Gates says big changes in store for Internet in next decade

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates said there will be a vast shift in Internet technology over the next decade as he met Tuesday with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.”We’re approaching the second decade of (the) digital age,” the software mogul and philanthropist told Lee at the start of their meeting at the presidential Blue House, according to a media pool report.

“The Internet has been operating now for 10 years,” Gates said. “The second 10 years will be very different.”

Read moreGates says big changes in store for Internet in next decade

Defense Industry Consolidation in the USA

The US GAO’s 2008 Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs is proving to have a longer tail than usual. Booz Allen Hamilton is a strategic/ I.T/ program assistance consultancy with strong representation in the government and defense sectors. This May Day, we refer readers to the recent Washington Post article “One-Stop Defense Shopping,” wherein Booz Allen Hamilton VPs Dov S. Zakheim and Ronald T. Kadish discuss the state of competition in the American defense industry, and some of its consequences:

“The GAO report lays bare a festering problem in our nation’s military procurement system: Competition barely exists in the defense industry and is growing weaker by the day.

It was a different story just two decades ago. In the 1980s, 20 or more prime contractors competed for most defense contracts. Today, the Pentagon relies primarily on six main contractors to build our nation’s aircraft, missiles, ships and other weapons systems. It is a system that largely forgoes competition on price, delivery and performance and replaces it with a kind of “design bureau” competition, similar to what the Soviet Union used—hardly a recipe for success….”

America is certainly not the only country facing these pressures: Britain is even farther down this road, and Europe is aggressively moving to restructure its own industry into a very few global competitors. Ultimately, the policy implications described here will be played out on a near-global basis, with the possible exception of China.

30-Apr-2008 18:27 EDT

Source: Defense Industry Daily

Making a killing from hunger

We need to overturn food policy, now!

GRAIN

For some time now the rising cost of food all over the world has taken households, governments and the media by storm. The price of wheat has gone up by 130% over the last year.[1] Rice has doubled in price in Asia in the first three months of 2008 alone,[2] and just last week it hit record highs on the Chicago futures market.[3] For most of 2007 the spiralling cost of cooking oil, fruit and vegetables, as well as of dairy and meat, led to a fall in the consumption of these items. From Haiti to Cameroon to Bangladesh, people have been taking to the streets in anger at being unable to afford the food they need. In fear of political turmoil, world leaders have been calling for more food aid, as well as for more funds and technology to boost agricultural production. Cereal exporting countries, meanwhile, are closing their borders to protect their domestic markets, while other countries have been forced into panic buying. Is this a price blip? No. A food shortage? Not that either. We are in a structural meltdown, the direct result of three decades of neoliberal globalisation.

Farmers across the world produced a record 2.3 billion tons of grain in 2007, up 4% on the previous year. Since 1961 the world’s cereal output has tripled, while the population has doubled. Stocks are at their lowest level in 30 years, it’s true,[4] but the bottom line is that there is enough food produced in the world to feed the population. The problem is that it doesn’t get to all of those who need it. Less than half of the world’s grain production is directly eaten by people. Most goes into animal feed and, increasingly, biofuels – massive inflexible industrial chains. In fact, once you look behind the cold curtain of statistics, you realise that something is fundamentally wrong with our food system. We have allowed food to be transformed from something that nourishes people and provides them with secure livelihoods into a commodity for speculation and bargaining. The perverse logic of this system has come to a head. Today it is staring us in the face that this system puts the profits of investors before the food needs of people.

Read moreMaking a killing from hunger

Emptying the Breadbasket

For decades, wheat was king on the Great Plains and prices were low everywhere. Those days are over.

At Stephen Fleishman’s busy Bethesda shop, the era of the 95-cent bagel is coming to an end.

Breaking the dollar barrier “scares me,” said the Bronx-born owner of Bethesda Bagels. But with 100-pound bags of North Dakota flour now above $50 — more than double what they were a few months ago — he sees no alternative to a hefty increase in the price of his signature product, a bagel made by hand in the back of the store.

I’ve never seen anything like this in 20 years,” he said. “It’s a nightmare.”

Fleishman and his customers are hardly alone. Across America, turmoil in the world wheat markets has sent prices of bread, pasta, noodles, pizza, pastry and bagels skittering upward, bringing protests from consumers.

But underlying this food inflation are changes that are transforming U.S. agriculture and making a return to the long era of cheap wheat products doubtful at best.

Half a continent away, in the North Dakota country that grows the high-quality wheats used in Fleishman’s bagels, many farmers are cutting back on growing wheat in favor of more profitable, less disease-prone corn and soybeans for ethanol refineries and Asian consumers.

“Wheat was king once,” said David Braaten, whose Norwegian immigrant grandparents built their Kindred, N.D., farm around wheat a century ago. “Now I just don’t want to grow it. It’s not a consistent crop.”

In the 1980s, more than half the farm’s acres were wheat. This year only one in 10 will be, and 40 percent will go to soybeans. Braaten and other farmers are considering investing in a $180 million plant to turn the beans into animal feed and cooking oil, both now in strong demand in China. And to stress his hopes for ethanol, his business card shows a sketch of a fuel pump.

Read moreEmptying the Breadbasket

Multinationals make billions in profit out of growing global food crisis

Speculators blamed for driving up price of basic foods as 100 million face severe hunger

Giant agribusinesses are enjoying soaring earnings and profits out of the world food crisis which is driving millions of people towards starvation, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. And speculation is helping to drive the prices of basic foodstuffs out of the reach of the hungry.

The prices of wheat, corn and rice have soared over the past year driving the world’s poor – who already spend about 80 per cent of their income on food – into hunger and destitution.

The World Bank says that 100 million more people are facing severe hunger. Yet some of the world’s richest food companies are making record profits. Monsanto last month reported that its net income for the three months up to the end of February this year had more than doubled over the same period in 2007, from $543m (£275m) to $1.12bn. Its profits increased from $1.44bn to $2.22bn.

Cargill’s net earnings soared by 86 per cent from $553m to $1.030bn over the same three months. And Archer Daniels Midland, one of the world’s largest agricultural processors of soy, corn and wheat, increased its net earnings by 42 per cent in the first three months of this year from $363m to $517m. The operating profit of its grains merchandising and handling operations jumped 16-fold from $21m to $341m.

Similarly, the Mosaic Company, one of the world’s largest fertiliser companies, saw its income for the three months ending 29 February rise more than 12-fold, from $42.2m to $520.8m, on the back of a shortage of fertiliser. The prices of some kinds of fertiliser have more than tripled over the past year as demand has outstripped supply. As a result, plans to increase harvests in developing countries have been hit hard.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation reports that 37 developing countries are in urgent need of food. And food riots are breaking out across the globe from Bangladesh to Burkina Faso, from China to Cameroon, and from Uzbekistan to the United Arab Emirates.

Read moreMultinationals make billions in profit out of growing global food crisis

Time to Stockpile Food?

A Guide to Preparing for Rising Food Costs or That Next Big Emergency


The inside of H-bomb steel shelter from 1955. (AP Photo)

Worried about the dramatically rising cost of food? Afraid of a shortage?

Well, then maybe it’s time to clean out that old Cold War-era bunker and stockpile your favorite treats. Just move those gas masks to the side and start stacking up the canned string beans.

OK, so maybe that is a bit extreme. But some families have been talking about stockpiling to hedge against further increases and possible shortages.

The idea took hold last week when Costco and Sam’s Club announced that they would limit customers to four wholesale-size 20-pound bags of imported jasmine, basmati and long-grain white rices per trip.

That has caused some concern, but think about the last time you bought 20 pounds of rice in one shopping trip, let alone 80, 100 or even 120 pounds.

How Is the Economy Treating You? Tell ABC News
(A Clever way to find out who is in financial trouble. – The Infinite Unknown)

The clubs’ restrictions were probably not aimed at everyday consumers, however.

In a statement Friday, Sam’s Club said: “These limits are designed to prevent large distributors or wholesalers from depleting our stock. We believe limiting rice purchases to four bags per visit is consistent with the needs of the majority of our members, including many restaurants.”

In other words, the big chains are afraid some restaurants will deplete their stocks because their prices are cheaper than some traditional restaurant suppliers.

Stockpiling Hurts Everyone

The reasons for the food price increases include more grains being used for fuel production, increased demand in countries including China, and poor harvests.

For consumers concerned about rising food prices, stockpiling probably makes little economic sense, said Bill Knudson, a professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Michigan State University.

“The thing about stockpiling is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he said. “The easiest way to raise food prices is if everybody went out and stockpiled food.”

(If everybody went out buying just 20% more food there would be empty shelves everywhere. And if you do not stock up food now, you will probably find yourself in big trouble very soon. This is a crisis played down.
– The Infinite Unknown
From recent articles:

“Even if people increased their purchasing by 20%, all the store shelves would be wiped out.”

…global grain reserves are “precarious,” at just 1.7 months of consumption, down from 3.5 months of reserves as recently as 2000.”…)

In the past two decades food prices have only increased by an average of 2.5 percent each year. But from 2006 to 2007, prices spiked 4 percent. The Department of Agriculture is forecasting a 4 to 5 percent increase in retail prices this year.

But some individual staples have jumped in price.
(Just some individual staples have jumped in price
??? What a bad joke.- The Infinite Unknown)

The cost of white bread alone was 16.3 percent higher in March than a year earlier, according to the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks inflation through the Consumer Price Index. Grade A large eggs were up nearly 35 percent during the same period and sliced bacon rose 4.6 percent.

Read moreTime to Stockpile Food?

IBM joins Lockheed on FBI identification contract

IBM Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp. have agreed to work together on the $1 billion contract to develop and maintain the FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) system, IBM said today. Federal, state and local authorities will use the new multimodal biometrics system.

Lockheed Martin won the 10-year contract in February, but IBM lodged a protest with the Government Accountability Office and work was held up. Big Blue’s announcement that it is joining Lockheed Martin’s team as a subcontractor made no mention of the protest.

As the prime contractor, Lockheed Martin will provide program management and oversight in addition to biometric and large-systems development and integration expertise, the news release said. As a subcontractor, IBM will provide some information technology services in addition to specific software and hardware to be used in the NGI system.

NGI is an upgrade to the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, which collects and stores fingerprints related to law enforcement investigations.

The system will expand fingerprint processing capacity and also include palm prints and iris- and facial-recognition capabilities. The system requires a significant degree of technical flexibility to accommodate other biometric modalities that may mature and become important to law enforcement efforts in the future.

When completed, the system will double the FBI’s IAFIS capabilities. The Clarksburg, W.Va., facility houses the largest collection of its kind in the world — more than 46 million sets of digitized fingerprints. Searches require only a matter of minutes.

In addition to IBM, the Lockheed Martin team includes Accenture Ltd, BAE Systems Information Technology Inc., Global Science and Technology Inc., Innovative Management and Technology Services LLC, Platinum Solutions Inc. and the National Center for State Courts.

05/02/08 — 04:17 PM
By David Hubler

Source: Washington Technology

Fed joins with European banks to battle credit crisis

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve announced Friday that it will expand a series of efforts to deal with the global credit crisis, in coordination with European central banks.The Fed said it was boosting the amount of emergency reserves it supplies to U.S. banks to $150 billion in May, from the $100 billion it supplied in April. The Fed took this action and several other moves to boost credit in coordination with the European Central Bank and the Swiss National Bank.

The latest moves are part of a series of actions the Fed has made since the credit crisis struck in August.

The efforts are designed to increase reserves so that banks don’t become hesitant about lending to consumers and businesses, which would make the current economic slowdown even more severe.

(The continuing bailouts are destroying the dollar and will create a total crash very soon. – The Infinite Unknown)

Read moreFed joins with European banks to battle credit crisis

Fed `Rogue Operation’ Spurs Further Bailout Calls


Ben Bernanke, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, arrives at the Federal Reserve building for a Federal Reserve Open Market Committee meeting in Washington, April 29, 2008. Photographer: Brendan Smialowski/Bloomberg News

May 2 (Bloomberg) — A month after the Federal Reserve rescued Bear Stearns Cos. from bankruptcy, Chairman Ben S. Bernanke got an S.O.S. from Congress.

There is “a potential crisis in the student-loan market” requiring “similar bold action,” Chairman Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and six other Democrats wrote Bernanke. They want the Fed to swap Treasury notes for bonds backed by student loans. In a separate letter, Pennsylvania Democratic Representative Paul Kanjorski and 31 House members said they want Bernanke to channel money directly to education-finance firms.

Student loans are just the start. Former Fed officials and other Fed-watchers say that Bernanke’s actions in saving Bear Stearns will expose the central bank to continuing pressure to use its $889 billion balance sheet to prop up companies or entire industries deemed important by politicians. The Fed satisfied Dodd’s request today, expanding the swaps to include securities backed by student debt.

“It is appalling where we are right now,” former St. Louis Fed President William Poole, who retired in March, said in an interview. The Fed has introduced “a backstop for the entire financial system.”

Critics argue that the result will be to foster greater risk-taking among investors emboldened by the belief that the government will bail them out of bad decisions.

The Fed’s loans to Bear Stearns were “a rogue operation,” said Anna Schwartz, who co-wrote “A Monetary History of the United States” with the late Nobel laureate Milton Friedman.

`No Business’

“To me, it is an open and shut case,” she said in an interview from her office in New York. “The Fed had no business intervening there.”

Read moreFed `Rogue Operation’ Spurs Further Bailout Calls

Federal Reserve may Want Inflation

We are now importing inflation. This does not only apply to the cost of commodities, such as oil, but also to consumer goods imported from Asia. This is a newer trend as, in our analysis, Asia had been exporting deflation until the summer of 2006; since then, we have seen increased pricing power by Asian exporters.

Inflation is not just a U.S. phenomenon; as Asian economies are far more dependent on agricultural and industrial commodities, rising inflation may become a serious concern in the region. The stronger and more prudent Asian central banks may realize that allowing their currencies to float higher versus the U.S. dollar may be the most effective way to combat inflationary pressures.

Read moreFederal Reserve may Want Inflation