Category Archives: Americas

Coffee under threat

About 20% of South America’s coffee harvest has been killed off by a fungus. We might get away without a massive price increase this year, but next year could be a different story according to USA Today:

Green Mountain Coffee is one of the biggest buyers of coffee in the world, purchasing some 207 million pounds in 2012. [Senior director Lindsey] Bolger said the coffee market hasn’t responded to Central American production dropping by 20% this year because Brazil, the biggest coffee grower in the world, is expected to bring in a good crop.

“I think the situation will be very different next year, because despite a bumper crop from Brazil, if coffee rust continues to be an issue, and plants in Central America are weakened, production will be down even more than 20%,” Bolger said.

Central America produces half of all arabica beans in the world, which makes me edgy for the future of my beloved coffee.


Natural history museum

CNET has an interesting slideshow up documenting the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley. There’s about 100 years worth of material in the vast collection, although it’s not open to the public. Presumably that’s why CNET put the picture collection together; there doesn’t seem to be any story to go with it. A word to the wise, though, if you’re against collecting dead animals for science, you might want to give this one a miss.

Obamania is still running wild

Not content with wanting to solve the economic crisis, withdraw from Iraq, win the war in Afghanistan, and transform US energy policy into one that’s green-friendly, Barack Obama is working on a world free of nuclear weapons. In two 26-minute speeches this week 

the president pledged a drive on nuclear disarmament, possibly bigger than any ever attempted. He spelled out how he would accelerate arms control agreements with Russia, following his first summit meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev last week. The deal to conclude a new arms reduction treaty with Moscow, which would slash stockpiles by about a third was a beginning, setting the stage for further cuts.

In a telling nod to reality, the presidential superhero admitted this may not happen in his lifetime, which is as pragmatic as it is putting the onus of resolution on future generations. Still though, his fresh take on military and security policy is to be commended and supported as much as possible. While the threat of nuclear war is quite small — the greatest potential lies in an Israeli strike on Iran, because despite all the posturing and controversy over the US missile shield, Russia has too much to lose — the possibility of a terrorist or rogue group getting materials is quite real.

If nothing else, Obama’s grand nuclear-free plan would lead to an unprecedented level of international co-operation as nations’ policies are set aside for the greater good.

If he can get it off the ground, that is.

It's Jesus reborn!

Well, kind of.

A Peruvian woman called Virgen Maria, who is married to a carpenter, has named her son Jesus Emanuel after giving birth on Christmas Day.

Twenty-year-old Virgen Maria Huarcaya Palomino had not been due to give birth on Thursday, but went into labour early and underwent a Caesarean operation.

No Beckham bounce

David Beckham may cost Major League Soccer $50m a season for his five-year contract (and that’s $100m gone already), but his impact on the league’s success has been marginal at best.

MLS officials at the time envisioned more TV viewers, as well as higher attendance and franchise values.

Their optimism was based on landing a player many called the biggest star to play the game in the United States since Brazil’s Pele signed in 1975 to play in the MLS’s predecessor league.

Early returns for the MLS have been mixed as stagnant TV ratings and a lack of profits contrast with higher attendance and franchise values.

TV ratings ticked up to 0.3 [that’s 0.3% of Americans watching television, my edit] from 0.2 in Beckham’s first year before slipping back to 0.2 in the just completed season, all on Walt Disney Co’sABC, and ESPN networks, according to the Nielsen Co.

Those are a far cry from the 0.9 rating garnered in the league’s first season in 1996.

For the record, I don’t begrudge the man his $250m contract. Well maybe I do a small bit, but more from envy than resentment. If somebody waved that much money in my direction I wouldn’t say no right off the bat. However, I still don’t see it paying off as a proper investment, even if it is only part of MSL’s marketing push. It’s also unfair to put the responsibility of raising the league’s profile on one man’s shoulders.