Coal prices soar as warmest sea surface temperatures on record fuel ‘biblical’ Australian floods – Australian floods now cover an area “the size of France and Germany combined.” Yesterday, their government’s Bureau of Meteorology released its “Annual Australian Climate Statement 2010,” which helps explain why — record sea surface temperatures: Based on preliminary data (to November 30), sea surface temperatures in the Australian region during 2010 were +0.54 °C above the 1961 to 1990 average. This is the warmest value on record for the Australian region. Individual high monthly sea surface temperature records were also set during 2010 in March, April, June, September, October and November. Along with favourable hemispheric circulation associated with the 2010 La Niña, very warm sea surface temperatures contributed to the record rainfall and very high humidity across eastern Australia during winter and spring. The most recent decade (2001−2010) was also the warmest decade on record for sea surface temperatures following the pattern observed over land.
 

As High Gas Prices Loom, New Congress Faces Pressure on Drilling – Party leaders in the new Congress have yet to unveil their full agenda, but lobbyists and observers see one issue they’ll likely confront: what to do about rising gas prices. Pump prices jumped over the past six weeks, and some experts predict they will continue climbing. Former Shell Oil President John Hofmeister predicts that increased worldwide demand and lack of production could push gas prices in the United States to $5 per gallon by 2012. “We continue to demand more,” Hofmeister said today, repeating comments he made that were first aired by “Platts Energy Week.” “The world continues to demand more, and the U.S. has no plan to address it. That could drive us to the kind of numbers that get to $5 a gallon in this country.”

 
Extreme weather events help drive food prices to record highs – In 2009, Lester Brown and Scientific American asked “Could Food Shortages Bring Down Civilization?” This summer’s extreme global weather raised fears of a “Coming Food Crisis,” as CAP’s John D. Podesta and Jake Caldwell warned in Foreign Policy:  “Global food security is stretched to the breaking point, and Russia’s fires and Pakistan’s floods are making a bad situation worse.” Now the Financial Times reports the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s “food price index, a basket tracking the wholesale cost of wheat, corn, rice, oilseeds, dairy products, sugar and meats, has jumped to a record high, surpassing in December the peak of the 2007-08 food crisis” (see figure). As ClimateWire and SciAm explains,”world food prices hit a record high in December thanks to crop failures from a series of extreme weather events around the world“:

 

EU Proposes Bank Failure Plan, European Bond Spreads Increase – Here is a look at European bond spreads from the Atlanta Fed weekly Financial Highlights released today (graph as of Jan 4th):  From the Atlanta Fed:  Greek, Irish, and Portuguese bond spreads (over German bonds) continue to be elevated, rising since the December FOMC meeting. Since the December FOMC meeting, the 10-year Greek-to-German bond spread has widend by 105 basis points (bps) (from 8.85% to 9.90%) through January 4.  Similarly with other European peripherals’ spreads, Portugal’s is 38 bps higher, and Ireland’s spread is 88 bps higher.  Note: the Atlanta Fed has added Belgium. The bond yields have increased today. The Portugal 10 year is at 6.96%, the Ireland 10-year bond yield is over 9%, and the Greece 10-year bond yield is at a record 12.64%.

EU Proposes Plan for Bank Failure The European Union is proposing an areawide framework for confronting bank and investment-firm failures that urges bondholders to share the burden.  The EU executive arm, the European Commission, Thursday released a 100-plus page consultation paper that aims to abolish the excuse that a bank is too big to fail. The paper, which is open to public comments until March 3, asks whether bank bondholders should share in paying for future bailouts and seeks to give greater authority to national regulators over bank leadership and business strategies when a country’s economic stability is at risk.  [A] diplomat added: "The overriding objective is to make sure creditors bear the appropriate share of losses of a failing bank and these aren’t immediately passed along to taxpayers."

 
 Portuguese, Spanish Bonds Decline Amid Debt-Auction Speculation – The extra yield investors demand to hold Portuguese securities rather than benchmark German bunds widened to the most in a month as the IGCP debt office announced the sale of 2014 and 2020 debt, scheduled for Jan. 12. Belgian bonds tumbled after the nation’s political leaders failed to restart seven- party negotiations to form a government. German bunds rose. “The underlying story behind this slide in Portuguese government bonds is supply-related,” said David Schnautz, a fixed-income strategist at Commerzbank AG in London, who said he had heard speculation about the Portuguese sale before it was announced. “Next week we will keep on running at full steam in the primary market with supply from Spain and Italy,” he said. Portugal is raising taxes and cutting wages to convince investors it can narrow its budget gap after the Greek debt crisis led to a surge in bond yields for euro nations last year. The Portuguese government said today it met its target for a budget deficit of 7.3 percent of gross domestic product in 2010.

China’s war on inflation a threat to global recovery China’s Premier Wen Jiabao has vowed to step up the country’s fight against inflation, increasing the likehood of further interest rate rises that could threaten the strength of a global economic recovery. Mr Wen’s pledge to curb inflation came as new government figures revealed that measures already taken are leading to a slowdown in manufacturing growth.Chinese inflation is at the highest rate for more than two years – 5.1pc – sparking fears in the government of social unrest as the price of food soars. China raised interest rates for the second time in three months on Christmas Day, lifing them 0.25 to 5.81pc.
 Policymakers have also raised the amount of money banks must keep in reserve in an effort to restrain bank lending that has powered the economy but also driven up prices. However, a clampdown by China on inflation threatens to slow the growth of the domestic and global economy, which has been heavily reliant on the strength of the world’s second largest economy.

 
CommonDreams: Suicide by Pesticide: India’s Hidden Climate Change Catastrophe – Over the past decade, as crops have failed year after year, 200,000 farmers have killed themselves. "He’d been unhappy for a month, but that day he was in a heavy depression. I tried to take the tin away from him but I couldn’t. He died in front of us. The head of the family died in front of his wife and children – can you imagine?" The death of Mr Naik, a smallholder in the central Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, in July 2009, is just another mark on an astonishingly long roll. Nearly 200,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves in the past decade. Like Mr Naik, a third of them choose pesticide to do it: an agonizing, drawn-out death with vomiting and convulsions. The death toll is extrapolated from the Indian authorities’ figures. But the journalist Palagummi Sainath is certain the scale of the epidemic of rural suicides is underestimated and that it is getting worse. "Wave upon wave," he says, from his investigative trips in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. "One farmer every 30 minutes in India now, and sometimes three in one family." Because standards of record-keeping vary across the nation, many suicides go unnoticed. In some Indian states, the significant numbers of women who kill themselves are not listed as "farmers", even if that is how they make their living.
NaturalNews: Monsanto connected to at least 200,000 suicides in India throughout past decade

looks like you can attribute the cause as you will…
 
Suicide by Pesticide: India’s Hidden Climate Change Catastrophe – Over the past decade, as crops have failed year after year, 200,000 farmers have killed themselves. "He’d been unhappy for a month, but that day he was in a heavy depression. I tried to take the tin away from him but I couldn’t. He died in front of us. The head of the family died in front of his wife and children – can you imagine?" The death of Mr Naik, a smallholder in the central Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, in July 2009, is just another mark on an astonishingly long roll. Nearly 200,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves in the past decade. Like Mr Naik, a third of them choose pesticide to do it: an agonizing, drawn-out death with vomiting and convulsions. The death toll is extrapolated from the Indian authorities’ figures. But the journalist Palagummi Sainath is certain the scale of the epidemic of rural suicides is underestimated and that it is getting worse. "Wave upon wave," he says, from his investigative trips in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. "One farmer every 30 minutes in India now, and sometimes three in one family." Because standards of record-keeping vary across the nation, many suicides go unnoticed. In some Indian states, the significant numbers of women who kill themselves are not listed as "farmers", even if that is how they make their living.
 
Monsanto connected to at least 200,000 suicides in India throughout past decade When India’s seed economy was forced by the World Bank to become globalized in the late 1990s, economic conditions within the nation’s agricultural sector almost immediately took a nosedive for the worst. Much of the common Indian seed stock turned from saveable heirloom varieties to patented, genetically-modified (GM) varieties that expire after a single use and require the application of expensive and cumbersome pesticides in order to grow, which plunged many Indian farmers into abject poverty. And nearly 25 years later, the devastating effects of this corporate takeover of Indian agriculture has resulted in countless suicides, 200,000 of which have occurred just in the past ten years. According to a recent report in the U.K. Independent, many Indian farmers have lost their farms and land over the past several decades. One of the primary causes is failed investments by farmers that banked heavily on the success of newly-introduced GM crops. Multinational biotechnology giants like Monsanto and Syngenta promised farmers that GM crops would bring incredible yields at lower costs, and save the country from poverty. But in reality, many of the crops ended up failing, leaving millions of Indian farmers with absolutely nothing.

World on red alert over China’s inflation China could be hit by inflation of 7pc to 8pc over the next two months, panicking Beijing’s policy-makers into dramatically raising interest rates, economists have warned. The prospect of at least four further interest rate rises in the world’s second-largest economy is likely to alarm global markets, which tumbled in shock at China’s decision to raise rates on Christmas Day. However, inflation has become the central concern for the Communist Party, which is struggling to contain growing outrage in the People’s Republic over rising prices. "If you look at the sequential growth over the last two months, inflation is rising at double digits. In the very worst-case scenario, if Beijing does not take action, we could see double-digit inflation this year," At stake is the future of the global economy, according to Andy Xie, the former China economist at Morgan Stanley. Writing in Caixin, a Chinese magazine, he said that the two most likely candidates to trigger the next financial crisis are either the US’s sovereign debt or China’s inflation.

 
It’s only a matter of time before China’s housing bubble bursts Despite a multitude of measures, many of them considered decisive and effective, taken by the central government to curb wild property prices, the overheating Chinese home market shows few signs of cooling-off.  Property developers everywhere are competing to break records for the highest land-bidding prices, hence, we see a series of "kings of the land," referring to lots acquired at the highest bid.What’s more, the fever for land acquisition is spreading from the major cities, mostly coastal ones, to medium and small cities. The masses are puzzled.

CNN: 2 million fish found dead in Maryland -"Natural causes appear to be the reason," the Maryland Department of the Environment said in a news release. "Cold water stress exacerbated by a large population of the affected species (juvenile spot fish) appears to be the cause of the kill." The investigation comes days after the deaths of an estimated 100,000 fish in northwest Arkansas. Authorities suspect disease was to blame there, a state spokesman said. In Maryland, preliminary tests showed water quality to be acceptable, officials said. "The affected fish are almost exclusively juvenile spot fish, 3 to 6 inches in length," the Maryland department said. A recent survey "showed a very strong population of spot in the bay this year. An increased juvenile population and limited deep water habitat would likely compound the effects of cold water stress."

AllVoices: Now East Texas also reports hundreds of dead birds –  Texans are observing hundreds of dead birds on an East Texas bridge, according to a breaking report by KLTV in Tyler. This latest discovery compounds the mystery of recent reported discoveries of dozens, hundreds, even thousands of dead birds and fish documented in the southern United States as well as dead wildlife reports in other parts of the world this week.  Around 200 birds were found dead on a Hwy 155 bridge over the Lake O’ the Pines, this morning. The cause of death of the birds identified as American Coots is unknown. Lake O’ the Pines is located on Big Cypress Creek in the Cypress River Basin, 25 miles northeast of Longview.
 
No Evidence for House Republican Charge that Health Reform Is a “Job-Killer” – Health reform will change the American economy in many ways over the next few decades, but it will not significantly change the number of jobs or the unemployment rate. A nonpartisan economic assessment by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) finds a variety of possible labor market effects, some positive and some negative, but nothing that justifies the inflammatory “job-killing” rhetoric invoked in House Republicans’ efforts to repeal the legislation. House Republican claims that the legislation (the Affordable Care Act) is a “job-killer” imply that health reform measures will be a major drag on the economy because they will allegedly increase employers’ costs. But these claims are not supported by evidence, and they are at odds with leading non-partisan assessments of how health reform legislation will affect the economy and labor markets. Unlike House Republicans’ claims that health reform is a “job killer,” CBO’s assessment that health reform will have only modest effects (both positive and negative) on U.S. labor markets is based on an examination of the evidence.
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