Food Inflation – When food prices rise in the developed world it is an inconvenience, something to grumble about. But, when food prices rise in the developing world it can make difference between going hungry and getting enough to eat. Food inflation is volatile. Agricultural prices tend to fluctuate because demand and supply are both inelastic and supply can vary due to the weather. However, despite the usual volatility, food prices seem to be showing a strong upward movement, reaching record highs in recent years. For example, in India a booming economy has GDP expanding at 9% a year. Official inflation is around 7%, but, headline food inflation is more than double at 17.8% [1 Indian food inflation at Economist, Jan 6th 2011] The Food and Agricultural Organisation said its food price index rose to 214.7 points in Jan 2001, above the peak of 213.5 set in June 2008. 1
Floods threaten Australia’s third biggest city – (Reuters) – Residents in Australia’s third largest city, Brisbane, sandbagged their homes against rising waters Monday as torrential rain worsened floods that have paralyzed the coal industry in the northeast and now threaten tourism. Four people were killed in and around Toowoomba, a major town west of Brisbane, and others were missing, Queensland state premier Anna Bligh told the Australian Associated Press "Mother Nature has unleashed something shocking out of the Toowoomba region," she said, describing it as an "extraordinary deluge that almost came out of nowhere." The worst floods in 50 years have at times covered an area the size of France and Germany combined in Queensland state. At least six people have been killed while dozens of towns have been isolated or partially submerged. More monsoon rains are expected all week.
Mary Blackburn and 46 other congressmen have proposed a law to declare pollutants aren’t pollutants ("The term ‘air pollutant’ shall not include carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, or sulfur hexafluoride." ) Only a couple of days into the new Congress, Representative Mary Blackburn and at least 46 colleagues have proposed an air-pollution solution that’s both simple and ingenious: Pass a law declaring that pollutants aren’t pollutants. Blackburn’s bill, H.R. 97, states: "The term ‘air pollutant’ shall not include carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, or sulfur hexafluoride." If only it were that simple. Unfortunately, sulfur hexaflouoride isn’t bound by the whims of Congress. If that particular greenhouse-gas pollutant (with a climate-disruption potential that’s 22,800 times that of CO2) wants to destroy our atmosphere, then that’s what sulfur hexafluoride is going to do. Blackburn’s bill is just one of several in this Congress that aim to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from simply doing its job. Other proposed measures would block efforts to clean our air for two years and take away EPA funding for enforcement of certain clean-air safeguards.
Jobs Report Signals a Long Haul for a Recovery – The year 2010 ended on a disappointing note, as the economy added just 103,000 jobs in December, suggesting that economic deliverance will not arrive with a great pop in employment. Signs still point to a long slog of a recovery, with the unemployment rate likely to remain above 8 percent — it sits at 9.4 percent after Friday’s report — at least through the rest of the president’s four-year term. The latest report was also a let-down for some within the White House, as recent economic data had suggested that the recovery would gain speed going into 2011. The political stakes are high, as Democrats and Republicans wrestle over who should take credit for the progress of the jobs market, or the blame for its failure to ignite.
A budget body blow — latimes – Rhetoric about shared sacrifice often has an ennobling resonance. Its reality can be excruciatingly painful, as Los Angeles residents will discover when they begin to sort through the implications of the austerity budget Gov. Jerry Brown will deliver Monday.In fact, when it comes to the city and county of Los Angeles, the new state budget will deliver not the "pain" Brown keeps reminding us is inevitable, but torment.Take, for example, just three of the proposals local officials confirm they expect to see in Brown’s first budget: drastic cuts to Medi-Cal and the CalWORKS welfare-to-work program, and the diversion of so-called low-level offenders from the state prison system to local jails. County Chief Executive William T. Fujioka told me this week that his office has been in talks with Sacramento for a couple of weeks on how to handle the staggering additional costs Los Angeles will be forced to assume. "They’re just pushing these problems down to the local level with no real thought about the consequences, and I find that amazing,"
2 Environment Rules Halted in New Mexico –Acting on a campaign promise, New Mexico’s new Republican governor, Susana Martinez, has scuttled a state regulation requiring annual 3 percent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. A second environmental rule intended to control the discharge of waste from dairies in southern New Mexico was also dropped before publication. A different state rule that caps greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources like power plants remains in effect for the time being. During her campaign, Governor Martinez described the regulation of heat-trapping emissions as burdensome for industry and harmful to the state’s economy. Her swift action upon taking office comes as the newly elected governors of two other southwestern states, Arizona and California, are setting a different tone, firmly advocating greater reliance on clean energy.
BP, Halliburton Likely to Face Criminal Charges Over Spill…In light of the presidential report on the Gulf oil spill that’s due to be released next week, speculation is running rampant that the companies involved — BP, Halliburton, and Transocean — could soon be facing criminal charges. It seems only fair that the companies that caused the largest offshore environmental disaster in US history should be made to face trial, though no individual is likely to do any time as a result. Here’s the story, from the Associated Press: Months of investigation by a presidential commission and other panels reinforce the likelihood that companies involved in the Gulf oil spill will be slapped with criminal charges that could add tens of billions of dollars to the huge fines they already face, legal experts said Thursday …