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10 Senseless Disasters in Naval Warfare

10 Senseless Disasters in Naval Warfare

If people thought rationally, we wouldn’t even have wars. When we do war, it’s no wonder that mistakes are made and lives and resources are thrown away. It is well that war is so terrible, Lee supposedly said. The most terrible thing of all is the senseless disposal of blood and treasure when it could have been avoided.

10 General Belgrano

In 1938, the US commissioned the USS Phoenix. This Brooklyn-class light cruiser featured 15-6” guns. This class of ships were very sturdy for their day. All of the major classes of cruiser the US used in WWII were based on this design. The Phoenix herself was one of the few ships to escape damage at Pearl Harbor.

In 1951, the Phoenix was sold to the Argentine Navy, and renamed the ’17 de Octubre’. As a major unit in a minor navy, she was an important part of the coup that overthrew Dictator Juan Peron. After the coup, she was finally renamed General Belgrano.

During the 1982 Falklands War between the UK and Argentina, the Belgrano was dispatched to an area near the islands. The British had declared a Total Exclusion Zone surrounding the area. Radio traffic indicated that the Argentinians had decided to violate the TEZ. (Link 1)

Despite her age, Belgrano could cause a lot of damage if she reached the British fleet. She could also shell the islands and threaten the British invasion. On May 2, Prime Minister Thatcher authorized the attack on Belgrano. At approximately 4 p.m. local, the nuclear attack sub HMS Conqueror fired three torpedoes at the ship. Two of them struck and caused massive damage. Though the Belgrano was in a hostile area, she was cruising with watertight doors open. She quickly filled with water and lost electrical power. Unable to pump the water clear, the Belgrano’s percussively named commander, Captain Hector Bonzo, ordered abandon ship 20 minutes after the torpedoes struck.

Belgrano’s two escorting Destoyers simply ignored what was happening and continued on, leaving the survivors to fend for themselves. Over the next two days many of the crew were rescued. 323 sailors, including two civilian workers, died in the attack.

Why it was senseless

At the time the Belgrano was attacked, the British had already informed the Argentines that nuclear submarines would attack any Argentine ship in the area. Nothing in the Argentine inventory could match such a threat. No one is quite sure why the Belgrano was cruising in a peacetime material condition, other than sheer incompetence. (Link 2) Lastly, Belgrano’s escorting destroyers failed to escort. They just sailed in the same general direction and left their charge to her fate.

9 USS Juneau

In November 1942, the US was beginning its strategic offensive against the Imperial Japanese Empire. The first major campaign took place in the Solomon Islands, at Guadalcanal. The Japanese resisted furiously. The fate of the US Marines fighting on Guadalcanal depended on being able to deny the Japanese reinforcements, and the use of Henderson Field. IJN (Imperial Japanese Navy) attempts to shell the field at night were dubbed the ‘Tokyo Express’. The Japanese were superior night fighters, preferring to close the range and use accurate gunfire and Long Lance torpedoes to quickly subdue the enemy.

On the night of 13 November, the American defensive forces were commanded by Admiral Daniel Callaghan. His force was comprised of Heavy and Light Cruisers, and eight Destroyers. The USS Juneau was playing the role of light cruiser, when in fact she was more of a heavily armed Destroyer. Built as an ‘anti-aircraft’ Cruiser, she was festooned with 16-5” guns, instead of the heavier 6” or 8” guns of most Cruisers.

The Americans sailed offshore of Guadalcanal in the area of expected attack. Callaghan had deployed his radar-equipped ships in places where the new technology did little good. The Japanese approached with a powerful force of two fast Battleships, a Cruiser, and 11 Destroyers. Given the Japanese night advantage, they spotted the Americans first and opened fire.

Surrounded, Admiral Callaghan responded to the attack by ordering his odd ships to fire in one direction, and his even ships in the other. Unfortunately, none of his ship commanders knew whether they were odd or even. The ensuing melee favored the Japanese even more. American ships ganged up on single Japanese vessels, leaving others to systematically pummel the Americans. Japanese torpedo fire was very accurate, resulting in many hits. In the confusion, the US ships were badly mauled, and the Juneau was struck with a torpedo.

With a broken keel and most ship systems out of order, the Juneau retreated from the area and limped away. The next day, while slowly steaming to be repaired with other American ships, the Juneau was again struck with a torpedo fired from a Japanese submarine. She blew up, split in two, and sank in 20 seconds. Her escorting ships, themselves damaged, left the 100 or so survivors to their fate. In the typical narrative of WWII Pacific shipwrecks, the survivors were decimated by thirst, exposure, and shark attacks. They spent over a week in the water, when at last 10 survivors out of a crew of 700 were rescued.

Why it was senseless

The Juneau was never intended to be a Light Cruiser. (Link 3) She was built to be a Destroyer Leader and anti-aircraft ship. Callaghan’s ambiguous orders and poor unit disposition meant the American advantage of radar was thrown away. There were American Battleships in the area, but they were considered too valuable to risk in close-range night actions. In fact, two Battleships had to be deployed to Guadalcanal the next day to reinforce the ravaged American forces. Finally, the Juneau carried all five Sullivan brothers, who were all either atomized, trapped in a sinking wreck, or eaten by sharks. (Link 4) Allied forces had already learned to scatter relatives and neighbors amongst widely separated units. That the Sullivans were allowed to serve on a single vessel is a testament to the power of WWII American propaganda.

8 The Final Voyage of the Yamato

Before the final invasion of Japan in 1945, the US invaded Okinawa. This strategic island was the last fighter base standing between American bombers and the Japanese Home Islands. It could also be used as a staging area and airfield.

This late in the war, the Japanese had already resorted to kamikaze tactics. Throughout the war, they had used the bonsai charge which was essentially a suicide attack by troops to shock the enemy. With honor to uphold and held responsible for the complete failure to defeat the Americans, the IJN’s turn had come to make similar sacrifices. That sacrifice was to be the Yamato.

As the largest Battleship ever built, Yamato had been held back to take part in a mythic final battle which would utterly defeat the Americans and save the Japanese Empire. Her systems were in good repair and she was ready for action. Operation Ten-Go envisioned that Yamato would steam from Japan to Okinawa, wreak havoc among the landing fleet, and beach herself as an unsinkable fort to blast away at the Americans. She was given enough fuel for a one-way trip.

At midday on April 7, Yamato was transiting to Okinawa when she was attacked by 280 American planes. Over the next 3 hours, 400 US planes would strike in three waves. With no air-cover and in perfect weather, the Yamato was an easy target. Struck by 6 bombs and 11 torpedoes, she eventually succumbed to the relentless attacks and capsized. Her forward magazines detonated and created a titanic mushroom cloud, thought to be the largest conventional explosion at sea. (Link 5) Over 3,000 of her crew perished, many of them drawn back to the ship by the suction of her capsizing, to be obliterated in the resulting blast.

Why it was senseless

The Yamato had been designed to overcome American numerical superiority with sheer power. The Japanese never really used her. Even though the Japanese practiced Carrier tactics successfully, they maintained their theory of a final surface battle between fleets of Battleships. After all, they had destroyed the Russians at Tsushima. (link to Tsushima section). By preserving her, the Japanese had denied themselves a powerful asset which could have tipped the balance at any number of actions. Furthermore, the Yamato had taken part at Leyte Gulf, when she actually broke through the American defenses and had the opportunity to sink the invasion fleet off Leyte. Her Admiral turned her back, and another magnificent opportunity was lost. Beset by constant the fear of defeat, the Japanese leadership had become delusional, and overestimated the effectiveness of suicide attacks. (Link 6)

7 Cressy, Houge, and Aboukir

Prior to WWI, Naval technology advanced rapidly. One consequence is that some ships were being built which were already obsolete. Such is the case with the Armored Cruiser. They had poor underwater protection and old-fashioned armor. They were slow. Their guns were smaller than Battlecruisers, which replaced them. They still found use on remote stations or raiding trade routes, but didn’t belong in the main theater.

Allied victory in the war depended on a naval blockade of Germany. This meant maintaining regular patrols in the North Sea at the exit of the Baltic. Contrary to advice and manned by Reservists, the Armored Cruisers Cressy, Houge, and Aboukir reinforced light unit patrols in the North Sea. Vulnerable to submarines and unable to outrun or outgun any modern heavy units, the three Cruisers were little more than a sink for excess manpower and resources which could have been employed elsewhere.

On the morning of September 22nd 1914, with no destroyer escort, the cruisers patrolled their assigned area in the North Sea. This early in the war, the threat of submarine attack was little appreciated. Without zig-zagging and in laid-back trim, the obsolete ships were extremely vulnerable. At 6:20 am, the German submarine U-9 fired a single torpedo at Aboukir which struck her starboard side. Aboukir’s captain thought he had struck a mine, and signaled to the other two ships to close and render assistance. The commander of the Hogue realized it was a submarine attack, but too late. He was already stopped and lowering boats near the capsizing Aboukir. Cressy searched for periscopes as U-9 fired another two torpedoes, which both struck Hogue at 6:55. As Aboukir sank, the lightened U-9 broached the surface and then disappeared from view. Cressy fired a few rounds in response as Hogue sank at 7:15. Attempting to ram the submerging U-9, Cressy overshot the target and was rewarded with a torpedo strike from U-9’s stern tubes. Finally, U-9 came about and administered the coup de grace at 7:30. Cressy sank with heavy loss of life at 7:55. (Link 7)

In 90 minutes a single rickety WWI submarine had wiped out an entire Armored Cruiser squadron and killed over 1,400 men.

Why it was senseless

Even in 1914 many naval thinkers had warned of the dangers of submarine attack. The new torpedo technology was known to be of extreme peril to armored ships, and had driven development of the newer, more elaborate armor schemes. Cressy, Hogue, and Aboukir had no business being in a strategic battle area, and their Reservist men could have been employed elsewhere. By cruising around in straight lines instead of zig-zagging, the squadron commanders had presented themselves as easy targets to the U-9. Still battle green, they then attempted gallantry instead of defending themselves from the obvious submarine threat. The British Naval structure blamed the unit and ship commanders for the errors, but widespread opinion properly blamed the Admiralty itself. (Link 8).

6 The Russian defeat at Tsushima

In 1904 and 05, the Russians and Japanese decided to have a war. The colossal Russian empire was widely expected to thrash the Japanese. The Japanese, newly minted as a modern industrial and martial power, then proceeded to stubbornly refuse to be beaten. They defeated the Russians in land battle after sea battle, culminating with the annihilation of the Russian Baltic Fleet in the straights of Tsushima.

In a now familiar tactic, Japanese began the war in 1904 with a surprise torpedo attack against the Russian base at Port Arthur. After losing the base itself and a further fleet, the Russians sought to restore their reputation. The Tsar dispatched the unpronounceable Vice Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky and the remaining battleships of the Baltic Fleet to see off the Japanese.

You may have noticed that the Baltic Sea is on the other side of the planet from Japan. This meant the ships had to sail around the world to prosecute battle. The British, cozy with Japan, refused passage through the Suez Canal. Their decision might have been influenced by the Russian attack of British fishing trawlers in the North Sea. (Link 9) Apparently the Russians mistook the ungainly trawlers for Japanese torpedo boats, and opened fire with Battleships. Why Japanese torpedo boats would be trolling the Dogger Bank out of formation and at very low speeds, the Russians have never explained.

So began a truly ill-fated voyage. Decks stacked with coal and denied British coaling stations, the Russian fleet made its way around Africa to Madagascar. By this time their hulls were thick with marine growth and moved even slower than the pathetically obsolete gunboats the Russian command had insisted take part in the voyage. Russian sailors accustomed to the frigid winters of the northern Baltic roasted their way across the Indian Ocean, around Southeast Asia, and finally north toward Vladivostok.

Awaiting them was the redoubtable Admiral Togo. His crack Japanese fleet of modern British-pattern Battleships and Armored Cruisers was battle hardened and ready for action. With the Russians in line to transit the Tsushima Straight between Japan and Korea, Togo easily ‘crossed the T’ of the Russians, bringing all of his guns to bear on the hapless, worn-down, tattered Baltic Fleet.

From 2 pm on May 27 1905, through the night, and the next day, the sad demolition of the valiant but ill-prepared Russians took place. Russia lost 11 battleships and 7 of 8 cruisers, not to mention 8 out of 9 destroyers and most of the resupply ships. Japan even captured the Russian hospital ships. The Russian flagship was set on fire and out of action within 45 minutes of commencement of battle. The rest were either destroyed by gunfire, captured by the Japanese, interned in neutral ports, or scuttled by their crews. Japan had wiped out Russian power in the Far East, and military tacticians and strategists everywhere savored every detail of the ‘Battle of Annihilation’. Most realized Japan had assumed a Major Power role in Asia, except for the Americans who wouldn’t learn the lesson fully until 1942.

This battle effectively ended the Russo-Japanese war. Peace was brokered by American President Theodore Roosevelt, who won himself a tidy Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

Why it was senseless

Sending a mix of modern and ancient vessels on an 18,000 mile trip to restore Russian pride was ill-advised. It was just another symptom of the disconnect between Russia’s creaking Tsarist Empire and stark reality. Without securing coaling and allied support, the Russians had ensured their already slow ships would be encumbered with marine fouling and even stacked coal on deck, obscuring guns and sightlines. Failing to appreciate the complete superiority and dogged persistence of the Japanese, Russia had expended all of its military resources in the area, ensuring Japanese dominance until 1945. Russia had not only lost its Asian assets, but thrown away its Baltic Fleet as well. The Russians should have just stayed home and accepted terms.

5 The collision of the Victoria and Camperdown

In 1893, France and Britain had not yet welded an uncomfortable alliance through two World Wars. They were colonial rivals with a thousand years of warfare and blood between them. France stood over the Mediterranean Sea, though she had lost most of her possessions there to Britain in the Napoleonic Wars. The Med is the way to the Suez Canal. That ditch is the way to India. India was the Raj. The Raj was the jewel in the crown of the world’s greatest Empire.

Britain kept her main fleet in the Mediterranean. Its command was the station of highest tactical accomplishment. Afterward, an officer settled down to the Admiralty and a life of politicking. This was the instrument of Pax Britannica, and Britain had not fought a major fleet battle since Trafalgar. The ships were polish and buff, with drill and maneuver of utmost importance. Smart crews and snappy evolutions were the order of the day, in the absence of any real outside threat.

One man to lead a fleet of such eminence was Vice Admiral Sir George Tryon. He is the archetype of a British gentleman. Lineage involving battles of Empire. Eton. Naval Cadet. Every social contact, required post, and timely promotion.

Naval officers were expected to be conservative in the extreme. Tryon, himself known to be full of ‘theories’, expected sharp discipline and adherence to order in fleet movement. To this end he often ordered complex maneuvers which taxed the communication and navigation of every ship. He would often order maneuvers without briefing his officers beforehand. They were expected to comply with obedience to their Commander. After two years of command, Tryon had drilled most of the initiative out of his Captains.

On June 22, 1893, the Fleet was engaged in just such maneuvers. Tryon’s flagship, HMS Victoria, led one column of Battleships. Another column was led by HMS Camperdown, with Tryon’s second-in-command, Rear Admiral Albert Hastings Markham, aboard.

The columns proceeded at 8 knots, about 1,200 yards apart. Tryon then ordered that the columns increase speed, and turn inward. This was supposed to reverse direction of the fleet while preserving the two-column configuration. This was a problem because the turning radius of Battleships was about 600 yards. 1,200 – (600 + 600) = 0. Markham himself objected to the maneuver, but a sharp retort from Tryon got him moving.

The lead ships dutifully made their turns and the columns approached each other. Officers in both columns assumed Tryon would change the orders at the last second.

As Camperdown approached Victoria, it became apparent that no further orders would be given. The Captain of the Victoria asked to reverse engines three times when it was apparent a collision would occur. Tryon finally gave permission but it was too late. The ponderous battlewagons bore down on each other. At the last minute, Tryon shouted over to the Camperdown to reverse engines.

Camperdown struck Victoria in the starboard bow. Battleships of the day had huge, heavy ram bows underwater. Ramming was still considered a viable tactic. Camperdown’s ram prow did its job. As the reversed screws finally pulled the ships apart, Camperdown excavated a huge hole in Victoria’s side.

Due to the midday June heat, every hatch and door on Victoria was wide open for ventilation. She rapidly flooded and capsized in 13 minutes despite heroic efforts to save her. Men poured out of the hatches and portholes as the ship foundered. They then rode the ship over like lumberjacks on a log, scurrying down the ship’s turning hull. Those near the still-turning screws were torn to pieces. (Link 10) A few minutes and boiler explosions later, Victoria sank beneath the waves in a circle of bubbles and disappeared from sight. 358 men died. Tryon went down with the ship, reportedly taking responsibility to the end.

Why it was senseless.

Tryon just made a mistake. He had drilled order into his Officers, something required for the expected fleet engagements of the day. The previous major fleet engagement since Trafalgar, Lissa, had incorrectly shown that ramming was a viable tactic. The Battleships of the late Victorian Era therefore had exaggerated ram bows which contributed to the disaster. Too much faith in the untested construction of the ships, and the untested drill of the crews, led to Victoria sailing with watertight doors open. One positive outcome was a review of the Royal Navy, which led to much higher standards for combat readiness, just in time for WWI.

4 The Royal Navy loses 3 Battlecruisers in one engagement

The rate of Naval construction and technology advancements continued apace prior to WWI. Radical changes were wrought in ship design. The normally conservative service even tolerated an upstart Admiral, Sir Jackie Fisher.

Fisher revolutionized ship design. He called for more, bigger, guns. Higher speeds at any cost. If armor was to be sacrificed, so be it. The RN was for hunting down and destroying enemies, not defensive measures.

An offshoot of this philosophy was the evolution of the Battlecruiser. Traditional Armored Cruisers had triple expansion steam engines, 4 mid-caliber weapons around 8 or 9 inches in caliber, indifferent scattered protection, and a top speed of 18 or 19 knots. Fischer revolutionized the idea of the big cruiser, and the Battlecruiser was born.

With 8 or more weapons of Battleship caliber, 12” and larger, Battlecruisers carried almost as much striking power as the new Dreadnoughts. Longer, heavier, and with more powerful turbines, they were much faster. All of this came at the price of armor protection, which remained on the scale of the previous Armored Cruisers. Hull construction, too, was based on cruiser design and not really to the standards of Battleships.

This is a dangerous combination. An Admiral would be tempted to use Battlecruisers, with their Capital Ship striking power, in a fleet action. They would then be subject to fire from opposing heavy weapons, which they were never designed to withstand. The RN found out the consequences of such temptations at Jutland.

Much has been written of Jutland, the most exciting inconclusive sea battle of all time. Massive fleets of heavy Battleships slugged it out, with racing squadrons of Battlecruisers darting up and down the lines. The Germans were turned away, and the Blockade was maintained. But not before they had struck deadly blows against the Royal Navy.

German Battlecruisers had slightly smaller weapons and much heavier armor than their British counterparts. They were fast, deadly, and very, very tough.

In the main Battlecruiser action, the ‘Run to the South’, the Germans destroyed HMS Indefatigable at 4:03 pm and HMS Queen Mary at 4:26. Both ships suffered catastrophic magazine explosions which caused rapid sinking and heavy loss of life. (Link 11)

HMS Invincible appeared out of the battle mist at 6:02 pm, to be greeted by gunfire from two German Battlecruisers. She too suffered a catastrophic magazine explosion within 90 seconds of entering action.

Between the three ships, 3,309 men were killed. There were 26 survivors.

Why it was senseless

Battlecruisers were a grand idea which only found proper use one time: destroying their obsolete forebears at the Battle of the Falklands. The Royal Navy emphasis on speed and firepower for offense was a fine sentiment. Her Dreadnoughts were extremely tough and powerful. But the application of these theories to ships meant to scout and engage less powerful enemies was incorrect. Battlecruisers were supposed to destroy anything they outgunned, and run from anything they didn’t. That they were engaged against their more conservative and tougher German counterparts doesn’t remove the fact that they were imbalanced designs which had no place engaging in fleet actions, or even engaging equals. (Link 12)

3 The loss of the Hood

HMS Hood was the pride of the Royal Navy. Under construction and redesigned after the lessons of Jutland, she was ostensibly a Battlecruiser. Heavier armor and 8 excellent 15” Mark 1 rifles lent her status as the first Fast Battleship. At the time of her construction, she was indeed one of the most powerful ships afloat. British commitments between the wars, in an era of escalating tension, meant the Fleet Flagship could not be pulled from service for needed updates. In 1940, the Hood, along with the still fitting-out HMS Prince of Wales, was dispatched to hunt and destroy the Bismarck, feared arch-battleship of the newly risen Kreigsmarine.

As one senseless act follows another, Bismarck herself, escorted by the heavy cruiser Prince Eugen, was sent to the Atlantic to commerce raid. Only a system as insane as Naziism would conceive of sending a brand-new Battleship to sink freighters. Of course the idea was a fearsome one to the British, who stopped at nothing to protect her lifeline to America and the rest of the Empire.

Early on the morning of May 24, HMS Hood and Prince of Wales spotted Bismarck and Prince Eugen in the Denmark Straight. Hood’s commander, cognizant of Hood’s vulnerabilities, sought to close the range as soon as possible, thus protecting her deck and presenting the stouter side armor to Bismarck’s 15” shells. This also meant that Bismarck and Prince Eugen fired broadsides at the British, who were restricted to their forward guns only as they cut a sharp turn toward the enemy. (Link 13)

Before Hood could close range, the now familiar bloom of smoke and flame from a propellant deflagration rose from the Mighty Hood, enveloping her. The shells of the forward magazine then detonated, breaking her in two. When the cloud dissipated, only her bow was visible, standing straight up. The pride of the Royal Navy, boogey of the Kriegsmarine’s every fleet exercise, was gone in three short minutes, which is the number of survivors from the disaster. 1,418 men died. Prince of Wales, guns malfunctioning and still with civilian workmen on board, beat a hasty retreat. Bismarck herself was harried and hounded to her gruesome demise in the Eastern Atlantic. Prince Eugen had already been dispatched to safety at Brest.

Why it was senseless

After years of retrospect, we can only conclude that the desperation of the British to bring Bismarck to action was backwards thinking. Even Bismarck’s sister, Tirpitz, caused death and destruction lying in a Norwegian fjord. Rumor of her movement caused the scattering and near annihilation of PQ 17, the ill-fated convoy to northern Russia. The vulnerabilities of the Hood were well-known. To bring her to action, acknowledging her dangerous shortcomings by closing the range in a radical maneuver between line-of-battle ships, just reinforces the point. Whether the Hood was an updated Battlecruiser or Fast Battleship is irrelevant. The British knew she was deficient and sent her to action. Carriers and submarines were more than a match for Bismarck.

2 Force Z

The British, with a vast Pacific Empire and engagements in Europe, was spread thin at the beginning of the war. The lighting advance of the Japanese down the Malay peninsula brought fears of an invasion of Australia. Worse yet, the loss of Singapore (sorry Australia). Without adequate resources or air cover, the Admiralty dispatched Prince of Wales, late of Denmark Straight, and the Battlecruiser Repulse, to the area.

The hastily assembled squadron was code-named Force Z. Tasked with preventing or destroying further Japanese landings in Malaysia, Admiral Tom Phillips sought to bring to action any Japanese force he could find. Rumored landings north of Singapore led Force Z to head north, where they were greeted by the now familiar swarms of Japanese dive bombers and torpedo bombers. Admiral Phillips, long a critic of air power and a believer in heavy guns, dismissed the idea of magnificent Royal Navy Capital Ships being sunk while maneuvering at sea.

Predictably, Repulse and Prince of Wales were beset by wave after wave of air attack. Repulse actually lasted longer than Prince of Wales. Despite being a Battlecruiser and nearly 20 years older than Prince of Wales, expert ship-handling prolonged her agony a bit more. Prince of Wales, of brand-new design and built to withstand air and torpedo attack, simply succumbed to sheer numbers.

827 men died between the two ships. (Link 14) British Capital Ship presence in Asia had been eliminated in one afternoon.

Why it was senseless

Pearl Harbor. The assault at Taranto, conducted by the British themselves. Torpedoes. Worst of all, no air cover. A British carrier was available, but left behind due to her low speed. The destruction of Force Z was more than just an overextension of British resources. It was a vast oversight by an over-optimistic decision apparatus which threw two Capital Ships away for nothing. The lighting Japanese advance down the Malay peninsula continued unabated. Singapore fell even sooner than the British dreaded. The widespread use of bicycles by the attacking Japanese had hastened the fall of one of the Jewels of the British Empire.

1 The English crews at the Spanish Armada

This Defense of the Realm has all the hallmarks of British naval history.  The English used superior technology in the form of long-range guns to avoid being boarded by the numerically-superior Spanish.  Fire ships and harassment tactics were creatively employed to keep the Spanish off their game and sow confusion.  The outnumbered English rally around the Crown and pull together in defense of their island nation.

This was truly a victory which saved England, and we’d expect that the sailors would have been brought home heroes with the 1588 equivalent of a ticker-tape parade.

Not quite. Elizabeth I vowed to defend England with the heart of a King, but she didn’t rush to pay her heroic sailors. After the battle, the crews were sequestered on their ships in English harbors. If and when the sailors were let ashore, where they landed was often nowhere near their homes. Compounding their troubles was the lack of pay or care for their injuries and illnesses. Not until 1593, five years after the battle, did the Elizabethan government decide to offer any monetary relief for men injured in any battle action. (Link 15)

The situation became so desperate that the leader of the English fleet, Lord Howard of Effingham, dipped into his own purse to help the men out. During the battle, Sir Francis Drake had audaciously captured the Spanish Rosario as war booty. Howard of Effingham requisitioned some of this money to relieve the men who had fought so gallantly under him. (Link 16). Effingham then extended his own credit to near-bankruptcy seeking to redress the crime.

Despite losing only 100 men in the actual Armada battles, over 7,000 English sailors perished due to typhus, dysentery, and other diseases. (Link 2)

Why it was senseless

The British government is over 70 times more lethal to its own sailors than a hostile enemy fleet.

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Is the long wait over?

The Economist

Is the long wait over?

Jan 31st 2011, 15:09 by J.D. | LONDON

FOR some background to the unrest sweeping through Egypt, you might want to look at our special report on Egypt, published six months ago. In it, Max Rodenbeck, The Economist‘s Middle East correspondent, argued that after 30 years of economic progress but political paralysis, change was in the air. The report chronicles the economic hardships that most Egyptians endure on a daily basis, the way a rotten education system lets them down, and the elaborate charade that is elections in Egypt. It also points out that despite concerns in the West that democracy might bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power, a fear encouraged by Egypt’s government which has long set itself up as a bulwark against Islamism, the religious wave that swept the country in the 1970s no longer has the revolutionary power it did then. At the end, the report ponders what might come after the end of Mr Mubarak’s reign. That question might be answered sooner than anyone thought.


The Special Report


The long wait

After three decades of economic progress but political

paralysis, change is in the air, says Max Rodenbeck

A special report on Egypt

Jul 15th 2010 | from PRINT EDITION

TRAVELLING into Cairo, Egypt’s monster-sized but curiously intimate capital, it is hard to tell if these are the best of times or the worst. Visitors who have long known the city are in two minds. Egyptian expatriates returning home are liable to cringe at the worse-than-ever traffic, the ever-louder noise, the fervid religiosity, and what they often bemoan as a new aggressiveness that spoils their nostalgia for a sweeter, cheerier Egypt. But tourists who came here, say, 20 years ago, tend to delight in the sleeker look of the place, the surprisingly efficient and still friendly service, the far better quality and variety of goods in the markets, and the fact that some taxis now actually have functioning meters.

Both impressions are right. The new World Bank-funded, Turkish-built terminal at Cairo International airport is as blandly functional as Cincinnati’s or Stockholm’s. Gone are the sweaty officials and greasy baggage handlers of yore, the taxi touts and shoving crowds. A businessman arriving here may be whisked in an Egyptian-built car to the cigar bar at one of Cairo’s dozens of swish hotels—perhaps one at City Stars, a commercial complex on the scale and in the style of Las Vegas. Or perhaps to another fancy hotel in one of the burgeoning gated exurbs in the desert, surrounded by the lavishly watered greenery of a designer golf course. There, the talk will be of beach houses and yachts on the Red Sea, of hot stocks on the Cairo exchange, and of Egypt’s delightfully low-cost labour.

A less lucky traveller, however, might instead see these things as most Egyptians do: in the giant backlit billboards that clutter Cairo’s roadsides and rooftops, vividly flaunting the unattainable. The consumer paradise they display, with perfect hair, light-skinned children and men in pinstripe suits, stands in stark contrast to the harried, shuffling crowds below. Such sights will probably be accompanied by an earful of complaint from the driver stuck in a jam: about corrupt traffic cops and the absurd impossibility of feeding and schooling the kids on $150 a month, but above all about politics, the staple of all Middle Eastern conversationalists.

Political talk in Egypt has always been acidly cynical, but now a new bitterness has crept in. This has not been prompted by any change from above, since little has really changed in Egyptian politics since President Hosni Mubarak came to office 29 years ago. The sour mood is informed instead by the contrast between rising aspirations and enduring hardships; by a growing sense of alienation from the state; and by the unease of anticipation as the end of an era inevitably looms ever closer.

It is not surprising that Egyptians should feel rather like driftwood on the Nile, accelerating towards one of the great river’s cataracts. Their current pharaoh is 82 years old, visibly ailing, and has no anointed successor. Most of his people have known no other leader. The vast majority have grown so inured to having no say in the course of events that the reflex is to float patiently rather than try to paddle. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for November this year and presidential ones for September next. As usual, few citizens are likely to take part. They will watch from the sidelines and accept the preordained results with grim humour.


Losing patience

Nevertheless, the expectation of a seismic shift is almost tangible in the air, and not just because of Mr Mubarak’s health. Egyptians may be renowned for being politically passive, but the rising generation is very different from previous ones. It is better educated, highly urbanised, far more exposed to the outside world and much less patient. Increasingly, the whole structure of Egypt’s state, with its cumbersome constitution designed to disguise one-man rule, its creaky centralised administration, its venal, brutal and unaccountable security forces and its failure to deliver such social goods as decent schools, health care or civic rights, looks out of kilter with what its people want.

For some time Egyptian commentators have been noting resemblances between now and the years before Egypt’s previous seismic shift. That happened in 1952, when a group of army officers rolled their tanks up to King Farouk’s palaces and tossed him out. The coup was wildly popular at the time. It had followed a period of drift and growing tension, marked by strikes, assassinations, riots and intrigues between Communists, Muslim Brothers and the king. Egypt was thriving economically, but the spoils flowed mostly to a cosmopolitan elite that was out of tune with the street. It had a functioning democracy, but ever-squabbling politicians seemed unable to get things done. To general chagrin they could not shake off the lingering influence of Britain, whose soldiers refused to budge from the Suez Canal where they had been encamped since 1882.

The officers’ coup replaced this genteel but dysfunctional constitutional monarchy with one-party rule, fronted by a strongman and backed by secret police, with the tanks idling nearby. Republican Egypt became a model for other Arab dictatorships and forced wrenching changes at home. Its promises of free health and education, land reform and jobs in state factories and offices did lift millions out of misery to mere poverty. The ideology of pan-Arabism trumpeted by the coup leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser, gave Egyptians a place of pride in the world, even if his boldness brought ruinous wars in Yemen and against Israel.

Six decades and four presidents on, the revolutionary regime has metamorphosed into one that encourages private business and allows for some pluralism. Yet it looks to many Egyptians like a waning dynasty—the 45th in the long line of houses that have ruled the world’s most enduring nation since 3000BC. Its promises are largely in tatters. Schools and hospitals are indeed free to enter, but they are grim, bare, crowded places where getting learning or treatment requires cash that many still do not have. The lower middle class of army officers and bureaucrats who rose in the revolution have joined the gentry they were supposed to have ousted, adopted their haughty ways and now share Egypt’s spoils with them. The poor still queue for government-subsidised bread and must scrimp and save to buy a pair of shoes.

The government’s plan to perpetuate itself in office, via the traditional electoral rigmarole, is likely to go ahead. Predictions of change in Egypt have almost always proved wrong; generally it bumbles along much as usual. This time may just be different. The country now faces three main possibilities. It could go the way of Russia and be ruled by a new strongman from within the system. It might, just possibly, go the way of Iran, and see that system swept away in anger. Or it could go the way of Turkey, and evolve into something less brittle and happier for all concerned.


That sweetest and rarest of all geopolitical prizes: A peaceful Arab revolution not hijacked by the Jihadists.  Could it be?  I fear it might.

A round of applause and support for the Egyptian people.  You’re not out of the woods yet, but you could just be better than half way there.

Road tax alternative: Pay for each mile you drive


By R. Richard Geddes, Special to CNN
January 28, 2011 9:45 a.m. EST

Editor’s note: R. Richard Geddes, associate professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell University, is the author of “The Road to Renewal: Private Investment in U.S. Transportation Infrastructure” (American Enterprise Institute, 2011).

(CNN) — In his State of the Union address, President Obama promised to put Americans to work rebuilding the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. That’s a wonderful goal, but I’m most impressed with how he proposed to pay for it — by “attracting private investment” and choosing projects based on “what’s best for the economy, not politicians.”

This is not hollow speechmaking or an impossible dream.

Broadening the use of public-private partnerships in transportation projects can build new roads, bridges, and tunnels quickly and efficiently without adding to the federal deficit.

PPPs can bring private capital and new jobs to struggling communities. But perhaps most significantly, they remove politics from the equation.

PPPs empower motorists by allowing them to become consumers, not merely users, of our nation’s roadways. As consumers of transportation, Americans have tremendous power — the power to demand the facilities and the services they need.

In a public-private partnership, a private investor assumes responsibility for financing, designing, building, and operating a transportation facility.

Because private investors shoulder upfront costs — as well as the considerable risk that their investment might fail — they have strong incentives to make sure projects are completed on time and on budget. In a government-funded roadway, that cost and risk are borne by taxpayers.

Investors also stand to profit from PPPs — that’s why they invest in the first place — so it’s in their interest to attract motorists through efficient operation, rigorous safety standards, and fast, thorough repairs.

PPPs by nature have a customer-service ethic that government-operated roadways lack.

Private investors profit from PPPs primarily through toll revenue. Tolls, though not generally popular, are the key to revitalizing America’s transportation infrastructure, because toll revenue can be used to leverage enormous amounts of private capital.

Private capital, as Obama acknowledged Tuesday night, is the only feasible way to thoroughly renovate and expand the nation’s transportation system. Even if government could allocate resources fairly and oversee projects efficiently — and Alaska’s “bridge to nowhere” suggests strongly that it cannot — public funding will never be deep enough to finance the infrastructure we need.

Higher taxes and more government spending will not advance our foundering transportation system; they will only mire it further.

More toll-funded roads wouldn’t necessarily mean more toll plazas clogging our highways. Advanced satellite tracking technologies allow “open road” tolling, in which motorists would be charged per mile of road used — just as consumers are charged per kilowatt hour for electricity, per gallon of water, or per minute of cell phone use — without the backup at the toll booth. Private investors have the resources to utilize this new technology.

Another critical benefit of tolls is that fees can be adjusted to reduce congestion. If traffic congestion can be compared to water flowing through a sink drain, then a congestion toll is like the handle on the spigot — it increases during times of peak road use, decreases during off-peak times, and is adjusted in real time to keep traffic flowing smoothly.

Congestion tolling saves motorists an enormous amount of time that would otherwise be spent stuck in traffic, thereby reducing stress, saving fuel, and making trip times much more predictable.

But the key benefit of congestion tolling is its positive impact on the environment. Auto emissions are significantly higher in heavy traffic; less congestion, therefore, means less carbon dioxide and fewer pollutants.

Although PPPs are not new to America, they remain underused as an engine for transportation infrastructure investment.

Investors have financed major infrastructure projects in other industries for decades — including natural gas, electricity, cable television, railroads, and telecommunications.

Currently, 29 states have enacted legislation enabling private investment in transportation infrastructure, but the number of PPP-operated projects remains small.

We need greater public education about the economic and environmental benefits of PPPs, and we need federal action to encourage states’ use of private investment in transportation projects.

Obama got it right Tuesday night.

The nation needs massive investment in its transportation infrastructure. But that investment must come from the private sector, not from the government.

Because they are market-driven, PPPs transcend partisan wrangling and place control of America’s roadways in the hands of motorists as consumers.

And because they are profit-centered, PPPs are more likely than government projects to be efficiently operated and well maintained.

With Congress set to renew the federal transportation bill in 2011, we must keep PPPs at the center of our dialogue on transportation policy.

To bolster the vitality of our infrastructure, the strength of our economy, the health of our environment, and the quality of our lives, America’s roadways need the power of private investment, now more than ever.

The opinions in this commentary are solely those of R. Richard Geddes.

Government excels at some activities, like national defense and building infrastructure.  The only way to include private enterprise in the infrastructure equation is through the use of massive corporate welfare and subsidies.  This may not take the overt form of direct finance, but will definitely take the form of preferential treatment, weighted regulation, complex contract structures, diverted public investment, etc.  In other words, a huge mess of red tape, politics, and a further market where instruments and derivatives can be traded and financing can be withheld while motorists are compelled to purchase true off-road vehicles to navigate streets which will lie in ruins because they don’t directly produce revenue.  You can forget the Escalade, get an H1.

Another silly idea which hopefully won’t go the way of charter schools, private prisons, and the public purchase of General Motors.

On the ground amid Egyptians’ protests


Cairo, Egypt (CNN) — The grizzled taxi driver manuevered his battered black-and-white cab down an overpass, toward streets where head-scarved women posed for photos with the burned-out hulks of police vehicles.

“Tell America to stop supporting this (expletive) government,” the driver named Shaban swore, enthusiastic about the fast-moving events in Egypt, where tens of thousands of people demanding the president’s resignation have clashed with security forces.

We don’t need a new government, we need a new president,” he said.

After two days of protests, police had been forced to retreat. There was no sign of them anywhere on Saturday.

Instead, the beige armored personnel carriers of units from the military’s Presidential Guard were posted at intersections and outside strategic buildings, such as the offices of Egyptian state television.

Early Saturday afternoon, thousands of chanting demonstrators filed passed the still-smoking office building that was, until Friday, the headquarters for the ruling National Democratic Party.

As the protesters approached the Egyptian TV building, soldiers linked arms, forming a human chain to hold then back. The crowd stopped short of the troops and continued chanting.

“Down, down, Hosni Mubarak,” they yelled. “The people want to bring down the regime.”

“We will not stop until we get a new president,” declared one protester named Mustafa, who would not give his full name because he wasn’t “100% sure” he could publicly criticize the government without being punished.

“Yesterday was a very exceptional day in the history of Egypt. It is the day we spoke up” the man said. As for the police, he said, “they are gone…in some rats’ hole.”

Not everyone was celebrating the absence of police. The sudden lack of security raised fears among some of anarchy in the streets.

“Last night people came to destroy the Radio Shack in my neighborhood, looted the whole thing with knives and sticks,” said Adham el Kamouny, a presenter with Egypt’s Channel 1 TV. “I want to know, is it on purpose?”

He wondered if Mubarek is “punishing” the people or if there was another reason for the lack of security.

“Is there a conflict between the Army and the Ministry of Interior? We don’t know, and he’s still responsible,” he said of Mubarak.

Although some local cell phone service had been restored, the Internet remained inaccessible. The collapse of basic telecommunications has had unforeseen consequences in some of the most trivial aspects of daily life.

The handful of bellhops working at the Sheraton Hotel near Cairo International Airport had to scurry from room to room, using their master keys to help guests into their rooms becasue the hotel’s magnetic key system wasn’t working – it relies on Internet access to update guests’ keys.

Hundreds of arriving travelers trapped at Cairo airport by a dusk-to-dawn curfew slept on the floor early Saturday morning. Among them were Lucas Pierce, his family and his girlfriend, who had just arrived from Willsoboro, New York, for what was supposed to be a two-week vacation on the Nile River.

Banned by the curfew from driving to their hotel in downtown Cairo and unable to reach their tour guide because of the blocked cell phone system, the Pierces were contemplating canceling their vacation. But Lucas Pierce, who had organized the trip, said he had a hard time communicating with the outside world to explore alternatives.

“The most frustrating thing is the (blocked) phones and the lack of internet,” said Piece, 25.

Picnicking on the floor, surrounded by Japanese tourists who were sleeping wearing protective surgical masks over their faces, the Pierces debated the pros and cons of landing amidst such chaos in the world’s most populous Arab country.

“I finally I got my first stamp in my passport,” Pierce’s 25-year old girlfriend, Jennifer Trude, said with a laugh.

Notable comment:


These Clown and Stooges… will always say “If I (Hosni Mobarak) am let to fall, the Blood thirsty Ikhwan… are in the corner to appear and devour you…. this is a two-way fraud… On the one hand these dictators wish to BLUFF their Masters and hence keep themselves in the POWER… On the other th… more

These Clown and Stooges… will always say “If I (Hosni Mobarak) am
let to fall, the Blood thirsty Ikhwan… are in the
corner to appear and devour you…. this is a two-way fraud… On the one hand these dictators wish to BLUFF their Masters and hence keep themselves in the POWER… On the other the Masters in west… keep the “pro-democratic” mouths in their countries shut… this applies to the Saudies all others as well…

The only thing that is sure to stay and persist is … CHANGE… It is a writing on the wall, that ALL the middle East countries, and all those people living under Monarchies and “Omnipotent” and “Impotent” dictators… are sure to see this fact… may be today may the day after today…It is a moment… when one realizes… that HE CAN….

May all our Arab and non-Arab brothers be free from the clutches of these clowns and stooges of imperialism.

What exactly does Egypt have to offer the world shed of it’s ‘imperial’ umbrella?  It’s good to hear that more than one protester wants a change in leadership, not necessarily abandonment of their erstwhile democracy.  I suspected that fears of instigation by the Muslim Brotherhood were premature.  There have been some reports that the US is trying to get in front of at least the revolution in Egypt.  I suspect this round of riots in the Middle East will fall out more along the lines of a soft revolution, with security forces steering the masses from outright destruction while they too jockey to have their man placed at the fore, at least one who will listen to them.

Light speed broadband research gets £7.2m boost

The Telegraph

The government has given a £7.2m boost to research that aims to revolutionise the internet by harnessing the speed of light.

FIBRE OPTICS - BT set to roll out super-fast broadband network 

Fibre optics: the backbone of the internet, for now Photo: GETTY IMAGES
By Christopher Williams, Technology Correspondent 8:00AM GMT 29 Nov 20111 Comment 

The aim of the “Photonic Hyperhighway” project, based at the University of Southampton, is to develop new hardware that removes bottlenecks in the infrastructure at the centre of digital communications.

The team want new photonic switches to replace the heavy duty electronic switches that route internet packets to and from millions of people every day, and must convert light signals to electrons, route them correctly, then convert them back to light to be sent on.

As well as slowing down traffic, this process cumulatively wastes huge amounts of energy. Meanwhile photonic switches, some relying on exotic materials such as liquid crystal, route the light itself.

“Now is the time to look ahead to develop the UK infrastructure of the future,” said Professor David Payne, leader of the project.

“Traffic on the global communications infrastructure continues to increase 80 per cent year-on-year. This is driven by rapidly expanding and increasingly demanding applications, such as internet television services and new concepts like cloud computing.”

According to the analysts Telegeography, global internet traffic grew 60 per cent in 2010, although overall usage levels were stable because of investment in new capacity by carriers. Photonic technology could bring a quantum leap in capacity.

The Photonic Hyperhighway team also aim to reengineer the fibre optic cables that form the backbone of the internet, carrying light signals over thousands of miles. The scientists will explore alternative materials that offer more bandwidth and greater reliability and security than the glass currently used.

According to Professor Payne’s grant proposal, new photonic hardware could improve the performance of internet infrastructure by 1,000 times.

Announcing the award of £7.2m on Friday, David Willetts, the Minister for Universities and Science said: “The Photonics HyperHighway project has the potential to truly revolutionise the internet, making it much faster and more energy-efficient.

“The project is also a shining example of the UK’s world-leading role in this area of research, and I look forward to the exciting breakthroughs it will bring.”

The name of the Southampton project references the “Information Superhighway”, a widely-used epiphet for the internet during the 1990s.

Billions of dollars are being poured into photonics research worldwide, including by commercial giants IBM and Intel. They hope to use light to replace copper interconnects between and within microchips, reaping similar benefits of improved speed and efficiency.

It’s interesting to see how the British technocracy can sells it’s ideas to the nation at large.  A mere 7.2 million pound endowment to a critical area of research requires a Telegraph release.

The only thing really surprising about this article: when I go back to school to finish my degree in networking, I will learn 40 year old switching and routing technology based on transistors.  That light switches haven’t been mainstreamed is surprising.

Tried and tested: British cheeses

The Telegraph

By Rose Prince 2:38PM GMT 28 Jan 2011

1 Comment

It makes sense that the milk from a grass-fed cow is a healthier food. Give an animal the diet it has evolved to eat and it will be healthy; and healthy animals surely yield healthy food. But the debate rumbles on all the same.

While scientists endlessly dispute the balance of essential fatty acids in both grass-fed, organic and conventionally concentrate- fed cattle. I just carry on eating the cheeses I love, regardless of how wholesome they are deemed to be.

And I have been eating a lot of cheese recently. Melting slabs of it and eating it on toast with clear runny honey flavoured with herbs; or crumbled into salads of winter endives, with thin slices of apple. I grate the hardest cheeses over bowls of broth with vegetables and small pasta shapes, or pare thin rashers of cheese using a hot knife, raclette-style, and eat with crisp pancetta on bread.

There’s a strong Continental bent to my cheese-eating habits. I grew up eating French cheeses – gruyère with its uncompromisingly smooth texture, Comté-style cheeses studded with bubbles; semi-soft creamy cheeses with orchard flavours made in the foothills of the Alps; and fresh cheeses with bloomy rind, whose innards ran all over the cheese board.

When the British and Irish artisan cheese-making revival took off, no one could have been more pleased than I, but privately I hoped the reawakening would include some Continental taste-alikes. It did, though it must be said that the many modern British cheeses that have been created in this time are equally welcome.

I have been eating a lot of Coolea cheese recently. This is a cheese from County Cork that has been consistently delicious since Dick and Sinead Willems began making it as a hobby in 1979.

I visited the dairy about five years ago and was surprised to find a cheese that brought back memories of the best-pressed European cheeses. Small bubbles dot the smooth, firm interior of Coolea. The flavour conjures delicious tones of walnuts and cream.

This is my favourite cheese to shave over hot dishes of sautéed cauliflower or purple sprouting broccoli (though another Cork cheese, St Gall, comes close).

These days, Coolea is made by the Willems’s son, Dicky, and London importer Randolph Hodgson is full of praise even 30 years after it hit our shores.

Hodgson has also had a hand in another cheese: one which evokes skiing holidays. The search for a characterful British melting cheese has ended with Ogleshield; a buttery raclette taste-alike that turns to a fragrant runny cream when hot.

Ogleshield is made by Jamie Montgomery, who also makes an outstanding cheddar at his Somerset dairy. Ogleshield is made with milk from Jersey cows, hence its beautiful buttercup colour. It is a washed rind cheese (the method developed by Hodgson and his colleague William Oglethorpe) and the flavour of the semi-soft inner curd has a heady, fruity power as a result. It is still a lovely cheese when eaten cold, too.

With the Valentine’s fest approaching, the makers of Cornish Yarg have made a heart-shaped version. Yarg is a modern British cheese made by the Mead family, but reminds me of the triple cream cheeses of France with their bloomy outer rind and combination of creaminess and crumbliness inside.

Matured in a wrapping of nettles, the flavour of this cheese rings with fresh herb notes, hand-churned West Country butter and lemon. Ben Mead is dedicated to feeding his cows a natural diet, and has carried out a Nuffield Scholarship-funded study into the health benefits of natural grass feeding on both cows and their milk.

The result is no surprise – it’s better for you. But we always knew that.

Yes, you on that side of the Atlantic have better cheeses, and more of them to select from, than I have access to.  Rub it in.

Specter of currency war rears its head at Davos


By FRANK JORDANS and MATT MOORE, Associated Press Frank Jordans And Matt Moore, Associated Press 1 hr 20 mins ago

DAVOS, Switzerland – A fight is looming between rich and poor countries over the value of the dollar and other key currencies, as governments use monetary tricks to boost their national recovery at the expense of other nations, political and business leaders warned Saturday.

Washington has been leaning hard on Beijing to allow the Chinese renminbi to rise, saying it is being kept artificially cheap to maintain China’s cheap labor advantage.

At the same time the United States, Britain and others have encouraged their central banks to pump money into the system as a means of stimulating the economy.

“We are going to see the recovery of nationalism and protectionism, I think we’re going to face some type of currency war,” said Jose Sergio Gabrielli de Azevedo, president and CEO of Brazilian oil giant Petrobras.

“The U.S. is going to try to use weak dollar policy to help recovery in the U.S., and Brazil, India are not going to accept that and will fight back, and then we’re going to see some struggle and conflicts,” he said.

His words echoed concerns expressed by many participants of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week, where ways to maintain the fragile global recovery — and risks to it — are being hotly debated.

Ministers for Germany and France said the euro, and the 17 countries that use it, should be not be short changed by financial markets and that any future shocks to the common currency were unlikely.

“I think the euro will be stable,” German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said.

Christine Lagarde, France’s economy minister said “I think the euro zone has turned a corner. Let’s not short Europe and let’s not short the euro zone.”

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, responding to a Chinese participant’s defense of China’s currency policies, said, “A few of the rest of us would say a better approach is the appreciation of the renminbi.”

Beijing has been wary of letting go control of its currency even as food prices rises are driving up inflation — a situation that has been partly blamed for spurring anti-government protests in the Middle East this week.

Rudd said the world has huge concerns about how China will deal with its inflation, and urged Beijing to “get the exchange rate right.”

Concerns about where the renminbi, dollar and in particular the euro are heading were aired as more than two dozen senior officials from key economies met in Davos to discuss sending a political signal that a new global trade deal can be completed this year.

Thailand’s prime minister said Saturday that failure to conclude the so-called Doha round of trade talks, which have been nearly 10 years in the making, indicated a leadership vacuum on the global stage.

“Despite what global leaders say, they are still very much dictated by domestic politics,” Abhisit Vejjajiva told a panel.

Renewed talk of a deal — which some say could add billions to the world economy — has won backing from leaders and executives at the World Economic Forum this week.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron cited it as a key test for the international community’s ability to cooperate in reviving the world economy.

“We are literally meters away from the finishing line,” Merkel said Friday.

Experts remain skeptical that a deal can be reached this year, mainly because China and the United States remain at loggerheads on key issues. Pushing the talks into 2012 — a U.S. presidential election year — would make a conclusion even less likely because the sensitive issue of trade would be a hard sell for politicians of any stripe.

But Pascal Lamy, head of the World Trade Organization, said the talks at Davos were “very constructive. The ministers gave a strong signal.”

Johann N. Schneider-Ammann, Switzerland’s economy minister, said that there was “a sense that we are in the end game and that if Doha is done, it needs to be done this year.”

China’s growth and worries about Europe’s debts have been another focus of attention among the 2,500 business and political leaders discussing the state of the world economy this week.


I’m not surprised AP are finally allowing frank and sensible discussion of what the howling masses call The New World Order to leak into the mainstream media.  World Federalization, live it and love it, and start punishing our domestic politicians for not dealing with it.