Archive for February 10, 2011
Food Glorious Food
China, the world’s biggest wheat producer, is in the middle of a drought and a United Nations agency says that could devastate the Chinese harvest in June. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization says rain and snowfall well below average have hit eight provinces in China’s winter wheat-growing belt and that could mean the People’s Republic will have to buy additional wheat on the world market, say analysts. That could upset already rising food prices, according to The Economist. Drought in Russia last year and floods in Australia in 2011 cut crop yields in those wheat exporting countries.
Food prices around the world have hit record highs in January – for the seventh consecutive month – and food experts say the rise in prices for crop staples like grains may have contributed to popular unrest in Tunisia and Egypt, according to The Guardian. While food is not the biggest driver of Middle East unrest, there has been widespread discontent over price inflation. Egypt is the world’s biggest importer of wheat.
Patriot Act, Act II
House Republicans cited comments by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that the U.S. is facing “heightened” threats of extremist attacks as they argued for extending provisions of the Patriot Act due to expire at the end of the month.
In testimony Wednesday (Feb. 9) before the House Homeland Security Committee, Napolitano said the threat of terrorist attacks may be the highest since the 9/11 attacks nearly 10 years ago.
But a day earlier, a coaltion of Democrats and Tea Party and libertarian-leaning Republicans surprised House leaders by blocking an extension of provisions to the 2001 law. The measures, which the Obama administration favors, would allow:the FBI to: continue using roving wiretaps to listen to terror suspects’ phone calls; sift library records and other items to spy on suspected terrorists and monitor so-called “lone wolf” suspects with no known ties to terrorist groups. Liberal Democrats and Tea Party Republicans say that tramples First and Fourth Amendment constitutional rights.
After some back room briefings and negotiations, the measures are expected to be back on track for a vote early next week.