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

Friday, July 08, 2011

There will be no prize awarded for guesses as to what story leads the media throughout Britain.. We have discussed the closure of The News Of The World at some length earlier.. and for the time being, we'll wait for further developments before speculating even more on the consequences of this closure..
It must be mentioned that this tabloid managed to effect some significant social changes.. and brought a vast amount of money into charities around the country..
George Orwell wrote in the opening lines of his 'Decline of the English Murder'..
"t is Sunday afternoon, preferably before the war. The wife is already asleep in the armchair, and the children have been sent out for a nice long walk. You put your feet up on the sofa, settle your spectacles on your nose, and open the News of the World. Roast beef and Yorkshire, or roast pork and apple sauce, followed up by suet pudding and driven home, as it were, by a cup of mahoganybrown tea, have put you in just the right mood. Your pipe is drawing sweetly, the sofa cushions are soft underneath you, the fire is well alight, the air is warm and stagnant. In these blissful circumstances, what is it that you want to read about?”
A question answered over the decades by that very paper.. It must be remembered with some gravity, that yesterday a little bit of England died.. and it is a moment to mourn.. For what its readers have wanted to read for more than a century and a half, they found in their copy of the News of the World on a Sunday..

For the second month in a row, American employers added barely any jobs in June, showing that the economic recovery has hit a serious speed bump..
With all levels of government laying off workers, the Labor Department reported that employers eked out just 18,000 new nonfarm payroll jobs in June.. The already low number created in May was also revised downward to a dismally small 25,000 new jobs, less than half of what was originally reported last month..
These numbers do not bode well for Barack.. unless he manages to get a significant number of Americans back on the job over the next 18 months.. his term as President could well be a short one..
And the record of the first black President could be stained with financial failure, of such a drasic nature as not seen since the Great Depression..

With the news this past week, that Japanese mobile manufacturers are losing business to those who're catering to the demographic which changes it's phones, or least the skins, following the fashion of the moment..
Japanese and Taiwanese manufacturers have been more concerned with developing a mobile phone platform for Google's Android.. Verizon Wireless followed AT&T by scrapping its unlimited-data plans for new smart phone subscribers and introducing Tired Payment Schemes based on the gigabytes of data used.. Wireless operators in
America have rapidly moved away from "all you can eat" plans for customers.. and are providing more selective pricing menus in anticipation of the increased appetite for services from high-speed networks..
And included here simply to underscore the real value of what might at first seem to be an idiotic idea in this cyberworld we live in.. It emerged that Twitter has begun another effort to raise capital from private investors, which could value the microblogging website at $7billion. In February, during a previous fund-raising round, privately held Twitter was thought to be worth $4.5 billion..
Now that's what one msu call positive growth figures..

Still with economics for a moment.. Portugal's reacted angrily to Moody's downgrade of its sovereign debt to "junk" status, complaining that it had not considered the country's recent austerity measures, or new political consensus after an election..
Moody's made the cut on the basis that Portugal will have trouble raising funds in the markets, if private investors take a hit in a second rescue deal for Greece..
More European feathers were ruffled when Standard & Poor's became the first ratings agency to confirm that it may consider French proposals for private investors to roll over their Greek debt to be a "selective default"..
This is the financial 'black hole' we've mentioned many times before..

Less than two months ago Dominique Strauss-Kahn, favourite in the polls for next year’s French presidential election, was locked up in a New York jail and on suicide watch.. following his arrest on charges of attempted rape and sexual assault..
Now, just as the French had faced up to his disqualification from public life, the case against the former IMF boss seems close to collapse.. A Manhattan judge’s decision on July 1st to free DSK, as he is known, from house arrest, amid doubts about the credibility of his accuser, has again knocked France sideways..
The latest episode in this torrid saga involving power, money, sex, politics and transatlantic incomprehension came from revelations about the plaintiff, a hotel maid..
The district attorney’s office in New York catalogued a devastating string of lies.. on her application for asylum, on her tax return, to the housing authorities, to a grand jury and, repeatedly, to the prosecutors, including over what happened in the hotel after the alleged assault on May 14th..
A report in the New York Times claims she made a phone call to a jailed man a day later, in which she discussed potential financial gain.. he and others had deposited some $100,000 into her bank account over the past two years..
For the French, stunned yet again by the DSK affair.. the most pressing question is whether he might be able to revive his political career, and even his presidential hopes..
Recent history suggests that nobody is disqualified forever from French politics..Alain Juppé, now Foreign Minister, was once convicted of political corruption..
On paper, nominations for the Socialist presidential primary are due to close on July 13th. But various party leaders, including Martine Aubry, the Socialists’ boss and herself a candidate, have made clear that this timetable could be stretched..
Such revelations leave the accuser’s credibility in tatters, whether or not her account of what took place in the hotel room is true. The maid’s lawyer, Kenneth Thompson, insists that “she has never once changed a single thing” in her story of the sexual assault.. and DNA evidence suggests that a sexual encounter did indeed take place.. Yet the case still looks likely to fall apart. It could even be dismissed ahead of Mr Strauss-Kahn’s next scheduled court appearance on July 18th..
In fact, this possibility is almost a certainty.. and the French media will undoubtedly afford Domenique all the sympathy any Frehcn politician.. falsely accused and humiliated by both the police and the American Press.. would recieve in such a high profile case..

Health experts are now saying that the financial crisis "almost certainly" led to an increase in suicides across Europe..
The analysis by British and American researchers found a rise in suicides was recorded among working age people, from 2007 to 2009 in nine of the 10 nations studied..
According to 'The Lancet'.. The increases varied between 5% and 17% for under 65s.. after a period of falling suicide rates..
Researchers said investment in welfare systems was the key to keeping rates down..
In particular, they argued supporting people back into work or having programmes to stop them losing their jobs in the first place.. was more important than giving them benefits..
The team used World Health Organization data to compare rates in the 10 countries, including the UK..
And while it may well be stating the obvious.. it is at least official recognition of a growing problem..

Moday's Moroccan vote deserves a mention.. even this far after the date..
A constitutional referendum, pressed by officials who wanted a strong turnout for what has been as much a test of King Mohammed VI’s popularity, as a poll about reform..
Businessmen backing the yes vote held celebratory street parties.. Imams at Morocco’s mosques were instructed to preach in favour of what was heralded as the King’s constitution.. But even in conservative Benslimane, a sleepy little town in the north of the country.. some 800 dissidents campaigned for a boycott..
A headmaster at a local school serving as a polling station was overheard muttering that the whole exercise was a masquerade..
The result.. 98.5% in favour.. was branded a risible by members of the February 20th movement.. This coalition of leftists, independent liberals and Islamists from the banned Justice and Spirituality movement, surprised many when its protests for social justice and democracy drew thousands of sympathisers across the kingdom earlier this year.. It called for a boycott of the referendum..
Now it's not as though this new Constitution in itself is a joke.. The new constitution includes some important reforms..
It establishes human rights as core principles.. recognises Berber, spoken by many Moroccans alongside Arabic, as an official language.. and calls for gender equality..
It gives new powers to the Prime Minister and Parliament.. and inaugurates a much-needed overhaul of the judiciary..
It no longer deems the king sacred, though he is still “Commander of the Faithful”..
Critics complain that many of the new constitution’s articles refer to “organic laws” that have not yet been written.. making the extent of some changes uncertain.. Others depend on the creation of special commissions, mostly headed by the King.. Political parties, a majority of whom backed the “yes” vote, only saw a draft of the constitution at the last minute..
No mention is made of King Mohammed’s promise, which came in a speech in March, of moving towards a Parliamentary Monarchy.. The King remains..directly or indirectly.. in control of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government..
Or as the new constitution puts it, a “supreme arbiter” of political and institutional life..
In many respects, the new constitution merely codifies an existing method of governing that allows the palace to micromanage at its whim..
Whether this will satisfy the Opposition, or indeed the general population, is doubtful..

THE herbalist stall of Dr Zachari in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, offers “cures” for AIDS, madness, lost love and “manhood misfires”, but most popular with customers coming to his tin-shack in the sprawling Konyo-Konyo market is “business advice”. South Sudan will be independent from July 9th and investors, entrepreneurs and jobseekers are pouring into the capital, lured by the prospect of equipping a new state.

Bars on the steamy banks of the White Nile are filled with Kenyan traders.. Ethiopian waiters.. Chinese engineers.. American security contractors.. Eritrean restaurateurs.. and Ugandan motorbike drivers..
Expatriate South Sudanese are also coming home in droves after decades of civil war. The most prominent are the “Cuban Jubans”, a group long ago sent to Havana for education.. they run the loudest bar in town..
Outside its doors, Hummers and other pricey cars bounce along yet-to-be-paved roads..
The embryonic nation is severely handicapped by a lack of infrastructure.. Tarmac is almost non-existent..
The information minister, Barnaba Marial, says, “We never had roads. We are starting from below zero.”
Sending a shipping container from a port in neighbouring Kenya to landlocked Juba costs almost $10,000.. “They want to tax you at every roadblock,” says Charles Opolot, a Ugandan fruit trader..
A recent report by the International Finance Corporation ranks Juba 159th out of 183 places worldwide for ease of doing business..
For a city ruined by war, and one estimated to have tripled in size since a 2005 peace deal.. that is not a terrible start.. It has had some success in attracting investors.. SABMiller built a brewery.. Oil companies are active..
And recent reports indicate that foreign investment firms have bought out some 30% of the available lad, either for development, or for exploitation..

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