Strong increases in food prices, which have been reaching record levels, are expected to continue until at least 2010, fueling a "new hunger" across the globe and anarchy on the streets of poorer nations, a top United Nations official said Thursday.
Josette Sheeran, executive director of the UN's World Food Program, said the global economy had created "a perfect storm for the world's hungry, caused by high oil and food prices and low food stocks."
The WFP assessment is that the situation will continue for the next few years, Sheeran said during a visit to Brussels to meet with officials of the European Union.
Her visit came on a day that oil, gold and copper soared to record highs as investors, fleeing a weak dollar, piled into commodities.
Sheeran said food prices were rising because of a combination of soaring oil and energy prices, the effects of climate change, growing demand from countries like India and China and the use of crops to produce biofuels.
This is leading to a new face of hunger in the world, what we call the newly hungry," she said. "These are people who have money, but have been priced out of being able to buy food."
The result could be a spike in violence, Sheeran said.
"Higher food prices will increase social unrest in a number of countries which are sensitive to inflationary pressures and are import-dependent," she said. "We will see a repeat of the riots we have already reported on the streets such as we have seen in Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Senegal."
More than 25,000 people die from hunger or a related illness every day across the world.
Sheeran was in Brussels seeking help in bridging a $500 million dollar "food gap" that has been created by soaring commodity costs, which have increased by around 40 percent since 2007.
The WFP, based in Rome, is drawing up a list of 30 countries this it considers "most vulnerable" to food inflation crises. One example is Afghanistan, where $77 million is needed to feed an additional 2.5 million people who are not able to pay the higher costs for staple items.
"Our budget shortfall for 2008 means that at the moment we have to decide, do we provide 40 percent less food or do we reach out to 40 percent less people. This is unacceptable," Sheeran said.
Along with additional financing, she said one solution would be to increase food production by using more land for agriculture and reducing the amount of land set aside for biofuels.
The EU last year set itself a target for having biofuels account for 10 percent of the fuel used for transportation in the bloc by 2020.
But critics have recently questioned whether the plan needs to be reviewed in the light of concerns about the impact of biofuels on food supplies and whether they genuinely contribute to cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
"Governments need to look more carefully at the link between the acceleration in biofuels and food supply and give more thought" to biofuels policy, Sheeran said. "This land could be better used."
Mexico’s New Frontier
THE 8,000 acres of the Loreto Bay Resort on Baja California snuggle on flat, hard desert between the charismatically craggy Giganta range and the spookily glassy Sea of Cortez. The most basic elements of nature — sun and water, rock and sand, the vertical and the horizontal — collide with that particular grace that only nature can produce.
If the vision of the Mexican government and an American developer is realized, a decade from now Loreto Bay will include 6,000 homes, from small condos to 3,800-square-foot custom houses, most of them probably to be owned by American retirees or part-time residents. They will be formed into six groups called villages, themselves made up of clusters of five and six homes, each with its own small communal green space.
In the best tradition of the new urbanism, residents will travel about their villages on foot, by bicycle or in electric-powered golf carts, moving over flagstone streets purposely made too narrow for automobiles. They will have three golf courses, beach and tennis clubs and a marina at their disposal, with whale watching and other eco-tourism just a boat ride away. And everything will be built to the highest standards of environmental sustainability. The master plan includes not only solar-heated hot water, but a seawater desalination plant and a 500-acre wind farm.
The goals are so monumentally ambitious that it’s impossible not to ask whether it can even work. But some buyers are not waiting for a consensus.
Bottles of water will no longer be served at British government meetings under a "tap water only" policy announced on Thursday to protect the environment.
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Rising fuel prices make the budding field of solar thermal technology more viable
If large numbers of plants are built, they will eventually pose some problems, even in the desert. They could take up immense amounts of land and damage the environment. Already, building a plant in California requires hiring a licensed tortoise wrangler to capture and relocate endangered desert tortoises.
"The one thing that's eventually going to raise its head is desert biodiversity, and the land area itself," said Terrence Collins, an environmental expert and professor at Carnegie Mellon University.
The two-round elections on March 9 and 16 primarily concern local issues in the 36,781 cities, towns and villages across France. But they will provide a snapshot of the political mood that could help determine the president's ability to deliver on the ambitious economic program he promised in the national campaign in May.
Unemployment declined steadily throughout last year and a report Thursday showed that the jobless rate had eased to 7.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007, its lowest level in more than two decades. Consumer confidence, however, remains at a 20-year low.
"We've never had a local election like this before," said Noëlle Lenoir, a former center-right minister, who is campaigning for mayor in the village of Valmondois, northeast of Paris. "Its outcome will be local. But it will also be national."
Bout, who also goes by the first names Victor and Vic, was said to be the inspiration for the film, "Lord of War," starring Nicolas Cage, about an unscrupulous arms trafficker.
Investigators of his businesses say he has used his private air network to transport weapons from Soviet-era stockpiles of tanks, helicopters and weapons into international conflicts around the world including in Afghanistan, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Sudan.
According to Brian Johnson-Thomas, an arms trafficking researcher in Britain, Bout has been selling arms to the FARC for the last year to 18 months. He said the weapons were mostly AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, and possibly some surface-to-air missiles.
The weapons came from Central Asia, mostly Kazakhstan, Johnson-Thomas said. He said Bout had over 40 planes, and that many of them were registered in Equitorial Guinea.
The arms reached the FARC via Paraguay, then through Argentina and Uruguay, said Johnson-Thomas, who returned recently from a research trip to South America. Bout's planes "don't return empty," he said. They return to Africa loaded with drugs, which are then shipped into Europe. "It's guns in, drugs out," he said.
Bout, who was born in Tajikistan and educated at the Military Institute of Foreign Languages in Moscow, is said to speak six languages and to have started in the arms trade when his air force unit was disbanded with the breakup of the Soviet Union. At the time, many cargo plane crews left with their aircraft and hired themselves out.
LETTER FROM VIETNAM
The question why is asked and answered over and over again in the book [Denis Johnson's long and intensely imagined Vietnam novel, "Tree of Smoke], albeit never in the same way, reinforcing an impression of moral quicksand, and challenging us to ask ourselves just that: What was the point?
"We're in a worldwide war, have been for close to twenty years," says the colonel in one exchange with his nephew. "It's a covert World War Three. It's Armageddon by proxy. It's a contest between good and evil, and its true ground is the heart of every human. I'm going to transgress outside the line a little bit now. I'm going to tell you, Skip: Sometimes I wonder if it isn't the goddam Alamo. This is a fallen world. Every time we turn around there's somebody else going Red."
As a visitor, the least it seemed I could do was to reflect on the seemingly banal and yet truly profound truth that war is awful, and indeed very seldom just. It pushes us to think of others as subhuman, in terms like chinks and slopes and gooks, numbing our sensibilities and draining away our compassion.
This isn't, by the way, even remotely an American phenomenon or an American criticism. Everywhere, mass mobilization, armament and organized killing have required it. Powerful narratives take root and carry us along, playing on our emotions bolstering self-justification and suppressing doubt.
"War is 90 percent myth anyway, isn't it," Johnson's colonel says. "In order to prosecute our own wars we raise them to the level of human sacrifice, don't we, and we constantly invoke our God. It's got to be about something bigger than dying or we'd all turn deserter. I think we need to be much more conscious of that. I think we need to be invoking the other fellow's gods too."
The attack, in the Karrada neighborhood, was the worst the capital has seen since early February, when bombings killed almost 100 people at two Baghdad pet markets, and reinforced fears that insurgents can still carry out devastating bombings in well-guarded areas despite reduced levels of violence in recent months.
According to witnesses, the attackers used an old tactic to maximize the casualties: detonating one bomb and then using a second blast to kill unsuspecting passers-by who rush to the scene to aid the victims of the first explosion.
The initial explosion on Thursday sent shards of glass, shrapnel, blood and flesh across a wide radius. People rushed to the scene to tend to the wounded. Then, minutes later, a man wearing an explosive vest ran into in the crowd and blew himself up, killing many more people.
"What does one do when bandits are shooting from the other side and the government doesn't do anything?" he asked leaders of national and international news organizations. "It's my job to defend 43 million Colombians."
War with a neighbor "doesn't even cross our minds," Uribe said during the three-hour meeting Wednesday, originally off the record but authorized for publication Thursday.
a mother of three, she was once a bookkeeper in a dry cleaning store and is now a street peddlers] said she hoped that this time Mugabe, the 84-year-old former guerrilla fighter who has led the nation since independence in 1980, would finally lose.
"Mugabe was a hero of the liberation struggle, sure," she said. "But now there is an even bigger struggle, the struggle to survive, and he is killing us."
Because of an editing error, an article Monday about India's energy consumption misstated the number of people in the country who rely on animal waste and firewood as fuel for cooking. It is about 700 million, not 700,000.
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Addiction specialists and organizations that serve the elderly anticipate a tidal wave of baby boomers needing help for addictions, often for different substances and with different attitudes toward treatment than the generation that came before them.
Federal data shows the shifting demographics: In 2005, 184,400 Americans admitted to drug treatment programs - roughly 10 percent of the total - were over 50, up from 143,000, or 8 percent of the total, in 2001.
The same report, by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, foresees 4.4 million older substance abusers by 2020, compared with 1.7 million in 2001 - numbers that are "likely to swamp the current system," says Deborah Trunzo, who coordinates research for the agency.
Trichet reiterated that the bank's overriding objective - even at a time of waning growth - is to curb inflation. "We believe the current monetary policy stance will contribute to that objective," he said.
In fact, several economists said, a strong euro helps ease price pressures in Europe because it makes imported goods less expensive. The bank, they said, may view the currency as a useful tool to keep a lid on prices.
Income distribution in Malaysia is the least equally distributed of all Asian countries but Papua New Guinea, according to UN statistics.
Over the past decades, there has been a steady decline in jobs in manufacturing and agriculture in the United States, but most economists conclude that this is due more to technology than trade, and it reflects a natural progression to a more productive, service-oriented economy.
Free trade promotes competition in an expanding market. Firms grow, and some fail. Some workers win, others lose. But as consumers, we all win with cheaper and more diverse products.
Reagan's pragmatism contrasted strongly with the utopian dreams of free traders. Ever since Edmund Burke criticized the French philosophes, Anglo-American conservatism has rejected ivory-tower theories that disregard the realities of everyday life.
Modern free traders, on the other hand, embrace their ideal with a passion that makes Robespierre seem prudent. They allow no room for practicality, nuance or flexibility. They embrace unbridled free trade, even as it helps China become a superpower.
They see only bright lines, even when it means bowing to the whims of anti-American bureaucrats at the World Trade Organization. They oppose any trade limitations, even if we must depend on foreign countries to feed ourselves or equip our military.
They see nothing but dogma - no matter how many jobs are lost, how high the trade deficit rises or how low the dollar falls.
Think about that accomplishment: The lives of 10 million children saved each year, 100 million lives per decade.
To put it another way, the late James P. Grant, a little-known American aid worker who headed Unicef from 1980 to 1995 and launched the child survival revolution with vaccinations and diarrhea treatments, probably saved more lives than were destroyed by Hitler, Mao and Stalin combined.
Sixteen years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia, with 87 billionaires, is the new No. 2 country behind the U.S., easily overtaking Germany, with 59 billionaires, which held the honor for six years.
On the other hand, one can be rife with moral judgment yet be quite free of perceptiveness.
Perhaps Lorin Maazel, the philharmonic's music director, and his fine musicians were used by Kim Jong Il's regime, but even through "merely" reaching out with music to upper-ranking North Korean officials, there is no question the orchestra has made more of an impression than Jacoby ever will by preaching to his own choir in the West.
Music is more articulate, expressive and indeed subversive than all the most powerful columns in history put together. Jacoby would do well to educate himself about it.
"Now we can be kicked out of our studios," Stepan Sagaiko, a sculptor, told the crowd at the Feb. 26 demonstration. "I remember when we could go to artists' dachas. We could meet and discuss our art. This was wonderful."
The sculptors were particularly offended at an interview Shvydkoi, the Roskultura director, gave to the Moscow newspaper Gazeta for its Feb. 11 edition in which he spelled out his view of state support for artists. "Supporting the artist is characteristic of totalitarian, closed systems," he said. "In an open, democratic system the state supports citizens, who must have access to culture."
The cultural critic Edward Said, in his writings on "late style," identified two versions of "artistic lateness." One produces crowning glories, models of "harmony and resolution" in which a lifetime of knowledge and mastery are serenely evident. The other is an altogether more restless sensibility, the province of artists who go anything but gently into that good night, turning out works of "intransigence, difficulty and unresolved contradiction."
During the period of enforced inactivity, Oliveira tended a farm and vineyard that his wife had inherited. "It was an enormous lesson, in terms of agriculture and human dealings with the farmers, even in regards to the laws of the land ruled by the immutable laws of nature," he wrote. For years he acquired almost no experience as a filmmaker but was accumulating insight: "I had time for a long and profound reflection about the artistic nature of cinema, which transformed my previous certainties into new concepts between hesitations and doubt." The ruminations led him to a guiding principle of sorts: "the simplicity of old Greek tragedies and the realism of Renaissance."
Jet Li said he has changed the script of his upcoming movie with Jackie Chan to better suit Western tastes, the Chinese news Web site Sina.com reported. Li said "The Forbidden Kingdom" was conceived as a film about Chinese mythology's monkey king but he thought the idea of a kung fu fighting monkey too far-fetched for Western viewers, according to an interview transcript posted on the site. Li said he altered the script, inspired by the classic Chinese novel "Journey to the West," to turn the story into a child's dream about Chinese mythology to make characters with special powers like the monkey king more believable. "Westerners can understand Superman, Batman, but not this," he was quoted as saying.
"The epicenter of the U.S. economy's current predicament is housing," said John Lonski, chief economist at Moody's in New York.
Shares in the fund, which trade on Euronext Amsterdam, were suspended Friday pending a further statement. The stock closed down Thursday nearly 60 percent at $5.
The fund said it received additional margin calls and default notices Thursday from banks that help finance its portfolio of residential mortgage-backed securities. It indicated it may not be able to meet the increased requirements, and that further liquidations were possible.
Carlyle Capital on Thursday said it had been unable to meet margin calls with four banks the day before, roiling financial markets and raising fears that its entire portfolio could be liquidated. Such a move would further depress prices on fixed-income securities, which have dropped sharply in recent weeks as banks pull back on their lending to funds and investment vehicles, leading to forced asset sales.
In the more innocent days before the debt bubble popped, vulnerable borrowers tended to do everything they could to hang on to their houses. The result was that they would stop paying off their credit cards first, the car loans second and only last would they default on their mortgages.
But for many Americans in the credit bust, especially an overburdened minority, that set of priorities has been turned upside down.
"It's the American way of deleveraging," said Jochen Felsenheimer, a credit strategist at Unicredit in Munich. "First you sell your house, second you sell your car and in the end you also sell your TV set."
"Two traders in our European equities division have been suspended," the spokesman said on Thursday.
"Normal internal controls identified the issues," he added, "The matter is not related to fraud." The spokesman declined to elaborate on the reasons for the suspensions.
Credit Suisse at the time said it appeared the suspended
traders had been slow to adjust the value of their portfolios to fast-moving developments in volatile markets.
Among the superpowers, the big loser could be the United States, which Khanna describes in contemptuous terms. His admiration for the European Union, which has skillfully concentrated on the long-term transformation and stabilization of prospective partners, knows no bounds. China also wins his admiration, despite its human-rights record. In general, Khanna, who argues that democracy is a luxury that wealthy nations can afford, more than tolerates the enlightened despotism of countries like Singapore and Malaysia.
After Heath Ledger was found dead in his SoHo apartment on Jan. 22, David Granger, the editor in chief of Esquire magazine, dispatched a writer named Lisa Taddeo to report on the actor's final days.
Well, tough, said Mike Richardson, as he observed that very thing - a kind of doggified homage to the 1983 film "Flashdance" - at the Crufts dog show on Thursday.
"There's a store up there selling knitted romper suits for dogs - pink ones, blue ones," she said, gesturing toward the exhibitors' stands. "To me, that's degrading. You tell me a dog likes to walk around in a knitted hat."
ALL PHOTOGRAPHS COPYRIGHT IAN WALTHEW 2008