Fruit and Vegetable Prices Are Rising

Grocery shoppers may soon need more green in their wallets to afford their next salad.

The cost of fresh produce is poised to jump in the coming months as a three-year drought in California shows few signs of abating, according to an Arizona State University study set to be released Wednesday.BN-CJ559_calipr_G_20140415104036

The study found a head of lettuce could increase in price as much as 62 cents to $2.44; avocado prices could rise 35 cents to $1.60 each; and tomatoes could cost 45 cents more at $2.84 per pound. (The run-up in produce prices is in line with other projections showing that overall food cost gains are expected to accelerate this year.)

The latest projections were compiled by Timothy Richards, an agribusiness professor at ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business. He studied the drought’s effect on farmland and consumer purchasing trends to determine the eight fresh fruits and vegetables likely to see the largest price increases this spring and summer.

And the price increases may already be happening. Grocery prices rose by 0.5% for the second-straight month in March, according to the Labor Department’s consumer-price index, released Tuesday. It was the largest two-month gain in the food-at-home category since 2011. Fruit and vegetable prices rose 0.9% last month, after a 1.1% gain in February. Meat and dairy prices are also increasing. Meanwhile, overall consumer prices rose just 0.2% last month, as broader inflation in the economy remains tepid.

California is the largest domestic producer of each of the products Mr. Richards identified, ranging from grapes to peppers. And in the case of avocados, it’s the only state with a significant crop.

 

READ MORE: http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2014/04/15/attention-shoppers-fruit-and-vegetable-prices-rising/?mod=WSJ_hpp_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsFifth

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Fourth Anniversary of Gulf Oil Spill: Wildlife Is Still Suffering from Toxic Cover Up

Washington’s Blog
April 14, 2014

As we noted at the time, and on the first (and here), second and third anniversaries of BP’s Gulf oil spill, BP and the government made the spill much worse by dumping toxic dispersant in the water in an attempt to to sink – and so temporarily hide – the oil.

Image: BP Oil Spill (Wiki Commons).

In addition, adding dispersant makes oil 52 times more toxic than it would normally be.

EPA whistleblowers tried to warn us

Gulf toxicologist Susan Shaw told us last year:

Covering up the [Gulf] oil spill with Corexit was a deadly action … what happened in the Gulf was a political act, an act of cowardice and greed.

(60 Minutes did a fantastic exposé on the whole shenanigan.)

And the cover up went beyond adding toxic dispersant.  BP and the government went so far as hiding dead animals and keeping scientists and reporters away from the spill so they couldn’t document what was really happening.

As the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) notes in a new report, the wildlife is still suffering from this toxic cover up.

NWF reports:

Some 900 bottlenose dolphins of all ages—the vast majority of them dead—have been reported stranded in the northern Gulf between April 2010 and March 2014. In 2013, bottlenose dolphins were found dead or stranded at more than three times average rates before the spill. In 2011, dead infant or stillborn dolphins were found at nearly seven times the historical average and these strandings have remained higher than normal in subsequent years. NOAA has been investigating this ongoing wave of bottlenose dolphin strandings across the northern Gulf of Mexico since February 2010, before the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded. This is the longest period of above-average strandings in the past two decades and it includes the greatest number of stranded dolphins ever found in the Gulf of Mexico. In December 2013, NOAA published results of a study looking at the health of dolphins in a heavily-oiled section of the Louisiana coast. This researchers found strong evidence that the ill health of the dolphins in Louisiana’s Barataria Bay was related to oil exposure.

***

Dolphins in Barataria Bay showed evidence of adrenal problems, as has been previously reported in mammals exposed to oil.4 Barataria Bay dolphins also were five times more likely than dolphins from unoiled areas to have moderate-to-severe lung disease. Nearly half the dolphins studied were very ill; 17% of the dolphins were not expected to survive. The study concludes that health effects seen in Barataria Bay dolphins are significant and likely will lead to reduced survival and ability to reproduce.

NWF found many other species have also been harmed by the dispersant-oil mixture:

Roughly 500 stranded sea turtles have been found in the area affected by the spill every year from 2011 to 2013. This is a dramatic increase over the numbers found before the disaster. Other teams of scientists have reported negative impacts of oil on a number of species of fish, including tuna red snapper and mahi-mahi. As we have learned from previous spills far smaller than the 2010 event, it has taken years to understand the full effects on the environment. In some cases, recovery is not complete even decades later. Twenty-five years after the Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound, clams, mussels, and killer whales are still considered “recovering,” and the Pacific herring population, commercially harvested before the spill, is showing few signs of recovery. [One of the main ingredients in Corexit – 2-butoxyethanol – was also used in the Valdez spill] … the full scope of the Deepwater Horizon disaster on the Gulf ecosystem will likely unfold for years or even decades to come.

***

The Atlantic bluefin tuna is one of the largest fish in the Gulf, reaching average lengths of 6.5 feet and weighing about 550 lbs. A single fish can sell for tens of thousands of dollars.… The Deepwater Horizon rig exploded while the April-May breeding season in the northern Gulf was underway. In 2011, NOAA researchers estimated that as many as 20% of larval fish could have been exposed to oil, with a potential reduction in future populations of about 4%.

***

A more recent study shows that a chemical in oil from the spill can cause irregular heartbeats in bluefin and yellowfin tuna that can lead to heart attacks, or even death. The effects are believed to be particularly problematic for fish embryos and larvae, as heartbeat changes could affect development of other organs. The researchers suggest that other vertebrate species in the Gulf of Mexico could have been similarly affected. Scientists found that four additional species of large predatory fish—blackfin tuna, blue marlinmahi-mahi and sailfish—all had fewer larvae in the year of the oil spill than any of the three previous years.

***

The Deepwater Horizon spill occurred during the blue crab spawning season, when female crabs were migrating out of estuaries into deeper waters of the Gulf to release their eggs.

***

[Reports indicate problems with crabs.] Blue crabs provide evidence of oil tainting Gulf food web. 2. Alabama Local News. 2013. Blue crab stock declines are concern for Gulf Coast fishermen. 3. Houma Today. 2013. Locals say blue crab catches plummeting. 4. Louisiana Seafood News. 2013. Lack of Crabs in Pontchartrain Basin Leads to Unanswered Questions. 5. Tampa Bay Times. 2013. Gulf oil spill’s effects still have seafood industry nervous. 6. Presentation at the 2014 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill & Ecosystem Science Conference. The Effects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on Blue Crab Megalopal Settlement: A Field Study.

***

Marine life associated with the deep sea corals also showed visible signs of impact from the oil. In a laboratory study, coral larvae that had been exposed to oil, a chemical dispersant, and an oil/ dispersant mixture all had lower survival rates than the control larvae in clean seawater.

***

According to a recently published federal report, oyster eggs, sperm and larvae were exposed to oil and dispersants during the 2010 oil spill. Oil compounds known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can be lethal to oyster

***

In the fall of 2010, even after the Macondo well was capped, oyster larvae were rare or absent in many of the water samples collected across the northern Gulf of Mexico.

***

There are nearly 1000 known species of foraminifera in the Gulf of Mexico. These small marine creatures form part of the base of the marine food web, serving as a food source for marine snails, sand dollars and fish. Previous research has shown that these sediment-dwelling microorganisms are sensitive to oil damage. Rapid accumulation of oiled sediment on parts of the Gulf floor between late 2010 and early 2011 contributed to a dramatic die-off of foraminifera. Researchers found a significant difference in community structure and abundance during and after the Deepwater Horizon event at sites located from 100-1200 meters deep in the Desoto Canyon, nearly 100 kilometers south-southwest of Pensacola, Florida. Deep sea foraminifera had not recovered in diversity a year and a half after the spill.

***

Killifish, also known as bull minnows or cockahoe, are prized bait fish and play an important role in the Gulf food web..…This species has been extensively studied in the aftermath of the disaster because of its abundance and its sensitivity to pollution. Oil exposure can alter the killifish’s cellular function in ways that are predictive of developmental abnormalities, decreased hatching success and decreased embryo and larval survival. In 2011, Louisiana State University researchers compared the gill tissue of killifish in an oiled marsh to those in an oil-free marsh. Killifish residing in oiled marshes showed evidence of effects even at low levels of oil exposure which could be significant enough to have an impact at a population level. Additional research has found that four common species of marsh fish, including the Gulf killifish, seem to be avoiding oiled areas. These behaviors, even at small scales, could be significant within marsh communities, leading to changes in food web dynamics.

***

In the aftermath of the spill, a number of fish, including red snapper, caught in Gulf waters between eastern Louisiana and western Florida had unusual lesions or rotting fins. University of South Florida researchers examined red snapper and other fish and determined that their livers contained oil compounds that had a strong “pattern coherence” to oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill.… An analysis of snapper populations in the Gulf that was done between 2011 and 2013 showed an unusual lack of younger snapper. Further research found a significant decline in snapper and other reef fish after the spill. Small plankton-eating fish, such as damselfishes and cardinalfishes, declined most dramatically but red snapper and other larger reef fish also declined.

***

Seaside sparrows live only in coastal marshes, where they are common year-round residents. Oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill remains in some marshes, putting seaside sparrows at continued risk from direct oiling, contaminated or reduced food supplies, and continued habitat loss. In 2012 and 2013, seaside sparrows in Louisiana salt marshes were found to have reductions in both overall abundance and likelihood to fledge from the nest. Because these birds are not aquatic, exposure to oil would likely come from incidental contact on the shore or from eating oil or bugs and other creatures that have oil in their systems. Other studies have shown a significant decrease in the insect population in oiled marshes, which could be reducing prey availability for seaside sparrows.

***

Roughly 700 sperm whales live year-round in the Gulf’s deep waters off the continental shelf…. A researcher at the University of Southern Maine has found higher levels of DNA-damaging metals such as chromium and nickel in sperm whales in the Gulf of Mexico compared to sperm whales elsewhere in the world. These metals are present in oil from the spill. Whales closest to the well’s blowout showed the highest levels.

Nothing has changed … indeed, the U.S. has let BP back into the Gulf.  And BP is going to drill even deeper … with an even greater potential for disaster.

It’s not just BP … or the Gulf.  Giant banking and energy companies and the government have a habit of covering up disasters – including not only oil spills, but everything from nuclear accidents to  financial problems – instead of actually fixing the problems so that they won’t happen again.

Severe Weather Pounds The South And Midwest

DENTON, TEXAS (EarthThreats.com) — Severe weather pushed through the South and Midwest Thursday night producing tornados and heavy rain fall, leaving thousands of people without power on Friday as storms push eastward throughout the day.

Storm spotters and radar indicated that a total of 11 tornados were spawned in this outbreak, five in Texas, four in Missouri, and two in Illinois, the weather underground said.

The threat for damaging winds remains through the evening and residents in the warned area should be on alert for severe weather, the Storm Prediction Center said.

Rescuers scour Washington state mudslide rubble, up to 176 still missing

(Reuters) – Rescue workers sifted through mucky rubble on Tuesday amid dwindling hopes of finding any more survivors from among scores of people still missing from a devastating weekend mudslide in Washington state that killed at least 14.

About a dozen workers searched overnight for as many as 176 people who have been reported missing since a rain-soaked hillside collapsed on Saturday morning, swallowing dozens of homes near Oso, Snohomish County Executive John Lovick said.

Compounding their sense of urgency was a fear of flooding as water levels rose behind a crude dam of mud and rubble that had been dumped into the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River by the slide in an area along State Route 530, about 55 miles northeast of Seattle, in the Pacific Northwest state.

Authorities said they were hoping the number of people listed as missing would decline as they had perhaps been double-counted or had been slow to alert family and officials about their whereabouts.

The rescuers had failed to locate any more people in the rubble early on Tuesday.

John Pennington, Snohomish County’s director of emergency management, said that after three days, the operation is shifting from a rescue operation to a recovery mission.

“I never lose faith and a lot of the people in this community will never lose faith, but there’s a realism element that’s entered in,” he told NBC’s “Today” show on Tuesday.
READ MORE: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/25/us-usa-mudslide-washingtonstate-idUSBREA2L0R020140325

 

Huge waves lash southern Britain

Sky News
Sat, 08 Feb 2014 18:57 CST

© Skynews
Network Rail released this image of the flooded rail line at Bridgwater.

The Coastguard warns of “phenomenal” 14-metre waves as 80mph winds hit the coastline of southern England

Southern Britain was on alert as hurricane-force winds and heavy rain combined with high tides threatened more flooding misery.

South Wales and the South West were the first areas to be hit by the storm, which moved over the rest of southern England during the afternoon.

The Coastguard in Brixham, Devon, said waves of up to 46ft (14m) were forecast to hit some areas.

The extreme weather also puts more pressure on inland areas including the crisis-hit Somerset Levels.

Residents there have endured weeks of rain, with many evacuated over the last 48 hours with help from the Royal Marines.

Some 1,500 military personnel remain on standby in case the storm caused significant damage.

An elderly woman was taken to hospital with serious injuries after a tree fell on to the car she was travelling in.

The woman, thought to be in her 70s, suffered a chest injury and a broken leg during the accident in Yardley, Birmingham.

Another female passenger in the car was taken to hospital with neck pain.

© Skynews
Some 65 square miles of the Somerset Levels are under water.

The Met Office has issued amber severe weather warnings – meaning “be prepared” – for rain and wind across southern England and Wales until Sunday.

The Environment Agency has two severe flood warnings in place – meaning “danger to life” – in the Somerset Levels.

A third is in place in Chiswell, Dorset, where people were warned that rough seas could breach defences and launch shingle over the promenade.

In all, there are more than 180 flood warnings – the furthest north on the River Dee close to Chester. Three hundred less serious flood alerts are in place, including five in the North East of England.

The River Thames also burst its banks in Chertsey, Surrey. A seven-year-old boy has died and two adults believed to be his parents were in a serious condition in hospital after falling ill in a house in the town on Saturday morning.

And the west country was completely cut off by rail following a landslip on the line at Crewkerne in Somerset and flooding in nearby Bridgwater and Athelney.

© Skynews
Rough conditions off Sunny Sands Beach in Folkestone.

That comes just days after a stretch of the rail line connecting Cornwall to the rest of the country fell into the sea at Dawlish in Devon when an 80m stretch of the sea wall was destroyed by high tides.

Rail operators have put on replacement bus services and slashed ticket prices for passengers.

Official figures show last month was the wettest January since 1766.

Senior politicians including Prime Minister David Cameron – who visited Somerset on Friday – have promised affected areas will get all the help they need.

Mr Cameron admitted the decision to stop dredging the rivers Tone and Parrett in the 1990s was wrong.

Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles chaired a COBRA meeting on Saturday evening.

He said: “An additional 1,600 military personal are now on standby across the south and can be deployed rapidly if required.

“Flood ambassadors from the Environment Agency are on the ground across the country, including the Thames Valley, to offer help and practical advice to the public about the further bad weather expected.”

The severe weather is expected to continue until at least the middle of February.

An Environment Agency map shows flood warnings across the UK.

Storms cut power to 55,000 homes in western, northern France

RFI
Fri, 07 Feb 2014 00:00 CST

© Reuters/Regis Duvignau
Part of the Luno cargo ship on the seawall at Anglet.

Winds of up to 120 kilometres cut off power to some 55,000 households and rain flooded shops and homes in north and west France overnight Thursday. The storms, which started in mid-December, are set to continue for at least a week.

Coming on the heels of storm Petra, storm Qumaira has brought gale-force windsto 36 departments north of a diaganol from Charente-Maritime in the west to the Ardennes in the east.

Worst hit was Brittany, France’s far west, which has suffered the worst effects of a series of storms for over a month.

There two towns, Quimper and Morlaix, were flooded with over 100 shops and dozens of homes affected by waters as high as 60 centimetres.

Thousands of homes suffered power cuts, 25,000 in the Loire, 12,000 in Normandy and 10,000 in the Paris region.

Apart from the flooding, damage to property was not as bad as expected, mostly limited to fallen trees blocking roads.

The freighter Luno, which ran aground off the south-western port of Bayonne on Wednesday, has broken into three and leaked 20 tonnes of oil into the Bay of Biscay.

The gales are expected to move into Belgium about midday on Friday but forecasters expected more storms to follow for at least a week.

© Reuters/Regis Duvignau Waves crash near the Luno on a seawall off the beach in Anglet.
© Reuters/Regis Duvignau Waves crash near the Luno on a seawall off the beach in Anglet.

Although France has not suffered as badly as Britain, five storms have hit its west coast since 15 December, causing giant waves, floods and power cuts and leaving land waterlogged.

The succession of storms is due to an area of low pressure in the north Atlantic and a strong anti-cyclone moving towards the Azores islands on the south, leaving the Atlantinc open to depressions.

The situation is expected to last for at least another week.

The weather has not been as bad as in 1999, however, when two exceptionally bad storms brought winds of 150-160 kilometres per hour.