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Will Rising Food Prices Start World War 3?

YOWUSA.COM, 28-February-2010
Janice Manning

Will Rising Food PricesInstead of joy over the prospects of a beginning year, this New Year rang in with the rallying cries for regime change across the Middle East and North Africa.

The long-standing governments of countries in this region began to crash down in a heart-stopping explosion of riots of people clamoring to bring down the established governments of their respective countries.

First, the government of Tunisia fell to rioters in Tunis, the capital city. Cairo, Egypt closely followed on the heels of the Tunis riots, and Bahrain and Yemen seem to be coming up next.

What seems to be the common thread among all these falling nations? What could be causing the entire area to crumble, nation by nation? In addition, what is giving Israel fear about all these crumbling governments? I plan to discuss these questions in this article.

Food Prices

These nations all seem to be what we call Third-World nations. That is to say that most of their people seem to live either at or below the poverty line. So, the riots seem to be more about food prices than regime change. Therefore, needless to say, the people struggle every day to keep themselves and their families fed, clothed, sheltered and healthy. Additionally, the food struggles are reaching the United States, with riots in Wisconsin. These have taken the shape of demonstrations against governmental cutting of such vital services as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and against the state’s decision to discontinue employing union workers. The only nation in the Middle East that does not seem to be rioting over food and regime change is Israel.

The food crisis, however, is very real, as this article suggests.

AP, 18-Feb2011
Food Prices Climb 0.5% in January

Bad weather has damaged harvests in Russia, Australia, Argentina and elsewhere. At the same time, rapid growth in developing countries is raising demand. Global food prices have risen 29 percent in the past year, according to a World Bank report Tuesday. They are just 3 percent below the all-time peak reached in 2008.

Higher food prices are pushing overall inflation up in developing countries and contributing to political unrest. China said Tuesday that consumer prices rose 4.9 percent in January, driven by a 10.3 percent jump in food costs.

Note that the article states that the total food price increase for last year was 29%, just 3% lower than 2008, when the world economy crashed. What does that tell people who must survive on low or fixed incomes? It says that the so-called recovery is taking a long time to come, the slow “recovery” is taking its toll on the poorest of the world, who may have been content to live under brutal dictatorships as long as they could have afford food.

Now that food costs are at their highest since the 2008 crash, according to FAO Food Price Index, forcing the poor to use almost all their income on food and lodging, they are revolting against their governments to try to lower food costs and they think that regime change will accomplish this. Besides the riots, how are people doing this? They are doing it with the help of the Internet.

The Role of the Internet and Social Media

One thread that weaves itself through the series of revolts is social networking, such as Facebook and Twitter. Social networking freely “advertised” these revolts everywhere, according to the following, by overcoming the individual nations’ Internet laws.

CNN, 27-January-2011
Social media's role in North Africa's unrest

"Social media is key to the revolution taking place in North Africa, and this may actually be the first time a government leader has lost power because of social media," said Darrell West, the vice president for governance studies at the Brookings Institution, referring to the ousting of former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali…

"In the Iranian election protests of 2009, government people would put their own information on Twitter, sometimes disinformation to try and confuse people, saying this person is a government informant and things like that," Carafano said.

However, countries like Egypt are “intermittently blocking” sites like Facebook and Twitter, despite the fact that they are insisting that the sites are freely available.

Channel 4 News, 26-January-2011
Egypt Bans Protests after Unrest,
Activity Continues Online

Egypt's government denies that social media websites like Twitter and Facebook have been disrupted, saying the government respects freedom of expression.

"The government would not resort to such methods," cabinet spokesman Magdy Rady said, after Egyptians complained social media sites were being blocked and mobile networks disrupted…

The front page of state newspapers put the protests in Lebanon as its top story today - ahead of the extraordinary scenes at home, which were covered lower down. The paper announced that grateful citizens had given the police flowers and chocolates. So perhaps it’s no wonder activists have turned to Facebook and Twitter.

Both sites are intermittently blocked now protesters say they are still finding new ways of spreading the word. 

Flowers and chocolates? This type of ridiculous disinformation comes from the government news agencies in these nations. It’s no wonder that people are turning to Facebook and Twitter to avoid reading it.

The situations of the people in the revolting nations are quite clear. The mobs are asking repeatedly for jobs and food, but one has to wonder what will happen to Israel, the US and other non-Islamic nations that depend on stable governments in the Middle East and North Africa. What, especially, does Israel think of these events? How are they already suffering?

Israel and Jordan Already Suffer
from Denial of Sinai Fuel

Israel and its remaining peace partner in the area, Jordan, lost from 25% to 80% of their oil resources on February 5 when the North Sinai pipeline exploded. Additionally, it appears that this loss is permanent, because the Egyptian government decided to keep oil it produces, once the pipeline resumes operation, and use it for its own population.

DebkaFile, 5-February-2011
Sinai gas pipeline blast. Cairo diverts supplies to Israel, Jordan for domestic use

Egypt's suspension of gas supplies to Israel after the North Sinai pipeline was blown up Saturday, Feb 5 has suddenly cut Israel off from 25-30 percent of its gas neds and 80 percent of Jordan's. A few hours after the blast, Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmad Shafiq announced the gas supplied to both countries under contract would henceforth be diverted to domestic requirements…

With Egyptian gas cut off for the foreseeable future, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu went into hasty non-stop consultations with ministers and energy military and security officials. Alongside the emergency declared by Israel's electricity corporation, those consultations centered on three additional facets of the crisis: The expanding occupation of North Sinai by Palestinian Hamas extremists from Gaza and anti-Egyptian Bedouin tribesmen, culminating in the gas pipeline explosion; the failure of joint Israeli and Egyptian military efforts to contain it and, thirdly, concerns that Hamas may cross into Israel and sabotage Israeli power stations or fuel reservoirs to bring about the collapse of Israel's electrical power system.

Not just Israel, but its second peace partner, Jordan, is badly hit too by the loss of Egyptian gas which covers 80 percent of its energy consumption. Amman [and Israel – JM] will have to convert to the far more expensive heavy oil and diesel to keep its power supply running. Fuel prices will have to be raised shortly after the king dropped them to quell the Islamist-back protests shaking the kingdom.

Remember that petroleum products affect all parts of our lives, more than just driving our family vehicles. It runs our electric plants, can be used in agriculture (which feeds everyone) and it definitely keeps a nation’s defenses running smoothly, among other very important functions. Therefore, to reduce any nation’s oil supply suddenly is to effectively shut that nation down, or at least slow its operation to a crawl. For Israel, with nearby anti-Semitic nations breathing down their necks like hungry wolves, this is a dangerous situation, and the nation is understandably concerned.

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