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Pieces Together

ANOTHER "EXPERT" SPEAKS

"This week Citigroup's already depressed shares have lost half their value, and shares of Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase are down 30 percent. Those declines have come despite reassuring comments from Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., who told National Public Radio a week ago that people were no longer worried about the possibility of a major bank failure. ‘I’ve got to tell you,’  he said. “I think our major institutions have been stabilized. I believe that very strongly.” The Standard & Poor’s index of 500 stocks fell by more than 6 percent on two consecutive days, Wednesday and Thursday, something that had not happened since July 20 and 21, 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, when panic was brought on by collapsing commodity prices. Such prices have fallen rapidly this week as well, as evidence mounted of a world recession." (New York Times, 20 November)

ANOTHER "EXPERT" RECANTS

"Alistair Darling will be forced to admit tomorrow that the credit crunch has plunged Britain into a deep recession, and the economy will contract for a full year in 2009, for the first time since the early Nineties. As the credit crisis ravaged the world's financial markets earlier this year, the Chancellor insisted repeatedly that Britain's `economic fundamentals` were sound. In the budget six months ago, he pencilled in a strong recovery for 2009." (Observer, 23 November)

GOOD BUSINESS PRACTICE

"The European Union accused drug companies on Friday of adding billions of dollars to health care costs by delaying or blocking the sale of less expensive generic medicines. One common tactic, said Neelie Kroes, the European competition commissioner, was for drug companies to amass patents to protect active ingredients in the medicines — in one case, 1,300 patents for a single drug. Another tactic, she said, was for pharmaceutical companies to sue the makers of generic drugs for ostensible patent violations, which tended to delay the availability of the lower-cost products for years. Ms. Kroes made her comments Friday while presenting the preliminary findings of a broad investigation into accusations of anticompetitive practices in the drug sector. She also turned her sights on the generics companies, which she said had received $200 million from pharmaceutical companies over seven years in exchange for holding their products off the market." (New York Times, 28 November)

WORLD HUNGER GROWS

"It is the new face of hunger. A perfect storm of food scarcity, global warming, rocketing oil prices and the world population explosion is plunging humanity into the biggest crisis of the 21st century by pushing up food prices and spreading hunger and poverty from rural areas into cities. Millions more of the world's most vulnerable people are facing starvation as food shortages loom and crop prices spiral ever upwards. And for the first time in history, say experts, the impact is spreading from the developing to the developed world. More than 73 million people in 78 countries that depend on food handouts from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) are facing reduced rations this year. The increasing scarcity of food is the biggest crisis looming for the world'', according to WFP officials." (Sunday Herald, 30 November)