US Becomes a Net Importer of Food: One of the hidden surprises in the ballooning, out-of-control US budget and trade deficit data is that, for the first time in half a century, the US now imports more food than it exports. Just three years ago, it ran a $13.6B agricultural surplus. All of this is before the yet-to-come impact of reopening US borders to Canadian beef (closed since last year’s Mad Cow scare) and of the collapse of the US dollar. Countries like Brasil, it appears, are learning that despite the monster agricultural subsidies that allow the US to sell its produce abroad for less than what it costs farmers to produce it, they can still undercut the US on price and capitalize on more generous bilateral trade agreements. What ye sow so shall ye reap.
China Becomes a Net Importer of Food: Perhaps not coincidentally, China has now also gone into the red in agricultural trade. The Chinese authorities call it a technical setback, and deny a UK Financial Times report that China is verging on a food crisis. But the statistics tell a different story: Chinese grain production fell for the fifth consecutive year this year. Why? Because the country is running out of water.
Mentally Ill Still Rotting in Prison: As I reported last year, as more and more mental health facilities close their doors, the mentally ill are increasingly (over a million in the US alone, and the number is soaring) homeless in the streets or incarcerated in prisons . A new editorial in the NYT argues that, in New York at least, the mentally ill are more likely to be imprisoned for non-violent offenses, once they’re there their anti-social behaviour makes them more likely to be charged with more serious offenses and given much longer sentences, and they are shockingly prone to committing suicide in prison.
Rich Get Richer, Poor Children Dying: This could be the signature headline of civilization, since it’s been going on so long it’s no longer even news. Oxfam reported recently on the miserliness of the G7 countries, whose wealthy are getting ever richer but whose people and governments are doing less each year to provide humanitarian aid to the Third World. As a result, they say, 45 million children will die needlessly of diseases that are easy and inexpensive to prevent or cure, and a billion people live in abject misery and destitution. Scrooge lives.
Disguise Yourself as a Canadian: An American company T-ShirtKing, is selling Americans t-shirts, badges and other paraphernalia festooned with the Canadian flag so Americans can travel abroad more safely. You can also get a book on how to ‘speak Canadian’. But I would suggest Republicans save their money. Europeans, who know a lot more about Canada than most Americans, will spot you in a moment. Wouldn’t it be ironic if the shirts were made with Third World sweatshop labour?