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

The FTSE100 share index in London finished the week at 5342.1, its lowest for three weeks but still ahead of this yearís lowest closing level of 5260.5. Although the UK markets were dragged lower by falls in the U.S., with the Dow Jones index losing 151.7 points on Friday and the Nasdaq Composite index down 63.31, persistent worries about the UKís economic outlook had the greatest effect on investor sentiment. Telecoms and pharmaceuticals were worst hit, with Vodaphone losing 2.7% on Friday to finish close to a three-year low at 127.5, and both GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca dropping nearly 2%.

All is not doom and gloom, however. The "leading indicator" from NTC Research that projects future economic activity and focuses on identifying turning points in the business cycle, reached a high point in July which suggested a significant upturn for the thrid quarter of this year and economic growth strengthening at least until April 2002.
Forecasts from the UKís government figures still put economic growth this year at 2.5% (2000: 3%), although many independent economic forecasters are putting the level at just 2%. Few see signs of any risk of the recession that continues to worry stock market investors.


As markets and economies fall and slow, or at best are nervous and unpredictable, itís good to read success stories as a reminder that businesses and enterprising individuals can always make money no matter how miserable the financial and economic analysts become.
Particularly interesting reading this week was a publication on Friday by Broadcast Magazine of successes in the media, and what may appear to be the daftest enterprises often seem to be the most successful. For example, Anne Wood, creator of "The Teletubbies", is reported to have made £130 million; Rowan Atkinson has more than £50 million mainly from his "Mr Bean" character; Paul Smith, the man behind the quiz show "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" has £108 million.


For anyone who has not already noticed that surfing the Internet is FAR more interesting than watching television, I would draw your attention to comments made this week by Lord Taylor of Warwick. According to Lord Taylor, the BBC is bland and boring. He also commented that it is "overrun by clone-like women presenters".
Is it purely coincidence that Lord Taylorís comments come just as he has applied for the position of Chairman of the BBC?


Surely the most misleading news story this week has got to be the report comparing the level of illiteracy among children aged 15 to 21 with the findings of school inspectors from 1912. According to the report, nearly 15% of these youngsters now are "functionally illiterate" whereas in 1912 the figure was just 2%.
Rubbish.
Complete and utter garbage.
Whilst I must agree completely that literacy standards are in need of improvement, vastly different criteria was used to define "illiteracy" in 1912. Additionally, in comparing the figures with those given in 1912, is seems that no-one has bothered to take into account that a much lower percentage of children was actually at school.

Still, I guess it made a good sensationalist story, didnít it?


Killer Bats In Europe

Now thereís a headline most of the newspapers missed.

Not quite as dramatic as it sounds, perhaps, but biologists studying droppings from the Greater Noctule bat (Nyctalus lasiopterus) have found evidence that the bat eats large numbers of migratory birds. The evidence, apparently, did not take much unravelling: the droppings contained birdsí feathers.

It appears that this particularly large bat swoops on migratory birds as they fly through its Mediterranean territory at night, and being much more agile than the birds, as well as being larger, has no problem in catching and overpowering them. Reports from the Spanish scientists who made the discovery are unclear, but it appears they believe the bats have changed from their traditional diet of insects relatively recently. Worrying. What will they decide to eat next?

But scientists donít always get it right, particularly when studying bats. In July of this year startled scientists in Somerset tracking bats that had been tagged with radio transmitters suddenly saw the bats moving at water-level in the Kennet and Avon Canal. As they watched the tracking equipment, they had no doubt the bats were in fact swimming.
At the same time and on the same night researchers from Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit working in the same area studying voles, were suddenly confronted with evidence that the voles were in fact flying over hedges and trees at speeds of up to 10 kilometres an hour.
Iíll leave you to work out what had happened.........

18th August 2001                        

Links to previous news comments:

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

Feel free to send your comments, opinions, and letters to Erithacus we will be pleased to publish suitable letters at the discretion of the editor.

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