Archive for January, 2009

The Great Lemon Shortage

Have you, gentle reader, while walking the aisles of your local supermarket, remarked on the steep price increases in lemons(almost double) and the near-impossibility of procuring lemon juice from concentrate in its distinctive green plastic containers? Well, we did. In fact, so astounded were we by the absence of one of our staples, that we went to another food establishment and were met with the same shelve inadequacy. Conspiracy you say? Far from it! Due to a series of weather-related catastrophes, lemon production has been curtailed severely. Starting with a devastating January 2007 freeze in California to an equally deleterious temperature dip in Argentina, and combined with severe droughts in Spain, all these events have added up to a global shortage of lemons. The latest figures show a worldwide drop from 4,640,000 metric tons in 2006/2007 to 3,675,000 metric tons in 2007/2008. And the forecasts, while slightly hopeful, are only so if certain criteria are met. So if you see lemons and lemon juice, pick ‘em up.  And remember that this is not the only global shortage we have seen; look at what happened to lentils and rice. Additional information may be found here:  Citrus: World Markets and Trade. Reduced Lemon Output Brings Down Total Citrus Production(July 2008); Lemon Shortage Not Over Yet(November 2007); Argentina Citrus Semi-Annual Report(May 2008); Global Shortage Means It’s A Sour Summer Ahead for Lemon Lovers(June 2008); Fruit and Tree Nuts Situation and Outlook Yearbook 2008(October 2008); Sunkist 2007 Annual Report; and Weekly Market Update Report(January 15 2009)

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Global Economy in Crisis

Such is the title of this Council on Foreign Relations site. Included here are interviews, “must reads,” and “essential documents.” This is a worthwhile site, aggregating many of the most important writings/reports on this topic.

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2009 Report Card on America’s Infrastructure

Published annually by the American Society of Civil Engineers, this report critically examines 15 sectors of American infrastructure from aviation through wastewater. Unfortunately the cumulative card is a D, with a very troubling rating of D- for the water sector. The Society calculates that it would cost $2.2 trillion to remediate these poor showings for all the sectors. You can also view the 2007 report card for New Jersey; we rate a C-. This CRS report should also be perused – The Role of Public Works Infrastructure in Economic Stimulus.

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Holocaust Survivors’ Recorded Interviews

These interviews were conducted in recent years as part of a larger initiative – The Living Memory of the Jewish Community, which is itself subsumed under the National Life Stories Project in England. Over 440 hours of recordings can be listened to. Most interviews have extensive abstracts as well as a full transcript. Visit the British Library’s Voices of the Holocaust section where audio and printed versions of “survivor testimonies” are arranged by topic.

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Transcript of Obama’s Interview on Al Arabiya TV

President Obama’s interview on this Dubai-based network is the start of his promise to begin the healing process in the Middle East. To further his goals, the President designated George Mitchell, author of the  2001 Mitchell Report on Mideast violence, as his Special Envoy to the Middle East.

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American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

As was mentioned in a previous post, then President-elect Obama presented his ideas for this act in a speech. Since then much has happened;  the House is considering this bill (H.R. 1), while their counterparts in the Senate have placed a version(S.1) on their calendar for consideration. The Congressional Budget Office has released a cost estimate for this act as it was introduced into the House as of January 26. The Senate Finance Committee has released what is known as the Chairman’s Mark(areas for discussion). The White House has made public its own analysis, detailing specific benchmarks and goals to be realized. CRS has issued two relevant reports as well: Economic Stimulus: Issues and Policies, and States and Proposed Economic Recovery Plans. And here is a concise Backgrounder from the Council on Foreign Relations.

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Who’s Who in Washington

With the most sweeping staff changes in eight years, there are so many new faces in Washington that it is almost impossible to keep tabs on all of them. The Washington Post has just launched whorunsgov.com, a site carrying profiles of many of these new players. From Hill staffers to former Clinton administration politicos who now inhabit President Obama’s inner circle, this site gives you an insight into who these people are and why they matter. A great place to find information and source documentation. In concert with SourceWatch, another great site for unearthing information of those in power, whorunsgov.com allows all of us to keep abreast of the doings of the movers and shakers whether they are  elected, appointed, or otherwise part of the fabric that holds DC together.

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