UN: food prices hit record high in February

March 3, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Economic News, Featured Stories, World News

March 3, 2011

Print Version

Source: AP


A U.N. food agency says that global food prices reached new highs in February and warns that oil price spikes could provoke further increases.

Skyrocketing food prices have been among the triggers for protests in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere and raised fears of a repeat of the food price crises in 2007 and 2008. Global oil prices have spiked on concerns about the potential impact of supply disruptions from Libya.

The Food and Agriculture Organization said in a statement Thursday that its food price index was up 2.2 percent last month, the highest in real and nominal terms since the agency started monitoring prices in 1990.

It was also the eighth consecutive month that food prices had risen. In January, the index had already registered a peak.

Details of Iraq whistleblower’s Dr. David Kelly’s “alleged suicide” to be sealed 70 years

January 25, 2010 by admin  
Filed under Featured Stories

By Stephen C. Webster
Sunday, January 24th, 2010 — 6:19 pm

By 2080, anyone with a direct interest in learning how Dr. David Kelly died, will themselves be dead.

That’s how an Oxford coroner reacted to a recent ruling ordering the details of the former United Nations weapons inspector’s death locked away for 70 years, according to a Mail Online report.

Kelly’s story, however, was gravely important in 2003, just before he was found dead in the woods behind his home in Oxfordshire, U.K. As the BBC revealed in the wake of his passing, he had been the key source behind a story claiming intelligence on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction was “sexed up.”

Hours before his death, he reportedly e-mailed New York Times reporter Judith Miller, warning her of “many dark actors playing games,” according to the BBC.

Lord Hutton, the British judge who led the state’s investigation into Kelly’s death, also ordered his written records pertaining to the case sealed for 30 years, according to UK’s Morning Star Online.

The report added that Hutton’s inquiry “concluded that Dr Kelly had killed himself by cutting an artery in his wrist. But the finding has been challenged by doctors who claim that the weapons inspector’s stated injuries were not serious enough to have killed him.”

A paramedic who responded to the scene was quoted by The Guardian, saying: “There just wasn’t a lot of blood… When somebody cuts an artery, whether accidentally or intentionally, the blood pumps everywhere. I just think it is incredibly unlikely that he died from the wrist wound we saw.”

The claims eventually led a group of six doctors to bring formal demands for an investigation into Kelly’s death. An initial inquiry was headed up by the British Ministry of Defense.

“[Just] how far were the Blair/Bush administrations willing to go in order to fabricate a reason for the Iraq war?” asked RAW STORY’s Investigative News Editor Larisa Alexandrovna in a post to her blog, At Largely. “The Bush administration was at the very least willing to out a covert CIA officer, committing treason in the process. What was Tony Blair willing to do?”

Sadly, with the court’s inquiry ended, the questions seem doomed to persist.

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United Nations conference calls for new global currency

September 10, 2009 by admin  
Filed under Economic News, Featured Stories, World News

Source: Raw Story

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development said in a report published Monday that the U.S. dollar should be replaced as the world’s standard reserve currency, giving rise to a new global currency managed by an as-yet undetermined financial regulatory organization.

Heiner Flassbeck, director of the conference, told Bloomberg News that changes needed in the world’s financial systems rival the scope of the Bretton Woods or European Monetary System agreements.

The Bretton Woods agreement established in 1944 the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, following allied victory in World War II.

“[The] dominance of the dollar as the main means of international payments [has] played an important role in the build-up of the global imbalances in the run-up to the financial crisis,” the report says. “Another disadvantage of the current international reserve system is that it imposes a greater adjustment burden on deficit countries (except if it is a country issuing a reserve currency) than on surplus countries.”

The UN adds: “Such a multilateral system would tackle the problem of destabilizing capital flows at its source. It would remove a major incentive for speculation and ensure that monetary factors do not stand in the way of achieving a level playing field for international trade. It would also get rid of debt traps and counterproductive conditionality. The last point is perhaps the most important one: countries facing strong depreciation pressure would automatically receive the required assistance once a sustainable level of the exchange rate had been reached in the form of swap agreements or direct intervention by the counterparty.”

The move should not be surprising to observers of global economics, as a U.N. panel of currency experts came to the same conclusion in March, according to Reuters.

The conference specifically emphasizes the enhancement of the International Monetary Fund’s “special drawing right” (SDR), which may serve as the “supranational” currency.

World-wide shake-up
The past year has seen a dramatic shake-up in oversight and management of the U.S. and global economies.

For months, Russia and China have been calling for a new world reserve currency.

Russia, for its part, supports replacing the dollar on the world stage, suggesting the Chinese yuan may be the quickest path to diversified reserves.

“There is a need to make the IMF a true representative of the world’s leading economies. It’s not there right now,” said Russian finance minister Alexei Kudrin in June, noting that China had a lower representation quota than Switzerland or Belgium.

Kudrin also said he did not expect to see any new monetary unions rise, although the Gulf states agreed in May to use Saudi Arabia as a base for a pending “monetary union” and new central banking authority.

The issue of IMF reform should therefore be raised “in earnest, in a bold way,” Kudrin said, adding countries should be “represented in proportion to the strength of these economies and their role in the world economy.”

Over the weekend, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner argued successfully to strengthen the “Basel II” framework for international commerce, which would see all G20 member nations increase their currency liquidity and allow centralized, “global supervision” of financial industries. The Obama administration is committed to full compliance with the framework by 2011.

The Group of 20 finance ministers and central bank governors plan to meet in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Sept. 24 and 25. Several major liberal groups are planning demonstrations, including the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition. The city has already secured a deal to use National Guard troops provide a security buffer for the world’s financial elite during their meeting.

Also on Sunday, a key Chinese official predicted that the dollar’s increasing supply, which grows with added liquidity, meant the currency could “fall hard” within “a year or two.” The official also signaled that China is moving its reserves away from the dollar and toward gold, euros and yen.

Washington has staunchly defended the dollar as the world’s reserve, with President Obama, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner all insisting there is no need for a new global reserve currency.

The UN report which makes the recommendations is available online (PDF link).

This article was modified from an original version.

US sees UN as key after Bush era difficulties

August 13, 2009 by admin  
Filed under Featured Stories, World News

Aug. 13, 2009
Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST

In a not-so-subtle dig at the Bush administration, US Ambassador Susan Rice said Wednesday the United States has paid the price for “stiff-arming the UN” and spurning international partners and is now embarked on a new era of global engagement.

A key to this new engagement is a dramatic new approach to the United Nations, she said.

Setting the stage for US President Barack Obama’s first address to the UN General Assembly in September, Rice called the 192-nation organization “vital to our efforts to craft a better, safer world” because “so many of America’s security interests come together today at the United Nations.”

She never mentioned the Bush administration and its difficult and sometimes antagonistic relationship with the UN, especially when John Bolton was ambassador. But her speech at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs, released by the US Mission, highlighted the differences in tone and actions under Obama.

Rice said the change in US approach to the UN is essential because of the “extraordinary array” of global security challenges in the 21st century.

She cited poorly guarded nuclear weapons and material, the global financial meltdown, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a build-up of nuclear weapons capabilities by North Korea and Iran, terrorist acts by al-Qaida and its affiliates, genocide, cyber attacks, international crime and drug trafficking, pandemics, and global warming.

These challenges cannot be tackled alone, Rice said, and the Obama administration believes that while US leadership is necessary, the “effective cooperation” of a broad range of friends and partners is essential.

She cautioned that the US has “no illusions” about the UN’s shortcomings, singling out the Security Council stumbling over issues such as Darfur, Zimbabwe and Myanmar, the General Assembly unfairly focusing on Israel, and the UN system needing to “confront waste and abuse even as it struggles to meet daunting new responsibilities for peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and development.”

Reiterating Obama’s statement that the UN is imperfect but indispensable, Rice stressed that “there can be no substitute for the legitimacy the UN can impart or its potential to mobilize the widest possible coalitions.”

She said there is also no better alternative to sharing the burdens and costs of UN peacekeeping and humanitarian operations – and “there is no doubt that we are more secure when the UN can foster nonproliferation and promote disarmament.”

“In short, the UN is essential to our efforts to galvanize concerted actions that make Americans safer and more secure,” Rice said.

Since she arrived at the UN, Rice said the US negotiated a resolution with tough new sanctions against North Korea for conducting a second nuclear test.

It has also joined the Human Rights Council, embraced UN anti-poverty goals “which the United States previously shunned,” rescinded a ban on US assistance to programs that support family planning and reproductive health services, resumed US funding for the UN Population Fund and signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, she said.

The United States also reversed course and backed a General Assembly statement opposing violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation, and it no longer opposes mentions of the International Criminal Court or “the right to food,” Rice said, “and we are forging a new path on climate change commensurate with our responsibilities.”

She said in addition to the vast array of challenges the US inherited, there will be new ones, and inevitably there will be setbacks, frustrations and differences that remain intractable.

“But we’ve seen the costs of disengaging,” she said. “We have paid the price of stiff-arming the UN and spurning our international partners.”

“The United States will lead in the 21st century – not with hubris, not by hectoring, but through patient diplomacy and steadfast resolve to strengthen our common security by investing in our common humanity.