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Voice From the Back

A high priest speaks

Markets are surely one of God's great gifts to mankind. But alas, man is conceited. Nowhere is this more manifest than in politics. Sir Alan Walters, Financial Mail on Sunday, 5 July.

A worshipper sings

Americans have been experiencing the heartiest bull market in history. The Dow Jones average of 30 blue-chip allegedly representative industrials has more than doubled, from 3,760 in June 1994 to flirting with 9,000 today. Unemployment is 4.3 percent while inflation and interest rates have inexplicably remained low . . . With the computer revolution at full throttle, the strictures of classical economics appear no longer relevant for the US. And the economic chattering classes-from the stately John Kenneth Galbraith through the cryptic Alan Greenspan to the trendy Esther Dyson-can only anticipate millennium market madness. Let the good times roll. Crocker Snow Jr, World Times, Boston, 5 July.

Hunger persuades

American legislation to put a time limit on welfare payments is proving a success as more people find jobs. Figures show that people are moving off the unemployment register twice as quickly now than before 1996, when Congress imposed the limits. The Republican law, which went much further than reforms being tried in Britain, was denounced as inhumane because it laid down that no one could receive more than a total of five years of welfare payments from the federal government during their lifetime. Telegraph, 20 June.

Sacrificial victim protests

[G]rowing evidence suggest that the larger the income gap, the wider the health gap. For example, infant mortality in social classes IV and V in the UK is twice as high as in Sweden. In America's booming economy, the gap has now reached the point where a child born in Bangladesh has a greater life expectancy than a child born in Harlem. Donald Read, Chief Executive, Association for Public Health, letter in Guardian, 23 July.

Noblesse oblige

Land reforms proposed for Scotland could destroy traditional family estates, according to the Duke of Buccleuch, Britain's largest landowner. The duke, 74, who owns more than 400 square miles, mainly in the Borders, said that the system of land ownership most [people] sought to preserve was falling apart . . . . In a 17-page document, the duke said that only 80 years ago nearly 90 percent of the countryside in Scotland was managed by traditional family run estates. Today it is less than 30 percent, due mainly, he said to a wealth tax in the form of estate duty. Daily Telegraph, 20 June.

Dirty neighbours

The governments of Norway, Sweden and Denmark are demanding that the Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria stops reprocessing after it was found that radioactive seaweed collected on their countries' coasts is a result of new discharges from the site. An analysis by Southampton University shows that levels of Technetium-99-a rare radioactive element which is a waste product of reprocessing plutonium-has increased 15-fold in Norwegian seaweed since the early 1990s. A new plant that discharges Technetium-99 was opened in 1994 at Sellafield and the increases are linked to that. Guardian, 18 June.

Ssh-not a word!

"Well, all this is a sanitised area," he said, gesturing at the hotel atop the ridge, the manicured lawns, the trimmed shrubs, the tennis courts, the winding driveway up to the front door, the police checkpoint, more police again in the woods. "Really, you're wasting your time," he said. "Really, you are-there's no one booked to play today." He was a plain clothes member of Operation Orchid, the codename given by Strathclyde police to the impenetrable security ring surrounding this year's Bilderberg meetings; a highly exclusive, little known and barely reported annual conference which has been held since 1954 at grand hotels across Europe and the USA. Attendees debate the state of the world and, critics insist, manipulate global politics and economics from behind the scenes. At Turnberry last month, the 120-strong guest list made intriguing reading . . . There was Henry Kissinger, David Rockefeller, billionaire chairman of the Chase Manhattan Bank; James Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank; Giovanni Agnelli, head of the Fiat empire; Javier Solana, secretary general of Nato; Jurgen Schrempp, chairman of Daimler-Benz; the chairmen or chief execs of the Xerox Corporation, BP, Reuters and a bunch of big-league banks and law firms; John Deutch, former head of the CIA; Tory leader William Hague, Kenneth Clarke, Leon Brittan; Defence Secretary George Robertson; assorted other politicos . . . No reporters are admitted, no press conferences held, and no record of what was said is published. Night & Day, 14 June.