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

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Okay.. back to the stories of the day..
Libya's interim leader gave forces loyal to deposed ruler Muammar Gaddafi a four-day deadline today to surrender towns they still control, or face a bloody end to a war that the new leadership said has so far killed 50,000 people..
As the hunt for Gaddafi himself goes on, Libyan officials accused Algeria of an act of aggression for giving refuge to his fleeing wife and three of his children, as well as, it turned out, to a new grand-daughter, born this morning..
Algeria's Foreign Ministry said Gaddafi's wife Safia, and his sons Hannibal and Mohammed had entered Algeria yesterday, along with their children..
But what the rebels want to bring a definitive end to this, is Mohammar himself.. and again, until he's found, the struggle will continue..
Anti-Gaddafi forces have converged on Sirte from east and west, but have stopped short of an all-out assault in hopes of arranging a negotiated surrender of Gaddafi's birth-place..
Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of Libya's interim council, told a news conference.."By Saturday, if there are no peaceful indications for implementing this, we will decide this matter militarily. We do not wish to do so but we cannot wait longer.."

Meanwhile, in the States.. Consumers' confidence in August dropped almost 15 points to the lowest level since April 2009 as worries about the economy fueled the wildest stock market swings since the financial meltdown in 2008..
At a time when Americans are increasingly worried about a weak job market, higher costs for food and clothing and recent stock market turmoil, the falling confidence numbers raise new concerns about their willingness to spend and jump start the economy.. That's particularly important since consumer spending accounts for 70% of U.S. economic activity..
The Conference Board said Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index fell to 44.5, down from a revised 59.2 in July.. The number was the lowest level since April 2009 when the reading was 40.8.. It also is far below the 53.3 that analysts had expected..
A reading above 90 indicates the economy is on solid footing.. above 100 signals strong growth..
Today's figures do not bode well.. Besides debt talks and market fluctuations, Americans are still plagued by old economic worries.. The nation's unemployment rate is stuck at 9%.. Home values remain weak.. And shoppers are facing rising costs for everything from food to clothing as retailers try to offset their higher costs for labor and materials..

And, closer to home.. There has rarely been a gloomier bunch of central bankers and other top-level finance officials than the ones who gathered at Jackson Hole last week for their annual August gabfest.. It’s not as if most of them are a load of laughs at the best of times, but as part of their job, they can usually be counted on to find some ray of sunshine on even the darkest days..
Now, most of them acknowledge.. at least privately.. that they have pretty much run out of options if the sputtering global economy slides back into reverse and the financial system starts to come unglued again..
Then we had newly minted IMF Chief Christine Lagarde spelling out the problem for anyone willing to listen.. essentially warning that the European banks can’t be held together with Crazy Glue and paper clips much longer and that if they aren’t fixed soon, we’re heading for another whopper of a financial and economic crisis.. Freed of her government shackles, the former French finance minister pulled no punches in her first major speech to the August audience.. Lagarde declared flatly that European banks “need urgent recapitalization. They must be strong enough to withstand the risks of sovereigns and weak growth. This is key to cutting the chains of contagion. If it is not addressed, we could easily see the further spread of economic weakness to core countries, or even a debilitating liquidity crisis.”
Now just where this recapitalization is going to come from, is anyone's guess..
Her proposal amounts to basically this.. “mandatory substantial recapitalization.. seeking private resources first, but using public funds if necessary.” and that means adopting the much-criticized but largely effective U.S. policy that forced major banks to accept capital infusions from Washington whether they wanted the money or not.. Lagarde suggested the European Financial Stability Fund or some other form of European-wide financing could be used to pump money directly into the banks and hence ease pressure on vulnerable governments facing bond market assaults..
The response, predictably, has been howls of outrage in European political and banking circles. A Reuters headline summed up the attitude: “Europe snubs IMF call to force-feed bank capital.”..
European policy-makers and bankers insist they have done more than enough to cushion the banks from major blows. They said her remarks only served to undermine confidence in the international financial system..
That begs the question.. what confidence..?

Back to the international picture for a moment..
He should be a member of the Federal Reserve Board.. Peter Diamond, the MIT professor who shared the Nobel Prize in economics last year for his work on labour markets, failed to convince some stubborn Republicans that he was qualified to work at the central bank..
Alabama’s Richard Shelby, the ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, was adamant that Prof. Diamond was ill-suited for the Fed because he lacked a background in monetary policy. Few thought Mr. Shelby’s refusal to clear Prof. Diamond’s nomination was anything more than crass partisan obstructionism. The Fed, after all, has a legislative mandate to maintain maximum employment..
Forget the debt-ceiling debate.. the failure of the President to put a Nobel laureate at the central bank was the moment when it became clear something was seriously wrong in Washington. But if there’s a silver lining to this episode, it’s that Prof. Diamond is free to air his views on economic policy at an important time..
Here's a rough sketch of the package Diamond would have put in place..
It would recapitalize smaller banks and it would allow bankruptcy judges to rewrite mortgages.. The former are the primary lenders to entrepreneurs, who create jobs faster than established companies; the later would create an incentive for banks to avoid foreclosures..
Prof. Diamond’s centrepiece would be a “big” infrastructure program.. But not for the reasons you are thinking.. “This is not Keynes, let’s dig holes.”.. Diamond dislikes infrastructure spending as a stimulus in a normal recession because it takes too long to get the money in the system..that's the the “shovel-ready” problem..
The persistent problem, even with this plan, remains.. And that would be the raising of new capital.. With this being a global problem, traditional markets will shrink.. “Absent another insanity over the debt limit, we’ve got a decade before anyone is going to worry about the U.S.’s ability to pay for these things,” Diamond said. “What I worry about is we have an elephant sized problem and I hope we don’t just get flea-sized proposals.”..
In the flea-sized camp is the current Obama administration proposal to create an infrastructure bank.. “The government should just up and do it,” Diamond said, explaining that creating a new entity that would use tax money to leverage private funds would only waste time.. A bank might bring private-sector expertise into the lending process, and it might help keep politicians’ hands off the money, but “it seems like something that will slow down something that is inherently slow anyway,” says the Professor..
He's got a point, but still, even though the analysis is essentially correct, the solution is anaemic.. It's going to take much more than getting workers back in the old jobs.. It's going to take the creation of an entirely new industry, and the education of those collecting benefits to work in this 'new industry'..
But the U.S. isn’t fighting a recession.. it’s fighting a protracted period of weak economic growth that will condemn millions of people to welfare.. An infrastructure program works in the present context because the goal is to reduce long-term unemployment.. The U.S. needs to upgrade its roads, bridges and schools, so why not do so now?
“This is a real problem widely acknowledged to exist,” Prof. Diamond said of the U.S.’s crumbling infrastructure. “In so far as we do now something that we are going to do in a few years because the American economy needs infrastructure upgrading, we’re not hurting the long-run debt position..
So essentially, what we're looking at is a new 'New Deal'.. and that's not new at all..
And to bring today's look to an end..
President Obama has discovered how serious the recession is..
That's what he told an audience in Chicago last week.. To be fair, he was referring to revised data from the Commerce Department showing that the falloff in GDP was larger than originally reported..
But a little ridicule is appropriate..
He and we knew all along how many people were out of work.. the employment numbers told us the size of the hole and the desperate need for government action..
This sort of ridiculous comment, and President Obama's weak response to the recession over the first two and a half years of his presidency, explains the tidal wave of scepticism facing his widely hyped upcoming speech on jobs after the Labor Day weekend..
The list of remedies leaked ahead of time does little to inspire hope..
We'll discuss these points after Barack's speech..

Flooding across parts of the East Coast is still a major issue after Hurricane Irene as the death toll rises to 40 across 11 states.. Thousands still find themselves stranded and without electricity for days to come..
The death toll, which extended from North Carolina to Vermont, rose sharply as bodies were pulled from floodwaters and people were electrocuted by downed power lines..
Eighteen of the 40 Irene-related deaths were in the New York tristate area and New England.. 7 in New Jersey, 6 in New York, 2 in Connecticut and 3 in Vermont..
In Vermont, where a number of towns remained cut off by flood-damaged roads and bridges, National Guard helicopters on Tuesday were delivering food and water..
About a dozen towns in the southern part of the state were rendered inaccessible by road after the torrential rainfall from the remnants of Hurricane Irene..
Deputy state Transportation Secretary Sue Minter said state crews hope to re-establish ground contact with all isolated communities some time today..

Monday, August 29, 2011

Once again.. a dinner conversation brought about several views on a number of topics.. with again, at the end, the obvious simply being supported by our numerous points of view..
Worried about the ecology..? The ice caps may well melt away to nothing.. it's happened before.. and if the extreme weather we've seen of late is a concern, it is to be expected as this earth goes about the process of being itself.. If we destroy our environment, it can only be said that this particular strain in the evolutionary process is by far the most willfully self-destructive.. man may die, but whatever we do.. even if it came to nuclear situations.. the earth will survive..
Worried about the state of affairs in the Middle East.. These conflicts have been going on for millennia.. Inter-tribal conflicts were replaced with Imperialistic conflicts which were replaced by economic conflict which has been replaced with sociological conflict.. And the outcome will be, as it always has been, a diplomatic nightmare.. Perhaps in ten years time, we'll be planning to overthrow the next 'elected' governments..
Worried about the conditions some live in, in our own Western societies..? The result in the long run will be either a collapse of the social order, seeded in the late 1940's by the 'beat generation' and finally coming to a climax over 60 years later.. Or, to take the extreme optimist and his argument that mankind could come to it's senses, support those who cannot contribute..maintain those who won't.. and allow the rest to get on with their Game.. It's always been a case of cream rising to the top.. Yet it can be said that feces float as well.. Never has Wilde been so apt.."While we are all of us in the gutter, there are some who look at the stars.."
Concerned about the economy..? It's worldwide, this house of cards.. There is not a single country that isn't hip deep in effluvia and realistically, there is no way out..It will take a societal change on a scale unprecedented, to turn us around..It's a case of getting in the Game, if for no other reason than simple self-preservation.. and most either haven't the inclination.. or the imagination to actually see what these massive numbers mean.. The world of economics with all it's twists and turns is a guessing game even for those trained..the import of say, Greece defaulting on it's next series of interest payments, or of Italy or Spain needing a bailout from the IMF.. This is foreign territory for most.. And the only duty of those in the Game is, to keep those who are not, happy..
Concerned about the ability of those we've elected.. There's no point in spending much time discussing this.. In all popularity polls, the one with the most pleasant smile is the one who'll win.. We cast our vote as a matter of duty, knowing full-well that whoever wins, will face the same problems.. And of course, the best smile doesn't always mean the most capable..
One memory will remain clear for quite a while about this dinner..
We laughed, a lot..
We'll start on this new week, tomorrow..

Friday, August 26, 2011

An update on the day..
A gruesome discovery in a Triploli hospital.. more than 200 decomposing bodies have been found abandoned at a hospital in a district of the Libyan capital that has seen fierce fighting..
Reports tell a hideous story.. corpses of men, women and children on beds and in the corridors of Abu Salim's hospital..
Doctors and nurses fled after clashes erupted nearby between rebel forces and those loyal to Col Muammar Gaddafi..
Some residents accused the regime of murdering those at the hospital, but it is not yet clear how exactly they died..
Meanwhile, rebel forces faced stiff resistance as they advanced on Sirte, Col Gaddafi's birthplace and the town regarded as his last stronghold..
And so the fight continues.. with the rebels consolidating their hold on Ras Lanuf and it's oil distribution center..

The long awaited word from the Chairman of the Fed.. has offered nothing to markets which have been bouncing around the zero growth level for a couple of weeks..
Ben offered no new stimulus for the American economy today, disappointing analysts and economists who had been hoping for measures to counter a slowing in growth.. what they'd been looking for was another round of 'quantitative easing'.. but that was not to be..
In a speech during the bank's annual meeting.. Bernanke did hint that Congress may need to act to stimulate hiring and growth..
The Fed Chairman said record low interest rates will promote growth over time but that the weak economy requires further help in the short run..
His speech followed the release of a government report that the economy grew at an annual rate of just one per cent this spring and 0.7 per cent for the first six months of the year..
The report predicted only slightly healthier expansion in the second half..
Most U.S. stocks fell sharply after the speech but recovered from their deepest lows.. At mid-morning the Dow was down 1%, the S&P 500 was 0.7% lower and the Nasdaq was 0.3% higher..
Bernanke's speech comes at a critical moment for the economy..
Consumer spending has slowed.. home prices are depressed.. workers' pay is barely rising.. household debt loads remain high..
All that, compounded by Europe's debt crisis, has spooked the stock markets and unnerved consumers.. Congress is focused on shrinking deficits and seems unlikely to back any new spending to try to energize the economy..

Problems abound in Japan as well.. Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced today.. that he was resigning after almost 15 months in office, amid plunging approval ratings over his government's handling of the tsunami disaster and nuclear crisis..
In a nationally televised speech, Kan said he was stepping down as chief of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, effectively ending his tenure as leader of the country. The decision was widely expected because in June, Kan had promised to quit once lawmakers passed three key pieces of legislation. The final two bills cleared the parliament earlier today..
This leaves Japan in vote mode again..The Democrats will vote Monday for a new leader, who will almost certainly become Japan's next PM..the 7th since 2006..

And here.. our Office for National Statistics has announced the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance also rose, by 37,100 in July to 1.56 million, its biggest increase since May 2009..
The claimant count has now risen for five months in a row to its highest level since February 2010..
The increase in unemployment between April and June came as a surprise to some economists, as most had predicted these figures would show a slight fall in the number of people out of work..
figures also showed that between April and June.. The youth unemployment rate rose to 20.2%, up from 20% in the quarter to March.. there were 949,000 16 to 24-year-olds without work, a rise of 15,000.. the number of unemployed men increased by 18,000 to 1.45 million.. the level of unemployed women rose by 21,000 to 1.05 million, the highest figure since May 1988.. The number of employees working part-time because they could not find a full-time job increased by 83,000 to 1.26 million - the highest figure since comparable records began in 1992.. the unemployment rate remained the highest in the north-east of England, at 10%.. the south-east of England still had the lowest rate of unemployment, with a rate of 5.8%.. the unemployment rate in Scotland was unchanged at 7.7%, in Wales it jumped to 8.4%, and in Northern Ireland it crept up to 7.3%.. average weekly earnings, including bonuses, were 2.6% higher than a year ago.. But inflation more than wipes that gain out..

And on the weatherwatch..
Hurricane Irene was lumbering toward North Carolina this morning, heading for a destructive march up the East Coast in an unusually broad path that could affect 55 million people.. Hurricane watches were posted for North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and New England, putting residents on notice to prepare for the worst and in some cases begin evacuations..
“The storm is moving a little bit faster than we thought,” said Josh Weiss of the National Weather Service at a briefing for local emergency management workers and other government officials in the southeastern part of North Carolina.. where rain was starting to pummel the coast.. Tropical storm conditions are expected by early afternoon..local time..
And as the day has progressed.. Barack has warned that Hurricane Irene, currently looming off the east coast of the US, could be a "historic" storm..
Seven states from North Carolina to Connecticut have declared emergencies ahead of Irene's arrival.. and mandatory evacuations have been ordered in parts of four states..
The storm has weakened slightly to Category 2, with winds up to 100mph, and this is the strength at which it is expected to make landfall..
Irene, which has already caused havoc in the Caribbean, is expected to hit the coast of North Carolina on Saturday before barrelling north.. to Washington and New York City a day later..

One has to wonder.. if those who tote up the cost of the riots in British cities take the maintenance of a man in custody into account..
In this case.. we're talking about 86,821 people locked up in jails, young offender institutions and immigration removal centres..
Granted.. only 13 hundred of them are serving time because of riot related charges.. but this increase, at this time of the year, is stretching the prison service to the point the seams are about ready to burst..
Mind you.. Prisons Minister Crispin Blunt said there will be no 'long-term effect' on inmate numbers..
Blunt said the disturbances earlier this month were a "one-off" event and the justice system could cope in the short-term..
And the government expects prison numbers to fall to about 83,000 in 2012..
Now one might assume this figure takes into account all those who will be released by the end of this year.. as well as all those who have yet to be jailed.. and there were 797 suspects on remand, almost two-thirds of all those to have so far come before the courts.. they may or may not face prison terms, but are taking up space the now..
The speed with which the prison population is rising following the riots appears to have slowed, with an increase of 167 this week compared with 723 last week..
This, of course, would reflect an easing of temperament in the Courts, as the immediacy of the riots slips away..
The same is reflected in the public attitude.. while there are those who still suffer from the effects of the insanity which swept some of our major towns.. the majority have simply filed it away as something to be spoken of later.. In coming years, it will be asked many a time.. ' remember the riots of 2011..?'

As a final note.. there's a disturbing proposal been put forward..
Industrialists.. wealthy businessmen/women.. philanthropists.. those who rank high among the 'haves' in our society.. are being asked to buy 'Social Impact Bonds'..
The money raised from this sale will be spent on helping the worst of the poor and underprivilaged.. in providing better living conditions and educational opportunities for those at the very bottom of the ladder..
The Government has put the annual bill for assisting the UK's most deprived families at more than £4billion a year, representing an average of nearly £100,000 per family..
Now the hope is, that these 'Bonds' will yield a profit for the investor..
Civil Society Minister Nick Hurd said it would focus on delivering concrete, measurable outcomes.. "We want to restore a stronger sense of responsibility across our society and to give people working on the front line the power and resource they need to do their jobs properly.. Social Impact Bonds could be one of many Big Society innovations that will build the new partnerships between the state, communities, businesses and charities and focus resources where they are needed."
An initial evaluation of the scheme, published in May, found there was demand from the voluntary sector for the idea and it had helped to generate new sources of funding.. But it also warned that the contractual relationships underpinning the scheme were "complex".. to say the least.. "If they achieve a reduction of more than 7.5% in the rate of reoffending by these prisoners for a period of six to eight years, then the government pays the capital back," he said..
"Below that, the capital is lost, and above that the capital gets a yield of 2.5% to 13%."..
It's schemes the likes of this, that have Ayn Rand turning in her grave..

Thursday, August 25, 2011

And as a note to end this day..
Foreign Secretary William Hague has said it may take time to negotiate a United Nations resolution to release frozen Libyan assets..
Hague said British, French and US diplomats were trying to get agreement from Russia and China.. both of whom hold a UN Security Council veto.. and Russia and China both refused to endorse the UN resolution allowing NATO's military intervention in Libya..
Hague said it was "important for the world to come together".. a typical British understatement.. For it's the reaction of the West to this coup in Libya that will set the tone, in the Arab mind, for what will soon be needed in Syria.. this is a chance to ease inbred distrust..
The UK government's National Security Council met for the fourth consecutive day this afternoon.. Billions of pounds of Libyan assets - including £12bn in London alone.. have been frozen in recent months to prevent them being used by the Gaddafi regime..
The US, UK and France want to unfreeze them to provide funds for the NTC and for humanitarian efforts..
Meanwhile, in Libya, rebels are continuing to fight running battles with pro-Gaddafi forces in Tripoli, while Colonel Gaddafi himself remains on the lam..
To add an afternoon update.. Gaddafi has addressed his followers on State television and radio, calling on this 'invasion' to be washed from the streets of Tripoli with the blood of women and children..
The rebels are now concentrating on the Colonels hometown of Sirte.. where many who still support the old regime continue the fight..
There are some calls now for UN troops to take over.. to patrol the roads and open a corridor through Tripoli.. And there will be meetings this weekend by Ministers from countries which have frozen Gaddafi accounts.. meetings designed to release some of those funds to the Revolutionary Council..
While Muhammar continues to elude those searching for him.. The head of the National Transitional Council.. Mustafa Abdel Jalil.. has upped the stakes..
They're offering any of those still close to Gaddafi an offer of amnesty, and a cash reward of a million Pounds..
This is a 'dead or alive' deal..
Rebel spokesman Guma el-Gamaty reports that those around Col Gaddafi were "heavily implicated with him in crimes against humanity and crimes against the Libyan people.. Now there is a huge psychological incentive for them.. If they don't want to go down with him and save their skin, they will be immune from prosecution if they hand him over.. or kill him..".
There are still reports of gunfire from and into the last remaining faithful in the Compound..
But there are no crowds celebrating.. sniper fire is keeping the rebels at bay, for the moment..
For the time being.. the focus will remain on the search for Gaddafi.. But soon, the National Transitional Council will need to pay serious attention to getting the country's finances back in order..
There are some tangible assets frozen in the US.. Britain.. France.. Germany and South Africa.. which could total close to £115 billion.. those assets, along with loans and outright gifts from Western governments.. should keep the government working.. civil servants paid.. money available to rebuild small businesses.. repair the damage done by NATO bombs and government tanks and rockets..
And while there are those warning of a 'humanitarian crisis' in the offing.. if the Council can keep order among tribal factions and ensure there's a plan to distribute foreign imports.. the situation need not escalate into a full-blown disaster..
There are reports of a shortage of medical supplies.. although that's understandable considering the nature of this coup.. Much of Tripoli is without electricity and running water.. and rumours of a poisoned water supply aren't helping matters..
But again.. we'll now see Western money flowing into Libya.. The transition.. with NATO help.. should flow freely..
All going well.. of course..
The Council must ensure a return to normalcy, as quickly as possible.. Get oil exports up and running again.. and sustainable markets encouraged to come into the country to fulfill existing contracts..
We'll have more as the day progresses..

A flash slide in Germany's stock market dragged down indexes across the world.. erasing earlier gains and shaking the confidence of investors who were cheering a $5 billion investment by Warren Buffet in Bank of America.. Buffet announced his support for BofA early this afternoon..
Germany's main index, the DAX, fell about 250 points in a matter of minutes to trade down more than 4 percent on the day, before recovering somewhat.. By mid afternoon in Europe it was down 2.4 percent..
Analysts and traders could not immediately identify a reason for the slump, but its impact was immediate on financial markets around the world..
But perhaps it is simple to understand.. Investors are waiting for tomorrows meeting in Wyoming.. and as mentioned in previous posts.. there are those who will be in this market for simple short-term gain.. and are now taking what profit they can..
At the close.. Britain's FTSE 100 was pulled 1.2% lower to 5,143.48.. while France's CAC-40 was down 0.5 percent to 3,124..

Something to keep an eye on..
Hurricane Irene has been upped to a Category 3 hurricane, as it swept across the Bahamas.. on a course that will see the US Eastern Seaboard affected by tomorrow..
Irene's packing winds of 120mph.. and forecasters say it's going to get worse..
The Outer Banks islands off North Carolina are being evacuated and people are stocking up on supplies in coastal areas of the US state..
The storm has brought flooding and power cuts across the Caribbean..
The National Hurricane Center said it expected Irene to grow into a Category 4 storm today.. with winds of 135 mph..
This afternoon.. Thousands were fleeing an exposed strip of coastal villages and beaches off North Carolina as Irene approaches.. Irene could hit North Carolina's Outer Banks on Saturday afternoon with winds around 115 mph.. It's predicted to work it's way up the East Coast, dumping rain from Virginia to New York City before a much-weakened form reaches land in Connecticut..

There was a time this record dealt with issues reflected through discussions held in chatrooms.. A time there was much less reporting of world affairs.. and much more observation.. speculation perhaps.. on the human condition..
When this began, it was meant primarily to be a record of the world as seen through the eyes of one man who'd spent his life reporting on, and discussing the news.. a record of world affairs which both affect us directly, or will in the future..
But whereas there used to be the old regulars around the bar at the local pub.. they seem to have melted away either through a lack of disposable income.. or normal attrition..
Whereas there was coherent thought to be found in the chatrooms.. that medium these days has deteriorated to the level of mere social sites, where 'friends' exchange a never ending stream of 'hellos' and 'goodbyes'.. and little of substance being written.. It's always a shame to lose a source.. but what chatrooms there are remaining, are inconsequential..
This has become a condensed news report.. but it is a reflection of at least one man's view on the important issues of the day.. and what's reported in these posts is meant to be pieces of the puzzle in the ongoing Game..
When the world allows us time to return to introspection.. we will be happy to get back to it..
In the meantime.. this will remain a portable analysis.. History as it happens, so to speak..

A brief mention on a couple of new discoveries..
A newly discovered alien planet that formed from a dead star is a real diamond in the rough.. no pun intended..
A a new study suggests..the super-high pressure of the planet, which orbits a rapidly pulsing neutron star, has likely caused the carbon within it to crystallize into an actual diamond..The composition of the planet, which is about five times the size of Earth, is not its only outstanding feature..
The planet's parent star is a special kind of flashing star known as a millisecond pulsar, a rapidly rotating neutron star formed from a supernova. The entire system, which is only the second of its kind ever discovered, is located about 4,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Serpens.. or The Snake..
And here on earth.. Brazilian scientists have discovered an underground river some 4,000 meters, which flows from west to east like the country's famous waterway..
A statement this week from Brazil's National Observatory named the underground river Hamza and said it represents one of two different draining systems for the large rainforest region..
A team of scientists led by Elizabeth Pimentel came to the conclusion from studying 241 wells drilled by the state oil giant Petrobras in the Amazon region..
Even though the two rivers cover a similar path they have differences.. The underground river flows at a far slower pace and empties into the ocean deep underground..
The report from Pimentel writes "It is likely that this river is responsible for the low level of salinity in the waters around the mouth of the Amazon.."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

We'll start with the markets..
After weeks of uncertainty, traders seemed to seize the day..
Stock indexes powered ahead yesterday as investors saw profit to be made on some cheap stocks.. as they bet that weak economic data would support the possibility of further stimulus from the Federal Reserve.. It was at the Fed’s annual symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming last year that Ben Bernanke, the Fed Chairman, signaled further stimulus in light of a similar slowdown of the American economy..
'Quantitative easing' was entered into the economic lexicon..
“The market is down so much in the last week or two,” said Brian M. Youngberg, an energy analyst at Edward Jones.. “When the risk seems to come down a bit, many investors get back in it.”..
The broader market rose more than 3% and represented the second consecutive day of gains in stocks this week.. Mind you, that has merely rearranged the value of stocks.. making up for the losses of last week.. Many analysts say investors are waiting for policy makers to lay out plans for their response to the European sovereign debt issues and the economic headwinds in the United States..
One more day of rising indexes.. we might see a dip towards Thursday as some take their profit and wait for the announcement Friday from Ben..
Early trading along the Pacific Rim reflects the tone of the markets and investors in general.. Some profit taking already in evidence.. The Hang Seng and the Nikkei are very slightly up in early trading.. while Australia and New Zealand opened to slight losses..
That trend mentioned above seems to show signs of being the tone of the day.. A few hours into trading.. Japan.. Hong Kong.. have slipped into the red..
Chalk it up to minor profit taking..
We'll follow through the trading day.. But it's doubtful we'll see anything of note until the end of the week..
And as the day came to an end.. stocks in Europe rose today, defying declines in the U.S. and Asia, as investors awaited potential new action from the Federal Reserve to kick start the world's largest economy..
In a sign of the wild movements seen on financial and commodities markets in recent weeks, the price of gold, which had surged in recent weeks as investors fled into save-haven assets, plummeted 4.4% to $1,779, more than $100 below a new record reached just days ago..
Markets are likely to continue fluctuating ahead of Friday's speech.. Investors hope Bernanke will signal a third round of massive bond-buying to boost the faltering U.S. recovery..
With the goal of significantly lowering the country's debt.. the French government has announced a 3% tax hike for those earning above 500,000 euros.. that's £440,000, or $721,000..
This tax hike follows some of France's wealthiest people calling on the government to tackle its deficit by raising taxes on the rich..
Some might say this seems to be an outcry from the turkeys for an early Christmas.. but in fact, it's a brilliant strategy to quiet some of the resentment and unrest fomenting in France.. This allows high earners to say 'we're doing what we can..'
Paris has also reduced its economic growth forecast for 2012 to 1.75% from a previous 2.25%.. Prime Minister Francois Fillon said the new tax would remain in place until France reduces its budget deficit back under the EU's intended limit of 3% of GDP.. with analysts saying that could come to pass by 2013..
"This is a rigorous policy that will allow France to remain relaxed," Fillon announced.. "Our country must stick to its [deficit] commitments. It's in the interest of all French people."..
Sixteen executives, including Europe's richest woman, the L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, had offered in an open letter to pay a "special contribution" in a spirit of "solidarity"..
It appeared on the website of the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur..
It was signed by some of France's most high-profile chief executives.. including Christophe de Margerie of oil firm Total.. Frederic Oudea of Bank Societe Generale.. and Air France's Jean-Cyril Spinetta..
Big names.. and a gesture some of our banking executives could well take note of..
Especially the banking sector..

After hours of pounding battle yesterday, Libya's rebels smashed through the fortified perimeter of Muammar Gaddafi's compound in western Tripoli.. the nerve center of the old regime.. sending huge plumes of black smoke over the city.. perhaps dealing a fatal blow to Gaddafi's ability to cling to power..
Footage apparently shot by rebels and aired on al-Jazeera showed armed rebels deep inside the Bab al-Aziziyah complex, rejoicing as they clambered upon the ruins of Gaddafi's old house, which was bombed by U.S. jets in 1986 and had been left by Gaddafi as a memorial to the West's evils..
But the man himself.. and his eldest son.. remain at large..
And this has led to a host of speculation on where they might be.. Some analysts are sure Mohammar's still in Libya.. others are sure he's taken what he has, and left for friendlier surroundings..
The fight for Tripoli appears to be virtually over.. but so far, there's no indication of where the Gaddafi's might be.. and until he's found.. the Revolutionary Council will not consider their achievements as a success..
As of this afternoon.. Libyan diplomats and students smashed portraits of Moammar Gadhafi, shouted "Game over!" and raised the rebel flag at their Manila embassy today as part of defections at missions worldwide underscoring the leader's rapid fall..
As rebels stormed the Libyan capital and Gadhafi's power and influence abroad crumbled, Libyan Consul Faraj Zarroug in the Philippine capital said about 85% of his country's 165 diplomatic missions now recognized the interim rebel government, the National Transitional Council.. Libyan diplomats abroad have been pledging allegiance to the rebels gradually after the rebellion erupted nearly six months ago.. but defections surged this week as rebels entered Tripoli in a stunning breakthrough..
While missions to Switzerland and Bangladesh, for example, switched early on, Libyan embassy officials in Japan and Ethiopia replaced the government flag with the rebel's tricolor the beginning of the week.. A spokesman for the rebels in Dubai, Edward Marques, said today.. the defections had turned into a "cascade," but declined to list the locations of rebel supporters.. The Libyan government could no longer be reached for comment..

A look into the internal goings on in Japan..
As Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan spends his final days in office before his party holds an internal vote Monday to choose his successor.. it's easy to be glib.. The man was in office only 14 months after all, and whoever replaces him will become the country’s seventh Prime Minister in five years..
Yup.. the 7th in 5..
But Kan’s departure deserves longer reflection than the resignation of his predecessor, the oddball Yukio Hatoyama, or any of the other four men who have held the office since Japan’s last memorable leader, Junichiro Koizumi, who stepped aside in September of 2006..
As the revolving door at the top illustrates.. the problem goes far beyond Kan and speaks to a crippling illness in Japanese politics.. a disease that compounds the already enormous threats to the country’s future..
Kan recognized the harm being done by the vacuum at the top and seemed more determined than any of his recent predecessors to hang on to the office, if only to change the perception that it no longer matters who the Prime Minister of Japan is..
But Japan’s political system, which allows reviled backroom operators to wield enormous power over their putative leaders, coupled with the natural and nuclear disasters that hit the country on March 11, ensured that he never stood a chance of succeeding..
Kan came to office last summer vowing to tackle the country’s debilitating financial mess.. Japan’s debt soared past $11-trillion earlier this year, more than double the size of the country’s GDP..
But the former finance minister’s bold proposal of increasing revenues by doubling the national sales tax to 10 per cent was defeated.. largely due to fierce opposition from within his own Democratic Party of Japan that was led by Ichiro Ozawa.. the party’s 'dark prince' of behind-the-scenes politics..
Realizing that he was doomed to be just another short-term leader unless he unified the DPJ behind him, Mr. Kan courted and won a head-to-head battle against Ozawa last fall.. For the first time since Koizumi, Japan seemed to have a leader who wanted to lead..
Then the world, quite literally, fell apart..
Kan’s government was derided by a largely hostile Japanese establishment.. which is largely loyal to the Liberal Democratic Party, which is now in opposition but led the country almost without interruption from 1955 to 2009.. for what's been called a 'tentative response' to the massive earthquake and tsunami that obliterated entire cities in the northeast of the country and unleashed the still-unfolding crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant..
Yet another body blow to the government this morning.. as Moody's downgrades it credit to 'Double 'A'3.. They have effected the downgrade due to large government deficits.. and the inability to come to an agreement on taxation..
However, the rating agency's forecast for Japan's economic outlook was 'stable'..

More oddities concerning this earth of ours..
As we mentioned.. The largest natural earthquake in Colorado in more than a century struck Monday night in the state’s southeast corner, but there were no reports of damage or injuries.. The quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 5.3, was centered about nine miles from the city of Trinidad and hit at 11:46pm local time..
It was felt as far away as Greeley, about 350 miles north, and into Kansas and New Mexico..
Now yesterday.. A strong earthquake rattled the East Coast, sending tremors as far as Canada, damaging well-known buildings in the nation's capital and sending scared office workers into the streets..
There were no reports of major damage or serious injuries from the 5.8 magnitude quake, which was centered in Mineral, Virginia..
It was the largest quake in Virginia since 1897 and struck at a shallow depth, increasing its potency..
Nuclear safety fears grew when one of four emergency diesel generators at the North Anna nuclear power plant in Virginia stopped working due to the quake..
But the plant's safety systems remained powered by three operating generators.. The plant was built to withstand a quake of 6.1 magnitude..
The Pentagon, White House and Capitol were evacuated in Washington.. and thousands of alarmed workers scurried into the streets up and down the East Coast as the lunchtime quake sent items crashing down from store and office shelves..
There were no reports of deaths or serious injuries..
The National Cathedral said its central tower and three of its four corner spires were damaged, but the White House said advisers had told President Obama there were no reports of major damage to the nation's infrastructure.. airports, nuclear facilities.. all major arteries remained open and functioning..
Still earthquakes down the Eastern Seaboard.. under Lake Ontario.. felt in Toronto...
As mentioned.. odd..

Just a point to ponder..
Reports indicate that since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.. the NYPD has become one of the country's most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies..
These reports revealed that the NYPD operates far outside its borders.. and targets ethnic communities in ways that would run afoul of Civil Liberties rules if practiced by the federal government..
And it does so with unprecedented help from the CIA in a partnership that has blurred the bright line between foreign and domestic spying..
Neither the City Council.. which finances the department.. nor the Federal Government.. which contributes hundreds of millions of dollars each year, is told exactly what's going on..
The department has dispatched teams of undercover officers, known as "rakers," into minority neighborhoods as part of a human mapping program.. according to officials directly involved in the program.. They've monitored daily life in bookstores, bars, cafes and nightclubs.. Police have also used informants, known as "mosque crawlers," to monitor sermons, even when there's no evidence of wrongdoing. NYPD officials have scrutinized imams and gathered intelligence on cab drivers and food cart vendors, jobs often done by Muslims..
Many of these operations were built with help from the CIA, which is prohibited from spying on Americans but was instrumental in transforming the NYPD's intelligence unit..
Now if there is any credence to these reports, it hits at the underbelly of the Intelligence Community.. It's the stuff conspiracy buffs live for..
They continue.. A veteran CIA officer, while still on the agency's payroll, was the architect of the NYPD's intelligence programs..
The CIA trained a police detective at the Farm, the agency's 'school' in Virginia, then returned him to New York, where he put his new espionage skills to work inside the United States..
And just last month, the CIA sent a senior officer to work as a clandestine operative inside police headquarters..
While the expansion of the NYPD's intelligence unit has been well known.. many details about its clandestine operations.. including the depth of its CIA ties.. have not previously been reported..
The NYPD denied that it trolls ethnic neighborhoods and said it only follows leads.. In a city that has repeatedly been targeted by terrorists, police make no apologies for pushing the envelope.. NYPD intelligence operations have quietly disrupted terrorist plots and put several would-be killers in prison..
According to a spokesman for the NYPD.. "The New York Police Department is doing everything it can to make sure there's not another 9/11 here and that more innocent New Yorkers are not killed by terrorists.. and we have nothing to apologize for in that regard."
One of the enduring questions of the past decade is whether being safe requires giving up some liberty and privacy.. The focus of that debate has primarily been Federal programs the likes of wiretapping and indefinite detention..
The question has received less attention in New York, where residents do not know for sure what, if anything, they have given up..
But one would be exceedingly naive to think abrogation of responsibility, costs nothing.. If these clandestine machinations are in New York.. one can reasonably expect then to be in place in Washington.. Boston.. all down the Eastern Seaboard..
And if in the States.. what of the tactics of the authorities here in Britain.. throughout the Eurozone..?
And once again, it begs the question 'at what price freedom..?'

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

While it seems certain that Muhammar's regime is exceedingly close to being overthrown.. it's impossible to sort fact from fiction from the reports coming from Tripoli.. it could well be days before all is confirmed..
Yesterday, the eldest son was in rebel custody.. last night, he appeared in Tripoli saying the fight would continue.. Saif al-Islam sought to rally regime forces earlier on Tuesday by making a defiant stand and claiming the regime had "broken the backbone" of their advance..
But Foreign Secretary William Hague has said the regime of Gaddafi is in its "death throes".. Hague said the battle for Tripoli was "not over yet", but claims that forces to loyal to Gaddafi were regaining ground were a "fantasy".. "He is not roaming freely through Tripoli.. He, and indeed the remaining pro-Gaddafi forces, are now cornered.. They are making their last stand and it's only a matter of time before they are finally defeated.. About that we are very confident indeed."
And.. Taking inspiration from the rapid unraveling of the regime in Libya, thousands of Syrians poured into the streets and taunted President Bashar Assad with shouts that his family's 40-year dynasty will be the next dictatorship to crumble..
Assad, who has tried in vain to crush the 5-month-old revolt, appears increasingly out of touch as he refuses to acknowledge the hundreds of thousands of people demanding his ouster.. according to analysts.. Instead, he blames the unrest on Islamic extremists and thugs..
But many observers say Assad should heed the lessons of Libya.. Turkey, a former close ally of Syria and an important trade partner, has grown increasingly frustrated with Damascus over its deadly crackdown.. The violence has left Syria facing the most serious international isolation in decades, with widespread calls for Assad to step down..
Human rights groups say more than 2,000 people.. most of them unarmed protesters.. have been killed in the government's crackdown on the uprising..

The latest figures show that More than 1,400 people have appeared in court in connection with the riots that spread across England's towns and cities two weeks ago..
The latest data from the Ministry of Justice show that, of these, 157 have been convicted.. 327 bailed.. and almost 800 remanded in custody..
This rate of 62% being held in custody compares with the usual rate of 10% of those appearing before a magistrate..
The new figures come as the Metropolitan Police have been defending themselves against reports that officers were told to hold everyone arrested in custody and bail no-one..
'The Guardian' has published a leaked document, called 'Operation Withern: Prisoner Processing Strategy', which was circulated among Met officers investigating the disturbances at their height..
It suggested using certain phrases to help secure a charge, including: "A strategic decision has been made by the MPS [the Met] that, in all cases, an application will be made for remand in custody both at the police station, and later in court."..
It also appears to show police had been using their powers to charge suspects before gathering all the evidence because of the time required to examine CCTV footage..
The Met has denied guidance for officers suggested that everyone arrested should be held in custody.. or that cautions or other similar penalties were inappropriate..

Meanwhile.. as this economic crisis continues..
Stocks rose around the world today as investors shrugged off indicators pointing to more economic troubles in Europe and the U.S. and hoped the Federal Reserve will act to keep the U.S. from sliding back into recession..
Trading is expected to remain volatile this week as markets await a key speech by U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke during an annual economics conference in Wyoming on Friday..
The Fed already pledged to maintain its super-low interest rates until at least 2013, but some economists are calling for a third round of massive bond-buying to pump money into the faltering U.S. economy..
But there are those who look at the long term effects of 'quantitative easing'.. and express concern that we're mortgaging our grandchildren's future..
Major European stock markets ended the day in positive territory.. although gains were less pronounced than earlier in the day..
Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.7% to 5,129.4.. Germany's DAX and France's CAC-40 both gained 1.1% to 5,532.3 and 3,084.3, respectively..
Wall Street traders were also in an optimistic mood, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising 1.7% to 11,042.6.. and the broader S&P 500 adding 2% to 1,146.8..
The rise.. the second in a row for most major indexes.. came despite negative economic indicators both in the U.S. and in Europe.. demonstrating how high hopes have risen on new action from the Fed..
Again.. it's a case of pinning it all on 'if when's'.. putting the weight squarely on the shoulders of Ben Bernanke..
Economic indicators published in Europe, meanwhile, showed that failing efforts to resolve the Eurozone debt crisis are cutting into economic activity and sentiment in the currency union's core..
Markit's composite purchasing managers index for the Eurozone was unchanged at 51.1 in August.. signaling stagnation in the manufacturing sector and negligible growth in the services sector.. the index also showed output in Germany expanded at its weakest rate since the Eurozone's largest economy began to recover two years ago..
While analysts at Capital Economics had expected the index to deteriorate further from its 22-month low in July.. they warned that "the index is still dangerously close to recession territory."..
And, apparently, getting closer and closer..

Still keeping an eye on the weather.. It's a national preoccupation..
Hurricane Irene posed a potential threat to the entire U.S. East Coast from Florida to New England, as forecasters tried to predict where the powerful storm might hit over the next week..
U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate.. and National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read.. issued the warning as Irene swept up from the Caribbean on a northwest track toward the United States..
"We're going to have a very large tropical cyclone move up the Eastern Seaboard over the next five to seven days," Read told a conference call in which he spoke along with Fugate..
The FEMA chief said residents all along the East Coast should be alert not only to a potential direct landfall but also to the risk of torrential rains, high winds and flooding that Irene could bring..
"We're saying the entire East Coast," Fugate announced..
Irene, now a Category 2 storm, was heading on Tuesday over the Turks and Caicos Islands and southeastern Bahamas.. It was expected to become a major Category 3 storm with winds over 111 mph today and could possibly intensify further to a Category 4 as it neared the southeast U.S. coast by Friday..
For those unfamiliar with the scale forecasters use.. The 'Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale' was developed to help classify the destructive potential of any individual hurricane.. which gives hurricanes a rating from one to five.. increasing as the storm becomes more dangerous..
Category 1 Hurricanes have sustained winds of 74 to 95 mph that are classified as very dangerous.. and capable of causing some damage.. the main damage to people and livestock from a hurricane of this magnitude is from flying debris, but mobile homes built before 1994 standards can be destroyed..
Category 2 has sustained winds of 96 mph to 110 mph.. and are categorized as extremely dangerous and will be expected to cause extensive damage.. All the risks and expected damage from a Category 1 storm can be expected with extent and probabilities of those types of damages increasing.. Additionally, even newer mobile home models may be shredded by flying debris or destroyed by the winds..
Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale says that when hurricanes have sustained winds of 111 mph to 130 mph. devastating damage will occur..
The risk of death or severe injury to humans and livestock is high and nearly all pre-1994 mobile homes will be destroyed.. Newer mobile homes and framed homes built to lower standards may be destroyed as the roof is torn off and walls collapse.. Metal and masonry buildings face a risk of collapse and even well-built framed buildings may experience extensive damage as roofing and siding materials are stripped off by powerful winds.. Expect electricity and clean drinking water to be unavailable for days or weeks after the hurricane passes. Extensive road blockages may also persist for days as crews work to clean up the damage..
As for a Category 4.. Sustained wind speeds of 131 mph to 155 mph will cause catastrophic damage.. The risks and intensity of damage from lower level hurricanes are all increased dramatically when a hurricane gets this strong.. Even well-built homes may be destroyed as the roof is ripped off and walls torn open.. Almost every window on windward sides of buildings in the path of a Category 4 hurricane will be broken by flying debris if unprotected.. Even plywood coverings may be torn away from windows.. Windows will be blown out of high-rise buildings creating a very dangerous falling glass hazard.. Most telephone poles will be broken resulting in power outages across the entire region that may take weeks or months to be totally restored.. Lack of water and basic services, may make the entire area uninhabitable for weeks after the passage of a hurricane of this intensity..
And with a Category 5.. When a hurricane's sustained winds exceed 155 mph, a high percentage of even well-built homes and commercial buildings will receive extensive damage or be completely destroyed.. Nearly all windows will be blown out of high-rise buildings.. Again, lack of electrical power, water, and other basic services may make the area uninhabitable for weeks or months..
Hurricane Andrew in 1992 had some sustained winds at the Category 5 level as it swept across parts of Cutler-Ridge, Florida.. According to information from the University of Arizona's Geosciences Department, Hurricane Andrew killed only 25 people in Florida..thanks to advance warnings and evacuations.. but it left more than a quarter of a million more homeless.. Property damage exceeded $25 billion in the United States alone as it completely destroyed more than 600,000 buildings..
Irene, the first hurricane of the busy 2011 Atlantic season, looks set to be the first hurricane to hit the United States since Ike pounded the Texas coast in 2008..

To continue with the theme of natural disasters.. it's been reported today that the largest earthquake to strike Colorado in almost 40 years has shaken hundreds of people near the New Mexico border..
The magnitude 5.3 earthquake was recorded at about 11:46 p.m. local time Monday night.. about nine miles southwest of Trinidad, Colorado.. and about 180 miles south of Denver.. according to the National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colorado.. The quake followed two smaller ones that hit the area earlier in the day..
U.S. Geological Service geophysicist Amy Vaughn said.. the quake is the largest in Colorado since a magnitude 5.7 was recorded in 1973.. That one was centered in the northwestern part of the state.. about 50 miles north of Grand Junction..
A few homes have been damaged and deputies were investigating reports of rockslides along a highway, a Las Animas County Sheriff's Office dispatcher reported..
And the Camper Countdown continues..

Monday, August 22, 2011

Libya faces a turbulent future as the successors to Moammar Gadhafi inherit a broken society.. forcing tough choices for the United States and its NATO allies about what comes next.. and who's going to step in to fill the power vacuum..
Gadhafi's regime teetered early today as rebels, backed by NATO air support, surged through the streets of Tripoli..
The legacy of Gadhafi's repressive regime is an unstable economy.. vastly unequal distribution of the country's oil wealth.. and the lack of political parties..
The country has also been at war since March, with NATO airstrikes pounding away at its infrastructure.. such as it was to begin with..
And to further complicate the issue.. According to Anthony Cordesman, an expert on the Middle East and international security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a non-partisan think tank in Washington.. "Very rapidly, people are going to be put in charge of governing who have had no experience.. That doesn't mean there can't be success, but it won't happen immediately.. The history of these things is generally whoever takes power initially can't keep it.. It can take years to make progress.."..
That will complicate the U.S. response but should not preclude it from acting.. The U.S. and its NATO allies should be prepared to offer Libyans immediate economic aid and offer help in developing government agencies and political parties..
In other words.. NATO, and especially the US, is going to be lumbered with yet another moral obligation..
And an update on the revolution in Libya.. this evening's reports indicate the end is near for Mohammar.. for 42 long years, from the moment he came to power in a bloodless coup, Muammar Gaddafi did all he could to become an ubiquitous presence in the minds of his people.. making his 'Green Book' of political philosophy required reading and ensuring his portrait was hung in a place of prominence in homes.. plastered on the sides of buildings.. and engraved on the gold watches he gave as gifts..
Today, however, the "brother leader and guide of the revolution" was nowhere to be seen.. Nor was he heard, unlike yesterday when he issued a series of audio messages calling on supporters to fight back against rebels..
"We have no confirmation of Gaddafi's whereabouts," said our PM David Cameron.. who has returned from holiday for the second time this summer to deal with the rapid pace of change in Tripoli..
As details emerged of the arrests of three of his sons, including his erstwhile heir, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi.. the million-dollar question remains.. 'Where is the elder Gaddafi?' has sparked a series of conflicting rumours and reports..
A rebel spokesman in London was reported to have claimed that Gaddafi, who was last seen in public in May, could have fled to neighbouring Algeria, which opposed Nato intervention in Libya..
South Africa was forced to refute rumours it had sent planes to fly the 69-year-old to an undisclosed location..
There was no mention of Venezuela.. Hugo Chávez and Gaddafi are old buddies.. It's a good thing to have friends the likes of Hugo, when you're on the run from an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court.. Small issues the likes of extradition treaties would be of some interest to Mohammar.. it would certainly limit his choice of destinations..
While the man himself remained elusive, his previously all-powerful family.. seven sons.. a daughter.. and an adopted son.. was rapidly fragmenting. According to a spokesman for the rebels' National Transitional Council.. Gaddafi last week asked neighbouring countries, including Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, to offer shelter to his family..
This could not be confirmed, but what was certain was that his efforts were too little, too late for some of his sons..
One of the most startling events this afternoon.. was the arrest of Saif al-Islam, the second son and the man widely seen, until several months ago, as the heir in waiting.. Saif's detention was first announced by rebels and later confirmed by the ICC, which has it's own warrants for him..

It's a tad presumptuous.. pompous..
But Democratic spin doctors are calling it 'The Obama Doctrine'.. That being Barack's stance vis a vis Libya..
But in these difficult days, the Obama camp can certainly use a positive.. a promise kept and a policy that worked..
When President Obama announced military intervention in Libya in March, he was criticized by liberals for injecting the United States into a third war, and by conservatives for doing it too slowly..
As the mission dragged on, from "days and weeks" to months, the bipartisan criticism only grew, with charges that Obama was "leading from behind" and violating the War Powers Act in the process..
Now, the impending downfall of Moammar brings one of Obama's key foreign policy objectives closer to fulfillment, and signals that the President's strategy was at least partly, a success..
"As of today, I think it is a partial vindication of the so-called 'Obama Doctrine', at least for certain kinds of cases," said Michael O'Hanlon, a military and foreign policy analyst at the Brookings Institution..
Almost vindication for Barack there.. and as mentioned, reasons to say 'We did that.. just like we said we would..' ..are few and far between..

And as if Barack hadn't enough on his plate..
Laid-off workers and aging baby boomers are flooding Social Security's disability program with benefit claims, pushing the financially strapped system toward the brink of insolvency..
Applications are up nearly 50% over a decade ago as people with disabilities lose their jobs and can't find new ones in an economy that has shed nearly 7 million jobs..
The stampede for benefits is adding to a growing backlog of applicants.. many waiting two years or more before their cases are resolved.. and worsening the financial problems of a program that's been running in the red for years..
New congressional estimates say the trust fund that supports Social Security disability will run out of money by 2017.. leaving the program unable to pay full benefits, unless Congress acts.. Social Security's much larger retirement fund is projected to run dry as well.. in about 20 years..

While the markets are still as volatile as spit on a hot griddle.. Stocks rose sharply in early trading today, shaking off a four-week losing streak..
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 124 points, or 1.1%, to 10,942 in trading this morning.. Mind you.. the Dow lost 4% last week as worries deepened that the U.S. economy could slip back into a recession..
Many traders are looking ahead to a speech by Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, at an annual meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on Friday.. Last year, Bernanke's speech set the stage for a $600 billion program to stimulate the economy through buying Treasury bonds.. Some analysts believe the Fed may make another move to help the flagging U.S. economy.. Stocks have been sliding over the past four weeks on worries that the U.S. might enter another recession. The S&P 500 index lost 4.7 percent last week. The sharpest drops came Thursday with news of weaker manufacturing in the mid-Atlantic states and an increase in the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits..
No major economic reports are due out today.. But, later in the week, traders will be sorting through figures on new home sales.. durable goods orders.. and weekly claims for unemployment benefits.. trying to gauge just how quickly we'll be sliding back into recession..
Spot gold surged more than 1% to a third consecutive all-time high on today, as investors fled to the safety of bullion amid fears of another U.S. recession and the Eurozone debt crisis.. U.S. gold jumped more than 2% to an unprecedented $1,895.30/Troy ounce.. And we're looking at the $2 thousand mark, perhaps by the end of next week..
A murky economic outlook given a persistent flow of weak macro data out of the United States and fears about the euro zone’s fiscal health have propelled gold up by more than a quarter since July..
“We are not expecting anything supporting the U.S. economy or the macro data for at least a couple of months,” said Tom Price, Global Commodity Analyst at UBS..
“Europe we regard as even weaker.. We are thinking $1,900-$2,000 over a very short period of time as a likely target.”
Referring back to Ben Bernanke's speech.. Additional bond purchase by the Fed could raise the inflation outlook and further boost gold.. but many view the chances of a third round of quantitative easing as limited and expect the Fed to take gradual measures to boost the economy..
Technical analysis suggested that gold could pierce through $1,900 over the day, said Reuters market analyst Wang Tao..

And as the day came to a close.. Stocks in Europe and the U.S. remained investors gyrated between fears of a double-dip recession and hopes that the Federal Reserve will soon take action to revitalize the U.S. economy..
After rallying earlier in the day, European stocks erased much of their gains in late trading..
The FTSE 100 closed 1% higher at 5,092.8, after having risen above 2%.. France's CAC 40 gained 1.1% to 3,051.3, but Germany's DAX fell 0.1% to 5,473.7 on the day..
Now as mentioned earlier.. the markets are going to be wary, while we wait for Friday's speech by the Fed's Ben Bernanke.. The Fed has promised to keep interest rates low for the next couple of years.... and there could be some mention of further 'quantitative easing'.. But there is a feeling of unease worldwide as we watch the world's largest economy side inexorably down the drain..
"Given the absence of deflation risk, we do not expect him to announce QE3," analysts at UniCredit in Milan wrote in a note.. referring to a new round of bond buying.. "But he is likely to reiterate that the Fed is prepared to ease monetary policy further if needed."..
The European Central Bank confirmed this afternoon that it was taking on a more active role in fighting the Eurozone debt crisis, disclosing that it spent €14.29 billion on buying the bonds of struggling countries such as Italy and Spain last week..
That's below the €22 billion it doled out the previous week.. but has kept the yields, or interest rates, on Italian and Spanish 10-year bonds below 5%.. more than a percentage point below record levels seen in the week before the ECB resumed its bond buying program..
However, most economists see the ECB's purchases as only a temporary bandage in the Eurozone's fight against the debt crisis.. Over the weekend, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU President Herman Van Rompuy both ruled out the introduction of EuroBonds.. debt backed by all 17 euro countries.. anytime soon.. effectively squashing investor hopes that a more lasting solution to the currency union's debt troubles may be in the works..
Markets in the Far East and Asia.. The recent rise in the yen contributed to losses ..most markets ended the day in negative territory..
Japan's Nikkei 225 index lost 1% to close at 8,628.13.. a five-month low.. on the back of the strong yen and it's impact on the cost of exported goods..
Japan intervened in currency markets earlier this month to try to reverse the yen's climb.. The decision to sell the yen and buy the dollar worked initially.. sending the greenback toward 80 yen.. But the dollar has been weighed down by the dimming outlook for the U.S. economy and is back down to mid 76-yen levels..
With resistance to EuroBonds in the currency union's rich states remaining firm, analysts warn that any stabilization in stock prices is likely temporary, especially amid growing worries about banks' funding levels..

We mentioned this recently..
Prosecutors in the office of Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, have filed papers requesting that all charges be dropped against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund..
The papers, known as a dismissal on recommendation, were filed this afternoon in Manhattan Supreme Court..
At about the same time, the lawyer for Nafissatou Diallo, the hotel housekeeper who accused Mr. Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault, emerged from a brief meeting with prosecutors to offer harsh criticism of Mr. Vance..
Presumably the meeting was held to inform Ms. Diallo and her lawyer, Kenneth P. Thompson, of the office’s intention to drop the charges in the case..
This clears the way for Strauss-Kahn to return to French politics.. and to stand against Sarkozy for the right to represent the Socialist Party into the upcoming elections..
With this concession from the American authorities, Domenique now has an excellent chance in unseating Sarkozy.. His record as head of the IMF is exemplary.. and his contacts worldwide in political and economic circles is 'non pareille'..
And, he now has the sympathy of a nation behind him as well..
And, he's a viable alternative to French voters to Domenique le Pen.. the ultra-right contender..

Keeping an eye on the weather.. Tropical Storm Irene has turned into a hurricane ..the first of the Atlantic hurricane season.. over Puerto Rico..
Haiti, where hundreds of thousands of people still live in tents after last year's earthquake, is in Irene's projected path.. according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami..
It is next set to hit the Dominican Republic, and may also hit Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas in the US..
And as the day has progressed.. Hurricane Irene swept just north of the Dominican Republic this afternoon after pummeling Puerto Rico.. and forecasters saw the storm strengthening to a major hurricane off the Southeast American coast by the weekend..
The U.S. National Hurricane Center's forecast showed the first hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic season swinging up Florida's east coast on Thursday, for a possible landfall in South Carolina early on Saturday..
Irene, the ninth named storm of the busy 2011 Atlantic season.. could be the first hurricane to make landfall in the United States since Ike savaged the Texas coast in 2008..
The last hurricane to hit the South Carolina coast was in 2004.. the busiest season on record in the state.. That year, seven named storms affected South Carolina and two hurricanes made landfall between Charleston and Myrtle Beach.
And the Camper Countdown continues..

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Reading a constantly changing national prospectus is a difficult game, at the best of times.. But when it comes to some issues, there appears to be consensus..
Issues the likes of the future of the Eurozone, and the single currency, usually will spark arguments pro and con.. but these days there are few who can find positive notes to sound concerning Continental economics..
Even when the leaders of the only two countries with a positive growth forecast.. those being Germany and France.. meet to discuss the possibility of 'Eurobond' issues..
Now that may well have been a misguided.. in fact a downright stupid.. attempt to raise money for a 'EuroBank'.. But, even though they may be trying..they have to face headlines lambasting 'The Fourth Reich'..
At this time, in this place, it's going to be a case of 'damned if you do.. damned if you don't..'..

Leaving Europe for a moment.. we have a President in the White House, who is frankly, the wrong man for the job..
Barack is not a 'war time President'.. He's not the type.. the personality.. to deal with this ongoing conflict in Afghanistan.. the economic meltdown at home.. unprecedented unemployment.. dissent even among those within his own Party on his domestic plans..
While he will address the nation early next month.. likely after Labour Day, which is the first Monday in September.. it's uncertain what policies he can bring into effect that will show results within the 15 months before Americans next exercise their franchise..
There are rumours of a 'Public Works Project'.. wherein the Federal Government would bear the lions share of wages paid to those presently among the unemployed to do maintenance work.. something along the lines of the old 'Three 'R's'.. a new slant on 'Relief, Recovery, and Reform'.. perhaps road reconstruction and repair..
This, coupled with a dash of Reaganomics.. supply-side.. buy American and be proud to do whatever you do..
If a University graduate can only find work as a bin man, then let him be the best bin man he can until there is refreshed demand for his particular speciality..
Barack's going to have to re-create the American work ethic.. reinstill American pride.. re-create the spirit immigrants brought with them to 'the new world'..
And that's a lot to expect to be conveyed in one television address.. or indeed in the 15 months he has left..
And it took a man the likes of FDR to make all the aspects of his 'New Deal' come into being.. and from what we've seen of Barack and his ability to fight for his programs so far.. the kindest that could be said is.. "He's no Franklin Delano Roosevelt.."

And while the job market for University graduates is still recruiting here.. The numbers leaving with their Higher results is at record levels..
And with A-level passes up for the 29th year running.. The overall pass rate is up slightly, but for the first time in 14 years there has been no increase in the total proportion getting A or A* grades.. Just over 27% of entries scored these grades, with a small rise in the proportion awarded A*..
Places at universities have become precious commodities.. especially when it's taken into consideration that those who miss out this year, will be looking at University fees increasing to between £9 thousand and £12 thousand a year.. From next year, many UK students will face tuition fees up to a maximum of £9,000 a year at English universities, compared with the present level of just over £3,000 a year..
Fees at Scottish Universities will not be affected..

Saturday, August 20, 2011

It's been quite the week on worldwide markets..
But before starting on what was.. there is a story unfolding in the Middle East which could have had serious consequences..
Diplomats scrambled to avert a crisis in relations between Egypt and Israel this afternoon, and the Israeli government issued a rare 'statement of regret' for the killing of three Egyptian security officers by an Israeli warplane..
Tensions between the two countries.. which yesterday led Egypt to announce that it would recall its ambassador from Tel Aviv.. reached the worst point since the historic Camp David peace accords three decades ago..
All this spurred by a burst of violence along their shared border in the Sinai Peninsula.. A series of attacks there killed eight Israelis on Thursday.. the Israeli government then retaliated against Gaza-based militants, and the three Egyptians died in the crossfire..
After Egypt’s announcement about its ambassador early yesterday, diplomats from other nations rushed to broker an end to the impasse between the Egyptians and the Israelis.. this, from a Western diplomat.. speaking on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the continuing talks..
And while these talks went on, the statement disappeared from an Egyptian cabinet Web site, and unidentified officials suggested in the Egyptian news media that it might have been released by mistake..
Then, breaking silence on the Sabbath, the Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, released a statement saying, “We regret the deaths of members of the Egyptian security forces during the terror attack on the Israeli-Egyptian border.”..
Barak.. who had seemed on Thursday to blame lax Egyptian security for allowing the attacks near the border.. said that after an internal inquiry, an Israeli/Egyptian Committee would investigate.. And he went on to note the importance of the peace treaty with Egypt and his admiration for the judgment and responsibility of the Egyptian people..
A brief historical recap of the Egyptian/Israeli relationship..
1964.. Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) established..
1967.. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser closes straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping.. 'Six Day War' leads to reunification of Jerusalem under Israeli rule..
Khartoum Conference.. Arab summit states: No peace or negotiations with Israel..
November 1967 United Nations Security Council Resolution 242.. establishes principles to guide the negotiations for future Arab-Israeli peace settlements..
1967-1970.. Egypt's War of Attrition against Israel..
1968.. Jews return to Gush Etzion for first time since capture by Jordan in 1948.. Jews return to Hebron, abandoned after the Hebron massacre in 1929..
For decades, there has existed a situation wherein all parties are aware of their mutual dislike, but all are equally aware of the consequences of stepping beyond the Pale.. And it is certainly no surprise that Foreign Diplomats would descend like a flock of doves all bearing olive branches..
The last thing the Middle East needs now, is to involve Israel in any conflict.. The Palestinian question.. the West Bank and Gaza.. is essentially an internal problem.. and with Hammas in the West Bank, and Hezbollah in Gaza.. any move from Egypt towards an aggressive stance would only add fuel to the Middle Eastern equivalent of a massive tire fire..

Still with the Middle East..
As rebels continued to advance on the battlefield.. The rats appear to be leaving the good ship Mohammar..
It's reported that Abdel-Salam Jalloud.. one of those who helped propel Gaddafi to power in 1969 and was for decades his powerful deputy.. flew out of Djerba airport in Tunisia early on Saturday yesterday.. The Rebel Council claimed he had defected to their side, though this could not be independently confirmed..
Jalloud's apparent departure follows the reported defection earlier this of oil minister Omrane Boukraa and a senior security official, Nasser al-Mabruk Abdullah, who fled to Cairo from Tunisia on Monday with his family..
A swirl of rumours now circulates concerning the intentions of Gaddafi and his family, as rebel forces continue operations on three fronts to cut off the capital, Tripoli..
In Zlitan.. a town formerly largely loyal to Gaddafi that was captured on Friday.. rebels continued with street-to-street searches.. while rebel forces also claimed another 'final capture of Brega', which has changed hands on a number of occasions..
The territory remaining under Gaddafi's control has been shrinking dramatically in the past three weeks, with opposition fighters moving closer to Tripoli, a metropolis of two million people, from the west.. south.. and east..
Nato's bombing campaign has made it difficult for the regime to send massive reinforcements to Zawiyah, the rebels' biggest prize in months..
An odd piece of the puzzle has been tossed into the mix.. Tunisia's army clashed overnight with an armed group of Libyans who had infiltrated into Tunisia, according to a Tunisian military source ..that overnight fighting between Tunisian forces and the armed men had caused several casualties.. Apparently the Libyans were intercepted in vehicles with weapons, in the desert in the south-east of Tunisia.. No explanation has been supplied for the clash..

Let's get on then, with a look at our economy..
It doesn't take a Degree in Economics to say next week's markets, will be worse than anything seen so far.. There's nothing on the cards to even slow this slide we're on.. and government's are going back to their holidays in the aftermath of the riots which brought them all flocking home..
Let's take last week as a template..
After starting out the week with hopes of new found stability.. investors ended up experiencing another ugly week as worries about the global economy resurfaced..
On Monday, stock indexes had finally recovered from the huge sell-off of the previous week.. that prompted by the downgrade of United States long-term debt by Standard & Poor’s late on Aug. 5, which unleashed days of painful market turmoil..
But.. by midweek, stocks were falling again.. as investors worried about Europe’s debt crisis and the possibility of recession in the United States intensified..
The S&P’s 500-stock index slid 1.5% on Friday, and closed down more than 4% for the week..
It was the fourth consecutive week of market declines as investors remained rattled.. The latest signs of strain came from some European banks laden with debt from the region’s troubled economies.. strains that could quickly spread across the Atlantic..
Despite a meeting in Paris earlier in the week between Germany's Markel and France's Sarkozy.. ending in a pledge greater economic coordination between nations sharing the Euro.. confidence quickly eroded in the markets over whether Europe’s policy makers have solutions to the Eurozone debt crisis..
In the United States, dismal economic data on Thursday pointed to an unexpectedly abrupt slowdown in manufacturing and a pickup in inflation.. Just what Barack needed..
Now.. what we can expect this coming week..
The market’s attention will turn to the Federal Reserve’s annual symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.. for signs of how confident the chairman of the Fed.. Ben S. Bernanke.. is about the strength of the American recovery..
At last year’s symposium, faced by a similar midyear slowdown, Bernanke paved the way for a second round of large-scale bond purchases, or quantitative easing..
Might also be called short selling our grandchildren's pensions.. but that might prove a less popular name..
But after the Fed this month already promised to keep short-term interest rates close to zero for the next two years, few economists expect further stimulus from the Fed..
On Friday, markets closed sharply lower in Asia and Europe.. and that sentiment then carried over into the United States.. Stocks had been briefly higher in the morning hours, but then slipped.. Some analysts attributed the slide to technical factors and thin volume.. others to a general sense of uncertainty permeating the entire system..
At the close, the S.& P. 500 was down 17.12 points, or 1.5%, at 1,123.53..
The Dow Jones closed down 172.93 points, or 1.57%, to 10,817.65..
The Nasdaq composite lost 38.59 points, or 1.62%, to 2,341.84..
For the week, the S.& P. was down 4.6%, the Dow fell 4% and the Nasdaq slid 6.6%.. The steepest declines were on Thursday, when the indexes slipped more than 3% on persistent worries about the economy and Europe’s debt problems..
Stocks of companies most susceptible to slow growth and those related to banks have been hit..
Technology, financials and industrials were among the sectors down more than 1% on the day..
Gold continued the sharp ascent it has seen over the last months, demonstrating that nervousness remained intense..
Gold futures were up $30, to $1,848.90/Troy ounce..

It's that time of year again.. monsoons leading to typhoons in the Far East and Asia.. hurricanes in the West.. Tropical Storm Harvey is expected to bring high winds and several inches of rain to the coast of Honduras this afternoon before making landfall in Belize.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said yesterday that Harvey was located about 65 miles east of Belize City, moving west at about 12 mph. Maximum sustained winds were 60 mph..
Tropical storm warnings were issued for the northern coast of Honduras from Punta Sal westward, as well as coastal Belize and Guatemala.. Warnings for the Yucatan Peninsula and the Bay Islands of Honduras were canceled..
And on the other side of the world..
The death count in West Bengal floods soared to 47 Saturday with 11 more deaths reported since Friday evening, while several major rivers continued to flow above the extreme danger mark..
An official release said that with the water level rising, the Damodar Valley Corporation discharged 70,000 cusecs from its dams and barrages on Damodar, Kangsabati and Mayurakshi rivers..
The dead included 18 women.. people spread over 251 blocks and 81 municipalities were affected in the deluge caused by the torrential rains..
Those affected.. according to reports.. said 413 camps opened in the flood-hit districts, and have around 68,000 people taking shelter in them..
The weatherman predicted rain or thundershowers in several places in north Bengal and coastal districts today..

And if the thought might be, that the weather isn't something to keep an eye on around the world..
The US alone, as a microcosm.. The weather this year has not only been strangely destructive in self.. It holds the dubious distinction of being as destructive in terms of economic loss as any on record.
Normally, three or four weather disasters a year in the US will cause at least $1 billion in damages each.. This year, there were nine such disasters..
They included the huge snow dump in late January and early February on the Midwest and Northeast, the rash of tornadoes this spring across the Midwest and the more recent flooding of the Missouri and Souris Rivers.. The disasters were responsible for at least 589 deaths, including 160 in May when tornadoes ripped through Joplin, Missouri..
These nine billion-dollar disasters tie the record set in 2008.. according to a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration..
The total damage done by all storms, tornadoes, flooding and heat waves so far this year adds up to about $35 billion..
The National Climatic Data Center says it estimates the costs in terms of dollars and lives that would not have been incurred had the event not taken place..
Insured and uninsured losses are included in damage estimates, and are likely to change as assessments become more complete..
With four months to go in 2011, this year’s total amount of damage is likely to rise.. Forecasters are already predicting further meteorological mayhem as hurricane season intensifies..
Still watching the Camper Countdown...

Rick Perry..
This is a man who deserves some attention.. He might well have been the next President of the US..
And for the most part, he rings a bell common with his fellow Americans..
He has written a book.. One which lays out how he, were he given the chance, reform the American political system, re-design the Constitution.. and provide legislation designed for the good of the American people, and their way of life..
Rick Perry has many ideas about how to change the American government's founding document.. From ending lifetime tenure for federal judges, to completely scrapping two whole Amendments.. the Constitution would see a major overhaul if the Texas governor and Republican Presidential Candidate had his way..
Perry laid out these proposed innovations to the founding document in his book, "Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington".. He has occasionally mentioned them on the campaign trail.. Several of his ideas fall within the realm of mainstream conservative thinking today, but, there are also a few surprises..
He has proposed seven ways the Constitution should be changed..
He would abolish lifetime tenure for federal judges by amending Article III, Section I of the Constitution.. "The Judges," reads Article III, "both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behavior, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services a Compensation which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office."..
Perry makes it no secret that he believes the judges on the bench over the past century have acted beyond their Constitutional bounds.. The problem.. Perry reasons.. is that members of the judiciary are "unaccountable" to the people.. and their lifetime tenure gives them free license to act however they want..
In his book, the Texas Governor speaks highly of plans to limit their tenure and offers proposals about how to accomplish it..
Further.. Congress should have the power to override Supreme Court decisions with a two-thirds vote.. Giving Congress the ability to veto their decisions would be another way to take the Court down a notch.. according to Perry..
Perry would scrap the federal income tax by repealing the Sixteenth Amendment.. The Sixteenth Amendment gives Congress the "power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration." It should be abolished immediately, Perry writes..
He would end the direct election of Senators by repealing the Seventeenth Amendment.. Overturning this amendment would restore the original language of the Constitution, which gave state legislators the power to appoint the members of the Senate..
Calling this next reform the 'most important' of all his plans.. Perry would require the federal government to balance its budget every year.. A campaign to pass a balanced budget amendment through Congress fell short by just one vote in the Senate in the 1990s..
He takes a stance which is a pure reflection of his Texan Evangelical Christian roots.. and would that the Federal Constitution should define marriage as between one man and one woman in all 50 states.. This one will cost him when it comes down to the Republican Party deciding whether or not it can afford to alienate so many, by putting forth a candidate with an ethic that is simply outside the Pale of political correctness..
And in what might be the final nail in the coffin of his Presidential nomination aspirations.. Perry writes that abortion should be made illegal throughout the country..
Like the gay marriage issue, Perry at one time believed that abortion policy should be left to the states, as was the case before the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade..
But in the same Christian Broadcasting Network interview, Perry said that he would support a federal amendment outlawing abortion because it was "so the soul of this country and to the traditional values [of] our founding fathers."
And herein the problem with Perry..
While five of his seven changes to the Constitution are excellent, there remain two which blot his political copybook..
One cannot allow 'faith' to become issues for legislation.. Long has the old adage held true, that good government does not allow rule by faith.. that Church and State must remain entirely separate..
The issues of marriage and abortion are not subject to legal judgement.. They have been tried in the Courts already, and decisions have been made of the State level..
Perry's ultra-right stance, if he holds firmly to it.. could cost the GOP a man who otherwise, might stand a chance against Barack..

And.. to end on another matter of faith..
Pope Benedict XVI has complained that modern society has a certain "amnesia" about God as he lamented the dwindling of the faith during a visit to Spain.. a once staunchly Catholic country that has seen the church's grip on society fall dramatically since the end of the Fascist dictatorship of Francisco Franco..
Benedict was speaking Friday in general terms about the secularization that has taken hold in much of the West in a speech to a few hundred adoring young nuns gathered in El Escorial monastery.. a UNESCO world heritage site about 30 miles (50 kilometers) northwest of the capital..
Benedict, in Spain to celebrate the church's World Youth Day, told them their decisions to dedicate their lives to their faith was a potent message for today's world..
"This is all the more important today when we see a certain eclipse of God taking place, a kind of amnesia which albeit not an outright rejection of Christianity is nonetheless a denial of the treasure of our faith, a denial that could lead to the loss of our deepest identity," he said..
Benedict's main priority as pope has been to try to reawaken Christianity in places like Spain.. He has traveled here three times as pope.. an indication that he views it as a key battleground in his bid to remind Europe of its Christian heritage and the need for God to retake a place in daily life..
Like in much of Europe.. the church in Spain has seen its influence wane in recent decades.. its stance on women, equality, gay rights and abortion have alienated an increasingly educated and sophisticated middle class..
But Spain's religious apathy also stems from the memories of its 1936-1939 civil war and aftermath.. when the church was tightly linked to Franco's repressive government, which ended in 1978..
But the Church has much to atone for, and Spaniards have long memories..

Friday, August 19, 2011

While it's still early Friday morning.. a few notes to start the day..
After just a few days of calm, stock markets heaved again yesterday, sending major American indexes down as much as 5% on persistent worries about the economy and Europe’s debt problems..
The turmoil of last week returned with a vengeance as investors dumped stocks of companies that would suffer if worldwide growth slowed and the United States.. in particular.. slipped into another recession..
Of all the disappointing U.S. economic news released on yesterday.. it was a drop in factory activity in the mid-Atlantic region that most unnerved investors.. Data from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank.. viewed as a forward-looking gauge of U.S. manufacturing.. dropped to the lowest level since March, 2009.. The survey of factories showed declining expectations for a range of activities, including employment, shipments and prices.. The poll was conducted Aug. 8 to 16, a period of wild stock market volatility..
But the declines yesterday began in Asia and in Europe.. where an 'unidentified' bank had resorted to borrowing from the European Central Bank.. hinting of strains in the banking system that some fear, could ripple to the United States..
Europe’s chronic debt problem continues to plague the Continent’s banks because so many of their assets are invested in the region’s troubled countries..
Investors rushed into United States Treasuries as a safe haven, despite unease about how the government will address its deficit and economic slowdown. Bond prices rose and the yield on the 10-year bond fell below 2 percent for the first time since at least the early 1960s..
Stock markets in Australia and New Zealand have opened lower in early trading
Australia's benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index was down 117.2 points, or 2.8% at 4,134.1 this morning..
New Zealand's NZX 50 fell 36.35 points, or 1.1 percent, to 3,249.86 in early morning trading..

And as this day's progressed.. Stock market turmoil continued to sweep markets worldwide again, in the face of the same problems and questions about slowing economic growth and the ability of banks and governments to cope with debt repayment..
But after steep declines in Asia and Europe.. stocks on Wall Street found their footing in the first hour of trading, ahead of the weekend and on a day when analysts expect low volumes..
The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, which lost 4.5% yesterday, was up 0.7% in today’s morning session..
With deep concerns about the Eurozone and global economic growth overshadowing the financial markets.. it is not at all clear whether any gains will stick throughout the trading session..
All of Europe’s major stock indexes were down in mid-afternoon trading, though they had recovered somewhat from the session’s lows.. The Euro Stoxx 50 index was off 1.0%.. Banks were among the biggest losers once again..
Asia.. which had missed the worst of the selling Thursday.. suffered painful losses today.. The Nikkei 225 index in Japan closed down 2.5%, and the key market indices in Singapore and Hong Kong closed down more than 3%..
The losses reflected an accumulation of bad news, including feeble economic data in the United States and Europe.. and signs that some banks were having trouble borrowing on the interbank market.. Tension on money markets.. which some analysts said was overblown.. awoke unpleasant memories of the seizure in interbank lending that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008..
“It is specifically risk on, risk off,” said George Rusnak, National Director of fixed income for Wells Fargo.. “Everybody is taking risk off the table.. This is probably going to be a trend over the next several weeks,” adding “There is not a lot of robust trading going on right now.”..
Rusnak and other analysts again noted that concerns have mounted related to the banking sector, especially with respect to the exposure of American banks to European counterparts..
“Really what it boils down to is ripple effects,”..
JPMorgan Chase & Co. lowered its growth forecast early today.. One analyst said business sentiment.. household wealth.. and global growth all look worse than just a few weeks earlier.. Other economists warn that a global recession looks increasingly likely..
Gold set a record high Friday on safe-haven buying but U.S. stocks and commodities rebounded after the Greenback plunged to a record low against the Japanese yen on speculation authorities will not halt the yen’s surge..
U.S. stocks, after paring early losses, turned lower, as crude oil and other commodities rebounded on the dollar’s slump..
The dollar fell as low as 75.941 yen on trading platform EBS.. It last traded at 76.245 yen, down 0.4%..
Traders were emboldened by a Wall Street Journal report citing Japan’s top currency official as saying that Japanese authorities do not plan to intervene in the market often..
The dollar’s slump galvanized commodity markets, where crude oil prices rose almost 2%.. ICE Brent October crude rose $1.93 to $108.92 a barrel.
And while it becomes tedious to be the harbinger of bad, then worse news.. we cannot see, at the moment, anything that can concievably be done to improve this outlook.. And we're nowhere near the bottom, yet..

Keeping an eye on Asia..
The Indian government eased its latest political crisis, but while all eyes were on the circus in the streets of the capital, a problem that may in the end prove far greater lurked unaddressed in the background..
The Indian National Congress-led government has struck a deal that will see anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare leave prison today and begin a 15-day fast for a new anti-graft law.. Street protests are expected to die down as a result..
But the issue once more dominated parliament, and consumed the energy of senior political figures Thursday at a critical time when, many in the Indian business community say, the economy ought to be the focus..
India has been somewhat protected from recent global economic gyrations because of the huge role domestic consumption plays in driving its growth.. But recent events in the West have caused a slowdown of foreign-capital inflows, as nervous investors shun emerging markets.. And that, combined with persistent near-double-digit inflation and a series of interest-rate hikes.. have Indian business leaders worried that growth will not hit the 8% to 9% target that government envisioned for the year.. and paralysis over the Hazare crisis, and other political issues.. has sidelined the reform legislation that was their hope for economic salvation..
The current session of parliament was slated to pass a number of bills seen as critical to the health of the economy.. including laws to streamline investment, land acquisition and foreign partnerships..
Now it seems that few if any of these will make it through the house before this session ends on the 8th of September..
The next session begins in November..

The aftermath of four nights of mindless violence and thievery.. the prison population has increased by more than 100 a day over the past week as Courts process cases of rioting and looting.. and the word from the Prison Governors Association is, that if this goes on for much longer.. there'll be no room for any more..
Normally.. the prison population actually decreases this time of year.. with those finishing their sentences exceeding those starting off..
But not this year..
There are those who are looking at those being prosecuted.. at their backgrounds.. their general education.. who are disagreeing with the bare assessment that this was a 'simple expression of hopelessness.. a sign of the collapse of British society's framework of ethic and community..'..
There are those who were on the streets, protecting their properties.. and if some can cherish a sense of propriety.. then all can..
It is a deliberate choice, not to..
In the meantime, our prisons are filling up..

The word from our Immigration Minister this afternoon is, that those convicted of crimes related to the riots and who are here on visas.. student or work.. will serve their time here and then be sent home immediately..
Yet another bone for the Asian and Muslim communities to worry..

We've not heard much about the American charges Domenique Strauss-Kahn is still facing.. The spotlight, for the time being, has swept away from this issue.. at least for the most part..
When a French magazine reported on the leaked medical records of Dominique Strauss-Kahn's accuser earlier this week, lawyers on both sides of the case scrambled to provide competing interpretations..
But legal analysts say that.. despite its incendiary language.. the report is unlikely to be a game-changer in either a criminal or civil trial..
The medical report.. as described by L'Express.. contains two areas of evidence that could bolster Nafissatou Diallo's account of the incident.. observations about her physical condition, and the story she told doctors about the alleged assault..
According to the magazine, the report gives "rape" as the cause of her injuries.. But that statement reflects only her account to doctors..
"That's not a medical conclusion," said Matthew Galluzzo, a former sex crimes prosecutor in Manhattan..
"If I fell off my bicycle and hit my head on the sidewalk, and I tell the doctor that it was the result of someone hitting me with a wrench, they're going to put down.. 'Cause: assault.'.. They're not investigators in that sense.".
Strauss-Kahn's lawyers said in a statement that the report did not document any injuries "at all," but showed "common conditions consistent with many possible causes other than a sexual assault."
Strauss-Kahn.. should this issue be dealt with quickly, could still be considered as an alternative for the Socialist Party to Nicholas Sarkozy.. who's popularity in the polls is at an all time low.. with elections coming up next Spring..

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