The president-elect will face big problems, threats

It’ll be a short honeymoon. The next U.S. president will face high expectations (which may be impossible to fulfill), a recessionary economy and huge budget deficits. And that’s just domestically. Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, gave a speech this week that lays out the broader threats. As The Washington Post reported:

The next U.S. president will govern in an era of increasing international instability, including a heightened risk of terrorist attacks in the near future, long-term prospects of regional conflicts and diminished U.S. dominance across the globe, the nation’s top intelligence officer said Thursday.

Competition for energy, water and food will drive conflicts between nations to a degree not seen in decades, and climate change and global economic upheaval will amplify the effects, [McConnell said].

“After the new president-elect’s excitement subsides after winning the election, it is going to be dampened somewhat when he begins to focus on the realities of the myriad of changes and challenges,” he said.

Of course, besides the predictable conflicts and threats, “there is always surprise,” McConnell said. (Futurists call ’em wild cards.)

Continue reading “The president-elect will face big problems, threats”

More business travelers are headed to China

Going Places
Top destinations for growth in corporate travel spending in 2008:

  1. China
  2. UK
  3. India
  4. Mexico
  5. France
  6. Germany
  7. Latin America (excluding Brazil and Mexico)
  8. Canada
  9. Japan
  10. Brazil

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Source: National Business Travel Association (NBTA) survey of 215 travel buyers (details via CFO magazine, January 2008)

The price of rice is sky high

The global commodities boom that has lifted prices of everything from gasoline to gold is now elevating the price of rice — a staple food for half of the world — to its highest level in nearly 20 years. The ubiquitous grain is suffering from poor harvest and tight supplies, just as demand grows in places such as India and the Philippines. The price hikes are a boon to some farmers and investors, but the food-price inflation could widen the rift between the world’s haves and have-nots. — The Wall Street Journal (15 December 2007)

2080: Global warming leads to floods, droughts, agricultural disasters, hunger

An article in The Washington Post describes studies predicting the effects of global warming on agriculture, in the 2080s:

Several recent analyses have concluded that the higher temperatures expected in coming years — along with salt seepage into groundwater as sea levels rise and anticipated increases in flooding and droughts — will disproportionately affect agriculture in the planet’s lower latitudes, where most of the world’s poor live.

India could experience a 40% decline in agricultural productivity as “record heat waves bake its wheat-growing region, placing hundreds of millions of people at the brink of chronic hunger.”

Africa … could experience agricultural downturns of 30%, forcing farmers to abandon traditional crops in favor of more heat-resistant and flood-tolerant ones, such as rice.” Senegal and war-torn Sudan could have a “complete agricultural collapse.”

Scenarios like these — and the recognition that even less-affected countries such as the United States will experience significant regional shifts in growing seasons, forcing new and sometimes disruptive changes in crop choices — are providing the impetus for a new “green revolution.” It is aimed not simply at boosting production, as the first revolution did with fertilizers, but at creating crops that can handle the heat, suck up the salt, not desiccate in a drought and even grow swimmingly while submerged.

Fortunately, research on the new crops is underway, but it’s a race against time.

Continue reading “2080: Global warming leads to floods, droughts, agricultural disasters, hunger”

Intelligence briefs

An eclectic collection of discoveries & developments:

A new biosensor developed at the Georgia Tech Research Institute can detect avian influenza in just minutes. In addition to being a rapid test, the biosensor is economical, field-deployable and sensitive to different viral strains. — Georgia Institute of Technology

Brazilian food companies recently made two cross-border acquisitions: JBS (Latin America’s largest beef processor) bought Swift & Co.; and Perdigão (a leading Brazilian food company) bought Plusfood Groep BV in Europe. “While only two data points, we wonder if this foreshadows additional cross-border acquisitions by Brazilian companies in the increasingly global food industry.” — GE Commercial Finance industry newsletter

Sixty percent of Americans are pessimistic about the state of the environment and want prompt action taken to improve its health, according to a national opinion poll. The survey found that 52% of Americans expect the world’s natural environment to be in worse shape in 10 years than it is now. An additional 8% said the environment is in poor or very poor shape and won’t improve. — Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University / Associated Press

India could challenge the position of China as the manufacturing center of the world in the next three to five years because China is becoming too expensive. Labor costs are surging on China’s eastern coast. — Capgemini / ProLogis

Starbucks has always insisted that the company doesn’t market its caffeinated beverages to children and teenagers. But company officials acknowledge that they’re considering introducing drinks and drink sizes suitable for the under-18 set. — MSNBC (10 September 2007)