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

New! See also our "Scoop!" page - exclusive news and investigations by the Simply Info News Team 

14th July 2001

Investors were a little happier this week as London’s FTSE100 index climbed to finish at 5537.0, a rise of just 57.8 points on the week but very much better than the massive falls predicted by some. The techMARK index also improved, climbing from what had been its lowest-ever close on the previous Friday of 1554.69 and gaining just over 3% to finish 48.18 points to finish at 1602.87.

The small rises in the indices masked highly volatile movements during the week, with Wednesday seeing the FTSE100 dropping below the 5400 level to a 16-week low and the techMARK slipping under 1540 both on Monday and Wednesday.

Thursday, however, saw the end of the FTSE100’s seven consecutive losing sessions and a rise of 1.66% from Wednesday’s close. The gains continued on Friday, with improving enthusiasm for telecoms and pharmaceuticals. Largest risers were Vodafone and GlaxoSmithKline, with these two accounting for nearly half of Friday’s rise in the FTSE100.

Market analysts seem to have mixed views of the stock markets’ likely future movements. Some have commented this week that "the UK equity market is deeply oversold and long-term this presents a buying opportunity for UK equities", but others believe there are still substantial downward moves to come. "We’re on a rollercoaster," said David Manning, director of equities at Foreign & Colonial, "In these sort of circumstances the temptation is to do very little." The general consensus seems to be that the market trend will be upward over the rest of this year.


As the Conservative Party struggle through their internal election process to select a new leader, I see that the government has come under attack from the former Speaker of the House of Commons, Betty Boothroyd. In an unusual outburst, she accused the government of "manipulating parliament" by their decision to sack the chairmen of two House of Commons Select Committees.
"Select committees are not an arm of government," she said. "They are a mechanism of parliament to scrutinise government. The two people concerned have huge reputations in this House and have won great respect for the jobs they have done as chairmen as well as outside the House."
She described the government's attempt to avoid criticism as "outrageous" and said it was the job of committee member to "speak out when there is a need to speak out. "The House of Commons can do what it likes. It has the authority and power if it wishes to do so. These decisions can be changed by the will of the House. It is all very well talking about reform. Here is a chance for the House to act. It can use its authority, take power away from the whips and reinstate those two excellent chairmen," she said, in a call for MPs to defeat the government.
This news comes just after a call by four government ministers on Prime Minister Tony Blair to drop what they described as his "control freak" policy towards public services. The ministers were named as education ministers John Healey and Ivan Lewis, international development minister Hilary Benn and Ruth Kelly, a Treasury minister.
Extraordinary, I think. A sign of a Prime Minister with a huge majority who thinks he can do as he pleases? Worrying.

Perhaps, though, Tony Blair’s actions are no more worrying than the Conservatives’ efforts to elect a new leader. Watching the candidates, I have to wonder whether I would really want any one of them to be Prime Minister – and whether any of them could really lead any political party to a general election win. Am I alone in thinking the most likely winner will inevitably be the worst person for the job? And, more importantly, the best candidates for the job are unlikely to have ever come close to being a Member of Parliament let alone a prospective Prime Minister? A too cynical view, probably, but one that I suspect is held by much of the British Public.
I did, however, like the comment by David Davis as he was forced to drop out of the Conservative Party leadership race on Friday, and refused to give his backing to a move to change the rules for the leadership selection. "If I play rugby," he said, "and get my nose broken - as sometimes happens - I can't complain; that's the rules. It's a big boy's game with big boys' rules."
Well, it should be.


Harry Potter continues to attract much attention from children, enthusiasts and various financial gurus who see anything connected with the character as having the potential of being a goldmine.
This week, however, as a burst of enthusiasm surrounded the release of a new clip from the forthcoming Harry Potter film onto the Official Harry Potter Web Site, we hear that real witches are displeased.
A high priest of British White Witches, Kevin Carlyon, claims the portrayal of witches riding brooms with the brush at the back is complete fiction and insulting to real witches. "Warner Bros claims the film is an accurate portrayal of things that happen in witchcraft," he said, "Yet woodcuts from the 16th and 17th centuries show broomsticks being ridden with the brush part in the front."
Kevin Carlyon, leader of a witches’ coven in Sussex, has apparently now put a spell on the film which, he claims, will fail to be a box office success unless Warner Bros publicly admit they have got it wrong. He also claims that he has three brooms of his own which he is capable of riding correctly. Allegedly, he also said that the only reason he did not fly them regularly was because of a problem with the Civil Aviation Authority: he lives too close to Gatwick Airport.


Finally for this week, I was disturbed to read the comments of a judge when sentencing a computer hacker. The hacker, Raphael Gray aged 19, admitted 10 counts of computer fraud and is believed to have caused millions of pounds of damage including breaking into "secure" Internet sites, gaining access to 23,000 credit card numbers and publishing them, and using Bill Gates’s own credit card number to order a shipment of Viagra for Mr Gates.
Mr Gray was arrested after he had been tracked to his home in southern Wales following an extensive investigation involving the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the U.S. as well as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and UK police forces.
Far from the 5-year prison sentence that had been expected for Raphael Gray, the judge imposed a community service order, and praised Mr Gray for his sense of humour and his computer skills. He did, however, also require Mr Gray to undergo psychiatric treatment.
Senior lawyers have suggested that such light sentences received by hackers are because judges "do not get a proper view of the seriousness of the damage caused".

I wonder how many judges have ever used the Internet?

14th July 2001                        

Links to previous news comments:

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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