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News Comment
"A View From Across The Pond" an Englishman's personal view of the week's news in the USA -
from Erithacus

** At the request of some readers from the USA, Erithacus has changed his spellchecker from "English UK" to "English US" for this page. However, Erithacus has declined to avoid UK-specific jargon and phraseology, and points out that "an Englishmanís View" of anything necessarily requires an Englishmanís own "colorful" language. He also points out that he prefers to make his grammatical errors in his own language rather than anyone elseís. We hope our U.S. and Canadian readers will understand. **

A profit warning and reports of planned job losses from microchip giant Intel sent stock markets plunging on Friday. The Dow Jones index was down 1.97% and losing 213.63 points to 10644.62 by close, with the Nasdaq Composite Index performing even worse and dropping 115.95 to 2052.78, a loss of 5.35% and threatening to fall below the all-important 2000 level.

Whilst forecasts from most analysts put the growth of the U.S economy for this year at 2.3% and nowhere near the recession that a few have been predicting, a recovery of the Nasdaq to anywhere near the highs of March 2000 seems unlikely in the near future. With the tech-heavy index now down 56% on its highs, analysts point to the disappearance of many of the factors driving growth in sales and profits for telecommunications and Internet companies during the late 1990s. More importantly, investors and Internet companies themselves started to realize that an Internet business does not automatically guarantee a profit; and it has become obvious with the closures and bankruptcies in the last year that many will never make a profit. The robust economic growth of the last nine years has faltered, and despite the two interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve in January, is reluctant to fire up again and recapture the sentiment of not so many months ago when investors seemed to be assuming this growth would continue forever at the same levels.

A very few bright spots still appear amidst the gloom of the lost tech boom. A survey of the newer communication structures indicates that by the end of 2002 there will have been a 40-fold increase in the preceding three years of the fiber optic cable on the seabed of both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. This is enough for around 250 million simultaneous telephone calls, and certainly enough to suggest that business communications can become cheaper without hitting the profits of service providers. A 50% drop in the price of bandwidth has already prompted some Internet Service Providers to double their capacity or more. Lombard Odier Inc., heavy investors in technology and major shareholders in Nortel Networks with group assets of more than $73 billion, think technology companies are poised to move forward. "Itís time to buy tech", said Jean Keller, the companyís president.

Politics in the USA this week took a turn which confirmed for many their cynical view of politicians and how the rest of the public also views them. While still not "forgiven" by other politicians for questionable presidential pardons and the embarrassing need to return a number of items to the White House after leaving it, former President Clinton has been voted as the man most wanted as Mayor of New York City when the elections for that office are held in November. More than half of those questioned in a poll run by The Daily News/CBS Channel 2 said they would prefer Bill Clinton to any of the other potential candidates. It seems, though, that Clintonís candidacy for mayor is not being taken seriously by other politicians and observers. Clinton's spokeswoman said last week that he was not running for mayor, and other politicians have described the idea as "a big joke". Pity.

Some would-be U.S. politicians, however, appear to be just a little disorganized. In Columbus, Ohio, we hear that a City Council candidate seemed to have little knowledge of the City he hoped to serve. Greg Ritchey, a Green Party candidate, scheduled a news conference at City Hall on Friday to pledge that he would serve his full four-year term if elected next November. Unfortunately, he ended up a few blocks away at the Ohio Statehouse, and wondered, as he waited for everyone to arrive, just why they were all late.

President George W Bush is himself, as many will know, far from immune from the occasional gaffe, much to the delight of journalists and news commentators. Some of the Presidentís best, worst or strangest recently include: "I think there is some methodology in my travels"; "Those of us who spent time in the agricultural sector and in the heartland, we understand how unfair the death penalty is"; "My pan plays down an unprecedented amount of our national debt"; "I have said that the sanction regime is like Swiss cheese - that meant that they weren't very effective"; "The California crunch really is the result of not enough power-generating plants and then not enough power to power the power of generating plants". I could get to like this man. He seems human - a rare characteristic in a President.

11th March 2001                        

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