Daily Archives: 14/04/2011

(The Telegraph) Robert Zoellick, World Bank president, said food prices are at “a tipping point”, having risen 36pc in the last year to levels close to their 2008 peak. The rising cost of food has been much more dramatic in low-income countries, pushing 44m people into poverty since June last year.

Another 10pc rise in food prices would push 10m into extreme poverty, defined as an effective income of less than $1.25 a day. Already, the world’s poor number 1.2bn.

Mr Zoellick said he saw no short term reversal in the damaging effect of food inflation, which is felt much more in the developing world as packaging and distribution accounts for a far larger proportion of the cost in the advanced economies.

Asked if he thought prices would remain high for a year, Mr Zoellick said: “The general trend lines are ones where we are in a danger zone… because prices have already gone up and stocks are relatively low.”

Rising prices have been driven by the changing diet of the ballooning middle classes in the emerging markets. “There is a demand change going on, with the higher incomes in developing countries. People will eat more meat products, for example, that will use more grain.

“I am not suggesting that the improved diets in the developing world are the source of the problem but it means it takes longer to rebuild the stocks when you get a supply [shock].”

The problem has been exacerbated by “weather problems in Russia, Ukraine, North America, China”.

Making matters worse has been rising fuel prices, which go into fertilisers and energy.

However, he played down the impact of speculators on prices, saying only that “it can exacerbate some of the shifts”.

He also raised concerns about the food investment policies of some of the world’s wealthier nations in poorer countries. China has been buying up huge tracts of Africa to grow enough food to feed its growing middle class.

Using Saudi Arabia’s decision to scrap wheat production and invest overseas for food instead as an example, he said: “This raises sensitivities about the purchasing and investment and the land.

“We are now working with the Food and Agriculture Organisation on responsible principles for food investment – this has included sub-Saharan Africa, also some in central Asia – the idea that investment can be helpful and create additional food production, but one needs to do it in a way that helps the local people and meets local needs.”

The World Bank is investing $7bn in improving agricultural production, from seeds to irrigation to sewage. One key area of research is in developing better seeds.


(Democracy Now!) The Japanese government is trying to calm fears about radiation levels and food safety in the region around the heavily damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility, even as it has raised the severity rating of the crisis to the highest possible level. “Radiation is continuing to leak out of the reactors. The situation is not stable at all,” says Dr. Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York and the City College of New York. “The slightest disturbance could set off a full-scale meltdown at three nuclear power stations, far beyond what we saw at Chernobyl.”

Watch video here:

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(anarkismo) This article responds to criticisms of the broad anarchist tradition inInternational Socialism, an International Socialist Tendency (IST) journal.[1] I will discuss topics such as the use of sources, defending revolutions and freedom, the Spanish anarchists, anarchism and democracy, the historical role of Marxism, and the Russian Revolution.

The articles I am engaging with are marked by commendable goodwill; I strive for the same. Paul Blackledge’s article rejects “caricatured non-debate”.[2] Ian Birchall stresses that “lines between anarchism and Marxism are often blurred”.[3] Leo Zeilig praises Michael Schmidt’s and my book, Black Flame: the Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism, as “a fascinating account”.[4]

It is important to note where we converge. The IST states it is for socialism from below through revolution. If Marx, Lenin and Trotsky are invoked here, it is because the “essence” of their works is taken to be “working class self-emancipation”.[5] The term “dictatorship of the proletariat”, Leo insists, means merely “the democratic defence of working class power” through “organs of self-organisation; councils, trade unions, communes etc”.[6]

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