Narrow escape: The Bank of England was forced to contact RBS’s creditors abroad to persuade them not to withdraw their funds. Britain was just three hours away from going bust last year after a secret run on the banks, one of Gordon Brown’s Ministers has revealed.
City Minister Paul Myners disclosed that on Friday, October 10, the country was ‘very close’ to a complete banking collapse after ‘major depositors’ attempted to withdraw their money en masse.
The Mail on Sunday has been told that the Treasury was preparing for the banks to shut their doors to all customers, terminate electronic transfers and even block hole-in-the-wall cash withdrawals. Only frantic behind-the-scenes efforts averted financial meltdown
Despite his talk of “endogenous development” and economic diversification, Venezuela is more dependent on oil now than it was when Mr Chávez took power. Oil brought in 92% of export revenues in the first nine months of 2008, compared with 64% in 1998. The 2009 budget, which foresees public spending of $78 billion, assumes an average oil price of $60 a barrel (and economic growth of 6%). Venezuelan crude, much of which is heavy (meaning viscous), currently sells for around half that figure. The budget also assumes that Venezuela produces 3.4m barrels of oil per day. Independent sources, including OPEC, say output is about 1m barrels less.
After all, Cuba has precious little to boast about (see article). It is the only country in the Americas that locks citizens up for their beliefs. In a place that before 1959 boasted as many cattle as people, meat is such a scarce luxury that it is a crime to kill and eat a cow. Even the health and education systems, which once put those of many capitalist countries to shame, are now suffering decline. Then there is Fidel’s claim, earlier this year, that while Cuba has enshrined racial equality, America is irredeemably racist and would never accept a black man as president.
All this means that for the Castros, Barack Obama may turn into a far more formidable foe than his predecessors. The danger starts with his example: after all, a young, black, progressive politician has no chance of reaching the highest office in Cuba, although a majority of the island’s people are black.
This from one of the “Conservative” voices that Obama dined with at George Will’s house just before the Inauguration Speech reviewed below. Fascinating speech. It was so rhetorically flat, so lacking in rhythm and cadence, one almost has to believe he did it on purpose. Best not to dazzle on Opening Day. Otherwise, they’ll expect magic all the time.
The most striking characteristic of Barack Obama is not his nimble mind, engaging manner or wide-ranging intellectual curiosity. It’s the absence of neediness. He’s Bill Clinton, master politician, but without the hunger.
Clinton craves your adulation (the source of all his troubles). Obama will take it, but he can leave it, too. He is astonishingly self-contained. He gives what he must to advance his goals, his programs, his ambitions. But no more. He has no need to.
In the scale of embarrassing place names, Crapstone ranks pretty high. But Britain is full of them. Some are mostly amusing, like Ugley, Essex; East Breast, in western Scotland; North Piddle, in Worcestershire; and Spanker Lane, in Derbyshire.
James Lovelock, the 90 year-old Scientist & originator of theoriginator of the Gaia theory, which describes Earth as a self-regulating planet. The biosphere pumps out 550 gigatonnes of carbon yearly; we put in only 30 gigatonnes. Ninety-nine per cent of the carbon that is fixed by plants is released back into the atmosphere within a year or so by consumers like bacteria, nematodes and worms. What we can do is cheat those consumers by getting farmers to burn their crop waste at very low oxygen levels to turn it into charcoal, which the farmer then ploughs into the field. A little CO2 is released but the bulk of it gets converted to carbon. You get a few per cent of biofuel as a by-product of the combustion process, which the farmer can sell. This scheme would need no subsidy: the farmer would make a profit. This is the one thing we can do that will make a difference, but I bet they won’t do it.
Do you think we will survive?
I’m an optimistic pessimist. I think it’s wrong to assume we’ll survive 2 °C of warming: there are already too many people on Earth. At 4 °C we could not survive with even one-tenth of our current population. The reason is we would not find enough food, unless we synthesised it. Because of this, the cull during this century is going to be huge, up to 90 per cent. The number of people remaining at the end of the century will probably be a billion or less. It has happened before: between the ice ages there were bottlenecks when there were only 2000 people left. It’s happening again.
I don’t think humans react fast enough or are clever enough to handle what’s coming up. Kyoto was 11 years ago. Virtually nothing’s been done except endless talk and meetings.