Falling Sales severely hit UK Car Industry


Tags:  Cars, Diesel, EU, Nitrogen Oxide, Consumers, Trade Unions

2018 saw a decline in car sales of nearly seven per cent with consumer confidence declining due to the continuing uncertainty over Britain’s exit from the European Union on the one hand and on the other motorists increasingly unwilling to buy diesel powered cars. 

The sales figures at 2.37 million were the lowest for five years and lower than for 2017, when the financial crisis hit the UK as well as other countries.

Sales of diesel cars have fallen sharply due to air quality concerns and worries about taxation charges, despite the insistence by Britain’s car industry that the very latest vehicles have significantly reduced nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions.

After twenty-one consecutive months of decline in sales, 38 per cent less diesel cars are being sold than when sales were at their peak.  Diesel cars currently make up less than thirty-two per cent of the sales on the market.

The industry warned that Britain’s exit from the EU at the end of March risks the future of a sector which currently employs more than 850,000 people and has been one of the UK’s few success stories since the nineteen eighties.  

As a result of the falling sales, job losses are a looming threat to the car workers and a source of grave concern for Britain’s trade unions.



President Emmanuel Macron proposes National Debate about his Reforms


Tags: France, Macron, Finance, Taxes, Debate, Protests

The President of France, Emmanuel Macron proposed a National Debate over his economic reforms to attempt to restore calm after close to two months of violent protests nationwide.  Government ministers used public broadcasts to promote his plans for three months of discussions in town halls and online which would cover topics ranging from taxes, citizenship and democracy to the organisation of public services. 

The Finance minister Bruno le Maire was said to believe that the big debate will be the best way to reunite the people of France and bring their return to the “negotiating table”.

President Macron’s five-year term began with a series of unpopular economic overhauls, including the abolition of the Wealth Tax.  His next reforms include overhauls of France’s pension and unemployment services as well as changes in state bureaucracy and public services.

His reforms have been met with protests and demonstrations.  The “Yellow Vest” protests have tested his resolve to continue with his pace of reform and have already forced him into a ‘U-turn’ on tax policies.   Macron is said to be determined to continue with his major reforms and not undo what he has done so far.

The abolition of the Wealth Tax has so far proved the most unpopular measure and is opposed by a large section of the population.


Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren enters 2020 Presidential Campaign

Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Tags: Elections, Democrats, Massachusetts, Presidential, Ideology

The Democratic campaign to win the U.S. elections in 2020 launched in earnest on New Years Eve when Senator Elizabeth Warren declared her bid for Presidency

The Massachusetts Senator’s announcement was long expected and marked an official start to a Presidential Nomination Contest expected to feature one of the most diverse and largest fields of candidates in the history of both Democrats and Republicans.

Warrens e-mail announcement video defines her as an “economic populist” who is ready to challenge President Trump.  Her slogan ‘Join the Fight’ encapsulates her attitude.

Elizabeth Warren is known to be a sharp critic of big banks and unregulated capitalism and a warrior against powerful corporate interests.

The Democrats are currently hampered by having no broadly unifying ideology, as the party moves away from a quarter century of dominance by the Clintons and Obama.   

The obstacles Senator Warren faces are mainly the powerful big corporate interests in both main parties; her ideas overlap with that of Bernie Sanders the Vermont Democrat Senator. 

Dubbed cynically as “Pocahantas” by the current President Trump, she also faces problems of confirming her Native American heritage. 

Nevertheless, the United States needs a unifying force in the Presidency; something that is gravely lacking with the current President.


Coal Plants- New Proposal

Coal Plant in Virginia, USA

Washington USA:

New EPA Plan Could Free Coal Plants to Release More Mercury into the Air

Tags: Coal, Mercury, Environment, Power Plants, Health

The Trump Administration proposed major changes to the way the US Government calculates the benefits, in human health and safety, of restricting mercury emissions from coal burning power plants.

In the new proposal the United States Environment Protection Agency (EPA) issued a finding that the rules imposed by the previous administration were too costly to justify.

The EPA set a new precedent in changing the formula used in its required cost-benefit analysis of the regulation by considering only certain effects that can be measured in dollars.  It now ignored or played down other health benefits.

The proposal technically leaves the mercury restrictions in place.  However, by revising the underlying justifications for them, the Trump administration opened the door for coal mining companies to challenge the restrictions in Court.

The 2011 restrictions were the first to restrict some of the most hazardous pollutants emitted by coal plants.  The rules were long opposed by the coal plants.  However, the restrictions were one of Obama’s s unique and outstanding environmental achievements.

Channel Migrants

Dover Cliffs

Tags: Immigration, English Channel, Home Office, Dover, Trafficking

On 29th November 2018, the UK Immigration Minister defended the Government’s handling of the rise in migrants crossing the English Channel since November 2018.  During her visit to Dover, Caroline Nokes said the Home Secretary would cut short a family holiday to deal with the major incident.

The MP for Dover, Charlie Elphicke called for more patrol boats to tackle the problem, adding that the Home Office was not taking the matter seriously.

But Caroline Nokes, the Immigration Minister said the UK was working with the French authorities to try to prevent migrants from setting out; she pointed to an “enormous” ongoing intelligence led operation to deter people traffickers.

Britain’s National Crime Agency told the BBC that tackling the criminals behind these “extremely dangerous” attempted crossings was an “operational priority” and that significant resources were devoted to it.

On New Year’s Eve the UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid and his counterpart in France pledged to step up joint efforts to tackle cross-channel people smuggling; the British Labour Party on the other hand accused the Conservative Government of whipping up concern about the issue.

The Home Office confirmed that six Iranian men were found with a small boat on a beach near Deal in Kent on the morning before New Year’s Eve.  This brought the number of migrants who made the perilous crossing since 25/12/2018 to 100.

The Government declared the migrant crossings a major incident on Friday, and the Home Secretary flew back from holiday to take direct action.  Javid said the reasons for the channel crossings were complex and included instability in the Middle East as well as organised crime.

At the core of the problem are the human traffickers who are opportunist and callous.  There is reason to suspect that they may be exploiting the instability regions like the Middle East to lure migrants to cross the English Channel to arrive in the UK.




Business- Five Days


Sydney Apartment High Rise Evacuated After ‘Cracking’ Heard

(Associated Press)

More than 3,000 people living in or near the 36 storey Opal Tower complex at Sydney’s Olympic Park were evacuated on Christmas Eve after residents reported hearing ‘cracking’ noises.

The police in New South Wales, Australia said in a statement that the alarm was raised by reports of ‘cracking noises’ throughout the morning.

The residents had been taken to an evacuation centre.  It was not clear when they could return to their homes. Firefighters and engineers were expected to examine the cause of the reported cracks on the 10th floor of the Opal Tower, and to see whether the building is in danger of collapse.



Nissan’s Kelly granted bail by Tokyo court; Christmas release possible.

Former Nissan Motor Representative Director Greg Kelly was granted bail on Tuesday by a Tokyo court, and could be freed before the end of Christmas.  But Carlos Ghosn, Nissan’s ousted Chairman remains in custody.

Kelly and Ghosn were detained since their first arrest in November of 2018, on suspicion of understating Ghosn’s income for several years in Nissan’s financial statements.

The arrests jolted the global car industry.  There is also a strain on Nissan’s alliance with Renault.

A Nissan spokesman said the investigation into misconduct is “ongoing”.  The company had dismissed both men due to the investigation.



Oil rises After Breaching $50 as Market Chaos cloaks OPEC and cuts.

Oil prices in London dipped below $50 a barrel for the first time since July 2017 before recovering as the market turmoil and worries over the supply from the U.S. countered signs that OPEC and its allies may extend or deepen cuts in output.

Oil plunged more than 40 per cent from a four year high in October over the prospect of a supply glut.

While OPEC and its allies agreed to cut output earlier this month, investors are sceptical as to whether the reductions will be enough to dent growing supplies from the United States, especially from U.S. shale. 



Dow soars more than 1050 points its biggest point gain in history, recovering from days of losses.

Stocks on Wednesday climbed back from their severe Christmas Eve plunge as all three indexes posted big gains

The Dow Jones Industrial Average soared up to 1,086 points (or 4.98 per cent)-its biggest points gain in history-as stocks broke a four-day losing streak that placed the ten-year bull market on the edge of death on Monday.

It was the largest daily gain for markets since 2009.  Both the S&P and NASDAQ had their best day in three years.  But despite the big gains, all three indexes remained in the loss column by Boxing Day, Thursday.

Investors have been shaken by recent economic and political developments such as the abrupt resignation of Jim Mattis from his post of U.S. Defence Secretary.



HMV calls in Administrators  (Reuters)

Music retailer HMV said it was calling in the administrator and blamed a worsening market for CD’s and DVD’s.  The well-known company became the latest victim of brutal trading conditions in Britain’s retail sector.

KPMG, the accounting firm was named by HMV as its administrator and intends to keep the business running while seeking a potential buyer, according to a statement released by HMV on Friday.

The music retailer HMV went into administration previously in 2013, before its rescue by the restructuring specialist Hilco.  Since then it has been hit by competition from online rivals and music streaming services

HMV was first opened in 1921 on London’s Oxford Street by the English composer Edward Elgar.  It made itself famous with the ‘dog and trumpet’ image.


The 2019 Presidential Election in Afghanistan delayed by three months

Next year’s Presidential election scheduled for April 2019, was postponed for three months.  Election authorities told the BBC that a new date for mid-July or early August is to be announced.

Many potential candidates had been unable to meet the requirements for registration, for reasons involving the severe weather conditions which stopped their teams organising for a Spring date for the election.

The announcement to postpone the Presidential election came days after reports that the United States was to withdraw thousands of troops from the region.

Violence affected both the campaigning and the polling stations for the Parliamentary elections in October with ten candidates killed.  There were deadly blasts at polling stations and nearly a third were closed because of security concerns.

Although the United States troops cannot be expected to remain indefinitely, the Afghanistan Army needs more military and logistics support for its campaign against the Taliban and ‘Islamic State’, from both the United States and the NATO allies.  The withdrawal of troops perhaps should be compensated for by continued military supplies and enhanced logistical support for the Afghanistan Armed forces. 

The country has succeeded with great difficulty in removing the Taliban from power and limiting its influence.  It would be tragic for Afghanistan if military support for the country’s army were suddenly reduced.