Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Fallen Glory

There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are.
~ Ernst Haas

Monday, April 28, 2008

The food crisis begins to bite

Published on Sunday, April 27, 2008.

Source: London Independent

Rioting in Haiti. Rationing in America. Queues in Egypt. Protests in Afghanistan. As the price of food continues to soar, the impact is being felt by people around the globe

The roaring economy and an ever expanding middle class have had a particularly profound effect on food prices, particularly rice and wheat. Because of industrialisation, rice planting fell from 33 million hectares in 1983 to 29 million by 2006 and China now imports more than ever, placing a major strain on international supplies. Despite freezing prices, rampant inflation means the cost of food has risen by 21 per cent this year.


In a land where supposedly the rich are thin and the poor are overweight, one of the largest cash and carry stores, Sam's Club, announced this week it would limit customers to take home a maximum of four bags of rice. The move came a day after Costco Wholesale Corp, the biggest US warehouse-club operator, limited bulk rice purchases in some stores and warned that customers had begun stockpiling certain goods.


Even during times of relative stability, North Korea has shown itself to be inept at feeding its population. During the 1990s a famine caused by poor harvests killed an estimated two to three million people. On Wednesday the World Food Programme warned that the country could again be plunged into famine because of the spiralling cost of rice and there was an estimated shortfall of 1.6 million tons of rice and wheat.


Up to 50 million Egyptians rely on subsidised bread and this year Cairo has estimated it will cost $2.5bn. But with the price of wheat rocketing in the past year there are fears the country has plunged into a "bread crisis". Queues are now double the length they were a year ago. Inflation hit 12.1 per cent in February with prices for dairy goods up 20 per cent and cooking oils 40 per cent


Latin American countries were some of the first nations to voice their concern at rising wheat prices, particularly after thousands of people in Mexico took to the streets at the beginning of 2007 to take part in the so-called "Tortilla Protests". This week the presidents of Bolivia, Nicaragua and Cuba's vice-president flew to Caracas to announce a joint $100m scheme to combat the impact of rising food prices on the region's poor.


On Wednesday Brazil became the latest major rice producer to temporarily suspend exports because of soaring costs and domestic shortages. In recent weeks Latin American countries and African nations have asked for up to 500,000 tons of rice from Brazil which will now not be delivered. Brazil's agricultural ministry has said it has to ensure that the country has at least enough rice reserves to last the next six to eight months.


Some of the worst instability resulting from high food prices has been felt in West Africa. One person was killed and dozens were injured last month as riots tore through Ivory Coast after the prices of meat and wheat increased by 50 per cent within a week. Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo was forced to cut taxes to halt the disorder. Violent protests have also broken out in Cameroon, Burkina Faso and Senegal.


There have been street protests about the soaring cost of food in a country almost entirely reliant on imports of wheat. Already utterly impoverished, the plight of Afghans has worsened because Pakistan has cut its regular flour supply. The government has sought to assure citizens that there is sufficient food and has set aside $50m for additional imports. The price of wheat has risen by around 60 per cent in the last year.


The price of rice in the world's largest exporter rose to $1,000 a ton yesterday and experts warned that it will continue to rise. This is because of the massive demand from the Philippines which is struggling to secure supplies after India and several other producers halted exports. The government has said it can meet the export requests. Indonesia has said it is withholding purchases for a year because prices are so high.


Hundreds of thousands of poor Africans in Uganda and Sudan are to lose out on a vital source of food after one of the world's largest humanitarian organisations said it was cutting aid to 1.5m people. Dave Toycen, president of World Vision Canada, blamed soaring costs and countries failing to live up to aid commitments for the fact that the number of people the charity can help will fall by almost a quarter.


The country as added to the problems facing many countries in the region by halting its export of rice, except for its premium basmati product. This has left countries normally reliant on Indian exports, such as the Philippines, searching for alternative supplies. India has more than half of the world's hungriest people and its priority is to safeguard domestic supply. But it too has watched as the cost of food has soared, not just rice but cooking oil, pulses and even vegetables. India has this year forecast a record grain harvest but experts warned farm productivity will have to rise much faster if the nation is to feed its 1.1bn people and avoid a food security crisis. Around two-thirds of India's population are dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods but agriculture is growing much more slowly than the overall economy.


The poorest country in the Western hemisphere has seen a three to four-fold increase in the number of so-called boat people trying to leave because of food shortages. Already gripped by wretched poverty, the food crisis triggered riots that led to the death of six people. Haiti's wretched food security situation is a result of "liberalisation measures" forced on the country after former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was returned to power.


The government has been desperately trying to secure alternative sources of rice to counteract the decision of a number of nations to halt rice exports. The country's National Food Authority, which handles rice imports for the government, has now said it plans to increase imports 42 per cent to 2.7m tons this year. This could cost $1.3bn if it does not increase the price of the subsidised rice it is selling to people. But the Philippines is responsible for producing 85 per cent of its own food and international experts believe the country will handle this crisis. The government has also been encouraging consumers and even fast food restaurants to be more frugal and be careful not to waste food. The government is confident it will be able to source sufficient supplies from Vietnam and Thailand.


Less vulnerable to food price fluctuations than emerging nations, but food prices across Europe have nonetheless increased. In Britain wholesale prices of food have increased by 7.4 per cent over the past 12 months, roughly three times the headline rate of inflation. According to the government's own statistics grocery bills have gone up by an average of £750 over the same period, the equivalent of a 12 per cent rise.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Last night was the annual "Relay for Life" event here in McKinney...great turnout for a really worthy cause!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Food Rationing Confronts Breadbasket of the World
Staff Reporter of the Sun
April 21, 2008

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Many parts of America, long considered the breadbasket of the world, are now confronting a once unthinkable phenomenon: food rationing. Major retailers in New York, in areas of New England, and on the West Coast are limiting purchases of flour, rice, and cooking oil as demand outstrips supply. There are also anecdotal reports that some consumers are hoarding grain stocks.

At a Costco Warehouse in Mountain View, Calif., yesterday, shoppers grew frustrated and occasionally uttered expletives as they searched in vain for the large sacks of rice they usually buy.

"Where's the rice?" an engineer from Palo Alto, Calif., Yajun Liu, said. "You should be able to buy something like rice. This is ridiculous."

The bustling store in the heart of Silicon Valley usually sells four or five varieties of rice to a clientele largely of Asian immigrants, but only about half a pallet of Indian-grown Basmati rice was left in stock. A 20-pound bag was selling for $15.99.

"You can't eat this every day. It's too heavy," a health care executive from Palo Alto, Sharad Patel, grumbled as his son loaded two sacks of the Basmati into a shopping cart. "We only need one bag but I'm getting two in case a neighbor or a friend needs it," the elder man said.

The Patels seemed headed for disappointment, as most Costco members were being allowed to buy only one bag. Moments earlier, a clerk dropped two sacks back on the stack after taking them from another customer who tried to exceed the one-bag cap.

"Due to the limited availability of rice, we are limiting rice purchases based on your prior purchasing history," a sign above the dwindling supply said.
Shoppers said the limits had been in place for a few days, and that rice supplies had been spotty for a few weeks. A store manager referred questions to officials at Costco headquarters near Seattle, who did not return calls or e-mail messages yesterday.

An employee at the Costco store in Queens said there were no restrictions on rice buying, but limits were being imposed on purchases of oil and flour. Internet postings attributed some of the shortage at the retail level to bakery owners who flocked to warehouse stores when the price of flour from commercial suppliers doubled.

The curbs and shortages are being tracked with concern by survivalists who view the phenomenon as a harbinger of more serious trouble to come.

"It's sporadic. It's not every store, but it's becoming more commonplace," the editor of, James Rawles, said. "The number of reports I've been getting from readers who have seen signs posted with limits has increased almost exponentially, I'd say in the last three to five weeks."
Spiking food prices have led to riots in recent weeks in Haiti, Indonesia, and several African nations. India recently banned export of all but the highest quality rice, and Vietnam blocked the signing of a new contract for foreign rice sales.

"I'm surprised the Bush administration hasn't slapped export controls on wheat," Mr. Rawles said. "The Asian countries are here buying every kind of wheat." Mr. Rawles said it is hard to know how much of the shortages are due to lagging supply and how much is caused by consumers hedging against future price hikes or a total lack of product.

"There have been so many stories about worldwide shortages that it encourages people to stock up. What most people don't realize is that supply chains have changed, so inventories are very short," Mr. Rawles, a former Army intelligence officer, said. "Even if people increased their purchasing by 20%, all the store shelves would be wiped out."

At the moment, large chain retailers seem more prone to shortages and limits than do smaller chains and mom-and-pop stores, perhaps because store managers at the larger companies have less discretion to increase prices locally. Mr. Rawles said the spot shortages seemed to be most frequent in the Northeast and all the way along the West Coast. He said he had heard reports of buying limits at Sam's Club warehouses, which are owned by Wal-Mart Stores, but a spokesman for the company, Kory Lundberg, said he was not aware of any shortages or limits.

An anonymous high-tech professional writing on an investment Web site, Seeking Alpha, said he recently bought 10 50-pound bags of rice at Costco. "I am concerned that when the news of rice shortage spreads, there will be panic buying and the shelves will be empty in no time. I do not intend to cause a panic, and I am not speculating on rice to make profit. I am just hoarding some for my own consumption," he wrote.
For now, rice is available at Asian markets in California, though consumers have fewer choices when buying the largest bags. "At our neighborhood store, it's very expensive, more than $30" for a 25-pound bag, a housewife from Mountain View, Theresa Esquerra, said. "I'm not going to pay $30. Maybe we'll just eat bread."

Saturday, April 19, 2008

2nite @ Cadillac


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Merrill posts loss, plans to cut 4,000 jobs

NEW YORK - Merrill Lynch & Co., the world’s largest brokerage, on Thursday said it would cut 4,000 jobs after more than $6 billion fresh write-downs pushed it to a loss for the first quarter.

Chief Executive John Thain also cautioned that things were unlikely to improve much in the next couple of quarters.

The write-downs caused Merrill Lynch to lose $2.14 billion, or $2.19 per share, after paying preferred dividends, compared to a profit of $2.11 billion, or $2.26 per share, a year earlier.
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The New York-based firm posted negative revenue in its fixed-income trading business and a 40 percent slump in investment banking fees. This caused total revenue to slip 69 percent to $2.93 billion from $9.6 billion a year earlier.

Results missed Wall Street projections for a loss of $1.99 per share on $3.7 billion of revenue, according to analysts polled by Thomson Financial.

Merrill Lynch, the third-largest U.S. securities firm by market value, has been slammed by the global credit crisis that roiled markets since last summer. Risky bets in mortgage-backed securities have led to nearly $200 billion of write-downs — with Merrill Lynch contributing at least $24 billion to that amount.

Despite the turbulence, Thain said the company has $82 billion of excess liquidity to help protect against choppy market conditions.

“This was about as difficult a quarter as I’ve seen in my 30 years on Wall Street,” Thain told analysts during a conference call. “We are planning for a slower and more difficult next couple of months and probably next couple of quarters, but are also hopeful for our full year 2008 results.”

After joining Merrill four months ago, Thain pledged to clean up the brokerage’s balance sheet and take steps to make it more profitable. He already secured more than $12 billion worth of new capital, and now has unveiled a plan to trim the company’s ranks.

Merrill said it will record a restructuring charge of $350 million in the current quarter for the layoffs, which will reduce its headcount by 10 percent in areas outside of financial advisers and investment associates. The entire company has about 63,000 employees globally.

During the first quarter, Merrill Lynch said it suffered a $1.5 billion write-down linked to asset-backed securities, and a $3 billion write-down tied to the value of bond insurance contracts. The brokerage also lowered the value of leveraged loans by $925 million.

It reported that fixed-income trading revenue was $3.38 billion because of the tightening credit markets. Equity-trading revenue was $1.88 billion, down from $2.39 billion a year earlier.

Meanwhile, debt underwriting fell to $231 million from $586 million last year. Stock underwriting revenue fell to $199 million from $363 million a year ago.
IMG_3266, originally uploaded by Gulchdog.

PUSHROD...this Saturday night @ the Cadillac

Friday, April 11, 2008

Happy Birthday Maylee!

She rocked the house 2nite!

U.S. Michigan Confidence Index Fell to 26-Year Low (Update1)

By Courtney Schlisserman

April 11 (Bloomberg) -- Confidence among U.S. consumers sank to a 26-year low in April as the labor market continued to weaken and gasoline prices rose.

The Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment decreased to 63.2 from 69.5 in March. The reading was below the lowest forecast in a Bloomberg News survey and the worst since March 1982.

Americans are confronting the loss of 232,000 jobs so far this year, along with higher food and energy costs and overall weakening in the economy. Consumer spending in the first half will advance at the weakest rate in 17 years, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.

``Consumers have very little to smile about,'' Ryan Sweet, an economist at Moody's in West Chester, Pennsylvania, said before the report. ``Measures of consumer confidence are consistent right now with a recession.''

Economists had forecast the gauge would fall to 69, according to the median of 64 projections in a Bloomberg News survey. Estimates ranged from 65 to 71.

The index of consumer expectations for six months from now, which more closely projects the direction of consumer spending, fell to 53.4, the lowest reading since November 1990, from 60.1 last month.

`Challenging' Retail Market

The U.S. retail market ``will remain challenging this year,'' Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, group president of Estee Lauder Cos., said April 9 in an interview at the World Retail Congress.

Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the economy, will rise at an average annual pace of 0.5 percent in the first half of the year, economists surveyed by Bloomberg News earlier this month forecast. That would be the smallest two-quarter gain since purchases fell in the six months ended March 1991.

The economy will not expand at all the first six months of this year, according to the Bloomberg survey taken from April 2 to April 8. A majority of those polled also projected the world's largest economy is, or will soon be, in a recession.

The Reuters/University of Michigan current conditions index, which reflects Americans' perceptions of their financial situation and whether it's a good time to make big-ticket purchases, dropped to 78.4, the lowest since January 1983, from 84.1 in March.

Job Losses

The drop in jobs in recent months is one factor weighing on consumers' moods. Employers eliminated 80,000 workers from their payrolls in March, a third consecutive decline and the biggest in five years, the Labor Department reported last week.

Job losses may continue into this month. The government said yesterday that the number of people remaining on unemployment-benefit rolls rose last week to the highest in almost four years.

Consumers polled in today's Reuters/University of Michigan survey said they expect an inflation rate of 4.8 percent in a year, compared with 4.3 percent projected last month.

A government report earlier today showed prices of goods imported into the U.S. rose more than forecast in March, reflecting a surge in energy costs and a weaker dollar.

The 2.8 percent increase in the import price index followed a 0.2 percent gain the prior month, the Labor Department reported today in Washington. Expenses excluding fuels jumped 0.9 percent, the most since records began in 2001.

Higher energy costs have weighed on consumers' outlooks in recent months. The average price of crude oil futures traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange in March jumped to $105.42 a barrel, from $95.01 a month earlier.

Gasoline reached a record $3.332 a gallon in the week ended April 7, according to the Energy Information Administration. The administration, which is the Energy Department's statistical arm, forecast on April 8 that gasoline will cost an average of $3.54 a gallon between April and September.

Federal Reserve officials last month anticipated the economy will shrink in the first half of the year and expressed some concern about ``a prolonged and severe economic downturn'' as they cut interest rates, according to minutes of their most- recent policy-setting meeting, which were released April 8.

``Many participants thought some contraction in economic activity in the first half of 2008 now appeared likely,'' the Fed said in the minutes of the March 18 Federal Open Market Committee meeting.

The Fed has cut its benchmark overnight lending rate by 3 percentage points since September to try to avert a recession. Last month, Chairman Ben S. Bernanke also invoked rarely used authority to provide emergency financing for investment banks and rescued Bear Stearns Cos. from bankruptcy.

To contact the reporter on this story: Courtney Schlisserman in Washington at
Last Updated: April 11, 2008 10:07 EDT

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

"Speaking Without Words" by Justin Hunt


The Cameron Gallery announces the debut of the newest
body of work by reverse glass artist Justin Hunt, in
an exhibit entitled "Voyeuristic Tones." An artist's
reception begins on Saturday, April 19 from 2:00PM to
8:00PM, with live entertainment starting at 5:00PM
from Jones Band.

A master of the ancient technique of reverse glass
painting, Hunt uses glass for his canvas. Old windows
and doors and are given new life and are transformed
into visually stimulating works of art. He offers a
wide breadth of subjects from tantalizingly tattooed
women to hauntingly romantic city scapes. In
"Voyeuristic Tones" Hunt's attention to detail reaches
out and grabs the viewer and does not let go until the
unique qualities and powerful presence in each
painting are absorbed. For more information, please
call 214-747-1414.

WHERE: The Cameron Gallery 1414 Dragon Street Dallas,
Texas 75207

WHEN: Saturday, April 19, from 2:00PM to 8:00PM

ADMISSION: Complimentary

PHOTO OP: Event sponsor and gallery owners, Stephen
and Kristi Cameron, artist Carrie Cameron; featured
artist, Justin Hunt; jewelry designer, Sarah McCabe
of The Original Boot Jill Company; Terri Provencal of
Modern Luxury magazine and a gallery full of
enthusiastic art collectors and patrons of the visual

SPONSORS: Modern Luxury Magazine and Mr. Stephen F.
Cameron, The Cameron Land Company

The Cameron Gallery, Dallas' newest addition to the
galleries of Dragon Street, specializes in
one-of-a-kind works of art, including paintings,
hand-blown glass, pottery, sculpture, and jewelry
created by an eclectic group of artists. The gallery
hosts monthly art exhibits celebrating the passion and
beauty of the visual arts. Resident artist, Carrie
Cameron, specializes in a technique called 3-D oil
sculpture, practiced in the Reflectionist movement.
As a reflectionist artist; Cameron strives to harness
the "now" and the entire feeling of the experience,
capturing it on canvas. Her use of rich colors and
multi-dimensional effects reflect her unique view of
the complex beauty in her world. Gallery hours are
Tuesday - Friday, 10:00AM to 4:00PM; Saturday, 11:00AM
to 5:30PM and by appointment. For more information,
contact The Cameron Gallery at 214-747-1414.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

If you weren't @ the Cadillac last night you missed a really good time!

Buddy Whittington of the John Mayall Band and Mouse Mayes treated folks to a hell of a good show!

Friday, April 04, 2008

WASHINGTON - Employers buffeted by talk of recession slashed 80,000 jobs in March, the most in five years and the third straight month of losses. At the same time, the national unemployment rate rose from 4.8 percent to 5.1 percent, the clearest signal yet that the economy might already be shrinking.

Rest of article:

Nuf Said!