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a personal view of the week's news from Erithacus
Although stock market indices on the other side of the Atlantic
finished higher this week, investors failed to find the enthusiasm to
allow the FTSE100 to match the Dow Jones’ rise of 1.31% to 10951.24,
and lost 1.36% to end 81.10 down at 5870.30. Although well off its
12-month low of 5280, the FTSE100 shows little sign of returning to the
12-month high of 6839. Nervousness on the financial markets continued,
with many analysts expecting sudden market falls in the US next week as
the Dow Jones approaches the 11000 level, and the threat of a deepening
global economic slowdown continues to worry many. UK woes were worsened
by concerns over how much damage has been done by foot-and-mouth, and
sentiment was not improved by anti-capitalist demonstrations in London
Much of the other news centred around the demonstrations in London by
anti-capitalists. While achieving their object of creating significant
disruption in the Capital and gaining widespread news coverage, the
majority of the demonstrators were contained in the small area of Oxford
Circus by a massive police operation although the majority of shops had
been boarded up in the expectation of a repeat of last year’s trail of
destruction. A few retailers, however, had adopted other tactics.
Waterstone’s Bookshop replaced its normal windows displays with books
by Irvine Welsh, a well-known anti-establishment writer whose own
drug-lifestyle and somewhat extreme views must surely have made it
almost impossible for any true anarchist to even consider damaging such
an effective advertisement for their cause.
Equally serious for many and on the same theme that some would
describe as "the loony fringe" is a campaign organised by
Greenpeace and supported by Friends of the Earth against Esso. Motorists
are to be urged to boycott Esso petrol stations in the next few months,
with tens of thousands of leaflets and a huge advertising campaign being
supported by celebrities including Bianca Jagger and her daughter Jade,
Rory Bremner, Annie Lennox, and Damien Hirst. The reasoning behind this
protest is, apparently, that Esso’s parent company Exxon Mobil, unlike
two of its competitors BP and Shell, has not invested in renewable
energy and continues to refuse to acknowledge any link between the oil
industry and global warming. Additionally, Exxon Mobil’s active
support for US President George W Bush has further angered its critics,
as Mr Bush’s hard line on environmental issues has included abandoning
the Kyoto Treaty to limit emissions of carbon dioxide gas and plans to
open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.
Sir Richard Branson is, some would say, living dangerously with his choice of business advisers. Branson’s chain of health clubs, Virgin Active, was launched in 1999 and has been until now owned solely by Branson with his investment of £25 million in the business. Now, however, expansion of the chain by the £27 million purchase of "Health and Racket" clubs and further expansion to be funded by venture capital with prospective partners including Gresham Trust, Duke Street Capital, 3i, and Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, should move the business significantly forward. However, the choice of Peter Norris, former chief executive of Barings Bank, to provide some financial advisory services has raised a few eyebrows. Remind me, someone, what was it that happened to Barings?
Finally for this week, I am getting more and more confused by "experts". It could be, of course, that my memory is failing, but I am quite certain I remember being told just a few years ago that climate change will lead to the UK being much drier. The "droughts" we were then suffering were, so the experts said, to be expected for many years to come and would worsen as a result of what we are all doing to our environment. Yet just a few months ago, I am sure we were being told that the floods we were suffering were a direct result of what we are all doing to our environment, and we can all expect many more of these floods for many years to come. In seeking an explanation for these apparent contradictions, I have been told that the truth is the UK’s weather will become more extreme, with exceptional weather conditions becoming the norm as a result of what we are all doing to our environment. This piece of information came on the same day as I watched a television program about the Lynmouth flood disaster of 16th August 1952, and just a couple of days after I listened to a presentation about how extreme weather had cause the collapse of the cliffs at Hastings and the partial destruction of the Norman castle there in 1287. I remain confused. Does anyone remember the winter of 1962/1963?
5th May 2001