Wednesday, April 23, 2008

SAR #8115

What is 'fair'? Who will decide?

Peak Food: The 70 million new mouths we have to feed every year is not the real cause of food shortages. Not as much as the increasing affluence in Asia that makes tens of millions want to eat better, to eat meat, to go to MacDonald's. It takes 7 pounds of grain to make 1 pound of beef. The grain to make one tankful of bio-fuel would feed one person for a year. But the real cause is the cost of the oil it takes to grow the grain. The poor just don't have enough money to make feeding them worthwhile.

Planning Ahead: In the 1950s the Aral Sea was the fourth largest inland sea in the world; it produced 6,500 tons of fish daily. Today there is no Aral Sea. There's a lesson there, somewhere...

Belt Tightening: Deutsche Bank has been hit by the global credit crunch so badly that it has issued a memorandum to senior executives telling them that prostitutes can no longer be claimed on expense reports.

War Score: About 300,000 U.S. veterans of the Bush wars suffer from PTSD and another 320,000 suffer from traumatic brain injury. About half get no treatment from the VA. Something like 15% of all homeless are combat vets. Eighteen kill themselves every day. That's half a division, dead. Annually.

Saleing: Existing home sales for March were down 19.3% from 2007, while prices were down 7.7%. The National Realtors Association again said that now was the time to b....

Running on Empty: In 1Q 2008, Delta and Northwest together lost $10.5 billion due to soaring fuel prices. They plan on mothballing 90 aircraft. Fly now, you'll be able to tell your grandchildren you once did.

Keeping Score: April 8th. Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain: "Merrill... has no need to raise fresh capital." April 17th, Thain: Merrill "does not plan to issue common stock." April 21st. Merrill issues $9.5 billion in 8.625% preferred stock and bonds... I like an investment bank that is on top of the markets.

All in the Family: Bond Insurer AMBAC has hired lawyers to examine deals made last year with Bear Stearns & First Franklin. CDO's that were expected to have 6 to 12% losses have risen to over 80% write-offs. Tell your kid to go to law school, there's going to be lots and lots of work.

Shipping Shape: UPS and FedEx report that deliveries have continued to drop through the first quarter, that profits may drop 12 to 14%, and that "the trucks are not as full as they used to be."

Carriage-less Horse: The government wants higher gas millage by 2030. PBS's NOVA examines what will power the car of the future. No hint anywhere that the future of the automobile is not an automobile.

Oily Days: Oil at $120? $150? $180 by 2010? Probably. The International Energy Agency estimates that worldwide production is now falling each year by 4.5 million barrels a day. Just to stay even we need to find and pump 4.5 million "new" barrels every day. And we're not doing the finding.

Worth Considering: Bolivian President Evo Morales claims the first step in saving the planet is to abandon the capitalist model based on perpetual growth. The second step is to stop burning... anything. I don't know about saving the planet, but it may be the only way to save civilization.

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