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.




California bill proposes mandatory kill-switch on phones and tablets

Martyn Williams

PC World

February 8, 2014

cellp Politicians and law enforcement officials in California will introduce a bill on Friday that requires all smartphones and tablet PCs sold in the state be equipped with a digital “kill-switch” that would make the devices useless if stolen.

The bill is a response to a rise in thefts of portable electronics devices, often at knife or gunpoint, being seen across the state. Already half of all robberies in San Francisco and 75 percent of those in Oakland involve a mobile device and the number is rising in Los Angeles, according to police figures.

The trend is the same in major cities across the U.S. and the California bill, if it passes, could usher in kill-switch technology nationwide if phone makers choose not to produce custom devices for California.

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California Drought: Cold Weather Brings Power Shortage

Though it is fashionable among Democrats to blame the ongoing California drought–one of the worst ever seen–on global warming, the state now faces a new problem: namely, cold winter temperatures. The cold snap has led to increased use of heating by residents and businesses, and a shortage of natural gas in Southern California. State officials are now calling on California residents to conserve electricity as well as water.

The drought had already threatened state power supplies because many of the reservoirs now running dry in California are also used to power hydroelectric plants. The state has little surplus power capacity following the recent shuttering of the San Onofre nuclear plant. Rainfall in recent days throughout California has not been enough to make much of a difference in the Sierra Nevada snowpack that feeds the state’s water supply.



Fracking is depleting water supplies in America’s driest areas, report shows

Suzanne Goldenberg

The Guardian

February 6, 2014

California drought / Image via Flickr, tanyaboza

California drought / Image via Flickr, tanyaboza

America’s oil and gas rush is depleting water supplies in the driest and most drought-prone areas of the country, from Texas to California, new research has found.

Of the nearly 40,000 oil and gas wells drilled since 2011, three-quarters were located in areas where water is scarce, and 55% were in areas experiencing drought, the report by the Ceres investor network found.

Fracking those wells used 97bn gallons of water, raising new concerns about unforeseen costs of America’s energy rush.

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R2-D2 joins Big Brother: California company builds 5-foot android robocops to control crime-ridden areas

RT News
Tue, 04 Feb 2014 15:47 CST

© Image from

The local neighborhood watch may be beefing up its robotic arsenal if a new technology startup gets its way anytime soon.

In a bid to make local communities safer and give local law enforcement agencies more tools to fight crime, California-based Knightscope recently unveiled a line of K5 robots that it believes will “predict and prevent crime with an innovative combination of hardware, software and social engagement.”

The new K5 units have a look that resembles R2-D2 from “Star Wars,” but their casual design masks a highly advanced robot that its creators hope will drastically cut down on crime. Weighing in at 300 pounds, the five-foot K5 can patrol a neighborhood and uses a built-in laser to form a 3D map of the surrounding area in 270-degree sweeps. Four built-in cameras, meanwhile, are capable of scanning up to 1,500 license plates a minute.

“Data collected through these sensors is processed through our predictive analytics engine, combined with existing business, government and crowdsourced social data sets, and subsequently assigned an alert level that determines when the community and the authorities should be notified of a concern,” the company’s website states.

According to Fox News, Knightscope already has multiple clients lined up to test beta versions of the K5 in 2014. Rather than sell the robots outright, the company will charge $1,000 a month for daily eight-hour shifts. Inspired to take action after 20 children were killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, Knightscope CEO William Li is convinced that innovation in law enforcement is necessary to effectively make use of officers’ time and manpower.

“Our aim is to cut the crime rate by 50% in a geo-fenced area, which would increase housing values and safety while lowering insurance costs,” he told USA Today. “If we can do that, I think every mayor will be calling us.”


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That prospect doesn’t sound comforting to everyone, however, especially civil liberties advocates wary of warrantless surveillance in light of the domestic spying done by the National Security Agency.

“Clearly, this kind of surveillance technology has an unbounded capacity to collect personal information that a single patrol officer doesn’t,” Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the watchdog group Electronic Privacy Information Center, said to USA Today.

“These are the same concerns we’re facing with CCTV (closed-circuit television) and Google’s mapping cars. Laws need to be updated to acknowledge these technologies, and companies, in turn, need to act responsibly.”

One such law is currently being considered in California, where a recently introduced bill would impose restrictions on the use of surveillance drones. The proposal would ban the use of unmanned aerial drones in the state without a court-issued warrant, potentially calming concerns that government agencies could abuse the technology.

As RT reported last week, a study by the Electronic Frontier Foundation found predator drones flew over 700 missions between 2010 and 2012 on behalf of numerous agencies, including local law enforcement. Cattle rancher Rodney Brossart of North Dakota became the first American to be arrested with the help of a drone back in 2011. He was just recently sentenced to three and a half years in prison for terrorizing local police, though his attorney argued the drone was dispatched without a warrant.


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Critical fire weather conditions are forecast across portions of California for today

Critical fire weather conditions are forecast across portions of California for today (Thursday) into tomorrow (Friday). Strong winds and dry conditions are anticipated in these areas. Elevated fire weather conditions will be possible across a broader area of California into Oregon. Please see the latest Fire Weather Outlooks for additional information at

. Check out tips to prepare for wildfires at


Fox News: Fukushima contamination is hitting California

“Humans are terrified” of eating it — “It’s an open question” about the risks — “You’re not scared? To me, if someone tells me that there’s low levels of radioactivity in that fish…”


Fox and Friends, Jan. 17, 2014:

Clayton Morris, host: […] What ever happened to all that radioactive material that flooded into the ocean? […] Are there any lingering effects from the Fukushima plant and the meltdowns?

Nicholas Fisher, Stony Brook University: Radiation is higher certainly around Japan than it is in the eastern Pacific around California. One can detect levels of radioactivity that are low in both places. […]

Morris: Humans are terrified — of having radioactivity being in any kind of a food source that they’re eating. […]

At 1:45 in

Morris: Do we need to be concerned about this? […]

Fisher: […] It’s an open question, really, about the risks associated with eating extremely low doses of radioactivity. I would not be concerned about eating those fish myself.

Morris: So you’re not scared about it? To me, if someone tells me that there’s low levels of radioactivity in that fish –

Fisher: […] I would prefer that the dose be zero from the artificial radionuclides, but in fact it’s measurable but very low.

Morris: Well that’s good news at least. We were fearful that things were hitting California and fish were going to be –

Fisher: They are hitting California, but they’re at very low levels.

Morris: […] some decent news for us.

Watch the Fox News broadcast here

This appeared to be Fisher’s most balanced interview to date.  He refrained from using the much-criticized  comparisons of ingesting Fukushima’s nuclear waste to external radiation from plane travel and exposure via rocks/soil, as well as eating bananas and brazil nuts. However, he was on a recent PNAS podcast in which the tuna study was discussed: “Bluefin tuna contaminated with the levels of Fukushima-derived radioactivity that were measured in fish caught off California in August 2011 would provide only about 5% of the dose that one would receive from eating a single uncontaminated banana” >> Full interview here