Floods may boost world food prices for years

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Floods wipe out US crops

The Best Farmland in the U.S. Is Flooded; Most Americans Are Too Stupid to Panic
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LEVEES on the cresting Mississippi River held today as the worst US Midwest flooding in 15 years began to ebb, but multibillion-dollar crop losses may boost world food prices for years.

Water levels on the river receded for the second straight day as mostly clear weather gave saturated areas a chance to start draining. Forecasts for similar dry weather in coming days gave further encouragement.

The swollen river was expected to crest tomorrow in St Louis at 11.9 metres, 3.3 metres below the record set in 1993 and a level considered “manageable”, said US Army Corps of Engineers St Louis District spokesman Alan Dooley.

“The crest in the areas up the Mississippi River in the district has passed,” Dooley said. “The water is still up very high and it is up against levees.”

Read moreFloods may boost world food prices for years

Pentagon Fights EPA On Pollution Cleanup

The Defense Department, the nation’s biggest polluter, is resisting orders from the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up Fort Meade and two other military bases where the EPA says dumped chemicals pose “imminent and substantial” dangers to public health and the environment.

The Pentagon has also declined to sign agreements required by law that cover 12 other military sites on the Superfund list of the most polluted places in the country. The contracts would spell out a remediation plan, set schedules, and allow the EPA to oversee the work and assess penalties if milestones are missed.

The actions are part of a standoff between the Pentagon and environmental regulators that has been building during the Bush administration, leaving the EPA in a legal limbo as it addresses growing concerns about contaminants on military bases that are seeping into drinking water aquifers and soil.

Under executive branch policy, the EPA will not sue the Pentagon, as it would a private polluter. Although the law gives final say to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson in cleanup disputes with other federal agencies, the Pentagon refuses to recognize that provision. Military officials wrote to the Justice Department last month to challenge EPA’s authority to issue the orders and asked the Office of Management and Budget to intervene.

Experts in environmental law said the Pentagon’s stand is unprecedented.

“This is stunning,” said Rena Steinzor, who helped write the Superfund laws as a congressional staffer and now teaches at the University of Maryland Law School and is president of the nonprofit Center for Progressive Reform. “The idea that they would refuse to sign a final order — that is the height of amazing nerve.”

Pentagon officials say they are voluntarily cleaning up the three sites named in the EPA’s “final orders” — Fort Meade in Maryland, Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida and McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey.

Fort Meade borders residential areas in fast-growing Anne Arundel County; Tyndall and McGuire are in less-populated regions. At all three sites, the military has released toxic chemicals — some known to cause cancer and other serious health problems — into the soil and groundwater.

But the EPA has been dissatisfied with the extent and progress of the Pentagon’s voluntary efforts.

“Final orders” are the EPA’s most potent enforcement tool. If a polluter does not comply, the agency usually can go to court to force compliance and impose fines up to $28,000 a day for each violation.

Read morePentagon Fights EPA On Pollution Cleanup

MIT group makes low-cost dish to tap solar energy

Photo

Spencer Ahrens, a 23-year-old mechanical engineer, was on MIT’s campus last week, holding a wooden plank, surrounded by onlookers.

Slowly, he turned that wooden plank before a series of mirrors that had been placed inside an aluminum frame, until the wood caught fire.

That was quite a moment, recalled Matthew Ritter, one of the onlookers.

“Let’s just say it was a small combustion for wood materials, but a giant explosion of solar energy,” he said.

Ahrens, Ritter and the other people who helped create the solar-powered dish that harnessed the sunlight that eventually burned the wood say they’ve just created the world’s most cost-efficient solar power system.

They also say these dishes may revolutionize global energy production.

“You can stick these things wherever there is a piece of sunlight, and power a home or an industrial plant,” said Ahrens, who just received his master’s degree from MIT.

Since January, he’s been working with Ritter, an Olin College student; Micah Sze, a recent graduate of MIT’s Sloan School of Management; University of California-Berkeley graduate and Broad Institute engineer Eva Markiewicz and MIT materials science student Anna Bershteyn.

Together, they built a 12-foot wide solar panel by piecing together lightweight aluminum tubes to make the frame. Inside, they arranged a series of mirrors and then attached a water-filled coil at the bottom of the frame.

When the frame is properly positioned, the mirrors will direct concentrated sunlight toward the coil.

As the water heats up, it is converted to steam, and that steam, the creators say, can be used to generate electricity to heat and cool homes and power machines.

They now say its design is so simple, it can be built and placed just about anywhere the sun shines.

“We made it by hand and transported the parts by car or by bike,” Ritter said.

The crew spent about $5,000 to build the dish, and according to MIT Sloan School of Management lecturer David Pelly, it is the cheapest way he’s seen to harness that much sun power.

“I’ve looked for years at a variety of solar approaches, and this is the cheapest I’ve seen,” he said.

Ahrens, Ritter and the others are now packing up and moving to California, where they plan to mass-produce the dishes, probably for less than it cost to build the first one.

Their new company is called RawSolar, and Ahrens said its possibilities are endless.

“The energy crisis affects so much of what we do,” Ahrens said. “It’s driving food prices and water problems and airline fares, and we are trying to work through these things in an environmentally and economically sustainable way.”

After all, he said, “Sunlight is free.”

Source: Boston Herald

Nation’s Spies: Climate Change Could Spark War

Environmental groups have been warning for years that tense parts of the world could get even worse with the advent of global climate change, and even spark whole new conflicts. Now, the nation’s spies are saying pretty much the same thing.

The U.S. intelligence community has finished up its classified assessment of how our changing weather patterns could contribute to “political instability around the world, the collapse of governments and the creation of terrorist safe havens,” Inside Defense reports. Congress was briefed on the report last week. And on Wednesday, leading spies — including National Intelligence Council chairman Dr. Thomas Fingar and Energy Department intelligence chief Rolf Mowatt-Larsen — will testify on the Hill about the 58-page document, “The National Security Implications of Global Climate Change Through 2030.”

In addition to examining how weather could add stress to governments with a weak grip on power … the authors mulled a spectrum of second- and third-order consequences for Washington policymakers to consider — including indirect security concerns like impacts on economies, energy, social unrest and migration.

Foreign-policy concerns were also weighed, including how flooding, rising water levels or drought might create humanitarian crises. Also examined was how extreme weather events could challenge the response capabilities of governments around the world.

“Climate change is a threat multiplier in the world’s most unstable regions,” a source familiar with the document tells Danger Room. “It’s like a match to the tinder.” Just think about the fights over water already under way in the Middle East and Africa, or the tensions exacerbated by the hurricanes and tsunamis in Asia.

The document was originally supposed to be unclassified. But then the policy recommendations — and warnings about trouble spots — got more and more detailed.

Richard Engel, deputy national intelligence officer for science and technology … said in a little-noticed speech last month at the University of Delaware that if the findings of the assessment were made public, “It would frustrate the execution of U.S. foreign policy.”

“We wanted to get down to something that might be actionable for the policy community,” Engel, a former Air Force major general and test pilot, said. “So we had to be very specific.”

“Generally, the Earth’s climate is changing, it has always been changing, so that’s not anything but a blinding flash of the obvious,” Engel added. “We really want to understand extreme weather events because they are very important as they potentially put at risk the infrastructure.”

The assessment is stamped “confidential,” the lowest level of classification. And our source says that Fingar & Co. is promising that nearly all of the document will come out in Wednesday’s hearing, before a joint session of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and the Intelligence Community Management Subcommittee. Also testifying are former British Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett, retired Admiral Paul Gaffney and the Army War College’s Kent Hughes Butts, all of whom have previously raised alarms about climate change’s strategic impact. Lee Lane, with the American Enterprise Institute, has been pushing the issue of “geoengineering” in response to global warming. And Marlo Lewis, with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, calls the whole thing a “myth.”

Lewis’ presence before the panel may be a bit of a sop for the Republicans on the Intelligence Committee, many of whom opposed the idea of using the nation’s spies to investigate these issues at all.

But the nation’s military leadership, at least, is paying closer attention. “Climate change and other projected trends will compound already difficult conditions in many developing countries. These trends will increase the likelihood of humanitarian crises, the potential for epidemic diseases, and regionally destabilizing population migrations,” the Army says in its 2008 posture statement.

“We are [f]acing challenges from multiple sources: a new, more malignant form of terrorism inspired by jihadist extremism, ethnic strife, disease, poverty, climate change, failed and failing states, resurgent powers, and so on,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates told an audience at American University in April.

Read moreNation’s Spies: Climate Change Could Spark War

Floods wipe out US crops

The crest of the swollen Mississippi River moved downstream yesterday as volunteers manned sandbagged levees and coped with the costs of the Midwest’s worst flooding in 15 years. “At times like these you don’t know whether to cry or laugh. But here in the Midwest we tend to favour the latter,” said Charlotte Hoerr, who, with her husband Brent, farms land not far from the river in this small Missouri town.

The river overcame more than two dozen levees last week, submerging small towns and vast stretches of prime farmland as the nation’s most vital waterway absorbed the run-off of torrential rains that put many Iowa towns under water. The Midwest flooding and storms are expected to push US and world food prices higher. Up to five million acres of newly planted crops have been lost at the heart of the world’s top grain and food exporter. Prices for corn, cattle and pigs all set records this week owing to the floods, as a world economy already hit by inflation from rising energy prices absorbed the blow.

Related articles:
The U.S. Has No Remaining Grain Reserves
Nine meals from anarchy – how Britain is facing a very real food crisis
Time to Stockpile Food?
Food Riots are Coming to the U.S.
UN alert: One-fourth of world’s wheat at risk from new fungus
THE FOUR HORSEMEN APPROACH – FAMINE IS IN THE AIR

(Wake up: “World Situation” & Prepare yourself: “Solution” – The Infinite Unknown)

Read moreFloods wipe out US crops

Must See: Pictures of Iowa Flooding

June 17, 2008

Pictures: Source: The Boston Globe

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The Best Farmland in the U.S. Is Flooded; Most Americans Are Too Stupid to Panic

The Sunspot Enigma: The Sun is “Dead”—What Does it Mean for Earth?

Dark spots, some as large as 50,000 miles in diameter, typically move across the surface of the sun, contracting and expanding as they go. These strange and powerful phenomena are known as sunspots, but now they are all gone. Not even solar physicists know why it’s happening and what this odd solar silence might be indicating for our future.

Although periods of inactivity are normal for the sun, this current period has gone on much longer than usual and scientists are starting to worry-at least a little bit. Recently 100 scientists from Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa and North America gathered to discuss the issue at an international solar conference at Montana State University. Today’s sun is as inactive as it was two years ago, and solar physicists don’t have a clue as to why.

“It continues to be dead,” said Saku Tsuneta with the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, program manager for the Hinode solar mission, noting that it is at least a little bit worrisome for scientists.

Dana Longcope, a solar physicist at MSU, said the sun usually operates on an 11-year cycle with maximum activity occurring in the middle of the cycle. The last cycle reached its peak in 2001 and is believed to be just ending now, Longcope said. The next cycle is just beginning and is expected to reach its peak sometime around 2012. But so far nothing is happening.

“It’s a dead face,” Tsuneta said of the sun’s appearance.

Tsuneta said solar physicists aren’t weather forecasters and they can’t predict the future. They do have the ability to observe, however, and they have observed a longer-than-normal period of solar inactivity. In the past, they observed that the sun once went 50 years without producing sunspots. That period coincided with a little ice age on Earth that lasted from 1650 to 1700. Coincidence? Some scientists say it was, but many worry that it wasn’t.

Geophysicist Phil Chapman, the first Australian to become an astronaut with NASA, said pictures from the US Solar and Heliospheric Observatory also show that there are currently no spots on the sun. He also noted that the world cooled quickly between January last year and January this year, by about 0.7C.

“This is the fastest temperature change in the instrumental record, and it puts us back to where we were in 1930,” Dr Chapman noted in The Australian recently.

If the world does face another mini Ice Age, it could come without warning. Evidence for abrupt climate change is readily found in ice cores taken from Greenland and Antarctica. One of the best known examples of such an event is the Younger Dryas cooling, which occurred about 12,000 years ago, named after the arctic wildflower found in northern European sediments. This event began and ended rather abruptly, and for its entire 1000 year duration the North Atlantic region was about 5°C colder. Could something like this happen again? There’s no way to tell, and because the changes can happen all within one decade-we might not even see it coming.

Read moreThe Sunspot Enigma: The Sun is “Dead”—What Does it Mean for Earth?

Water Restoration Act May Lead to Privatization of Water Supply

(NaturalNews) The fate of the nation’s water supply is under debate as hearings in the House and Senate begin on the Water Restoration Act of 2007. Opponents claim this Act threatens to greatly expand the Federal Government’s roll in water management. This Act would define waters of the U.S. as “all interstate and intrastate waters and their tributaries, including lakes, rivers, streams (including intermittent streams) mudflats, sand flats, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, playa lakes, natural ponds, and all impoundments of the foregoing”. In other words, this bill will give the federal government total control of the most basic of all commodities necessary to life on this earth.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers currently have authority over all waters considered navigable in the U.S. The Code of Federal Regulations 33 CFR 329.4 defines navigable waters as “those waters that are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide and/or presently used, or have been used in the past, or may be susceptible for use to transport interstate or foreign commerce.”

The Water Restoration Act, a bipartisan bill lead/sponsored by Congressman Oberstar, is an amendment to the Federal Water Pollution Act, commonly known as the Clean Water Act. Since major amendments were enacted in 1977, the Clean Water Act protected all of the nation’s waters as Congress intended, until 2003, when the Bush administration gave in to pressure form corporate polluters and redefined the meaning of water. This happened through a bureaucratic device called a ‘guidance’, whereby the EPA instructed federal environmental law enforcers to back off from holding many polluters accountable.

Proponents of the Clean Water Restoration Act see it as restoring what was Congress’s original intent, that the Clean Water Act protect all of the nation’s waters. They see water quality and quantity issues as needing examination this spring, and believe now is the time for getting legislation to protect the water supply in order with the passage of this Act. They see the Act as offering needed protection from water pollution, from terrorists, and being in the interests of national security.

Is water a basic human right or a commodity?

Related article: UN rejects water as basic human right
Actually this should cause a global outrage and a revolution
. – The Infinite Unknown

Under the Public Trust doctrine, the government is prohibited from converting something such as water to the status of a commodity. Water is considered a basic human right that must remain in the public trust, meaning that it is so important to our survival that it should never be reclassified as a commodity. Many believe that the Water Restoration Act lays the foundation for removing water from the Public Trust and facilitating it to fall under the ownership and control of corporations as a commodity. This is similar to how seeds have fallen into corporate control when they were once viewed as part of the Public Trust under the assumption that all people have a right to seeds with which to grow food for themselves.

Commodity owning corporations can now sue the government if it acts in any way to prevent them from making profits they believe they are entitled to. This ability to sue for impaired profit making can be the result of environmental regulations, of Federal laws which may prevent the corporations from hiring illegal workers, or issues of eminent domain in which an individual’s land stands in the way of corporate earnings, and the courts have not acted to protect the interests of the corporation.

All the corporation has to do to supersede federal law is claim ‘trade illegal’ provisions of NAFTA and CAFTA. Federal laws and regulations are then put aside, along with property rights. CAFTA goes a long way in establishing the privatization of water supplies, including in-land navigated waters and the right to use and access the water supplies.

Federal control over all water may lead to its privatization

If the federal government is unable to gain total control of all water from whatever source, it is highly unlikely that water can be taken from the status of Public Trust and changed to that of commodity. If in fact the Water Restoration Act allows for the complete control of the federal government over all water in the country, as it opponents claim, water can loose its status as part of the Public Trust, and become a commodity available for corporate ownership.

The Water Restoration Act federalizes all inland and coastal waters from any source. This Act is needed to set the stage for the corporate privatization guaranteed under CAFTA, and would effectively convert the entire water supply from any source into the status of a commodity.

Read moreWater Restoration Act May Lead to Privatization of Water Supply

The Best Farmland in the U.S. Is Flooded; Most Americans Are Too Stupid to Panic

The best commentary I could offer is a link to a previous story:

World’s Largest Maker of Crop Nutrients: Famines May Occur Without Record Harvests

But I’ll ramble on a bit more about this, anyway.

As soon as I became aware of the flooding situation in the American Midwest, I posted the story with the EMERGENCY prefix on the title. Just so we’re clear, when I write EMERGENCY at the beginning of a post title, this is my way of indicating that the situation is as serious as it gets. It means that I feel as though everyone reading should consider taking immediate evasive action. All the jawboning about conspiracy, how things could have been, how things should be, etc. are behind us now. You know, EMERGENCY, act fast, eyes wide, nostrils flared, etc.

While the food supply situation has skated along a knife edge so far this year, with higher prices and many countries experiencing food riots, widespread famine did not take hold. In an incredible move, the Japanese quietly eased rice shortages by releasing portions of their imported rice stockpiles-from giant warehouses in Tokyo-into the system; a welcome but one off blip in the big picture. What happens next time?

Now, this growing season, when yields need to be at record levels to avert disaster, what do we find? Floods or droughts in several of the breadbaskets of the world.

Whatever your plans are, I hope that you’re ready to execute them (or, better yet, are executing them). I’m pretty sure that most people have done nothing, and I don’t know why this continues to amaze me.

How can so many people, even those who should know better, be content to hit the wall without doing anything at all to change course? This includes my own family, who lives in Southern California.

I view Southern California as one of the most dangerous death traps in the world. Since it’s such an important focus of economic activity, though, I like to keep tabs on herd activity there, just for my own situational awareness. I can’t get a meaningful response from my dad-who thinks that traffic jams everywhere in the region and at all times of the day and night represent ‘progress’-I emailed someone there who’s about to flee to a country in Northern Europe. I asked if there was even a subtle sense of panic setting in with regard to the food and fuel prices. Here is part of the response I received:

I have noticed that most people don’t even have instinct enough to panic and hoard, and they wouldn’t know *what* to hoard. They don’t cook, they don’t know what a ‘staple’ means. A young woman in my training last week brought animal crackers and cheese ruffles for breakfast, and a box of Cheezits and Coke Zero for lunch. I asked her mockingly if she’d tried fruit or vegetables, she said she couldn’t afford them. I once saw a woman behind me at Ralphs with food stamps, and she was buying cottage cheese, dry pinto beans, and wheat bread, and told her kid to put the Doritos back. If you don’t have that kind of sense to begin with, the current situation is not going to give it to you.

We’re now well into a phase where system maintenance depends on the inability of the herd to grasp the nature of the immanent threat. “Yes, Kevin,” you say. “Same as it ever was.”

I don’t think so. The food situation is far off the radar screens of Joe Average. It only becomes a problem after it’s too late to do anything substantive to ameliorate conditions. We’ve already seen food riots, armed escorts for grain deliveries, rationing, sharply higher prices. And still, I’m mostly noticing yawns and drugged gurgles from the herd. Meanwhile, the die is all but cast on this year’s lower crop yields.

If the herd had any idea of what was coming, this show would be over inside of 24 hours. You might be sick of reading this on Cryptogon, but, it’s worth repeating: Use your time wisely.

Via: Financial Times:

Consumers were warned to expect even sharper increases in global food prices after US officials said that some of the country’s best farmland was facing its worst flooding for 15 years.

Agriculture officials and traders said the damage could push up worldwide corn and soyabean prices, which have spiralled in recent days as floods have swamped crops in parts of Iowa, the US’s biggest corn-producing state.

The warning comes at a time when high food prices are already sparking protests across the developing world.

Corn futures in Chicago this week rose to record highs of more than $8 a bushel on fears that up to 5m acres of the crop could be lost, while soyabean prices hit a record of $15.93 a bushel.

Read moreThe Best Farmland in the U.S. Is Flooded; Most Americans Are Too Stupid to Panic