Tag Archive for: food prices



Congress probes Mississippi’s handling of Jackson water crisis. Kroger-Albertsons merger may increase grocery prices. Zelenskyy: 1/3 of Ukraine’s power stations destroyed. Nigeria: Floods kill 600 since summer.




Congress probes Mississippi’s handling of Jackson water crisis

House Oversight and Reform Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and House Homeland Security Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) have sent a letter to Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves asking him to explain how millions in federal funds are being distributed for water infrastructure projects in the state. Since Jackson’s days-long water outage this summer, questions have swirled about whether Mississippi’s Republican-led government has been overly stingy and restrictive of funds to the Democratic-led predominately black city. Recently, the NAACP filed a civil rights complaint with the EPA. The complaint alleges that the state government has discriminated against Jackson on the basis of race.

Maloney and Thompson’s letter requests details about which municipalities will be receiving federal funds from the American Rescue Plan and the bipartisan infrastructure plan. They also want information on the population sizes and racial demographics of those communities. The chairs also want to know why Jackson is subject to an “additional layer of review” that was applied to no other municipality in the state to receive funds.

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Kroger-Albertsons merger may increase grocery prices

Supermarket giants Kroger and Albertsons have agreed a $25 billion merger deal. If it goes through, it will be one of the biggest retail mergers in US history. The deal would bring more than 5,000 stores across the country under the same corporate umbrella. Kroger operates more than 2,800 stores in 35 states (including subsidiary brands like Ralphs, Smith’s and Harris Teeter) while Alberstons operates 2,220 stores in 34 states (with subsidiary brands Safeway, Jewel Osco and Shaw’s). 

The merger has already drawn antitrust scrutiny from members of Congress. Progressive Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MT) are already calling for regulators to block the deal.  Sarah Miller of the American Economic Liberties Project warns that the merger “would squeeze consumers already struggling to afford food”.

The companies’ executives say that the merger will save them $500 million, which can then be passed on to consumers. The merger will also allow them to expand their store brand offerings and save customers money. This may be true in the short-term, but in areas where there is little competition, supermarket mergers tend to drive consumer prices higher over time. Large mergers also tend to squeeze out smaller competitors, giving remaining stores more power to set prices.

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Zelenskyy: Russian attacks destroyed 1/3 of Ukraine’s power stations

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says that recent barrages of Russian missiles have destroyed nearly one-third of Ukraine’s power stations. The downed power stations have led to blackouts in parts of the country. Despite comments from Russian President Vladimir Putin last week indicating missile attacks would be scaled back for now, air attacks against civilian targets and infrastructure in Ukraine have persisted. However, Putin is relying less on conventional missiles in favor of Iranian-made “kamikaze drones”. US intelligence says Putin has been purchasing these drones for months, but this is the first time they’ve been deployed on a mass scale.

Compared to missiles, the drones are slower, noisier, and easier for Ukraine’s air defense to eliminate in flight. But because there are so many of them, Ukraine simply can’t stop them all. Ukraine’s allies have promised more air defense systems and equipment, but they haven’t yet arrived.

Meanwhile, Iran has promised to deliver surface-to-surface missiles to Russia in addition to more drones.

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Nigeria: 600 killed in floods since summer

Nigeria has long been accustomed to seasonal flooding, but this year’s flooding has lasted longer and done more damage than any in the last decade. Like Pakistan and areas of southern and central Asia that saw overwhelming flooding this year, overbuilding and poor water management in Nigeria have also contributed to the impact.

Since early summer, more than 600 people have perished in Nigeria’s floods. The flooding has destroyed over 200,000 homes and displaced about 1.3 million people. Experts expect the flooding to continue into November.

As in Pakistan, floods have also devastated much of Nigeria’s agricultural land. Nigeria is among six countries the UN says is at high risk of hunger. The country’s economy has already been battered over the last year due to high levels of inflation. 

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TX Gov. Abbott worsens supply chain issues, drives up food prices. Israel says it intercepted rocket from Gaza amid rising tensions.




TX Gov. Abbott worsens supply chain issues, drives up food prices.

For the last two weeks, cross-border commerce between Mexico and Texas ground to a near standstill. Truckers waited for hours more to make their regular deliveries to distribution centers on the Texas side. As a result, produce has gone bad, and prices have gone up.

This is because Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered “enhanced” inspections of trucks crossing the border from Mexico. The order was in retaliation to Biden’s decision to lift Title 42 restrictions, enacted during the Trump administration, which made it possible to turn back asylum seekers coming over the border using a public health order from the CDC. In another grandstanding gesture, Abbott has been bussing migrants to Washington DC.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner and fellow Republican Sid Miller, while he nominally supports Abbott’s re-election this year, had many choice words for Abbott’s new policies. Miller says, “These two moves by our governor do nothing to stop the flow of illegal immigration or illegal drugs. I mean, absolutely zero”.

Customs and Border Patrol, the USDA, and officials with Miller’s own department already conduct thorough inspections of cross-border trucks. Among other things, they check for secret compartments, X-ray truck cargos, deploy drug sniffing dogs. Miller says, “the governor’s people have no authority to open the trucks. All they can do is check for faulty turn signals, brake lights, you know, brake linings, tire tread, that kind of stuff – just safety issues”. 

Hurting American truckers and consumers

Abbott’s inspections may do “absolutely zero” to stem the flow of illegal migrants or drug trafficking. But they are making life harder for truckers, many of them Americans, who use the crossings. Just in Laredo, Texas’ biggest inland port, “We’ve got 20,000 trucks or more backed up, waiting to get through. Some of these truckers, you know, there’s no restroom. They’re running out of diesel,” Miller says. “The only other option they have for the produce is to drive to Nogales, Ariz., which is 1,250 miles… And you have to drive another 1,250 back to Dallas, Houston or San Antonio to the distribution warehouses. So that’s a 2,500-mile detour”.

Abbott’s orders are also hitting Americans’ pocketbooks, the people of south Texas most of all. Global supply chain issues and the war in Ukraine have already caused food prices to rise. Now, delays and spoilage resulting from Abbott’s inspections are further driving up prices on produce items like bananas, avocados, lemons, limes, broccoli, cauliflower, and leafy greens. Miller acknowledges that “We have a [migration] crisis on the border. But we also have a shipping and a delivery crisis. And this is compounding that. So you can’t fix one crisis by creating another one”.

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Israel says it intercepted rocket from Gaza

Just over a year ago, an 11-day war between Israel and Gaza claimed the lives of about a dozen Israelis and more than 200 Palestinians. Now, Israel says it has intercepted a rocket fired into its territory from Gaza. This is a developing story and there will likely be further updates to come.

The news comes after weeks of rising ethnic tensions between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs and Palestinians. Since mid-march, 12 Israelis, 2 Ukrainians and more than 20 Palestinians have died in shootings and clashes with police. This past weekend, thousands of Muslim and Jewish pilgrims visited the disputed Al-Aqsa Mosque/Temple Mount site for Ramadan and Passover worship. This led to clashes between the two groups. Israeli riot police apparently stormed the mosque after some Palestinian kids threw rocks in the direction of Jewish worshippers at the Wailing Wall. More than 150 Palestinians were injured as well as two Israeli policemen. As yet, there are no reports of injuries among Israeli civilians from the Al Aqsa clash.

Hamas’ leadership called the Israeli police incursion into the mosque an “unacceptable violation”.

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Miami: Residents evacuate condo near site of last year’s deadly collapse. California crafts gun-control bill based on Texas abortion law. World food prices shooting up due to Ukraine war.




Miami: Residents ordered to evacuate a condo near the site of last year’s deadly collapse

Nearly a year after the collapse of a condo building in Surfside, FL, killed 98 people, residents of another Miami condo building have been ordered to evacuate. The 5-storey building in North Miami Beach contains 60 units and is home to 55 families. The building was undergoing construction as part of its 50-year recertification process. 

Bronislaus P. Taurinski Structural Engineers sent a letter to the city of North Miami Beach on Friday, April 1, condemning the building due to a problem with the building’s floor slabs. The letter declared the building “structurally unsafe” and advised an immediate evacuation. However, city officials did not order an evacuation until Monday. This was because they hadn’t seen the letter since they received it after work hours on Friday.

Officials gave residents little warning and told them to grab only what they needed. Residents received 3-day hotel vouchers. The city’s mayor said the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust and the American Red Cross would help residents with housing.

Last month, residents of the Surfside condo that collapsed last year reached an $83 million settlement with the building’s administrators, inspectors and developers. There has been no official determination as to the cause of that collapse. However, some reports have suggested that saltwater intrusion into the building’s foundations could be responsible.

Shortly after that deadly collapse, residents in another nearby building were forced to evacuate and have not been permitted to return since. State officials in Florida have failed to pass meaningful legislation to prevent another tragedy.

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California crafts gun-control bill based on Texas abortion law

Following the deadly shooting in Sacramento this weekend, California lawmakers are reviving efforts to write a citizen-enforced gun-control bill. Like Texas’ “Heartbeat Act”, which empowers citizens to sue anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion after 6 weeks, the law would encourage private citizens to sue anyone they suspect of violating it. Citizens could sue anyone who distributes illegal assault weapons, parts used to build weapons, guns without serial numbers, or .50 caliber rifles. A successful suit would result in a $10,000 fine per weapon.

California already has some of the nation’s toughest gun laws. But Democratic state Sen. Robert Hertzberg, one of the bill’s sponsors, says the state’s existing laws “are clearly not tough enough”. One of the weapons used in the deadly Sacramento shooting was stolen. Last month, a man used an unregistered homemade weapon to kill his three daughters, a chaperone, and then himself during a supervised visit.

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World food prices shooting up due to Ukraine war

While the US and the rest of the world is already feeling the bite of high gas prices due to the Ukraine conflict, another global crisis is brewing. Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat and corn, with its biggest markets being Africa and the Middle East. That supply has abruptly ceased due to a Russian blockade in the Black Sea. As a result, Lebanon, Somalia and Egypt are already experiencing widespread food shortages and price hikes. However, there are already signs that supplies in the rest of the world will soon be stretched thin. China has bought up a massive supply of US corn, and other wealthy countries are building up their stockpiles. This may be good news in the short term for US farmers, but this could soon translate to even higher food prices for American consumers.



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US gas prices hit all time high as Russian oil purchases blocked. Half of US adults lost IQ points due to lead pollution. Ukraine-Russia conflict will cause global food price crunch.




US gas prices hit all time high as Russian oil purchases blocked

The US, UK and EU have moved to cut purchases of Russian oil and gas. President Biden says the US will ban all new purchases of Russian oil and gas. The UK is also banning new purchase, while EU countries say they will reduce their purchases by two-thirds. EU countries are heavily dependent on Russian oil and gas, importing six times more than the US.

Gas prices in the US and elsewhere were already on the rise even before the announcement due to rampant speculation that countries might impose such a ban. Gas is now averaging a record $4.17 per gallon, with diesel costing even more. It may rise further in coming days due to rampant speculation. The previous record average was set in July 2008 at $4.10, which, accounting for inflation, would be around $5.37 in 2022 terms.

Why cut off Russian oil purchases now?

The US and its Western partners have taken this difficult and controversial step after more than a week under crippling sanctions on has failed to halt the Russian advance on Ukraine. In fact, Russia’s military assault on Ukraine has only intensified in recent days with rampant shelling of civilian areas. 

Sanctions previously exempted purchases of Russian oil and gas. But with the existing sanctions slow to bite, Western leaders believe it is urgent to cut off Russia’s largest source of revenue. International oil and gas purchases bring about $1 billion a day into Kremlin coffers.

It’s doubtful this will have any immediate impact on the ground in Ukraine. In fact, if recent events are any indicator, Putin may redouble his efforts to take Kiev. The hope is that cutting off Russia’s largest revenue source will starve Putin’s war machine.

What’s being done to minimize pain at the pump?

While the US doesn’t source much of its oil and gas from Russia, it is looking for alternative oil suppliers to help ensure global supply and stabilize prices. The White House is even reaching out to countries that US has generally regarded as “rogue states”. Firstly, US negotiators are working to bring a quick resolution in talks for the US and Iran to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal. Getting a deal signed quickly will not only reduce worries over Iran’s uranium enrichment program, but will also see Iran’s oil return to the international market.

Secondly, the US has also been in talks with representatives of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro this weekend. This is significant since up to now, the Biden administration has perpetuated former-President Trump’s diplomatic fiction that Maduro was not even president of Venezuela. Encouragingly, Maduro has signaled openness to improving ties between his government and the United States.


Half of US adults lost IQ points due to lead pollution

A new study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimates that half of American adults lost IQ points due to exposure to leaded gasoline as children. Leaded gasoline was banned in the US in 1996 and the study focuses on people born before then. On average, Americans born before 1996 lost 2.6 IQ points from inhaling car exhaust from leaded gas. But the losses are greater for people born in the 1960s and the 1970s at the height of US consumption of leaded gas. Americans born during that time frame may have lost 6 or 7 IQ points. Lead exposure is also linked to heart and kidney disease.

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Ukraine-Russia conflict may cause global food price crunch

Ukraine and Russia are both major exporters of food grains such as wheat and barley. Together they export about a quarter of the world’s wheat. Their most important consumers are Asian and Middle Eastern countries, some of which were already suffering food shortages and rising prices even before the conflict. Now experts say that the conflict could ultimately double global wheat prices.

David Beasley of the World Food Program says 50% of Lebanon’s grain imports come from Ukraine. “Yemen, Syria, Tunisia – and I could go on and on – depend on the country of Ukraine as a breadbasket,” Beasley said.

But the conflict’s impact on global food supply doesn’t end there. According to Svein Tore Holsether, CEO of fertilizer company Yara International, supply chain disruptions are also affecting their ability to obtain necessary raw materials. Yara operates in more than 60 countries and is one of the world’s largest industrial suppliers of fertilizer. Yara also sources nutrients like potash and phosphate from Russia. Since it is based in Norway, Yara is not directly subject to sanctions. But the sanctions and other measures to isolate the Russian economy have created logistical chaos.

According to Holsether, “Half the world’s population gets food as a result of fertilizers. And if that’s removed from the field for some crops, [the yield] will drop by 50%”.

Holsether says the question is not “whether we are moving into a global food crisis. It’s how large the crisis will be”.


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