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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

8th September 2001

Stock markets plunged this week, with the Dow Jones index finishing at 9605.85 by close on Friday, 234.99 points down on the day and 313.73 lower than last Fridayís close. The Nasdaq fared no better, losing 17.94 points on Friday and ending with a loss for the week of 117.73 to close at 1687.7.

The falls came despite news that figures for U.S. manufacturing in August were the strongest for five years. Some analysts expect that this, the tax cuts that are just beginning to take effect, and lower interest rates, will combine to keep the USA out of recession and will slowly boost confidence in the financial markets.

Investors, however, are far from confident at present, and there are concerns that corporate earnings may again show a serious downturn both for the current quarter and for the final quarter of this year. As government figures released on Friday reported an increase in unemployment to 4.9%, the highest jobless total for four years, concerns are increasing that worries about the risks of unemployment will hit consumer spending and nullify any effect the tax cuts should have had.

On a more positive note, Lucent Technologies announced they expect to see a return to profitability next year, and Cisco Systems commented about signs of their own business stabilizing. Reports from mutual fund managers indicate they are "ready to jump back in" as soon as news of likely third-quarter results starts to trickle through in mid-September, and many of the larger investors seem to think that third-quarter results will compare well with results for the same period last year.


Good news! Five U.S. engineering and management firms have won a contract worth more than $5 billion. The contract involves the destruction of Russian nuclear warheads and other weapon systems, and the protection of nuclear warheads.
Marvelous.
But Iím a little confused.
Isnít there a major dispute between the U.S. and Russia about President Bushís proposed missile defense system, which apparently is in breach of the 1972 anti-ballistic missile treaty? Surely, then, the Russians are hardly going to pay American companies for the privilege of having their own weapons destroyed?

And when you look a little closer, the plot thickens still further. The Russians arenít paying. Itís the U.S. Congress who will be paying Ė which means YOU, the American taxpayer. Worthwhile, one might think, to pay to have hundreds or thousands of nuclear weapons destroyed AND, I understand, complete missiles, bombers and submarines. Worthwhile, too, to have nice safe American companies handling all this and ensuring there is no risk of any of it being stolen by any nefarious characters who undoubtedly would simply LOVE to get their hands on some of it.

Now, we hear, that despite his commitment to missile defense systems, President Bush intends to rid America of many of its own nuclear weapons. I assume itís reasonable to think that Russia wonít be paying for this. Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, has announced that Russia cannot afford to continue maintaining its own nuclear arsenal at the current levels.

Anyone else get the impression from all this that the American taxpayer is getting a bad deal here?


Are Americans becoming less healthy?
(And if you are, Iím sure you donít want a Brit telling you about it Ė but Iím going to tell you anyway).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ("CDC") reported this week 28.6% of people tested had high blood cholesterol, which is 3% higher than in 1991. They also estimate that a total of more than 40 million Americans have the condition.

The problem is blamed on a diet rich in saturated fats, lack of exercise, and smoking. High blood cholesterol is thought to be responsible for heart attacks and other severe heart problems. This is the largest single cause of death, with more than half a million Americans dying from heart disease every year.

Interestingly, another report published recently blames the increase in blood cholesterol on the "feel-good factor" the U.S. has experienced over the last decade. With a booming economy and relatively low unemployment many people, according to the report, take less exercise and eat more, leading to the start of the problems.

So, maybe, Alan Greenspan and others have the solution to Americaís health problems firmly under their control, and are already succeeding where campaigns for healthier eating and more exercise have failed? Now thereís an interesting theory.....


One of the more bizarre and horrific stories in the news this week has been about the sharks near the Florida coast. Although shark attacks on humans are relatively rare, attention has been focused on their activity following the death of two people in separate incidents involving the east coastís shark population, which brings the total of recorded shark attacks in U.S. waters this year to over 40.

The sudden increase in attacks by sharks is, according to some experts, the result of the increasing popularity of "interactive scuba diving" in which sharks are hand-fed by some of the divers. The effect of this, so the experts say, is that sharks lose their fear of humans and now tend to head towards popular beaches in search of food. Presumably when swimmers fail to feed them, they then get upset?

Several organizations are considering the drafting of legislation to ban marine life feeding.


Finally for this week, I hear that inhabitants of Alaska have been startled by an eerie glow coming from freshly-caught salmon drying in a smokehouse. Several of the fish exhibited this weird phenomenon, and worried officials rushed to investigate possible nuclear contamination of parts of the Bering Sea.

Fortunately, it appears the glow comes from phosphorescent marine bacteria that tends to spread over fish when stored in moist conditions at certain specific temperatures. Experts believe the bacteria are very common but infrequently observed because it rarely becomes dark in Alaska during summer when conditions are right for them to spread.

When asked whether salmon with the bacteria are fit to eat, Ted Meyers, chief fish pathologist for the Department of Fish and Game in Juneau was non-committal. "I wouldnít eat the one sent to me," he said, "It didnít pass my smell test."

8th September 2001                        

Links to previous news comments:

1-Sept-2001
25-Aug-2001
31-March 2001
25-March-2001
18-March-2001
11-March-2001
04-March-2001
24-Feb-2001
18-Feb-2001
03-Feb-2001
27-Jan-2001
20-Jan-2001
13-Jan-2001
06-Jan-2001
30-Dec-2000

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