U.S. District, for the Southern District of New York, one of the most influential benches in the nation with primary judicial oversight over Wall Street..
The action was seismic not because an Obama appointee actually made it through the confirmation process relatively quickly.. that would amount simply to a rarity..
It was seismic not because the appointee garnered the unanimous support of Democrats despite the appointee’s very pro-business credentials as the head litigator at Cablevision.. a much-maligned cable, entertainment, and sports behemoth..
The Senate’s action was seismic because the Senate confirmed, for the first time, an openly gay man to serve on the federal bench. There already is an “acknowledged” lesbian on the federal bench, but her sexuality was a carefully avoided issue when she was confirmed during the Clinton Administration..
There were no floor objections, no apocalyptic warnings of the homosexual agenda, and perhaps most surprisingly, no accompanying fundraising drive by social conservatives to cash in on what has been lucrative red meat in the past..
Nobody seemed to care that the dude likes to bed down with the guy Oetken introduced as his partner to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his March confirmation hearings..
That in itself is pretty seismic..

India's had a wake up call from the next monsoon season..
Met office sources identified a low-pressure zone across Gangetic West Bengal as the trigger for the heavy showers predicted in the next 24 hours.. Weathermen said the monsoon trough, which had shifted towards the south.. keeping Jharkhand away from rain for more than a week, had been restored..
So far, areas normally affected by the rains have had just about the average for this time of year.. but 'just about' suggests there has been close to a meter more of rain in some areas..
Not what India needs at this point.. shifting monsoon patterns upon which the country depends upon for it's agriculture..

Pakistan's exiled former President Pervez Musharraf said on Thursday that "absolute negligence and not complicity" was behind his country's Osama bin Laden fiasco and Washington and Islamabad must put that episode behind them and rebuild trust..
"We must convince the world and the United States that the issue of Osama bin Laden was not complicity..but negligence of a very monumental order," he said in a speech in Washington.. He might as well have said 'This whole debacle was due to the stupidity of some Pakistani security sources.. Sorry..'
U.S. special forces' killing of the al Qaeda leader in Pakistan on May 2 soured relations between the two countries over U.S. suspicion Pakistan knew he was living in a town not far from the Pakistani capital for about five years..
"Two years of that five years was during my time. I confidently and surely say that there was not complicity because I am very sure of one thing: that I didn't know, whether one believes it or not," said Musharraf..
Believe it or not...? Flip a coin, and both sides will likely turn up heads..

A brief notice of what's taken place in a Canadian Court..
The Federal Court of Canada cleared the way on Thursday for the extradition of China's most wanted man, dismissing concerns that he could be tortured or executed back home..
Judge Michel Shore refused a request to stay the deportation of Lai Changxing.. accused by Beijing of running a multibillion-dollar smuggling operation in China in the 1990s..
Lai fled to Canada with his family in 1999 and claimed refugee status, saying the allegations against him were politically motivated. Canada rejected his refugee claim, and after years of legal wrangling government lawyer Helen Park said on Thursday he could be sent back early as Saturday..
China says Lai bribed Chinese officials to avoid paying taxes and duties on everything from fuel to cigarettes that were shipped into China's southeastern Fujian province..
One must wonder what the 'quid pro quo' will amount to.. Chinese holdings on Canada's West Coast run the gamut from real estate, to logging companies..
Odds are Lai will face a bullet once back in China..

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