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

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..

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