May 2010

May 2  Unable to stimulate their economy because of massive debt combined with new austerity measures will create hardship for Greeks. Many are saying that for the Greeks the party is over. Tax evasions as a way of life is said to be at an end, and taxes are going up. For many, eating out and regular runs to movie houses are out. Unemployment is expected to rise.

May 3  In the Washington Post, David Ignatius expresses skepticism that the $145 billion bailout plan adopted yesterday will work. He describes the plan as "one of the most severe austerity programs, on paper at least, ever proposed for a developed country." There will be big cuts in public sector wages and pensions for three years. "For every five government workers who leave their jobs, only one will be hired." Also, the Greeks will be asked to change their financial culture, and Ignatius has his doubts about this or a needed cultural change elsewhere in the European Union. His colleague at the Washington Post, Sebastian Mallaby, worries that bailing out Greece will do little for the discipline needed elsewhere in the European Union.

May 4  Conan O'Brien, the comic with the pompadour, on Sixty Minutes two days ago spoke of his being fired from NBC's the Tonight Show. "I wish it had ended differently," he said. "But, I'm fine. I do believe, and this might be my Catholic upbringing or Irish magical thinking, but I think things happen for a reason. I really do." O'Brien has a B.A. in History from Harvard. His fatalism negates the idea held by historians that history is created by people interacting with each other and their environment. Oh well!

May 5  Another failed bombing in the US, on May 2, at Times Square in New York City. It was more ineptitude by the perpetrators and more luck for the United States. The bomber, Faisal Shahzad, was taken into custody yesterday. He is a US citizen who came to the US from Pakistan as a student in 1999. He recently had to give up the house he had bought.

May 5  The Greeks are not producing as much wealth as people in Germany, but there are people in Greece who believe they should enjoy benefits that exceed that of Germans. Today they are striking against their government's austerity program. Three have died. Greece's Communist Party has joined the strike.

May 6  A hyperbolic newscaster on television described today as the worst day ever on Wall Street. The Dow dropped almost 1000 points but ended the day down 347.80 – at 10,520. A computer glich is supposed to have kicked in selling that was not supposed to have occurred. Some quick traders made a lot of money on the spring back from today's bottom. Google's stock opened the day at 509, rose to 517.52, fell to 460, ended the day at 498 and fell to 492 in after-hours panic trading.

May 6  Today Greece's parliament passed a tough austerity package, while a strike and demonstrations showed signs of fizzle. Spain is the country to watch if you are nervous about fiscal crisis contagion, the European Union and the Euro. News out of Spain yesterday was encouraging for those not wanting economic disaster there.

May 7  Leaders of the 16 EU member states approve the EU-International Monetary Fund loan of $145 billion to Greece. No news in the US today about continuing rioting in Greece.

May 9  On Zakaria's GPS, professor and expert on the Middle East, Fawaz Gerges, describes al Qaeda as no longer existing as a centralized organization – as "a Mecca of Terror," adds the philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy. Terrorism, the panelists agree, now springs (in part at least) from the perception among some Muslims that the West is at war with Islam.

May 10  The European Union has announced a $1 trillion package to support the euro and prop up troubled European Union economies. Stock markets surge. The Dow today gains 405 points. Google rises 26 points to $520 per share. But many remain skeptical, believing that a widespread lack of discipline will cause the bailout to fail.

May 12  In Madagascar, Andry Rajoelina, the disc jockey who rode to power in March 2009 with the backing of the military, announces that "in the interest of the nation" he will not be a candidate in the election later this year. South Africa and France were among the powers that disapproved of his move. Rajoelina has not been able to do what he wanted to do. France, the former ruler of Madagascar, says Rajoelina's decision would put Madagascar on a path to returning to constitutional order.

May 12  Research conducted by U.C. Santa Cruz has claimed "that, in all probability, there was gene flow from Neanderthals to modern humans." The research indicates that modern ethnic groups other than African carry traces of Neanderthal DNA. The guess is that Neanderthals mixed with early humans in the Middle East just after they left Africa and before the humans scattered around the globe. The study gauged Neanderthal DNA as 99.7 percent identical to modern human DNA and chimpanzee DNA at 98.8 percent. No conclusive evidence exists of successful mating between humans and chimps.

May 14  More genetics. The environment's impact on genetic change is observed in people who live in high elevations in Tibet. The BBC reports that University of Utah researchers have found ten genes that have evolved in Tibetans that enable these Tibetans to thrive at heights where others get sick.

May 14  In downtown Bangkok, troops fire tear gas and bullets. Red-shirt protesters respond with stones, slingshots and homemade rockets. It is said that 18 have been killed and 141 wounded. Government forces are reported to be tightening their cordon around the protesters.

May 18  China's richest businessman until recently, Huang Guangyu, is found guilty of bribery, insider trading and illegal business practices. He is sentenced to 14 years in prison.

May 19  In Bangkok, Thailand, the army moves with full force to clear red-shirt protesters from the city center. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva describes it as returning "the country to peace and order." The protesters disperse and set fires.

May 20  The New York Times reports that in Bangkok a small group of exhausted protesters "filed out of a Buddhist temple where they had taken refuge, bewildered and frightened, some in tears." They faced a line of female police officers who told them, 'Don’t be afraid. You’re safe now. Have a safe journey home."

May 21  For more than a week or two, people, probably in the hundreds, have been saying that austerity programs by the Greeks and other debt-ridden Europeans are not going to allow sufficient economic recovery to avoid a financial-debt crisis, that the recent trillion dollar bailout (see May 10) does not solve the problem. This is a prediction that an international banking crisis is on the way. Yesterday stock markets plunged. In the US, the Dow fell 379 points, its biggest one-day drop since February 2009, ending the day at 10,068.

May 25  In Jamaica, Prime Minister Bruce Golding (the chief of state is Queen Elizabeth) has given into pressures to extradict an old ally, the "drug lord" or "public spirited business man," Christopher Coke, to the United States. The result is a war that today has resulted in 31 deaths according to the BBC.

May 28  Lenin's Bolshevik party supported labor unions and strikes until they acquired power. In China today the Communist Party is tolerating the strike at a Honda transmission factory in the country's southeast. Reporters from state-controlled media are covering the strike. According to the New York Times, at least a few government officials and economists in China believe that Chinese workers should have higher wages.

May 30  In Pakistan the police blame agents of the Taliban in North Waziristan for yesterday's attack on two mosques in Lahore that killed 93 people. The victims were Ahmadi Muslims, a group founded in the 1800s. Historically, murder for conformity has not worked.

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