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

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, whenthe Olympics games were in Beijing. There have been some obviousslights directed at the Chinese, which isn’t surprising, in view ofthe anti-Chinese xenophobia prior to the 2008 Olympics, (from 2008:“Chinese embarrassment and anger grows over Tibet and Olympics”), and also in view of theanti-West xenophobia that China exhibits on a daily basis. TheChinese internet is a-buzz with contemptuous comments directed at theWest. Among them:

“So far, the UK has given to us three things: theOpium War, the burning of the Summer Palace and the LondonOlympics.”

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 bythe worst drought in the U.S. since 1956. More than half of allU.S. counties – 1,584 in 32 states — have been designated primarydisaster areas this growing season. There was no panic buying untillast week when Mexico, which suffered “tortilla riots” in 2007, beganmaking huge purchases of corn. Now a cascade effect may be takingplace, as Iran, Algeria and Jordan are all shopping for grain thisweek.

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

“I hate to say this, but it’s already a norm. We havea billion people without food, so it’s not doing that well, i’mafraid. In fact, in more likelihood, if we don’t do anything aboutthis, it’s just going to get worse.

It is true that the Green Revolution helped us to keep pace withthe demand for a certain period of time. But if you look at theyields now for major crops, they basically have flattened out.Whatever we gained in that period, over the last two-threedecades, is basically going to give us just enough food to barelymeet 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 firstof 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 aweb site reader:

“My father immigrated to the U.S. from Germany in the20s and experienced the great depression in Pennsylvania. When Iwas a teenager, he told me his generation would not cause anotherdepression because of what they experienced in the 30s. My fatherwould not borrow money – only purchased in cash. Just before hisdeath in 1962, he commented that the current generation was makingmistakes his generation had made, and another depression wasinevitable. What would he have said observing uncontrolled growthof financial derivatives, and our massive, ever increasing,unrepayable national debt? Having experienced hyper-inflation inGermany, believe he would have said our national debt would berepaid in drastically cheaper dollars.”

I’ve actually gotten quite a few e-mail messages like this, frompeople whose fathers or grandfathers warned them what was happening.In the five years that have gone by, we’ve seen bigger and biggerbailouts. The first bailout was only “billions,” which seems likechicken feed by today’s standards, in this world where fraud andextortion are the norm. You hear full-throated lies on CNBC aboutstock valuations that anyone can refute simply by opening the WallStreet Journal. You hear full-throated lies by politicians on allsides on almost any subject. People don’t realize how much the worldhas changed since the 1990s, and how much more it’s going to change by2020.

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

A key provision of the landmark 1979 peace treaty between Egypt andIsrael was the demilitarization of Sinai, near Egypt’s border withIsrael. There are strict limits on the number of troops that eitherIsrael or Egypt can move near the border, but now Israel is approvinga massive Egyptian military buildup near the border to fight themilitants who were responsible for the murderous ambush of Egyptiansoldiers over the weekend, killing 16. However, neither Israel norEgypt is talking about amending the peace agreement, since openingnegotiations 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 cricketplayers of all time, once voted as the “Sexiest Man of The Year” byAustralia Magazine Oz, turned to politics in the 1990s. He’s now thewith Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP – Pakistan Taliban) for callinghimself a “liberal.” TTP leaders are denying stories that they’vethreatened to kill him, but according to a spokesman:

“It’s sure and clear that we don’t have any sympathywith Imran Khan, neither do we need his sympathy, as he himselfclaims to be a liberal, and we see liberals asinfidels.”

Khan has run a populist anti-American campaign that has drawn hugecrowds, particularly blaming the Americans for the Taliban terroristattacks in Pakistan. (Go figure.) Now that the Taliban arethreatening him, it’ll be interesting to see whom he blames. AP

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