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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

The 43rd President of the United States took the oath of office yesterday (Saturday), and pledged to work to remove divisions in the nation. George W Bush, clearly aware of the potential divisions facing him having fought one of most contentious elections in history and won only with the narrowest of margins, filled much of his 15-minute inaugural speech with rhetoric aimed at healing national wounds. As light drizzle fell over Washington, Mr Bush stressed his commitment to national unity: "this is my solemn pledge: I will work to build a single nation of justice and opportunity.'' Meanwhile with security the tightest at any inauguration, groups of demonstrators gathered with a wide range of issues on their agenda, and claimed to have mustered the largest demonstration since 1973 at Richard Nixon’s second term of office when the Vietnam war was the primary concern of many. Although there were reportedly nine arrests, police said that the day passed without any serious incident.

The financial markets had a mixed week, with most major indices finishing slightly up. The Dow Jones lost over 90 points on Friday although remaining up on the week, but failing to be moved by traditional positive sentiment preceding the inauguration of a new President.

Survey results released during the week indicated that despite assurances the downturn in the economy is unlikely to become a recession, an overwhelming number of American workers at small and medium-sized firms are seriously concerned about their financial futures. The survey by Harris Interactive and commissioned by the investment services firm Principal Financial Group, indicated that more than 60% of workers worried about job stability and whether their employers’ businesses would survive. This lack of confidence is having, according to analysts, an on-going effect on the retail industry and Americans’ willingness to spend.

Despite financial worries, there are indications that the fall of technology stocks is over. Some fund managers have announced they are now looking seriously at this sector again, and looking to snap up shares at bargain prices before the major rises which they are now certain will happen. Several, however, expressed their doubts about the success of on-line retailers over the next 12 months.

Finally for this week, a lawsuit is underway against heavy-metal music band "Slayer". Lawyers hope to prove that the lyrics of Slayer’s somewhat unusual music led directly to the murder of 15-year-old Elyse Pahler in1995. Unlike previously unsuccessful lawsuits alleging various mayhem inspired by a variety of popular music ever since the first rock-and-roll appeared, and all rejected under the 1st Amendment, the grounds for this action center around unlawfully marketing and distributing "harmful" and "obscene" products to minors. Allegations that Slayer’s songs "serve as an instruction manual for disturbed adolescent fans, introducing youngsters to a violent, X-rated world of devil worship, human sacrifice and necrophilia" may be difficult to refute, but success of the lawsuit could have repercussions throughout the music industry.

21st January 2001                        

News Comment is updated at the end of each week

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