Saturday, June 14, 2008
WORLD IN CRISIS: THE UP SIDE
What follows is a brief snapshot of some of the events that have been occurring around the world. Add to these events political, environmental, social unrest and the looming food crisis and the picture looks pretty bleak. But as you will see, the news is not all negative.
NEW YORK - Wall Street tumbled Friday, taking the Dow Jones industrials down nearly 400 points, on a pair of alarming economic developments: oil prices that shot up by more than $11 a barrel and approached $140 for the first time, and the biggest gain in the government's unemployment reading in more than 20 years.
And those weren't the only stunning numbers of the day: The government also reported the nation's unemployment rate zoomed to 5.5 percent in May, a monthly rise of half a percentage point, the biggest in 22 years.
Friday's Labor Department report was filled with sobering numbers:
• Employers eliminated 49,000 jobs in May, the fifth straight month of nationwide losses.
• The number of unemployed people grew by 861,000 — to 8.5 million.
• Job losses for the year reached 324,000.
Longer unemployment lines mean even more angst for those seeking work.
EMMAVILLE, Minn. - Strong storms smashed houses, deluged neighborhoods, toppled trees and left thousands without power across the Midwest on Friday in the latest round of fierce weather.
Scientists have discovered their first icequake, if you will - a movement of a huge stream of ice in Antarctica that creates seismic waves, just like an earthquake, and can be felt hundreds of miles away.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. home foreclosures and mortgage delinquencies hit record highs in the first quarter as the sharp housing downturn put more American households under financial strain, data released on Thursday showed.
Nearly one in a hundred homes, or 0.99 percent, were driven into a foreclosure proceeding in the first quarter, the Mortgage Bankers Association said, up from 0.83 percent in the fourth quarter and the highest on records dating to 1979.
As the pace of failing loans quickened, the trade group said the overall share of homes in foreclosure rose to an all-time high of 2.47 percent from 2.04 percent. At the same time, the mortgage delinquency rate rose to a record 6.35 percent, suggesting foreclosures are likely to continue to mount.
HONOLULU - The Caribbean monk seal has gone extinct.
MADRID: Auto plants in Spain were paralyzed and Portugal's main airport banned planes from refueling on Wednesday as a third day of strikes by thousands of truckers caused heightened chaos and shortages.
Haulers in Thailand also threatened to strike next week while their counterparts in South Korea plan to stop work on Friday, as the outrage over soaring fuel prices intensified around the world.
Tens of thousands of truck drivers launched stoppages in France, Portugal and Spain on Monday to demand government help to cope with the rising price of fuel caused by rocketing oil prices, which last week reached almost 140 dollars a barrel.
The protests have paralyzed roads, causing huge tailbacks, and left supermarkets short of fresh produce and some petrol stations without supplies.
The Spanish auto plants of Seat, Nissan, Renault, PSA Peugeot Citroen and Mercedes Benz said they had cut or halted production as the strike left them short of parts.
In Belgium, the Volvo and Audi auto plants said they would be forced to close from Thursday due to the strike in Spain.
In Portugal, the strike hit air transport as fuel shortages forced authorities at Lisbon airport to ban planes from refueling, except those on high priority flights.
Portuguese police stepped up patrols after a striker manning a picket line north of Lisbon was run over and killed by a lorry on Tuesday. Long queues formed at many petrol stations as motorists sought to fill up in case the pumps run dry. Several supermarket chains in both Portugal and Spain expressed concern over the shortage of fresh products.
In Spain, the blocked roads meant wholesale food markets in large cities suffered shortages of fresh fish, milk, fruits and vegetables.
Elsewhere in Europe, around 50,000 Polish truckers staged one-hour protests across the country on Wednesday, although without blocking roads, the organizers said.
The British government is also finalizing contingency plans to cope with a four-day strike by oil tanker drivers this weekend.
And Dutch truckers announced plans to block roads at 18 points across the country for 30 minutes on Thursday.
Across the world, Thai truck drivers threatened on Wednesday to go on strike next week and block roads to the capital with 400,000 lorries unless the government helps them pay for soaring fuel costs.
Truckers in South Korea have voted to go on strike on Friday.
In Malaysia, the opposition has planned a series of rallies culminating in a July 12 demonstration which they hope will attract 100,000 people following the government's fuel price hike of 41 percent last week. - AFP/de
AP (6-14-08) G-8 officials, both this weekend and in July, are facing a host of issues that threaten to destabilize the global economy.
Oil spiked to nearly $140 a barrel last week, and several Asian countries, including India, Indonesia and Malaysia, have slashed fuel subsidies, raising prices for millions of consumers. The world is also facing a potential food emergency as prices of corn, wheat, rice, soybeans and other agriculture products rise. The price hikes have set off riots and protests from Africa to Asia and elevated fears of a global food crisis that could cause millions of people to suffer malnutrition. It was unclear whether the meetings produced any concrete measures to address the issues.
So what is the good news? History tells us that there are “early warning” signs when empires are about crumble, the environment is gearing up for a change, and even if revolution is in the offing. Most of the time, people do not see the “signs’ of the times because they are otherwise preoccupied or even too caught up in the changing events. Few Romans believed that their empire was about to collapse. Species that fail to make minor adaptations tended to go extinct. The British and French Kings should have known that revolution was a spark away. Did the Czar of Russia have no warning that he was about to be overthrown? Were World Wars I and II really that much of a surprise? Does the earth give warnings when she is about to erupt? Do the birds not go quiet when the massive storm approaches? When the rivers begin to run dry, or the glaciers melt, are these not early warnings that something is about to change? Usually, the signs come early and then grow in intensity. What is interesting is that once the warnings have run their course, change is often swift and abrupt. When the tipping is reached, the completion of the event occurs rapidly.
The good news is that we, humanity, have been given ample warning that the world as we know is about to reach the tipping point. Change is in the air and little that we do will alter the course of that change. Knowing this, we can prepare to meet change in a state of readiness. There does not have to be political, economic and social disasters as we approach 2012, the year many predict is when tipping points in all aspect of life will be reached. The climate is changing, but millions do not have to suffer as a result. We cannot greatly alter the current climate change, but we can ensure that millions do not perish. We will run out of oil, but we can ensure that alternatives are available to meet needs. Supplies of food are beginning to run short, but we can change our policies and prevent starvation. The list could go on but the point is, we can not only survive change, we can also embrace and use change to our benefit.
All of the events of human history have brought us to where we are now. There is no turning back and we cannot stop the major changes that are currently happening. We have been given the “signs” to adapt, to alter our thinking, our lifestyles, technologies, politics and our relationship with each other and our planet. The warnings have been plentiful, clear and precise.
“Adaptability is defined as the capacity to change oneself to new circumstances easily and to accept new conditions well. Stupid people are not adaptable and the Wise ones are -- they can always avert disaster by changing their circumstances or adapting to changing circumstances. Thus do the Wise survive in the face of repeated adversity.” (http://awordtothewise.info/content/view/536/1/)
Is humanity wise? Will we adapt? Those that do not may well go the way of the dinosaurs who once ruled the planet, but who failed to meet the demands of a changing environment. Maybe they had no choice, but we do.