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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

THE GOLDEN EVOLUTION (Part 19): ATHEISM



The following continues the serialization of Chapter 5 on Religion from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:

On the Matter of Atheism


Theism is belief in one or more deities. Gnosticism is belief in an imperfect god. You add an “a” and atheism takes a position that there is no god, while agnosticism is more an attitude that this matter is unknown. In a way, an agnostic rests somewhere between a theist and atheist, in that a person who believes in a god, but is not sure if a god exists, can be called an agnostic theist, while, if he denies belief without claiming to know for sure if no gods can or do exist, he is then called an agnostic atheist. These definitional exercises plague religion.


In the United States, you cannot be elected President if you are an atheist, and could not even run for any public office in some states. You would be among the most mistrusted of minorities. The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) do not allow atheist, homosexual or woman members. Even the U.S. Supreme Court passed judgment in favor of the BSA, but this is the governmental body that picked George Bush over Al Gore, even though Gore received more popular votes.


Atheists and agnostics claim about 1% of the American population each, just below Islam and Buddhism. For all of my adult life I looked upon myself as a neo-agnostic—that I did not know, but actively searched for a Supreme Being, and more importantly, the potential for an afterlife. In the process of writing this chapter, partly because of Richard Dawkins, but mostly because I did not think the search would get anywhere, anyway, I became an atheist. But, later, there was a minor re-adjustment.


In the 6th Century BC, Buddhists were atheists, as they remain today. However, Diagoras, a 5th Century Greek philosopher, is commonly known as the first atheist. Socrates was sentenced to death for impiety, and all throughout history atheists have been subjected to persecution. So much so that it was not until Baron d’Holback in the late 18th Century finally could write on this topic and survive. Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche were similarly honest about their belief. Joseph Stalin was one, but Adolf Hitler either was or was not. Other atheists, from the Time-Life 100 Most Influential People of the Millennium compilation are: Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Benjamin Franklin, Carl Sagan (Ann Druyan was later quoted to say that Sagan was an agnostic, not an atheist), Bertrand Russell, Billy Joel, Clarence Darrow, Galileo Galilei, George Bernard Shaw, Helen Keller, James Madison, John Adams, Napoleon Bonaparte, James Watson, Jawaharlal Nehru, John Lennon, Walt Disney, George Orwell, Mark Twain, Thomas Jefferson, William Howard Taft, Thomas Edison, Sigmund Freud. The following were either atheist or agnostic: Woody Allen, Fidel Castro, Michael Crichton, Jodie Foster, Linus Pauling, Mao Tse-tung, Richard Leakey, Francois Mitterand, Stanley Kubrick, Jack Nicholson, Mikhail Gorbachev, Warren Buffet, Richard Feynman, and Marie Curie.


Read the full list of extinct atheists. There is now a more recent celebrity atheist list by Reed Esau. A 3 minute YouTube clip on famous atheists with Vivaldi's Summer is worth a respite.


For the record, here is the estimated by country Atheist/Agnostic percentage top ten:


Sweden 46-85%

Vietnam 81%

Denmark 43-80%

Norway 31-72%

Japan 65%

Czech Republic 54-61%

Finland 28-60%

France 43-54%

South Korea 30-52%

Germany and Estonia 49%


Russia just missed the cut at 48%. The USA, of course, is way back, at 3-9%, and China is at 8-14%.


Atheists don’t have a holiday, but we (they) can watch NFL football on Sunday morning in Hawaii without having family or psychological conflicts. There are no charismatic leaders, commanding traditions nor common literature. The God Delusion might, though, suffice as a galvanizing document. Oh yes, there is The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World (Doubleday, 2004), by Alistair McGrath, also of Oxford University, who does not share similar views with his colleague. In fact, McGrath published in 2007 The Dawkins Delusion.


One of the problems with atheism is that it’s so, so negative to say there is no God, nor an afterlife. But the thought is pure and not saddled with the baggage of having to defend the impossible or promise the unattainable. There is no dogma. Just believe in the real truth.


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The Dow Jones Industrials fell 51 to 10,857, while world markets mostly also dropped. Gold rose $8/toz to $1113 and crude oil is at $83/barrel.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

THE GOLDEN EVOLUTION (Part 18): Secular Faiths



The following continues the serialization of Chapter 5 on religion from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:


Secular Faiths



Secular relates to this world and is non-spiritual. Religion delivers on God’s Word or Rules, where faith is blindly accepted as a necessary belief, and is further treated in a later section. There are said to be three great secular faiths, all from the 1800’s: Darwinism, Marxism and Freudianism. Marxism (by Karl Marx, German revolutionary from his Das Kapital, which was never finished) is socialism, and appears to be on its way out. Freudianism (for Sigmund Freud, Austrian psychiatrist) deals with the emotional and psychological state of mind, but more so, that many (if not all) of us are not in full control of our actions, and, too, seems to be losing some favor.


Darwinism (Charles Darwin, British naturalist, who between the ages of 22 and 27 took one grand boat ride around the world on the HMS Beagle, went home and pretty much stayed there for the rest of his life) was only about evolution, until time and society forced upon this science: creationism, religion and truth. While On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (yes, Origin of Species is only part of the full title), published when he was 50, rankles those who totally subscribe to every word of The Bible (which, as shown in the following section, happens to be 45% of Americans), there no doubt are a few true believers who can adjust to a prime force engineering life through some more sensible process, like evolution.



Paul Kurtz (if you were to click on his name, you can spend a day reading that Huffington Post article and 576 comments) editor in chief of Free Inquiry, wondered if it might be sensible to create secular and humanist alternatives to religion. It thus occurred to me that as much of the world seems inclined to worship a supernatural god, mostly because belief and faith have been an important part of their upbringing, further providing a psychological crutch for mental security, would it be possible, in a desperate global emergency, to replace a virtual Supreme Being with another symbol, something, perhaps, more purposeful and legitimate, such as the natural environment or mankind itself. That is, believe in your surroundings and the people around you.


This thought began to take shape in the first chapter where it was suggested that the menacing disaster of Peak Oil and Global Warming might become so serious that the only solution would be for the world to immediately disarm and apply all financial and human resources to prevent a global cataclysm. Praying certainly wouldn’t help, so why not devote your faithfulness and energies to the task at hand. That secular alternative could well be Planet Earth and Humanity. Amen.


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The Dow Jones Industrials moved up 12 to 10,907, with European markets down and those of the Orient increasing. Gold dropped $2/toz to and crude oil revolved around $82/barrel.


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Tropical Cyclone Paul, at 45 MPH, is dumping rain on the Northern Territory of Australia, but is finally weakening.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

UPCOMING EARTH DAY 2010

As some of you might remember, the 40th anniversary of Earth Day is on April 22. This event was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, with the staff help of Denis Hayes, but the first actual Earth Day occurred at the Spring Equinox (March 20) a year earlier, in 1969. The United Nations still commemorates Earth Day on March 20.


I received a message from Dan Grifen about the upcoming American Earth Day, with a DC celebration on April 22, followed by a rally to control climate change on Sunday, April 25. The following is his guest posting:



Earth Day 2010 and Global Awareness


Spring 2010 is approaching and there’s a lot of buzz around topics like the economy, taxation, global poverty, restoration in Haiti/Chile, and lastly, green awareness. With spring, Earth Day also draws nearer (April 22nd); as individuals, we must remember and realize the importance of global warming and all of its implications. Subsequent topics discussed as of late include space travel/burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and green building. As nations like Haiti and Chile prepare for rebuilding and new construction, there are many things to consider when advancing. Moving towards cleaner, greener infrastructure is vital in ensuring a successful restoration campaign.


The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)is a 501(3)(c) non-profit community of leaders working to make green buildings available to everybody. It’s one of the many organizations playing its role in green progression. Heavy discussion lies on green topics, especially the more recent ones like space travel; others include deforestation, green crops, clothing, energy, and much more. It’s important that we as individuals/citizens stay up-to-date on important global topics like warming. As organizations like the Clinton Global Initiative, Architecture for Humanity, and the USGBC conducts sustainability campaigns and enforce strict green constraints, our world will continue to become a better, cleaner place. Machines behind the CGI, Doug Band and Former President Clinton have been pursuing an emission reduction plan in the San Francisco Bay area. Meanwhile, GEC (Globetrotters Engineering Corporation) is underway with green building projects in Chicago, IL. Despite these few national examples, green infrastructure, particularly in places like Haiti, has become an integral part of restoration and construction.


This aligns with the implications of "economic viability" and long term sustainability, posing the questions, "Can Haiti really make it through all the costs of repair and reconstruction?" Infrastructure can take a toll on any economy, especially if the funds aren't there. This goes hand in hand with meeting modern day LEED standards and approaching this in a "greener" sense. Organizations like Architecture for Humanity will make this possible. Architecture for Humanity (1999) is a nonprofit design services firm building "a more sustainable future through the power of professional design." It was formulated through a group of building professionals whose overwhelming passion for construction drove them to provide a way for underdeveloped, suffering countries to rebuild. Through their dedication and hard work, these people will be able to not only create new buildings and infrastructure, but make them bigger, better, and greener.


To touch on just some of the things that AFH covers:


• Alleviating poverty and providing access to water, sanitation, power and essential services


• Bringing safe shelter to communities prone to disaster and displaced populations


• Rebuilding community and creating neutral spaces for dialogue in post-conflict areas


• Mitigating the effects of rapid urbanization in unplanned settlements


• Creating spaces to meet the needs of those with disabilities and other at-risk populations


• Reducing the footprint of the built environment and addressing climate change


As polluters continue to buy their way out of Carbon Cuts globally, and large organizations continue to dump their waste into lakes, ponds and rivers, communities and must play their role in ensuring sustainability. Organizations like the CGI, AFH, and USGBC provide repercussion and policy change for acts such as. Most of the results from warming and climate change are miniscule and unnoticeable now, but our youth and earlier generations will experience firsthand the effects of pollutants and unsustainable efforts. For additional information, click on Earth Day to learn more about what you can do to support your world.


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The Dow Jones Industrials jumped 46 to 10896, with world markets mostly up. Gold increased $2/toz to $1109 and crude oil is at $82/barrel.


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Tropical Cyclone Paul is now over land and has weakened to 40 MPH in Northern Australia, but could turn around and revert back into the ocean. If this occurs, the storm will re-strengthen. Certainly, a strange cyclone.


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Sunday, March 28, 2010

THE GOLDEN EVOLUTION (Part 17): BUDDHISM AND JAPAN*


The following, with the addition of two bolderized paragraphs, continues the serialization of Chapter 5 on religion from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:



Buddhism and Japan


Japan is a bit more complicated. Seventy percent are Buddhists (began around 500 BC). When you add the numbers following Shinto (started around 500 AD), you will surpass the 127 million population, but that is because most consider both to be important. While Buddhism came from India, Shinto is indigenous, is the official national religion, and its priests are state officials. Shinto handles daily life. There are virtually no Shinto cemeteries, for Buddhism is responsible for death. They have long co-existed.


[However, in another survey, the results were surprising: 36% Buddhist, 11% Shinto, 11% Christian and NO RELIGION at 52%. The total is more than 100% because of the above explanation. This survey provides a totally different, but, almost surely, more accurate picture of religion in Japan today.]


Siddhartha Gautama, a Hindu, attained enlightenment and became known as Buddha, “the Awakened One.” He extolled of the Four Noble Truths, all dealing with suffering. His definition of anatta, which, you will recall, supposedly assuaged my fear of death, did not incorporate an eternal soul, for the purpose of life is to ultimately escape by attaining Nirvana, a state at which you become extinct, which sounds awfully close to eternal gloom to me.


As terminal and awful as this might be to some, Buddhism actually portrays a gray ending, because most never get there. There are the interminable reincarnations, a clear afterlife, but, I remember in my early youth asking a Buddhist priest how many people he knew had ascended to Nirvana. Yes, there was Buddha, himself, but he was hard pressed to come up with another name.


This was my “aha, there is no Santa Claus,” point of my life, with respect to a Supreme Deity. First of all, if only one person made it, what were my chances? Then, too, maybe this is all made up, anyway. In any case, an earlier section identified at least 30 buddhas, those that attained enlightenment, which remains an awfully small number considering the billions of Buddhists who ever lived.


More recently, I’ve asked several Buddhist priests, “tell me about the afterlife,” and most of the responses approximate, “it’s what you believe.” I think there is a tendency to provide the fear story to children—be good, or you will return as a cockroach—but to adults, the safer and more readily acceptable message is put in the abstract. So why do most Japanese not believe in an afterlife? My sense is that they have grown up, like me. The bottom line, though, is that Buddhists do not believe in the existence of a God who created the universe, although, depending on sect, there are deities. Further, there is reincarnation and karma, so the door remains open to an afterlife.


One final issue refers to the Yasukuni Shrine, a Shinto memorial to Japan’s war dead, a bitter subject to China and South Korea. Yasukuni means nation at peace. It was established in 1868 and is the sanctuary (there are no real bodies here) for 2.5 million killed as servicemen, 2.1 million from World War II. The problem is that 14 WWII war criminals are registered here, and the Japanese Prime Minister annually honors them all in a publicized visit. The gripe about this call is that China and South Korea are insulted that the head of state is worshipping these convicts. The problem is that, in Japan, there is an attitude of: “We Japanese will never back down to that kind of Chinese and Korean pressure.” One simple solution would be to just announce the symbolic move of those 14 controversial souls to another place of rest.


But perhaps this will become only history, for Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, just weeks before the elections last year that resulted in he becoming prime minister, remarked that he would not visit the Yasukuni Shrine. He felt that this would improve relations with China. The last visit of the shrine by an Emperor was 1978.

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Tropical Cyclone Paul, at 70 MPH, just popped up off the northcoast of Australia, and could make landfall as high as a Category 3 storm...or, not at all.
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Total visitors to this blog site: 33,877
Visitors this week: 763
Number of countries: 146

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Friday, March 26, 2010

195 COUNTRIES OF THE WORLD


How many countries are there on Planet Earth? One hundred and forty six countries have now visited this blog site. Welcome #145:

BELIZE POPULATION: 307,899



« Previous Country | Next Country » Back to Top Countries
Background
Belize was the site of several Mayan city states until their decline at the end of the first millennium A.D. The British and Spanish disputed the region in the 17th and 18th centuries; it formally became the colony of British Honduras in 1854. Territorial disputes between the UK and Guatemala delayed the independence of Belize until 1981. Guatemala refused to recognize the new nation until 1992 and the two countries are involved in an ongoing border dispute. Guatemala and Belize are gearing up for a simultaneous referendum to determine if this dispute will go before the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Tourism has become the mainstay of the economy. Current concerns include an unsustainable foreign debt, high unemployment, growing involvement in the South American drug trade, growing urban crime, and increasing incidences of HIV/AIDS.

Map data ©2010 Europa Technologies - Terms of Use


and #146:

PARAGUAY POPULATION: 6,995,655



« Previous Country | Next Country » Back to Top Countries
Background
Paraguay achieved its independence from Spain in 1811. In the disastrous War of the Triple Alliance (1865-70) - between Paraguay and Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay - Paraguay lost two-thirds of all adult males and much of its territory. The country stagnated economically for the next half century. Following the Chaco War of 1932-35 with Bolivia, Paraguay gained a large part of the Chaco lowland region. The 35-year military dictatorship of Alfredo STROESSNER ended in 1989, and, despite a marked increase in political infighting in recent years, Paraguay has held relatively free and regular presidential elections since then.

Map data ©2010 Europa Technologies - Terms of Use


These are the largely accepted 195 independent countries and their capital:

Afghanistan - Kabul
Albania - Tirane
Algeria - Algiers
Andorra - Andorra la Vella
Angola - Luanda
Antigua and Barbuda - Saint John's
Argentina - Buenos Aires
Armenia - Yerevan
Australia - Canberra
Austria - Vienna
Azerbaijan - Baku
The Bahamas - Nassau
Bahrain - Manama
Bangladesh - Dhaka
Barbados - Bridgetown
Belarus - Minsk
Belgium - Brussels
Belize - Belmopan
Benin - Porto-Novo
Bhutan - Thimphu
Bolivia - La Paz (administrative); Sucre (judicial)
Bosnia and Herzegovina - Sarajevo
Botswana - Gaborone
Brazil - Brasilia
Brunei - Bandar Seri Begawan
Bulgaria - Sofia
Burkina Faso - Ouagadougou
Burundi - Bujumbura
Cambodia - Phnom Penh
Cameroon - Yaounde
Canada - Ottawa
Cape Verde - Praia
Central African Republic - Bangui
Chad - N'Djamena
Chile - Santiago
China - Beijing
Colombia - Bogota
Comoros - Moroni
Congo, Republic of the - Brazzaville
Congo, Democratic Republic of the - Kinshasa
Costa Rica - San Jose
Cote d'Ivoire - Yamoussoukro (official); Abidjan (de facto)
Croatia - Zagreb
Cuba - Havana
Cyprus - Nicosia
Czech Republic - Prague
Denmark - Copenhagen
Djibouti - Djibouti
Dominica - Roseau
Dominican Republic - Santo Domingo
East Timor (Timor-Leste) - Dili
Ecuador - Quito
Egypt - Cairo
El Salvador - San Salvador
Equatorial Guinea - Malabo
Eritrea - Asmara
Estonia - Tallinn
Ethiopia - Addis Ababa
Fiji - Suva
Finland - Helsinki
France - Paris
Gabon - Libreville
The Gambia - Banjul
Georgia - Tbilisi
Germany - Berlin
Ghana - Accra
Greece - Athens
Grenada - Saint George's
Guatemala - Guatemala City
Guinea - Conakry
Guinea-Bissau - Bissau
Guyana - Georgetown
Haiti - Port-au-Prince
Honduras - Tegucigalpa
Hungary - Budapest
Iceland - Reykjavik
India - New Delhi
Indonesia - Jakarta
Iran - Tehran
Iraq - Baghdad
Ireland - Dublin
Israel - Jerusalem (official); Tel Aviv (political and financial)
Italy - Rome
Jamaica - Kingston
Japan - Tokyo
Jordan - Amman
Kazakhstan - Astana
Kenya - Nairobi
Kiribati - Tarawa Atoll
Korea, North - Pyongyang
Korea, South - Seoul
Kosovo - Pristina
Kuwait - Kuwait City
Kyrgyzstan - Bishkek
Laos - Vientiane
Latvia - Riga
Lebanon - Beirut
Lesotho - Maseru
Liberia - Monrovia
Libya - Tripoli
Liechtenstein - Vaduz
Lithuania - Vilnius
Luxembourg - Luxembourg
Macedonia - Skopje
Madagascar - Antananarivo
Malawi - Lilongwe
Malaysia - Kuala Lumpur
Maldives - Male
Mali - Bamako
Malta - Valletta
Marshall Islands - Majuro
Mauritania - Nouakchott
Mauritius - Port Louis
Mexico - Mexico City
Micronesia, Federated States of - Palikir
Moldova - Chisinau
Monaco - Monaco
Mongolia - Ulaanbaatar
Montenegro - Podgorica
Morocco - Rabat
Mozambique - Maputo
Myanmar (Burma) - Rangoon (Yangon); Naypyidaw or Nay Pyi Taw (administrative)
Namibia - Windhoek
Nauru - no official capital; government offices in Yaren District
Nepal - Kathmandu
Netherlands - Amsterdam; The Hague (seat of government)
New Zealand - Wellington
Nicaragua - Managua
Niger - Niamey
Nigeria - Abuja
Norway - Oslo
Oman - Muscat
Pakistan - Islamabad
Palau - Melekeok
Panama - Panama City
Papua New Guinea - Port Moresby
Paraguay - Asuncion
Peru - Lima
Philippines - Manila
Poland - Warsaw
Portugal - Lisbon
Qatar - Doha
Romania - Bucharest
Russia - Moscow
Rwanda - Kigali
Saint Kitts and Nevis - Basseterre
Saint Lucia - Castries
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines - Kingstown
Samoa - Apia
San Marino - San Marino
Sao Tome and Principe - Sao Tome
Saudi Arabia - Riyadh
Senegal - Dakar
Serbia - Belgrade
Seychelles - Victoria
Sierra Leone - Freetown
Singapore - Singapore
Slovakia - Bratislava
Slovenia - Ljubljana
Solomon Islands - Honiara
Somalia - Mogadishu
South Africa - Pretoria (administrative); Cape Town (legislative); Bloemfontein (judiciary)
Spain - Madrid
Sri Lanka - Colombo; Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte (legislative)
Sudan - Khartoum
Suriname - Paramaribo
Swaziland - Mbabane
Sweden - Stockholm
Switzerland - Bern
Syria - Damascus
Taiwan - Taipei
Tajikistan - Dushanbe
Tanzania - Dar es Salaam; Dodoma (legislative)
Thailand - Bangkok
Togo - Lome
Tonga - Nuku'alofa
Trinidad and Tobago - Port-of-Spain
Tunisia - Tunis
Turkey - Ankara
Turkmenistan - Ashgabat
Tuvalu - Vaiaku village, Funafuti province
Uganda - Kampala
Ukraine - Kyiv
United Arab Emirates - Abu Dhabi
United Kingdom - London
United States of America - Washington D.C.
Uruguay - Montevideo
Uzbekistan - Tashkent
Vanuatu - Port-Vila
Vatican City (Holy See) - Vatican City
Venezuela - Caracas
Vietnam - Hanoi
Yemen - Sanaa
Zambia - Lusaka
Zimbabwe - Harare

Someday I will be deleting those already site visitors,
to gain a sense of which countries have not. Also, some
of you might wonder, if the United Nations membership
totals 192, what are the three other countries. They are
Vatican City, Kosovo and Taiwan. Even the United States
only recognizes 194. China has thus prevailed on

Some even go so far as to say that Greenland, part of
Denmark, is #196. The U.S. made an attempt to
purchase this largest island in the world after
World War II for $100 million, which today is equal to
about $1 billion. Interestingly enough, if global
warming melts all the ice, there would be no
Greenland, for the land structure would be below sea
level.

But, regarding total numbers, things are not so simple.
There are 243 domain sites (such as ".de" for Germany),
and up to 259 entities (including dependent areas and
disputed territories). For now, let us use 195 as the
official number of countries.

*******
I had a great dinner tonight with Debbie (Pearl's niece) and Dean Gushiken
at La Mer, Pearl's favorite restaurant. They were my caretakers of apartment,
fish and plants in my absence of two months. The least I could do was share
with them one terrific dinner, so we went to La Mer, started with champagne,
and I had a foie gras, wagyu beef, chocolate passion (or whatever it was
called) and a glass of Margaux. Yes, it was terribly expensive, but, I would
guess, less than one night of my hotel room cost for half my stays.

















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The Dow Jones Industrials managed to end the day +9 at 10,850,
with Europe down and the Orient up. The Nikkei is at 10,996.
Which will break 11,000 first? Mind you, at the end of 1989 the
Nikkei hit 38,997 and sunk to 7162 on 27October2008, while
the DJI Average reached 14,164 on 7October2007 and dropped
to 6507 on 9March2009. Of recent, the DJIA and Nikkei have
tracked each other, although the former is in U.S. dollars and
the latter in Japanese Yen, where today you would get 92.7 yen
for a dollar, so there is no value basis for comparing the two.
Gold jumped $17/toz to $1108 and crude oil remained at $80/barrel.


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