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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 

7th July 2001

Stock Markets fell yet again this week, with the FTSE100 losing 163.3 points to finish at 5479.2. Worse hit was the techMARK index, finishing at just 1554.69 and had lost 13% of its value, leaving it at its lowest point ever and worth only just over one-third of the 12-month high at the start of last September. Four days of losses for the FTSE100 left it on a 13-week low at close on Friday, with banks, telecoms and oil suffering more than most others.

Negative sentiment deepened during the week with a profit warning from Marconi and the news that decreasing revenues were forcing the company to shed around 4000 jobs worldwide. As one of Britain’s oldest companies, Marconi’s share price has been seen as a benchmark of market sentiment. Directors blamed the problems on a fall in demand from telecoms companies, and as the share price dropped below 100 pence on Friday Directors bought shares in an effort to restore some confidence. Over half the market value of the company disappeared during the week, equivalent to nearly four billion pounds.


As the G7 one-day talks are underway today (Saturday) in Rome primarily to set the stage for a world leaders’ summit in Genoa later this month, an extraordinary slant to the likely discussions has emerged in many news reports. Ministers from the world’s seven richest nations, it seems, are as much concerned about who is to blame for the global economic slowdown as they are about how to spark a solid recovery.

Shortly before leaving for Rome Paul O'Neill, U.S. Treasury Secretary, said, "We are...doing our part to contribute to strong and stable growth worldwide." Laurent Fabius, French Finance Minister was reported as saying that the United States was "the main cause of global economic slowdown" and accused the Americans of trying to "single out Europe for blame." German Finance Minister Hans Eichel also spoke out strongly, and described any suggestion that Germany was at risk of entering a recession as "nonsense". "The euro zone is still the strongest part [of the world economy] although it is now showing a clear slowdown", he added. Britain’s Gordon Brown, however, stayed clear of trying to apportion blame, and commented, "I believe we have got to be pro-active. Each continent must play its part."

Although no formal statement is expected from today’s talks, there is expected to be a general consensus that global economic slowdown has hit bottom although few seem to agree when a rebound will happen. Prior to the meeting, however, Gordon Brown said that the global economic downturn is likely to be "more severe" than expected.


Internet search engine "Google" publishes figures for the most popular searches. Surprisingly, perhaps, among the top ten "fastest growing search terms" this week was the name Vicky Botwright.

Who?

A squash player, apparently. Possibly not a sport that usually attracts a huge audience, particularly during a week when the Wimbledon tennis championships would seem to be what most people are looking at.

A deeper investigation reveals that Ms Botwright is ranked number 18 in world squash, and the Women's International Squash Players' Association threatened to ban her last month for wearing a skimpy black thong during the Open Championships in Birmingham. Some newspapers called her "The Lancashire Hot Bot".

I see.

All is revealed. Well, nearly.


I see this week that scientists now believe people are more complex than they previously thought – or possibly less complex.

The scientific world had been startled in February when results from teams of scientists working on decoding the structure of genes in the human body put the total number at around 35,000. It had previously been believed there were more than 100,000. The "landmark achievement" has now been thrown into doubt by a new team working at Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, who claim humans are built from at least 65,000 genes. Both the February discovery and the latest claim were announced with the total confidence of being the definitive result to the "decoding of the human genome".

We are told "There are 3.1 billion letters in the DNA code in every one of the 100 trillion cells in the human body. If all of the DNA in the human body were put end to end, it would reach to the Sun and back more than 600 times." Genes, the "instructions" for proteins of which human tissue is made, are buried within the string of DNA.

Somehow it all reminds me of a poem by Hilaire Belloc which ends:
"But Scientists, who ought to know,
Assure us that it must be so...
Oh! Let us never, never doubt
What nobody is sure about!"


Finally for this week, I was somewhat puzzled by a report about questions faced by English undergraduates at Cambridge University in their final-year exams. Rather than tackle lines from those traditionally regarded as English literary greats, it appears the students were faced with questions requiring them to analyse quotations taken from modern songs.

In one of the questions the students were asked to discuss the line "It's tragedy... Tragedy when you lose control and you got no soul, it's tragedy" from a hit song by the Bee Gees in 1979, and has angered many who feel this completely misses the point of studying literature.

John Kerrigan, chairman of the English finals examination board, defended the use of such questions, claiming that there are important literary references in many modern songs even though the singers may be unaware of them. "The line in the Bee Gees song where he sings 'the feeling's gone and you can't go on' is a fair summary of the end of King Lear," he said.

Of course it is. And everyone knows that the Bee Gees are a group "more sinn’d against than sinning", don’t they?

7th July 2001                        

Links to previous news comments:

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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