World View: Countries Panic-Buying Food as World Food Prices Surge

This morning's key headlines from

  • China blames loss of Olympics gold on colonialism
  • Countries panic-buying food as world food prices surge
  • 5th anniversary of first bailout
  • Egypt-Israel agreement remains intact, amid military buildup in Sinai
  • Pakistan's Imran Khan threatened by Taliban

China blames loss of Olympics gold on colonialism

Chinese swimming superstar Ye Shiwen holding her gold medal
Chinese swimming superstar Ye Shiwen holding her gold medal

China has not done as well earning gold medals as it did in 2008, when the Olympics games were in Beijing. There have been some obvious slights directed at the Chinese, which isn't surprising, in view of the anti-Chinese xenophobia prior to the 2008 Olympics, (from 2008: "Chinese embarrassment and anger grows over Tibet and Olympics"), and also in view of the anti-West xenophobia that China exhibits on a daily basis. The Chinese internet is a-buzz with contemptuous comments directed at the West. Among them:

"So far, the UK has given to us three things: the Opium War, the burning of the Summer Palace and the London Olympics."

Nonetheless, China still leads the medal count (both gold and total). Bloomberg

Countries panic-buying food as world food prices surge

Global prices for corn and whet rose 50% in July and July, aided by the worst drought in the U.S. since 1956. More than half of all U.S. counties - 1,584 in 32 states -- have been designated primary disaster areas this growing season. There was no panic buying until last week when Mexico, which suffered "tortilla riots" in 2007, began making huge purchases of corn. Now a cascade effect may be taking place, as Iran, Algeria and Jordan are all shopping for grain this week.

The situation is going to continue to get worse, according to a BBC interview with Abdolreza Abbassian, senior economist at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. When asked whether we would return to the days of WW II when famine and food crises became the norm, he said the following (my transcript):

"I hate to say this, but it's already a norm. We have a billion people without food, so it's not doing that well, i'm afraid. In fact, in more likelihood, if we don't do anything about this, it's just going to get worse.

It is true that the Green Revolution helped us to keep pace with the demand for a certain period of time. But if you look at the yields now for major crops, they basically have flattened out. Whatever we gained in that period, over the last two-three decades, is basically going to give us just enough food to barely meet demand, and this just not good enough."
AP and Reuters and BBC (MP3)

5th anniversary of first bailout

On August 9, 2007, central banks around the world launched the first of many full scale bailouts. In my article, "US and European central banks inject billions in cash to stanch market meltdown", I quoted an e-mail message from a web site reader:

"My father immigrated to the U.S. from Germany in the 20s and experienced the great depression in Pennsylvania. When I was a teenager, he told me his generation would not cause another depression because of what they experienced in the 30s. My father would not borrow money - only purchased in cash. Just before his death in 1962, he commented that the current generation was making mistakes his generation had made, and another depression was inevitable. What would he have said observing uncontrolled growth of financial derivatives, and our massive, ever increasing, unrepayable national debt? Having experienced hyper-inflation in Germany, believe he would have said our national debt would be repaid in drastically cheaper dollars."

I've actually gotten quite a few e-mail messages like this, from people whose fathers or grandfathers warned them what was happening. In the five years that have gone by, we've seen bigger and bigger bailouts. The first bailout was only "billions," which seems like chicken feed by today's standards, in this world where fraud and extortion are the norm. You hear full-throated lies on CNBC about stock valuations that anyone can refute simply by opening the Wall Street Journal. You hear full-throated lies by politicians on all sides on almost any subject. People don't realize how much the world has changed since the 1990s, and how much more it's going to change by 2020.

Egypt-Israel agreement remains intact, amid military buildup in Sinai

A key provision of the landmark 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel was the demilitarization of Sinai, near Egypt's border with Israel. There are strict limits on the number of troops that either Israel or Egypt can move near the border, but now Israel is approving a massive Egyptian military buildup near the border to fight the militants who were responsible for the murderous ambush of Egyptian soldiers over the weekend, killing 16. However, neither Israel nor Egypt is talking about amending the peace agreement, since opening negotiations would become a fierce political issue in both countries. AP

Pakistan's Imran Khan threatened by Taliban

Imran Khan at rally last year (AFP)
Imran Khan at rally last year (AFP)

Imran Khan, a Pashtun born in 1952, one of Pakistan's greatest cricket players of all time, once voted as the "Sexiest Man of The Year" by Australia Magazine Oz, turned to politics in the 1990s. He's now the "hope and change" candidate in Pakistan, but he's running into trouble with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP - Pakistan Taliban) for calling himself a "liberal." TTP leaders are denying stories that they've threatened to kill him, but according to a spokesman:

"It's sure and clear that we don't have any sympathy with Imran Khan, neither do we need his sympathy, as he himself claims to be a liberal, and we see liberals as infidels."

Khan has run a populist anti-American campaign that has drawn huge crowds, particularly blaming the Americans for the Taliban terrorist attacks in Pakistan. (Go figure.) Now that the Taliban are threatening him, it'll be interesting to see whom he blames. AP

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