Archive for January, 2011

Number of Americans living in poverty ‘increases by 4m’

Friday, January 28th, 2011

One in seven Americans was living in poverty in 2009 with the level of working-age poor the highest since the 1960s, the US Census Bureau says.

The number of people in poverty increased by nearly 4m – to 43.6m – between 2008 and 2009, officials said.

The bureau defines poverty as any family of four living on less than $21,954 a year.

Meanwhile, new figures showed home foreclosures in August hit the highest level since the mortgage crisis began.

Banks repossessed 95,364 properties in August, up 3% from July and an increase of 25% from August 2009, said RealtyTrac, a company which charts the national picture.

The official US poverty rate in 2009 rose to 14.3% from 13.2% in 2008. In 2009, 43.6 million Americans lived in poverty, up from 39.8 million the year before, the third consecutive increase, the bureau said.

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Utah Army base locked to solve ‘serious concern’

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah military base that carries out tests to protect troops against biological attacks was locked down Wednesday to resolve a “serious concern,” officials said.

Base commander Col. William E. King said no one was in danger and the gates will reopen as quickly as it’s feasible.

His statement did not provide any details of the problem.

Base spokeswoman Bonnie Robinson told the The Associated Press early Thursday that officials hope to have the problem resolved shortly.

“We are working as quickly and as thoroughly as possible to resolve a serious concern within the Test Area,” King said.

“Measures like these (lock down of our gates) are not taken lightly. No one is in immediate danger but these steps are required,” he said.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported that a lockdown began at 5:24 p.m. MST Wednesday, with no one allowed in or out of the base. There were about 1,200 to 1,400 people at Dugway at the time.

Military weapons are tested at Dugway, located about 85 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. Its primary mission is defending troops against biological and chemical attacks.

– To the original…

– Research thanks Jonathan S.

– Update 31 Jan 2011 … see:

Greenland glaciers spring surprise

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

– Sometimes, the climate news heads in a good direction as opposed to all the normal doom and gloom.  This is one of those.  – Dennis

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Some Greenland glaciers run slower in warm summers than cooler ones, meaning the icecap may be more resistant to warming than previously thought.

A UK-led scientific team reports the finding in the journal Nature, following analysis of five years of satellite data on six glaciers.

The scientists emphasise the icecap is not “safe from climate change”, as it is still losing ice to the sea.

Melting of the icecap would add several metres to sea level around the world.

But it suggests that one reason behind the acceleration in glacier flow, which so concerned scientists when it was first documented in 2002, will prove not to be such a serious concern.

“In their last report in 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded they weren’t able to make an accurate projection of future sea level because there were a couple of processes by which climate change could cause additional melt from the ice sheet,” said Andy Shepherd from the University of Leeds.

“In their last report in 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded they weren’t able to make an accurate projection of future sea level because there were a couple of processes by which climate change could cause additional melt from the ice sheet,” said Andy Shepherd from the University of Leeds.

“We’re addressing one of those processes and saying that according to the observations, nothing will change, so that process can probably be ruled out.”

In all five years studied (1993 and 1995-8), the speed of the glaciers increased with the onset of summer, as meltwater collected between the bottom of the glacier and the rock beneath, lubricating the flow.

But in the warmest years, the acceleration stalled early in the season; in relatively cool summers, it did not.

Even though the melting accelerated earlier in warmer years, by late summer the glaciers were 60% slower.

The explanation is that hotter summers cause so much meltwater to collect that it runs off in channels below the ice – meaning it does not lubricate the glaciers so efficiently.

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US new home sales in 2010 mark record low

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Sales of newly built homes in the US hit their lowest level in 2010 since records began 47 years ago.

For the year there were only 321,000 sales across the US, down 14% from 2009 and the fifth year of decline, the Department of Commerce said.

Sales did mark a strong rise in December, rising 17% from the previous month on a seasonally adjusted basis.

However, separate data showed mortgage applications fell sharply in January as borrowing rates continue to rise.

Applications for mortgages to finance home purchases fell nearly 9% last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, hitting their lowest level since October.

The drop comes in response to a steady rise in long-term borrowing costs in the US in recent weeks, hitting 4.8% on 30-year mortgages in the last week.

‘Distressed’ sales

Despite the rise in the last month of the year, 2010 still recorded the lowest volume of sales in a December since 1966, according to thecommerce department’s data.

The year had begun well, with activity boosted by a homebuyers’ tax credit.

But sales levels plummeted in the summer following the April expiry of the credit, which economists claim merely encouraged buyers to bring forward purchases they would have made anyway.

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The 25 Countries Whose Governments Could Get Crushed By Food Price Inflation

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Food inflation is now a reality for much of the world. It contributed to the overthrow of the Tunisian government, has led to riots across the Middle East and North Africa, driven up costs in China and India, and may only be getting started.

Whether you blame a bad crop or bad monetary policy, food inflation is here.

Nomura produced a research report detailing the countries that would be crushed in a food crisis. One, Tunisia, has already seen its government overthrown.

Their description of a food crisis is a prolonged price spike. They calculate the states that have the most to lose by a formula including:

  • Nominal GDP per capita in USD at market exchange rates.
  • The share of food in total household consumption.
  • Net food exports as a percentage of GDP.

We’ve got the top 25 countries in danger here and the list, including a major financial center, may surprise you.

– To see the list of 25 counties click the arrow…

The year of living dangerously

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Rising commodity prices and extreme weather events threaten global stability

Get ready for a rocky year. From now on, rising prices, powerful storms, severe droughts and floods, and other unexpected events are likely to play havoc with the fabric of global society, producing chaos and political unrest. Start with a simple fact: the prices of basic food staples are already approaching or exceeding their 2008 peaks, that year when deadly riots erupted in dozens of countries around the world.

It’s not surprising then that food and energy experts are beginning to warn that 2011 could be the year of living dangerously — and so could 2012, 2013, and on into the future. Add to the soaring cost of the grains that keep so many impoverished people alive a comparable rise in oil prices — again nearing levels not seen since the peak months of 2008 — and you can already hear the first rumblings about the tenuous economic recovery being in danger of imminent collapse. Think of those rising energy prices as adding further fuel to global discontent.

Already, combined with staggering levels of youth unemployment and a deep mistrust of autocratic, repressive governments, food prices have sparked riots in Algeria and mass protests in Tunisia that, to the surprise of the world, ousted long-time dictator President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and his corrupt extended family. And many of the social stresses evident in those two countries are present across the Middle East and elsewhere. No one can predict where the next explosion will occur, but with food prices still climbing and other economic pressures mounting, more upheavals appear inevitable. These may be the first resource revolts to catch our attention, but they won’t be the last.

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China’s Hu Jintao: Currency system is ‘product of past’

Monday, January 24th, 2011

– Yes, this writing on the wall will be hard for folk in the U.S. to accept – that they are no longer the financial center of the world.   It’s coming.     If you watch the news flowing by, you will have seen a steady and increasing drum beat of calls to end the era of the U.S. dollar being the world’s reference currency.  And when that era ends, there are going to be big changes for the US, sad to say.  – Dennis

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Chinese President Hu Jintao has said the international currency system dominated by the US dollar is a “product of the past.

Mr Hu also said China was taking steps to replace it with the yuan, its own currency, but acknowledged that would be a “fairly long process”.

The remarks to two US newspapers come ahead of a state visit by the Chinese leader to Washington this week.

They reflect continuing tensions over currency issues between the two powers.

The remarks to the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal came in the form of written responses to questions. Mr Hu also reiterated criticism of a decision by the US Federal Reserve to inject $600bn into the economy, which some argue will weaken the dollar at the expense of other countries’ exports.

“The monetary policy of the United States has a major impact on global liquidity and capital flows and therefore, the liquidity of the US dollar should be kept at a reasonable and stable level,” President Hu said.

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The world is only one poor harvest away from chaos

Friday, January 14th, 2011

BY Lester Brown

12 JAN 2011 3:39 PM

Our early 21st century civilization is in trouble. We need not go beyond the world food economy to see this. Over the last few decades we have created a food production bubble — one based on environmental trends that cannot be sustained, including overpumping aquifers, overplowing land, and overloading the atmosphere with carbon dioxide.

If we cannot reverse these trends, economic decline is inevitable. No civilization has survived the ongoing destruction of its natural support systems. Nor will ours.

Thos who forget history are doomed to re-heat it

The archeological records of earlier civilizations indicate that more often than not it was food shortages that led to their downfall. Food appears to be the weak link for our global civilization as well. And unlike the recent U.S. housing bubble, the food bubble is global.

The question is not whether the food bubble will burst but when. While the U.S. housing bubble was created by the overextension of credit, the food bubble is based on the overuse of land and water resources. It is further threatened by the climate stresses deriving from the excessive burning of fossil fuels. When the U.S. housing bubble burst, it sent shockwaves through the world economy, culminating in the worst recession since the Great Depression. When the food bubble bursts, food prices will soar worldwide, threatening economic and political stability everywhere. For those living on the lower rungs of the global economic ladder, survival itself could be at stake.

The danger signs are everywhere. In the summer of 2010, record high temperatures scorched Moscow from late June through mid-August. Western Russia was so hot and dry in early August that 300 to 400 new fires were starting every day.

The average temperature in Moscow for July was a scarcely believable 14 degrees Fahrenheit above the norm. Watching the heat wave play out over the seven-week period on the TV evening news, with the thousands of fires and smoke everywhere, was like watching a horror film. Over 56,000 people died in the extreme heat. Russia’s 140 million people were in shock, traumatized by what was happening to them and their country .

The record heat shrank Russia’s grain harvest from roughly 100 million tons to 60 million tons. This 40-percent drop and the associated grain export ban helped drive world wheat prices up 60 percent in two months, raising bread prices worldwide.

Crop ecologists estimate that for each 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees F) rise in temperature above the norm during the growing season, grain yields decline by roughly 10 percent. In parts of Western Russia, the spring wheat crop was totally destroyed by the crop-withering heat and drought. As the Earth’s temperature rises, the likelihood of more numerous, more intense heat waves increases.

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– Research thanks to LA

Last December UK’s coldest for 100 years

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Last month was the coldest December documented for the UK since nationwide records began 100 years ago, the Met Office has confirmed.

For central England, it was the second coldest December since 1659.

However, the first analysis released of global temperatures shows 2010 was one of the warmest years on record.

The UK’s harsh weather was caused by anomalously high air pressure that blocked mild westerly winds and brought cold air south from the Arctic.

The provisional monthly Met Office figures show the UK temperature averaged -1C – a long way below the previous coldest December, in 1981, which registered -0.1C.

The December average for the century-long series is 4.2C.

It was also the coldest calendar month since February 1986, the Met Office reports.

“It’s been an exceptional month, there’s no question about that – it will go down in history as one to remember,” said chief meteorologist Ewen McCallum.

“Our records go back to 1910 and it’s certainly the coldest since then, so it’s the coldest December in 100 years,” he told BBC News.

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Hunger index shows one billion without enough food

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

One billion people in the world were undernourished in 2009, according to a new report.

The 2010 Global Hunger Index shows that child malnutrition is the biggest cause of hunger worldwide, accounting for almost half of those affected.

Countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia were shown to have the highest levels of hunger.

The report’s authors called on nations to tackle child malnutrition in order to reduce global hunger.

The Global Hunger Index is produced by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Welthungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines hunger as the consumption of fewer than 1,800 kilocalories a day – the minimum required to live a healthy and productive life.

Despite the number of undernourished people in the world falling between 1990 and 2006, the report’s authors say in that number has crept up in recent years, with the data from 2009 showing more than one billion hungry people.

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