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USA Politics The beginning of the November brings the victory of Barrack Obama as US President and the Democratic Party  also is now control both houses of government.  There is a lot of work to be done to fix the mess that George W made.  It appears that the "Me" generation will soon end and the "We" generation will begin again at least in the Western World.

The end of October, on the eve of the American election, Obama promises to move the wealth of the country back to the middle class and McCain promises to maintain basically the status quo - The quote of "Joe the Plumber" has been used by McCain to show that Obama's new policy leans toward a socialist government of the USA.  When the election is only 8 days away, the show that Obama has a lead of 8 - 10 percent of the popular vote.
Many more Americans are turning to the internet for campaign news this year as the web becomes a key source of election news.

Early June bought to the end the fight for a candidate to run for President for the US Democratic party with Barack Obama being successful.  By the end of August it was Barrack Obama along with Joe Biden as his VP vs John McCain and Sarah Palin as his VP as they tackle how to get the US economy back on its feet as the subprime mortgage problems, bank failures, universal health care, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and high energy prices face the American public,

Near the end of February and April, the American Presidential election candidates dominated the political scene in the United States and abroad as for the Democrats it became a battle between Former First Lady Hilliary Clinton and Barack Obama.  On the Republican side, it was all over as veteran John McCain dominated the primaries and caucuses .  The main issues that dominated the flay were the declining American economy, health care, immigration policy and how to end the Iraq war.
 

 Science A massive pumpkin from Canada weighing in at 1,536.5 pounds broke the California state record for largest pumpkin at the Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin and Harvest Festival at the Elk Grove Regional Park.

Scientists in Canada and France now say they have discovered a major gene that governs ovulation - a find that could yield new treatments for infertility and lead to a genetically based contraceptive.

Mid June, the existence of ice on Mars was confirmed today by NASA scientists, the first time frozen water has been sampled on another planet.

An American military supercomputer, assembled from components originally designed for video game machines, has reached a long-sought-after computing milestone by processing more than 1.026 quadrillion calculations per second.
 

Economics
Mid December, early Christmas shopping has shown that consumers are spending a lot less.  The US Central Fed has cut the rate it charges banks for money to 0 - .25 % which is the lowest yet. And Bush offers loans to the auto makers with lots of conditions as their last ditch attempt to get sales going and restructure before claiming bankruptcy protection. A nice Christmas gift to get them to March 2009. Gasoline prices continue to "tank" as crude prices drop into the low $40.00 per barrel price giving traveling  consumers a lot of relief.

At the start of December, it is noticed that the Dow Index and unemployment figures in the US keeps rising.
Increasing profitability and productivity by trimming labour content seem to attract more stock purchases BUT
in today's marketplace does it also diminish the chances that your products will be purchased.  Also the cost of money becomes cheap as Japan puts is lowest interest rate to .3 % and the US has 1 % rate.  However, it does not seem to work as even with low interest rates the public is still not borrowing and buying.  They seem to be just being very conservative and saving to survive instead of spending on non essential items . Forecasts for Christmas shopping indicates it will one of the worse ever. The US report that they lost 700,000 jobs in November which was about 200,000 more than was estimated by the best economic heads in the US.

Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the Chinese central bank says “Over-consumption and a high reliance on credit is the cause of the US financial crisis,”

Mid November and the global financial situation is starting to demonstrate that many countries are in a recession.  The US bailout seems to have reached a nasty result as those who are making say $10.00 to $15.00 per hour are asked to contribute to bailout firms that have people who are making $50- $75 per hour.  The big auto makers are also asking for and getting bailout funds while non foreign US car makers who make fuel efficient cars are still selling lots of cars at reasonable prices.  At a meeting of the top 20 world's best economic countries who meet to decide on solutions - it is decided that there should be more meetings to determine if there is a global strategy to solving the problem...  It has also been reported that despite bank loan rates dropping, credit card interest rates have increased globally by about 2 %. Banks have used the rational for the rate hikes that bad debt non payment has caused this rise - governments are furious! Big companies seem to be the ones who are eligible for the bailouts but not the little guy except that the price of crude oil has dropped to less than $60.00 per barrel sending gasoline prices plunging. 

End of October and the stock markets are still in a downslide spin despite governments trying to stop the slide by things like insuring losses globally by banks on their loans. Cash is now King as the old Scottish adage of not spending until you have the cash bites into the economy.  And lessened non regulation by the US federal reserve as promoted by Greenspan is blamed for the devaluation of the stock markets around the world plus the sale of derivatives and other non cash schemes are blamed.  The question will soon be if not now, where can people invest their cash that was removed from the market so that it will give them an insured return on my investment.

Mid October and the major countries in the world decide to bail out the banks with such things as loan guarantees with massive amounts of money... The Dow responds on October 13th with a resounding 936 points straight up which is the largest one day amount in their history.  The world now questions - should governments bail out banks which caused the problem in the first place by giving loans to companies and people who could not really pay them back?

At the beginning of October, despite the US putting $700 billion into a bail out of some financial institutions,  the stock market again tanked sending the Dow straight down.

At the end of September with the US presidential election a short 5 weeks away the US Congress  votes to  bailout banks, businesses and home owners who were caught up in the subprime mortgage economic mess sending the financial markets still plunging. The "Me have it now" generation can no longer have it now without paying for it now - Cash is king again!

Then two days later, the US Senate votes on a revised bill and passes it with ease.

The proposed US bailout legislation authorizes Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. to initiate what is likely to become the biggest government bailout in U.S. history, allowing him to spend up to $700 billion to relieve faltering banks and other firms of bad assets backed by home mortgages, which are falling into foreclosure at record rates.

The question of course is. "What will be what will be the short and long term effect on global economies?  And will it be enough to stop a depression such as what happened in the 1930's"

Mid September and the markets crash but the US government bailed out the big insurance company AIG with loans of 85 billion dollars and other controls.   The next day governments around the world put new regulations on trading such as a short ban on short trading ~~~  it seems to have worked as markets around the world rebounded as people began to reinvest the money that they had taken out of the market.  The cost to do this was in the trillions of dollars which George Bush said would be paid back over a period of time.

In early September, the Bush administration's seizure of troubled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is potentially a $200 billion bet that it will help reverse a prolonged housing and credit crisis.  What's going on in the US of A... Work hard, fail in your ventures and the government bails you out.... is the US is on the slippery Teflon slope of more debt and increased inflation? 

Reported in September that food prices in UK supermarkets and shops have risen by 8.3% since January, an index compiled for the BBC shows. Meat and fish - up 22.9% - registered the biggest price increases for any one category in the survey, with fresh fruit and vegetables up 14.7%.

Long standing annual increases of house prices in Britain has fallen as was reported late in August. In Britain house prices were 10.5% lower than they were a year ago.

The US economic power horse is running out of ideas and cash as it jostles with a massive national debt, housing and financial crises, rising inflation, and a depreciating currency. This has all contributed to a growing tendency to live off credit amassed through petrodollars and foreign loans, leaving repayment for future generations. This is the core of the economic problems that will face the new President of the United States in January 2009.

Mid July and in one week light sweet crude drops from $147 to $128. For those reading this, they might not remember this trivial fact but the fact that demand for crude seems to have dropped as US reserves are climbing at a rate higher than expected.  The US is slowing down its consumption of gasoline driven by their high price of an average of $4.00 per gallon gasoline.  The slightly cool early summer in the US eastern coast might also have had a bigger effect on demand as less air conditioners were turned on and energy producers could cut back on fueling their carbon fired generators.

July and the high cost of energy ($147 US per barrel of crude)  is making a dent even in India where inflation rates are 13 year high and in China where their inflation rates are reported to be a 11 year high. Even in Las Vegas vacancy rates at the hotels has dropped to 80% from the traditional 90 % they have traditionally enjoyed.  "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" seems to be happening right across the world.

Mid June... It was reported that the cost of passenger flying in the USA has increased by 40% over the past 12 months and that many airlines are laying off workers and cutting flights due to the high cost of fuel.

End of May, the cost of crude oil has a direct impact upon transportation. For example it was reported that
the cost of shipping a standard 40-foot container from Shanghai to North America's east coast has jumped to $8,000 from $3,000 in 2000 when oil was $20 a barrel.  This has raised the cost of transportation which in 2000 was the equivalent of a 3 per cent U.S. tariff rate, now it is 9 per cent.

Mid April. China continues to influence global economies because of their thirst for energy. Corn and other food products are being used to produce energy products diminishing the supply for food commodities and driving up prices for rice, wheat and corn as inflation rates in China exceed 8 %.  Wal-Mart in United States has started to ration the sales of rice.

Disappointing first-quarter earnings from General Electric Co (GE.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and a drop in U.S. consumer confidence to its lowest in more than a quarter century provided the latest signs the U.S. economy may be in a recession. Crude oil prices continue on their upward spiral now at about $118 US per barrel as the US dollar continues to tumble against the Euro and sending gasoline prices to near record highs.

Early April, the US government attempted to prop up their banks sending the stock market on a roller coaster as financial institution stocks rose and fell as investors attempted to do a little profit taking.  Investors were faced with either putting their money into this dangerous game or into resource or energy holdings.

In March Crude Oil prices were the talk of the economy worldwide as soared above $100 per barrel and the US Fed and the US government attempted to bail out large financial institutions who had lost loads of dollars in sub prime mortgage deals that had gone bad.   The only thing that happened is that the stock market soared and then dropped worse than before the adjustments... The question is - where is the US government getting all the money?

Global food prices rose significantly as more and more high carbohydrate foods are converted into ethanol driving up the price of corn to new highs.

Rice prices have doubled since January, when the grain traded at about $380 a tonne, boosted by strong Asian, Middle Eastern and African demand.

 

Energy

Wind, solar power and ethanol plants are springing up everywhere in North America as they try to ease themselves off oil driven energy sources with most to be on-line in 2009 & 2010.

By the end of July crude oil prices worldwide has dropped to about $122 per barrel seemly driven by the fact that Americans were driving less and that they were using less energy to fuel their industrial sector. The triggering point in the USA seems to be the cost of gasoline once it reaches on the average above $4.00 per gallon.

Reported in July that the numbers show that Canadians are driving less than before definitely driven by the high cost of gasoline as indicated by a 5.9 % fall in gasoline consumption in May 2008.

By mid 2008, it was announced that Texas which was long known in United States as the oil state, was now the leader in sustainable energy sources such as wind and solar generating devices.

If 2008 was to be noted for anything other than the American Presidential election, it would be clean energy generation and conservation.  Britain has decided that 1/3 of their energy needs would be generated using offshore wind farms and could have them up and running in less than 2 years.  An Indian car producer (TATA) has announced that they will have a compressed air powered car ( MDI AirCar ) available for sale soon that can be driven 125 miles for $2.00 with a range of 300 km at a price of about $8,000 US targeting the Indian market. In contrast,  Is compressed air energy the way of the future?

General Motors has shut down many of their manufacturing plants that produce SUV's and other gas guzzling vehicles like the Hummer and says that they will concentrate on building energy efficient vehicles.

 

Space

Mid October and India has successfully launched the unmanned Chandrayaan 1 spacecraft, its first mission to the Moon.

Late in September, astronaut Zhai Zhigang became the first Chinese man to walk in space today, clambering out of China's Shenzhou VII space craft and waving to the camera.

A US space company Space Exploration Technologies founded by an Internet multi-millionaire Elon Musk has become the first private venture to successfully blast a rocket into Earth's orbit.

It is true, there is water on Mars as indicated by tests in a soil sample by the NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander.

Reported in July. China plans to conduct its first space walk in October. The European Space Agency is building a roving robot to land on Mars. India recently launched a record 10 satellites into space on a single rocket.  The US seems to be falling behind.
 

Health Measles deaths tumbled 74 percent worldwide from 2000 through 2007, the result of a campaign to vaccinate children in developing countries.

Canadian scientists have discovered that a particular gene appears to be essential for protecting the brain as people age and that missing one copy may boost the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease or other neurodegenerative disorders.

They are finally getting it regarding understanding that hospitals are a big contributor to health issues of patients. Antibiotics are implicated in the spread of superbugs because of they way in which bacteria respond to them. In the case of C diff, they kill 'good' bacteria in the gut that prevent C diff from growing and spreading. In the case of MRSA, the bacteria have grown resistant to certain types of antibiotics.
 

Environment

The question of the year is "Has the drop in the global consumption of crude oil reduced the emission of greenhouse gases?"  The politicians and scientists are not talking.

Early December, Venice has been hit by the biggest flood in more than 20 years. Many of the city's famous locations, including St Mark's Square, were submerged. Driven by strong winds the high water rose to 1.56m above normal.

End of November and the first commercial ship passed through the North-West Passage of the Arctic Ocean without the assistance of the Canadian coast guide ice breakers saying there not a single ice cube in sight.

Mid November - Greenhouse-gas emissions declined 0.1 percent during 2006 in industrialized nations, the United Nations said, showing that many of the world's biggest polluters are making slow progress in fighting global warming.  This is slowly encouraging... but a step in the right direction if the figures are correct.

It might not sound like an environmental story, but at the end of October it was reported that newspaper circulation in the US dropped by 4.6 % to about 38,165,848 daily copies - that is still a lot of trees still being cut for newsprint.... but the trend towards less newspaper production is definitely dropping.

Also reported in October - In Europe it was reported that between 1990 and 2006, greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 7.7 % in the EU-27. The largest absolute emission reductions took place in Germany, the United Kingdom and in most EU-12 Member States, while the largest absolute increases were observed in southern EU-15 Member States (Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy). Between 2005 and 2006, greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 0.3 % in the EU-27. The largest absolute reductions took place in France, Italy, Spain and Belgium while the largest absolute increases were observed in Poland, Finland and Denmark.

A team of University of Calgary researchers say they have built a simple machine that can capture carbon dioxide right out of the air, and that could operate anywhere on the planet.

Early in August it was reported that for the first time in human history, ice is on course to disappear entirely from the North Pole this year.  It was reported that the energy needed to melt this ice has caused the drop in the usual position of the Jet stream over the summer making the summer in Northern Hemisphere one of the coolest and wettest ever.

By the end of July, air pollution in Beijing was the major topic for the Olympic games as Beijing scrambled to cut their air pollution by moving some of their old pollution generating manufacturing plants to outside of Beijing and giving the mandate to Beijing drivers that they could only drive on either odd or even calendar days depending upon their license plate numbers.  Beijing brags they they could control the weather if they need to during the Olympic games starting on August 8th.By the start of August, Beijing officials were scrambling on how to reduce the pollution before the media were to nickname the Chinese Olympics the Pollution Olympics. It reminds one that before the Lake Placid Winter Olympics there was no snow but when it started the snow came down. 

Mid July, official figures say around 70,000 people died in China's earthquake, which left 4.8 million people homeless. It is the biggest natural disaster to hit China since 1976.

Mid May, an earthquake rocks China and first reports say that over 5000 people have died and many dams threaten to be breached which could displace many millions of people from their homes.

Foreign aid workers in Burma say that as many as 50,000 - 70,000  people died in the May 3rd cyclone. Two to three million are homeless, in a disaster whose scale invites comparison with the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The Burmanese government has limited the outside aid wanting to come into the country to help.

Mid March, and the US east coast has suffered one of the worst winter snowfalls since snowfall became a recorded item.  Even though the groundhog predicted a short winter it continues to hang on.  Word about global warming has changed a bit this year leaving those who support the concept beginning to scramble a wee bit.

 

Peace

End of the year and Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak sends his air force to bomb and rocket attack Gaza as retaliation to Hamas sending rockets into Gaza killing Israeli citizens .  Two hundred and thirty are killed and 700 wounded as result of the attack.  Israel wants to send a clear signal to Hamas that they will not tolerate attacks on their citizens.  The rest of the world pleads with both sides to stop this nonsense.  Can Hilliary Clinton the new Secretary of State finally bring peace to the middle east like her husband did to Ireland?

End of November and there is an attack on high end hotels, restaurants and the railway station in Mumbai India with over 180 persons being killed and over 300 injured.  This siege went on for three days as the Indian government after getting situation under control begins to try to find out who did this terrorist act which originally targeted British and American nationals. Reported that the attack was carried out by 10 people.

Mid November, Iraq's cabinet has approved a long-awaited security pact that will allow U.S. forces to remain in the country until 2011.

August 24, the Olympic Games closed in Beijing and Jacque Rogges says they were exceptional as China showcases their nation and abilities. But do not really open itself to Western foreign media to talk about human rights. The Beijing Games was become the most-watched U.S. television event of all time and shows that China now does have a powerful influence that can be communicated to the rest of the world.

Mid August and Russia decides to attempt to invade runaway portions of Georgia which is supported by the USA.  Poland agrees to have an US missile defense system constructed in their country.  Sanctions against Russia such as removing membership in NATO and the G-8 are considered.

At a NATO meeting in early April, it was Russia and the US who were at loggerheads because the US wants to embark upon constructing a European missile defense system and Russia does not.

Tibet at the end of March is protesting the presence of the Chinese troops and the Chinese government does not like it a bit.... by sending in troops.. With the upcoming Olympics and the pending change at the helm of the USA and the Democrats favoring a free Tibet, it will be interesting to see if these things will effect China's tourism industry to collapse much like it did after Tiananmen Square.

Near the end of March - it was reported that 4000 US troops had been killed in Iraq since the start of the war there 5 years ago.

 

Religion
At the end of August it was reported that Israeli scientists unveiled a program to put thousands of fragile fragments of the Scrolls online, using infrared imaging to reveal previously illegible portions of the biblical documents.  May their truth prevail.

End of March it was reported that Islam has overtaken Roman Catholicism as the biggest single religious denomination in the world.

Monsignor Vittorio Formenti, who compiled the Vatican's newly-released 2008 yearbook of statistics, said Muslims made up 19.2 percent of the world's population and Catholics 17.4 percent.

 

Internet

December - Media conglomerate Tribune Co. files for bankruptcy protection, as the owner of the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Cubs and other properties tries to deal with $13 billion in debt. This is certainly the beginning of the fall of the big newspapers and the rise of the use of the Internet as a medium of choice for advertisers.  Traditional media continue to slash and burn personnel as the move toward digital media which costs a lot less.

Early November - The world's most popular video-sharing site, YouTube, is in talks to show full-length Hollywood films free over the internet.  Those wonderful seats now at the local movie theatres would make amazing seats for couch potatoes - bring on the popcorn, beer and wine. And after 27 years as a print publication, PC Magazine is ditching its print edition and going online-only in February.

Announced in late October that in April 2009, the Christian Science Monitor will become the first nationally circulated newspaper to replace its daily print edition with its website ~!~~ this will save a lot of trees !

China has surpassed the United States to become the world's largest Internet-using population, reaching 221 million by the end of February

By the end of March, it is apparent that many news services (even print media web sites)  are adding video to their sites. The problem of course is bandwidth and these news clips are usually less than 2 minutes in length.  Is the television 6.00 pm newshour in the last throes of being dead?

 

Communications

In late June, the people who control how the Internet decided to allow freedom of addresses. For instance .com, .net, .ca will still exist but now these names can be whatever.  It is noted that in 2008 there are more than 1 billion cell phones used in the world today.

 

Entertainment

My goodness, the majority of movies really sucked in 2008 as they seem to have launched a whole lot of movies aimed at the young population who really believe that 'reality sucks' .

 

Biggest Disappointments
of the Year

Failure of the US government to protect the public from a recession and their fundamental beliefs such as "the American Dream" of owning their own home and to control and protect the public from high gasoline prices which has restricted American mobility and ability to compete on the world market leading the capitalistic society of the US into a recession. 

Could it be that Osama Ben Laden has engineered the fall of the USA helped also by the stupidity of George Bush?

It seems that order to survive today we need to have:
clean air, clean water, organically grown food, shelter, clothing, communications,
financial planners, entertainment, education, security, insurance
- what next?

Ask people living in 3rd world countries if they have any of these things
and why they keep smiling 

Your Comments?

Have a Happy 2009 Folks !

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