Through The Static

August 27, 2008

As Food Prices Soar, Brazil and Argentina React in Opposite Ways

Filed under: Economics,Food,World News — disciplepete @ 1:00 pm


SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Luciano Alves planted beans, corn and grain on about 7,500 acres of his farm in southern Brazil last year. This year, he is planting 8,600 acres. And he credits Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, with the increase.

“The government is helping us finance the purchase of new machinery,” said Mr. Alves. “They reduced the interest rates we pay and have given us more time to pay off the loans. It’s vital.”

Rising food prices mean many farmers around the world are reaping record profits. And South America’s agricultural powerhouses, Brazil and Argentina, are responding to the farming windfall in exactly opposite ways.

Mr. da Silva’s government recently announced record farm credits, in an effort to get Brazil’s farmers to produce more while the price of their exports are high on world markets, a move that should improve Brazil’s economy. But Argentina, Brazil’s economic and political archrival, decided to share the agricultural windfall at home.

Worried about the wave of inflation rippling around the world, the government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner increased export taxes on some crops, a move meant to keep down domestic food prices by encouraging farmers flush from global profits to sell more at home.

“In our country the government is trying to get money to subsidize other sectors of the economy,” said Eduardo Cucagna, president of FN Semillas, an Argentina seed company, objecting to the policy. “I think Brazil is doing the opposite, adapting to what the world is offering now. They’re doing it right.”


August 19, 2008

Zimbabwe inflation hits 11,200,000 percent

Filed under: Economics,World News,WTF — disciplepete @ 11:48 pm

The disciple has been lagging a bit lately, my apologies to my devoted (imagined?) following. Anyways…11.2 million percent inflation?! I don’t understand how a country can even stay together with inflation at that level. But hey, they’re obviously trudging along somehow. CNN:

HARARE, Zimbabwe (CNN) — Zimbabwe’s inflation rate has soared in the past three months and is now at 11.2 million percent, the highest in the world, according to the country’s Central Statistical Office…

…”While our case has been aggravated by the illegal sanctions imposed by the Western powers, rising food prices are a world phenomenon because of the use of bio-fuel,” said Samuel Mumbengegwi. “But we will continue to fight inflation by making sure that prices charged are realistic.”

In February, the price of a loaf of bread in the country was less than 200,000 Zimbabwe dollars. On Monday, that same loaf of bread cost 1.6 trillion Zimbabwe dollars

…Once considered the breadbasket of Africa, Zimbabwe has been in the throes of an economic meltdown ever since the country embarked on a chaotic land reform program that has decimated commercial agriculture.

Analysts say the crisis has worsened following President Robert Mugabe’s disputed reelection in the June 27 presidential run-off. His challenger Morgan Tsvangirai boycotted the race over widespread allegations of violence and voter intimidation.

The economic crisis has destroyed Zimbabwe’s currency and made it difficult for Zimbabweans to buy basic commodities, electricity, fuel, and medicines. Many Zimbabweans have left the country amid rising unemployment and deepening poverty.

July 29, 2008

US faces record budget deficit

Filed under: Economics,Government — disciplepete @ 12:15 am

Tell ’em, Al:

The US government’s budget deficit is expected to soar to a record $482 billion in the next fiscal year, the White House budget office has said.

The Office of Management and Budget said on Monday it blamed the “recent economic slowdown” for the record figure.

The budget deficit measures the gap between how much the government spends and what it raises through taxes…

…Gerald Friedman, a professor of economics at the University of Massachussetts Amherst told Al Jazeera the government had underestimated the size of the deficit.

“They are not indicating all the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan despite a mandate from congress to do that. They are only including the first nine months of the fiscal year. 

“They are also projecting that the economy will recover faster than most economists think. We’ll probably be looking at a deficit of around $600 billion by now.

“The problem is that the Bush administration spends money like a drunken sailor rather than investing wisely in schools and infrastructure.”

The budget has been sapped by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that came as Bush’s tax cuts went into effect.



July 23, 2008

CHINAHHHHH: Beijing Hamburguesas, Rice Sticks, and Banana Caramel McFlurries

Filed under: Economics,Eeeeep!,Food,Oh,World News,WTF — bobbleheadedbob @ 7:08 am

Obviously this is not the taste of authenticity.  OBVIOUSLY.  But in the spirit of the Five Rings to Rule Them All, the BobbLebot brings you innerestingly caLoric burger news via A Hamburger Today:

To celebrate the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing, McDonald’s is beefing up its menus around the world. The “China Menu” in Colombia and Argentina will offer the Beijing Burger—a patty topped with chop suey and ginger sauce on a bun speckled with black and white sesame seeds—along with fried “rice sticks” in lieu of fries, and caramel-and-banana sundae instead of the McFlurry.

Beijing Burger—a patty topped with chop suey and ginger sauce on a bun speckled with black and white sesame seeds—along with FRIED RICE STICKS in lieu of fries, and caramel-and-(Beijing?)banana sundae.

Beijing Burger—a patty topped with chop suey and ginger sauce on a bun speckled with black and white sesame seeds—along with FRIED RICE STICKS in lieu of fries, and caramel-and-(Beijing?)banana sundae.

Australia will feature five different burgers as a part of the “Flavor of the Games” promotion: The American, The Euro, The African, The Asian, and The Australian.

Unfortunately, Stateside folks won’t get anything nearly as global—just Olympic athletes on the packaging for the Southern Style Chicken. Russia also gets the short end of the stick: ho-hum chicken and fish sandwiches and a shrimp salad as part of the “McFresh” line. Maybe we should just get Chinese takeout? [via Goodies First]

Om nom?  Me’s liking the FRIED RICE STICKS.  GENIUS!!!  Nothing says RiceEATER like “sticks de arroz.”

IroniCs that ze BobbLebot has yet to taste chop suey — being an American invention.  Ah, if only ah livesed in Colombia.  If only!


July 22, 2008

British study links IMF loans to tuberculosis

Filed under: Economics,Eeeeep!,Government,Health,World News — disciplepete @ 10:19 am


LONDON (Reuters) – Austerity measures attached to International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans may have contributed to a resurgence in tuberculosis in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, researchers said on Tuesday.

Governments may be reducing funding for health services such as hospitals and clinics to meet strict IMF economic targets, the British researchers said.

The study, published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Medicine, found that countries participating in IMF programmes had seen tuberculosis death rates increase by at least 17 percent between 1991 and 2000 — equivalent to more than 100,000 additional deaths. About one million new cases were recorded during the same period.

Nations that received money from other institutions with less restrictive economic conditions attached had seen a nearly 8 percent drop in tuberculosis death rates, David Stuckler and colleagues at the University of Cambridge said.

“IMF lending did not appear to be a response to worsened health outcomes; rather, it appeared to be a precipitant of such outcomes,” they wrote.

But an IMF spokesman questioned whether the study took into account the instability following the break-up of the Soviet Union, and said it takes time for the disease to develop so the mortality rates could be linked to something previously…

…Even when considering population changes, war, inflation and other factors that can lead to new cases, the researchers found that rising TB rates correlated closely to when IMF funding began.

July 12, 2008

An American life worth less today

Filed under: Culture,Economics,Environment,WTF — disciplepete @ 9:53 am


WASHINGTON – It’s not just the American dollar that’s losing value. A government agency has decided that an American life isn’t worth what it used to be.

The “value of a statistical life” is $6.9 million in today’s dollars, the Environmental Protection Agency reckoned in May — a drop of nearly $1 million from just five years ago…

…Though it may seem like a harmless bureaucratic recalculation, the devaluation has real consequences.

When drawing up regulations, government agencies put a value on human life and then weigh the costs versus the lifesaving benefits of a proposed rule. The less a life is worth to the government, the less the need for a regulation, such as tighter restrictions on pollution.

Consider, for example, a hypothetical regulation that costs $18 billion to enforce but will prevent 2,500 deaths. At $7.8 million per person (the old figure), the lifesaving benefits outweigh the costs. But at $6.9 million per person, the rule costs more than the lives it saves, so it may not be adopted…

So how is this value determined, you ask?

The EPA figure is not based on people’s earning capacity, or their potential contributions to society, or how much they are loved and needed by their friends and family — some of the factors used in insurance claims and wrongful-death lawsuits.

Instead, economists calculate the value based on what people are willing to pay to avoid certain risks, and on how much extra employers pay their workers to take on additional risks. Most of the data is drawn from payroll statistics; some comes from opinion surveys. According to the EPA, people shouldn’t think of the number as a price tag on a life.


July 5, 2008

Biofuels ‘causing food price rises’

Filed under: Economics,Food,Government,SeXiNeSS,World News — disciplepete @ 12:02 pm

Al Jazeera:

Biofuels have triggered a 75 per cent increase in world food prices, according to a leaked confidential report from the World Bank.

The report’s author, a senior economist at the bank, said that contrary to claims by the United States government, increased demand from India and China had not been the cause of rising food prices.

“Rapid income growth in developing countries has not led to large increases in global grain consumption,” the report said.

Rising food prices and the use of biofuels, which supporters claim are a greener alternative to using fossil fuel, will be discussed at a G8 summit in Japan next week.


June 25, 2008

Angry Kids Protest Gas Prices After Mom Cancels Cable TV

Filed under: Economics,Gas,Humor,OMGZCUTE — disciplepete @ 5:56 pm

Fox News:

SALT LAKE CITY – Sadie and Pyper Vance have had just about enough of high gas prices. The sisters are still years away from being old enough to drive, but that doesn’t mean the $4 per gallon price tag isn’t hitting them as hard as anyone else.

Cable TV was one of the family’s budget-cutting casualties, leaving Sadie, 9, and her 7-year-old sister without their favorite cartoons and shows.

“Gas prices are too high,” Sadie said. “I just decided to come and protest so they’d go down.”

The girls marched through downtown Monday chanting and carrying signs made from old campaign signs.


June 22, 2008

Paying Out the Ass for Gas

Filed under: Economics,Gas,Government,Politics — disciplepete @ 4:31 pm

This is a cool article on Alternet, talks about several factors contributing to the gas price insanity.

Shortly after taking office, George W. Bush undertook a sweeping review of US energy policy aimed at expanding the nation’s supply of vital fuels. The “reality is the nation has got a real problem when it comes to energy,” he declared on March 14, 2001. “We need more sources of energy.”…

…With these trends in mind, many energy experts urged the White House to minimize future reliance on oil… But Dick Cheney, who was overseeing the energy review, would have none of this…After three months of huddling in secret with top executives of leading US energy companies, he released a plan on May 17 that, in effect, called for preserving the existing energy system, with its heavy reliance on oil, coal and natural gas.

Because continued reliance on oil would mean increased reliance on imported petroleum, especially from the Middle East, Bush sought to deflect public concern by calling for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other protected areas. As a result, most public discourse on the Bush/Cheney plan focused on drilling in ANWR, and no attention was paid to the implications of increased dependence on imported oil — even though oil from ANWR, in the most optimistic scenario, would reduce US need for imports (now about 60 percent) by just 4 percent.

But this produced another dilemma for Bush: increased reliance on imports meant increased vulnerability to disruptions in delivery due to wars and political upheavals. To address this danger, the Administration began planning for stepped-up military involvement in major overseas oil zones, especially the Persian Gulf…  Then came 9/11 and the “war on terror” — giving the White House a perfect opportunity to accelerate the military expansion and to pursue other key objectives.

But the invasion of Iraq — intended to ensure US control of the Gulf and a stable environment for the expanded production and export of its oil — has had exactly the opposite effect. Despite the many billions spent on oil infrastructure protection and the thousands of lives lost, production in Iraq is no higher today than it was before the invasion. Iraq has also become a rigorous training ground for extremists throughout the region, some of whom have now migrated to the oil kingdoms of the lower Gulf and begun attacking the facilities there — generating some of the recent spikes in prices…

Then there is the dilemma posed by Iran…To restrain Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, Washington has imposed economic sanctions on Iran and forced key US allies to abandon plans for developing new oilfields there. As a result Iran, with the world’s second-largest reserves after Saudi Arabia, is producing only about half the oil it could — another reason for the global constriction of supply.

But the Administration’s greatest contribution to the rising oil prices is its steady stream of threats to attack Iran if it does not back down on the nuclear issue. The Iranians have made it plain that they would retaliate by attempting to block the flow of Gulf oil and otherwise cause turmoil in the energy market. Most analysts assume, therefore, that an encounter will produce a global oil shortage and prices well over $200 per barrel. It is not surprising, then, that every threat by Bush/Cheney (or their counterparts in Israel) has triggered a sharp rise in prices. This is where speculators enter the picture. Believing that a US-Iranian clash is at least 50 percent likely, some investors are buying futures in oil at $140, $150 or more per barrel, thinking they’ll make a killing if there’s an attack and prices zoom over $200

…What can be done to reverse this predicament? There is no realistic hope of substantially increasing the supply of oil — drilling in offshore US waters, as favored by President Bush and Senator John McCain, will not reverse the long-term decline in US production — so it is only by reducing demand that fundamental market forces can be addressed. This is best done through a comprehensive program of energy conservation, expanding public transit and accelerating development of energy alternatives.


June 13, 2008

Bush orders contractors to check legal status of employees

Filed under: Culture,Economics,Government,Grassholes,Immigration,Politics — disciplepete @ 4:01 pm


WASHINGTON – President Bush has signed an executive order requiring contractors and others who do business with the federal government to make sure their employees can legally work in the U.S.

Bush signed the order Friday and the White House announced it Monday [June 9th].

The federal government has had some embarrassing moments when illegal workers have been discovered to be working for contractors they’ve hired, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in a news conference. For that reason it’s trying to get its own house in order, Chertoff said…

The order says federal departments and agencies must require contractors to use an electronic system to verify that the workers are eligible to work in the U.S.



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