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News Comment
a personal view of the week's news from Erithacus

1st December 2001 

The FTSE100 index closed at 5203.6, its lowest close for three weeks but off the lowest point on Friday of 5146.5. Much of the fall was blamed on the collapse of U.S. energy giant Enron and the impact of its failure on its businesses throughout Europe, but investors also remain cautious about the economic outlook.

Banks moved generally lower as many of them revealed the extent of their exposure to Enron, with Abbey National falling 5.5% to 978 pence on announcing their own £115 million involvement. Despite the misery, many market strategists are predicting a rise in share prices before the end of the year, and looking towards stabilisation of the FTSE100 at around the 5,400 level. A few, however, believe the index may drop towards or even under 5,000 before rallying.


Perhaps the longest-running "odd" story in recent months promises to be brought to a close – or, at least, to reveal its mystery. "Ginger", first mentioned on Simply-Info Newcomment USA on 13th January this year (see www.simply-info.com), will be unveiled on Monday. 50-year-old Dean Kamen, inventor of the world’s first portable insulin pump, a briefcase-sized dialysis machine and a wheelchair that climbs stairs, has declined to talk about his new project referred to as "IT" and which promises to revolutionise the world. Speculation about the project has centred around the possibility of it being a "personal transportation device", with the likelihood that it includes a newly-developed emission-free engine recycling most of its own heat. Other, apparently serious, theories put forward have included flying wheelchairs and personal hovercraft, but with more than 14,000 patent applications from Dean Kamen it is a little difficult to guess which of his amazing ideas forms the roots of this particular invention.

Whatever it is, it has already done wonders for the Internet, with more than 200 Web Sites either wholly or partly devoted to discussion of "Ginger" – some more serious than others.

Despite repeated "promises" by the various sections of the media who are each confident they will be the first to find the truth, nothing definite has yet surfaced. ABC breakfast television’s Diane Sawyer is confident she will in fact be the first. "We're going to reveal right here what IT is," she told viewers last Monday, and added she had heard IT was something "everyone will have to have" and "immediately make the people who own it richer than Bill Gates." She went on to say, "We don't know what IT is either. We don't know whether to eat it, to ride it, to co-anchor with it. We don't know."

Do you get the impression she doesn’t know?


One of my pet hates is the mis-use and abuse of the English language, although I have to confess that even I have been known to make the occasional mistake myself. I am not concerned with the occasional grammatical idiosyncrasy, and certainly have great regard for individual journalistic (and other) style that may on occasions not conform to strict grammatical rules. Such matters as not ending sentences with prepositions (and criticism directed at me in this regard is, as a great man once said, interference up with which I will not put), starting sentences with conjunctions and using incomplete sentences, are primarily a matter of personal preference when used with at least a modicum of effort to drive home a point or in an attempt to create a particular "feel" or atmosphere in the writing.

Equally, I do not including the Americans in this, and I am quite happy to accept their particular version of English is happily developing into a totally separate language. I even go as far as to emulate some of their peculiar spellings and variations of meaning when attempting to write for the readers across The Pond (see http://www.simply-info.co.uk/usa/newscomment).

However, the dangers of being poorly educated in the proper use of English are great. As are the dangers of not bothering to make the effort to use proper English. The worst possible case of this has been highlighted recently in the fiasco of British scientists who spent years studying BSE in cows’ brains when they should have been studying sheep’s brains.

Poor labelling has been given as the official reason for the colossal blunder. But digging a little deeper, we find the error is just a little more basic: "Ovine" should not be confused with "Bovine", but it seems the fact the two words had been confused is as far as officials will go in providing an explanation.

Bad handwriting? Or lack of understanding? I wonder if we’ll ever know.

Although perhaps there is another excuse: according to the ePolitix web site the mistake "probably happened in the Institute of Animal Health at Edinburgh".
Of course. Edinburgh. They’re not English, are they?


Finally for this week, I’m getting more and more annoyed by this business of the twelve planespotters arrested in Greece for "spying". Let’s face it, these twelve are undoubtedly nothing more than aircraft enthusiasts – what some would call "anoraks", albeit they are people who take their hobby seriously and are undoubtedly very knowledgeable in their particular field of expertise. They are not spies. They were, apparently, invited to Greece by the Greek airforce.

It may be that the Greeks have trouble understanding why anyone would want to "spot" aircraft, and undoubtedly many foreigners have trouble understanding many Britons’ desire to do such things as collect stamps, record numbers on trains or, indeed, letters on aircraft. Perhaps someone should explain it to them. Perhaps, even, some might suggest this is the job of our own Foreign Secretary.

Or perhaps not. As so many of our own citizens have so much trouble in taking Jack Straw seriously, there’s no real reason to think the Greeks will take any notice of him, is there?


1st December 2001                        

 



Links to previous news comments:

6-Oct-01
29-Sept-01
15-Sept-2001
8-Sept-2001
1-Sept-2001
25-August-2001
18-August-2001
27-July 2001
14-July-2001
7-July-2001
30-June-2001
23-June 2001
16-June-2001
10-June-2001
03-June-2001
26-May-2001
19-May-2001
12-May-2001
05-May-2001
21-April-2001
14-April-2001
07-April-2001
31-March-2001
24-March-2001
18-March-2001
11-March-2001
04-March-2001
24-Feb-2001
18-Feb-2001
10-Feb-2001
03-Feb-2001
27-Jan-2001
20-Jan-2001
13-Jan-2001
06-Jan-2001
30-Dec-2000

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