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

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..

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