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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

News Factoids for First Quarter 2014

The White House website contains the following statement:
"President Obama is committed to creating the most open and accessible Administration in history. That begins with taking comments and questions from you, the American people, through our website."


In January, a national propane shortage caused declared emergencies in 31 states.

"Thus far in 2014, truly bizarre weather has been the norm. Blizzards buried Birmingham, Alabama and Tokyo, Japan while it hit 62° in Alaska in January. California suffered thru its worst drought in more than a century, while the wettest winter since 1766 submerged much of New England in a biblical flood. Australia was so hot – 110 degrees for days at a time – that 1,000 bats fell out of the trees, dead of heat stroke." — William Falk, The Week Magazine


Back in January, I noticed that the bear claw pastries at the bakery of my local Albertsons supermarket had no almond slices on the top. I asked the clerk who called the baker from the back, who explained that the price of almonds in the five-pound box has tripled! and that he has been unable to find a cheaper source, so his choice was to remove the decorative nuts rather than raise the price. The crop for 2013 was average, but the drought in California is expected to reduce the size of the nuts and of the crop, so the agribusiness quasi-monopoly is raising prices NOW because their profits must be protected. (And then the further increase in price later this year won't look so huge.)

Major article in the newspaper here last week about bartenders cutting back on limes, especially on margarita cocktails. Because of weather changes and a crop disease and theft by organized crime, Mexico's lime crop is seriously down this year. So producers have raised the price of a carton from $18 to $100. Expect more of the same for other food crops.

As the shortage of fresh limes continues, airlines are no longer bringing them on board for alcoholic cocktails, not even on vodka tonics.

A virus that originated in China has killed millions of U.S. baby pigs in the last year across 27 states. The F.D.A. is still trying to track how the disease entered the country, and expect that production this year will decline by seven percent. So of course greedy meatpackers are already charging a 13% higher price for bacon.

As the prices of food ingredient crops keep rising, be aware that the annual C.O.L.A. (Cost of Living Adjustment) on Social Security will NOT be increased: the Social Security C.O.L.A. formula is based on C.P.I. (the Consumer Price Index) which does not include changes in costs of food or energy, as well as incorporating a below-reality factor for healthcare for the elderly.


Somebody is going to make a fortune building a smartphone app for the growing number of automobile recall repairs, or maybe AAA or Carfax will do it. Set up a big database from all the manufacturers, searchable by make/model/year and-or VIN, with data about whether and when the recall repair got installed on each vehicle. The economic model would be long-term license for new & used auto dealers, short term (six month?) license for individuals shopping for a new or used vehicle.
Copyright 2014 by G.E. Nordell, all rights reserved

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