There is a curious - and menacing - stillness around the world. A calm before the storm?
There are terrifying signs that it could be.
Mass slaughter continues. Terrorism, suicide bombings, assassinations continue in the Middle East. Peace between Israel and Palestine seems further away than ever.
Estimates are that more than three million people have died in continuing conflict in the Congo. Elsewhere in Africa, conflict, drought and untreated disease, hardly given a thought in the "rich" world, bring a miserable death to many thousands - men, women and children - every day.
Misery is widespread but governments are paralysed. The Group of 7 or 8 does nothing except worry - as, indeed, they should - about the demonstrations in the streets outside. The same is true of the summits of the European Union, preoccupied with disagreements over a new "constitution" rather than deeper and more meaningfully urgent issues. ASEAN countries are now showing concern about military tyranny in Burma, as they should be; but do little about it or anything else.
Afghanistan and Iraq may be quietly sinking back into widespread, murderous conflict and anarchy.
Economic uncertainty bedevils the world. It always does, in some measure, but the crisis that threatens now could be deeper, more long-lasting and more devastating to political and strategic stability than anything we have known before.
Nuclear weaponry is proliferating. Hatreds spread.
For the most part, governments - if they don't directly inflame the environment of violence - simply hope that things will get better. The New York stockmarket has been showing some resilience. That gives hope - almost certainly false, buoyed with the expectation that Chairman of the Fed Greenspan will be forced to lower interest rates yet again to try to lift investors' spirits.
Japan might be getting worse more slowly than before but any genuine and lasting improvement seems still a good way around the corner. Germany is still in deep trouble, with high unemployment and the outlook bleak.
Is anyone doing anything to retrieve the situation?
Not really and certainly not enough, so far as governments are concerned.
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