People eating dirt in Haiti

So, there are food riots in Guinea, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, Uzbekistan and Yemen, Mexico and Indonesia, but damn, this is awful.

"Yolen Jeunky, 45, collects dried mud cookies to sell in Cite Soleil in Port-au-Prince on Nov. 29, 2007. Rising prices and food shortages threaten the nation's fragile stability, and the mud cookies are one of very few options the poorest people have to stave off hunger.

Food prices around the world have spiked because of higher oil prices, needed for fertilizer, irrigation and transportation. Prices for basic ingredients such as corn and wheat are also up sharply, and the increasing global demand for biofuels is pressuring food markets as well.

The problem is particularly dire in the Caribbean, where island nations depend on imports and food prices are up 40 percent in places.

...cookies made of dirt, salt and vegetable shortening have become a regular meal.
"When my mother does not cook anything, I have to eat them three times a day," Dumas said.

A reporter sampling a cookie found that it had a smooth consistency and sucked all the moisture out of the mouth as soon as it touched the tongue. For hours, an unpleasant taste of dirt lingered."

Unbelievable scenes from China snow crisis

This is pretty extreme weather

This pic is from Guangzhou train station where

"In the southern city of Guangzhou, as many as 500,000 train passengers were stranded the past few days when a power failure in neighboring Hunan province crippled the regular train services, local officials said. About 100,000 passengers packed the square in front of the train station while others found shelter in schools and other public buildings while waiting for their trains. " LINK

This car showroom is among 100,000 buildings that have collapsed. Another 400,000 are reported to have been damaged. LINK

"The freakish weather has already affected 67 million people and economic losses so far have been placed at 18.2 billion yuan (£1.3 billion)." LINK

"Blocked roads and railways have also choked coal shipments, magnifying energy shortages that have caused power brownouts in 17 of China's 31 provinces and province-status cities.

In the booming southern province of Guangdong, many power plants had just two days of coal left, the official Guangzhou Daily reported on Wednesday, and authorities were shipping in emergency supplies on a fleet of 125 cargo ships." LINK

Hold on tight!

From the always fantastic James Kunstler,

" Knees knocked last week from sea to shining sea as the shape-shifting monster of economic reality cut a swathe of destruction through the markets and financial ranks. The exact nature of this giant beast still remained largely concealed in a fog of accounting gambits, policy blusters, and reporting dodges, but a few intrepid scouts who glimpsed the behemoth up close said it looked like Godzilla with Herbert Hoover's face.

...This is going to be a rough week. Fastening your seat belts may not be enough for this ride. Better superglue yourselves to the floorboards and pray for God's mercy." LINK

To put that in context, links below to the London Times and the New York Times.

"The combined losses of the London, Paris and Frankfurt markets alone amounted to more than $350 billion (£180 billion) — roughly the size of the combined economies of New Zealand, Hungary and Singapore"

"Amid fears that the United States may be in a recession, the decline in stock markets accelerated Tuesday morning as exchanges opened across Asia.

Markets in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Sydney all fell farther in the opening hours of trading Tuesday than they had all day on Monday. The Hong Kong market plunged another 8 percent by early afternoon after tumbling 5.49 percent on Monday. In Tokyo, the Nikkei dropped 5 percent, hitting a low not seen since September 2005 and facing its worst two-day drop in 17 years on concern global growth is faltering."

Biofuels and ethics...

Pretty intense article about increases in the cost of food, the ethics of biofuel, and the real life day to day impact of the food crisis. Great read.

"And, as a result of the vast tracts of farmland now being given over to corn for ethanol production, the price has risen sharply. Hence the tortilla riots in Mexico, last summer, over the price rise in the corn flour that makes the pancakes. Some claim that there is now a war between the 850 million chronically hungry of the world and the 800 million motorists - all fighting for the same food crop. It's a pretty unbalanced battle: the maize to fill a tank for a 'Chelsea tractor' would feed a family of four for three months. In October the United Nations' spokesman on famine, Jean Ziegler, called the biofuel boom 'a crime against humanity'. And as the Economist magazine recently noted: 'The 30 million tonnes of extra corn going to ethanol this year amounts to half the fall in the world's overall grain stocks.'

Last week, after a mass protest at the price of soya beans in Indonesia (which rose because of the shortage of corn and other crops to supply the biofuel industry), Ashok Gulati, director at the International Food Policy Research Institute said: 'It's finally a trade-off between filling stomachs and filling diesel tanks in cars and trucks.'"

And the food riots have begun!

FANTASTIC article about rising costs of food and the impact that is being felt worldwide as food prices have risen 37% over the past year.

"In some poor countries, desperation is taking hold. Just in the last week, protests have erupted in Pakistan over wheat shortages, and in Indonesia over soybean shortages. Egypt has banned rice exports to keep food at home, and China has put price controls on cooking oil, grain, meat, milk and eggs.

According to the F.A.O., food riots have erupted in recent months in Guinea, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, Uzbekistan and Yemen."


Excellent article on the recession. Crumbling infrastructure, anyone?

Man, the NYT has some great articles today. This writer beautifully sums up the FUBAR economy and what he (and I fervently agree) thinks would be a good start to fix our broken system and create jobs.

"Economic alarm bells have been ringing in the U.S. for some time. There was no sense of urgency as long as those in the lower ranks were sinking in the mortgage muck and the middle class was raiding the piggy bank otherwise known as home equity.

But now that the privileged few are threatened (Merrill Lynch took a $9.8 billion fourth-quarter hit, and the stock market has spent the first part of the year behaving like an Olympic diving champion), it’s suddenly time to take action.

I’d start with a broad program to rebuild the American infrastructure. This would have the dual benefit of putting large numbers of people to work and answering a crying need. The infrastructure is in sorry shape. New Orleans comes to mind, and the tragic bridge collapse in Minneapolis.

The country that gave us the Marshall Plan to rebuild postwar Europe ought to be able, 60 years later, to reconstitute its own sagging infrastructure.

There are also untold numbers of jobs and myriad societal benefits to be reaped from a sustained, good-faith effort to achieve energy self-sufficiency. Think Manhattan Project."

Ack. Heartbreaking.

This is the kind of thing to make you weep. Read these articles, both, please. It might not seem like the most gripping thing ever, but this is huge. It's every single inequality issue bundled into one huge fu*kstorm of greed, commerce, unsustainable practice, human rape of the planet, and, well, tragedy. The combination of these two stories is, well, tragic. You can depress people for weeks with this sh*t, baby. Just in case you don't want to read the full articles, I have done my bestest to summarize two major articles in one paragraph below. I try, people. I try.

The gist of it is this. European and other demand for fish has decimated African fish stocks to the point that Africans are attempting to enter Europe in record numbers, as their lives are hopeless at home. Meanwhile, a major black market in fish is a 1.6 billion dollar money machine in Europe- where, one presumes, eaters of these endangered and often protected species also complain about the humans who are flooding into Europe trying to stay alive after losing their livelihood- fishing. F*ckity f*ck f*ck. It doesn't get more FUBAR than this.

"“Life is better there. There are no fish in the sea here anymore.”
Many scientists agree. A vast flotilla of industrial trawlers from the European Union, China, Russia and elsewhere, together with an abundance of local boats, have so thoroughly scoured northwest Africa’s ocean floor that major fish populations are collapsing.

That has crippled coastal economies and added to the surge of illegal migrants who brave the high seas in wooden pirogues hoping to reach Europe. While reasons for immigration are as varied as fish species, Europe’s lure has clearly intensified as northwest Africa’s fish population has dwindled." LINK to NYT article 1

"Some 50 percent of the fish sold in the European Union originates in developing nations, and much of it is laundered like contraband, caught and shipped illegally beyond the limits of government quotas or treaties. The smuggling operation is well financed and sophisticated, carried out by large-scale mechanized fishing fleets able to sweep up more fish than ever, chasing threatened stocks from ocean to ocean.

If cost is an indication, fish are poised to become Europe’s most precious contraband. Prices have doubled and tripled in response to surging demand, scarcity and recent fishing quotas imposed by the European Union in a desperate effort to save native species. In London, a kilogram of lowly cod, the traditional ingredient of fish and chips, now costs up to £30, or close to $60, up from £6 four years ago. "

LINK to NYT article 2

Fantastic. UFOs in the Bible Belt = hilarity and preparations for the "end of times".

This is so freaking choice, people. This is like filet mignon.

Who knows what these people are seeing- that is not my question. I just want to know how the hell UFO sightings make these folk think that good ol' Jesus is ready to make a comeback. 1 + 1 + 42?

"People wonder what in the world it is because this is the Bible Belt, and everyone is afraid it's the end of times," said Steve Allen, a freight company owner and pilot who said the object he saw last week was a mile long and half a mile wide. "It was positively, absolutely nothing from these parts."

To make it all a little funnier and scarier is that another dude who claimed to see whatever it was was checking it out through his rifle scope. I couldn't make this up.

"Sorrells said he has seen the object several times. He said he watched it through his rifle's telescopic lens and described it as very large and without seams, nuts or bolts."

Yup- he's armed.

Sleep well, chickadees.

Australia's rivers becoming as acidic as sulphuric acid in car batteries. Yikes.

Drought, obviously, is a nightmare. Some of the less obvious consequences can be the worst though- check this out.

"Scientists are warning that acid sulphate soils are turning river banks and billabongs into death traps for fish and birds and hazards for humans.

It is impossible for animals to survive NSW's Bottle Bend lagoon, which now has a pH -- or acidity -- level dropping as low as 1.8 -- equivalent to the sulphuric acid found in car batteries. And it is corrosive to the touch.

The waterway is just one of dozens of sites throughout South Australia, NSW and Victoria which falling water levels have turned into aquatic graveyards.

Paula D'Santos, project officer for the NSW Murray Wetlands Working Group, says the alarm was raised at Bottle Bend, upstream from Mildura, when the lagoon's pH fell from a healthy seven to a deadly three after it became cut off from the river's main flow. Fish died in their thousands, the banks were lined with toxic aluminium and manganese salts and the gnarled red gums on its banks began to die. "It is like a scene from the apocalypse. It's just incredible," Ms D'Santos says.

NSW's Tareena Billabong -- where acid-sulphate soils have also been found -- recently suffered a fish kill that left nine tonnes of fish rotting in the mud. The acid-sulphate problem -- caused by nutrient-rich submerged banks being exposed to air for the first time in decades -- is already rivalling salinity, overextraction and blue-green algae as threats to the river. "

Fark's headline is unbelievably perfect so here it is: NOAA's official, scientific, statement on yesterday's crazy weather in Midwest: "Wow Crazy"

And how true it is. So glad that my friend in Missouri (Where "Tornadoes were reported or suspected Monday in southwest Missouri,") was not in the tornadoes way (only the flash floods, right?) ;)

But still- pretty ridiculous. It sounds like it was pretty, well, crazy, no? (seriously, so funny!)

"NOAA'S National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office

Milwaukee/Sullivan Wisconsin

Wow - crazy weather over southern Wisconsin for January 6th & 7th!
If you think the weather can’t make up its mind, you’re correct. We seem to have a little bit of everything going on. Let’s try to summarize the recent crazy weather, and make some sense out of it.

Get ready, get set, go.....

1. The Milwaukee/Sullivan NWS office issued 3 different Severe Thunderstorm Warnings for 4 counties during the morning hours of January 7th due to the likelihood of penny-size hail stones. This is crazy - in the past 14 years, this office never had a reason to issue a Severe Thunderstorm Warning in the month of January. Winter storm warnings and blizzard warnings - yes, but not Severe Thunderstorm Warnings. Several severe weather spotters reported hailstones up to 1/2 inch in diameter, and an amateur radio operator measured hailstones up to penny size about 4 miles west-southwest of the Capitol Square in Madison at 10:30 A.M. The last time we experienced severe weather in a winter month was February, 1999, when storms in southern Wisconsin produced hail up to golf-ball size and wind gusts to 70 mph. Crazy.

2. Many streams and rivers in southern Wisconsin are running at near-bankfull or bankfull stage, and some have exceeded flood stage. Some rivers are forecast to exceed flood stage. Normally, river flooding is a spring-time event due to snow melt and heavy rains, or perhaps a summer event due to very heavy thunderstorm rains. But in January? Crazy. We’ve experienced a noteworthy warm up the past couple days along with some rain, which caused the 15 to 33 inches of snow that fell in December, 2007 to melt. The Fox River at New Munster in western Kenosha County is forecast to crest at 13.2 feet around the noon hour on Thursday, January 10th. Crazy.

3. We have areas of dense fog this morning which continues a period of several days of dense fog. The worst of the dense fog occurred on January 6th. There was a group of multiple-vehicle accidents (about 100 vehicles) on Interstate 90/39 about 2:25 P. M. just south of the interchange with State Highway 12/18, in which there were two fatalities and around 50 injuries that required medical treatment Dense fog was a factor and had reduced visibilities to 25 to 100 yards in that area. Crazy.

4. Temperatures over southeastern Wisconsin rose to the upper 50s to lower 60s in the early afternoon hours of January 7th, with dewpoints in the mid to upper 50s, while southwest winds gusted to 25 to 30 mph. This is spring-time weather - more typical of April. Milwaukee’s temperature reached 63 degrees, smashing the old record of 47 for January 7th set back in 2003. Madison reached 50, which broke their old January 7th record set back in 2003. Milwaukee tied their old record high for January 6th of 52 set back in 1933. Crazy.

Return to Top News of the Day

LINK to NOAA page

Best. Article. Ever. on the Western states water crisis.

Man, I do love me some good Salon writing. Much as James Howard Kunstler's amazing book The Long Emergency ( a must-read for any Doom readers!) predicted, the unsustainable idiocy of building sprawling, lawned suburbs in the freaking desert has led to trouble. Of course, as we all know, the residents of Nevada, Arizona, etc. are looking north to the Great Lakes, rationalizing that if oil can be piped from Alaska, they can have golf courses in Scottsdale. Fail.
This article takes the whole bloody fiasco to the only rational answer- these people have to move back into the emptied cities of the industrial north, where the effing water is.

"Bill Richardson, governor of arid New Mexico, had his region's plight in mind when he told the Las Vegas Sun that Northern states need to start sharing their water: "I want a national water policy. We need a dialogue between states to deal with issues like water conservation, water reuse technology, water delivery and water production. States like Wisconsin are awash in water." (emphasis mine)

Sun Belters, there's a man in Detroit with the answer to your water problems. "They can have all the water they want," says Hugh McDiarmid Jr. of the Michigan Environmental Council. "All they have to do is move here." There's plenty of room. Some Detroit neighborhoods are so bereft of houses that pheasants hide in the vacant lots. And the cost of living is unbeatable. Earlier this year, an auctioneer was trying to unload a bungalow for $18,000. When no one would bid, he reminded his audience, "You get the land under the house, too."

OK, so Detroit's a tough place to find a job. How about Cleveland? It's half the size it used to be, which means 500,000 people are driving on freeways built for a million. Commuting is a breeze. Syracuse would love to have you, too. They've lost a higher proportion of young people than any other city in the U.S., perhaps because they engineered their own demise, being the headquarters of Carrier Air Conditioning, the appliance that made the Sun Belt possible."

Read this article, please- funny, concise, and dead on point. We can't keep doing this anymore.

Link to fantastic article.

What? Boston hospitals not taking patients for 4 freaking days because of norovirus outbreak? wtf, mate?

Just saying, it seems to me that this should be total top New England headlines, not the tragic monoxide thing or the (also) tragic gang war nonsense.

"A wave of vomiting and diarrhea has swept through wards at two Boston hospitals in the past month, leaving more than 70 patients and staff members ill from a germ whose spread can be slowed by thorough hand-washing.
more stories like this
The outbreaks of norovirus spawned several days of gastrointestinal misery at Brigham and Women's and Massachusetts General hospitals and at a day-care facility run by Children's Hospital Boston, where 33 children and employees fell ill.

The stricken medical ward stopped accepting patients for four days..."

Someone very nice I know is in treatment at one of these hospitals for something very serious. I very much hope she knew before it finally made the news that it wasn't ok for people with compromised immune systems to go anywhere near there.

Scary numbers! Happy New Year!

Think gas is expensive?

"Wheat prices alone have risen 92% in the past year, and yesterday closed at US$9.45 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade."

and how about

"The price of corn has risen about 44% over the past 15 months, closing at US$4.66 a bushel on the CBOT yesterday - its best finish since June 1996.
This not only impacts the price of food products made using grains, but also the price of meat, with feed prices for livestock also increasing. "

LINK to full article

2008 bringing flowers- in January. In England. Yup. Start of a great year.

"Britain may still be in the grip of grey mid-winter, but that hasn't stopped dozens of sunny wild daffodils springing up months earlier than usual in time for the dawn of New Year.

Yesterday this was the glorious blaze of colour in Cornwall, where row upon row of bright yellow flowers burst forth on a dark winter's day.
At the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, which monitors 100 plant species, at least two thirds of plants have shifted their flowering patterns.

There, lilacs which are supposed to flower in May have come into life already this winter and another traditional spring flower, camelias have also blossomed.

And months ahead of schedule, primroses have been seen flourishing in Sussex, crab apples in Nottingham and wild strawberries in Cardiff. "