Archive for June 25, 2008

Zimbabwe Inflation Estimated at 4 Million Percent

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) – For many Zimbabweans, the chief worry is not political violence or President Robert Mugabe’s iron hold on power. It’s out-of-control inflation that puts anything more than a single daily meal beyond reach.

Underlying the current political crisis is an economic meltdown that has caused a shortage of food and all basic goods, while leaving the people an abundance of zeros.

The official inflation rate was put at 165,000 percent by the government in February, but independent estimates put the real figure closer to 4 million percent.


The currency is, for all practical purposes, completely worthless. What industry remains is short of workers because the bus fare is more than their salaries.

Education also suffers:

‘‘Education in Zimbabwe is in a bad state. The standards have deteriorated alarmingly compared to 10 years ago. Because of the harsh economic environment, teachers are now selling sweets and knitting jerseys,” said Mpofu.

‘‘The education sector is losing highly qualified teachers to neighbouring countries. Kids at public schools are left with teachers who have no interest at all in the job because of low salaries,” according to Mpofu/

Alice Muchine, a primary school teacher, described the state of primary education as ‘‘near zero”. ‘‘It is all zero here. We have no resources. We want textbooks to help the children during reading time. We have no charts of instruction, or chalk, or syllabuses. We have nothing.

‘‘Most of the parents can no longer pay fees for the kids. The BEAM scheme only pays for the fees and not for books for the kids,” said Muchine. BEAM or Basic Education Assistance Module is need-based financial aid awarded by the government to orphans. It is limited to school fees and caters for 10 pupils per school.

Tariro Shindi, a student, shares the same view. ‘‘There are a few textbooks which are shared by four students at any given time. Students are sitting on the floor. Teachers sometimes abscond and if students do the same, no questions are asked. Everything is disorganised.” Source:

How could this country, so rich in natural resources, have gotten to this state except through the incompetence of its leaders? Perhaps they should consider giving themselves back under British governance because they’ve demonstrated they’re not suited for the job. That may be a bit unfair; Mugabe is the only “leader” they’ve had.

Leave a comment »

If You Have Distinctive Tattooes, Avoid Armed Robbery as a Vocation

Security video helps nab tattooed bandit

Film of a tattooed bandit who held up a Neptune Beach drugstore last week has led to an arrest, police said.

Steven M. Dodson, 40, of Atlantic Beach was charged in the Dec. 17 holdup of the Walgreens at 406 Atlantic Blvd. A police report said the robbery occurred when a man stuck a gun to an employee’s neck, grabbed $115 from a register and fled from the store about 1:20 a.m.

Security video showed the gunman had tattoos on both arms from his wrist to near his shoulders. It also identified a detailed T-shirt he was wearing. The video was shown on local television news and police got two tips about a suspect, Police Chief David Sembach said.

Jacksonville police, who had an outstanding robbery warrant for Dodson, later arrested him and the Neptune charge was added, Sembach said.

Dodson is being held in jail without bail.


Armed robbers, it would appear, are not the most intellectually gifted among us.

Going to prison for armed robbery for $115. He could have worked for a day and earned that.

Leave a comment »

Study Further Defines Potential Role of Fish-Based Fatty Acids in Resolving, Preventing Asthma

In an ongoing effort to determine the anti-inflammatory value of diets rich in some types of fish, scientists studying asthma and allergic reactions have found that a molecule produced by the body from omega-3 fatty acids helps resolve and prevent respiratory distress in laboratory mice. The research, supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, was led by a research team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Resolvin E1 (RvE1) is a metabolic product of an omega-3 fatty acid found in cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel and anchovies. It is made by the body in response to the onset of inflammation. This study identified RvE1 as having a key role in both dampening the development of airway inflammation and promoting its resolution in mice, in part by dampening innate immune signals that trigger inflammation. Other studies have indicated that increased levels of omega-3 fatty acids are associated with lower asthma prevalence in people, but the mechanisms to support that observation are poorly understood. This study provides scientists an opportunity to focus on the role of RvE1 as a potential therapeutic candidate.

ARTICLE: O Haworth et al. Resolvin E1 regulates interleukin-23, interferon-y and lipoxin A4 to promote resolution of allergic airway inflammation. Nature Immunology DOI 10.1038/ni.1627

Interesting. I wonder if eating fish rich in Omega 3 fatty acids will help my suddenly acquired allergy to cats. What the heck. It won’t hurt to try.

Leave a comment »

Florida Ports Scrambling to Handle Giant Container Ships

On a once-sleepy strip of Dames Point overlooking the St. Johns River in northeast Jacksonville, crews are busy with the biggest contract in Jacksonville Port Authority history — the construction of a terminal for Tokyo-based Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, which will provide the first direct container ship service between northeast Florida and Asia.

On the land, the crews are laying rails 100 feet apart for hulking new cranes that can lift up to 50 tons of cargo at a time. In the water, dredges are scraping out a turning basin to make room for larger ships that will eventually triple Jaxport’s container capacity.

Another new terminal, for Seoul-based Hanjin, is also in the planning stages — along with a boatload of infrastructure projects. Those include an intermodal facility where containers will be transferred onto trains, and a deepening of Jaxport’s shipping channel to 45 feet — by itself at least a $400-million prospect. “The opportunities are lining up,” says Rick Ferrin, Jaxport’s executive director. “If we play them right, we’ll be one of the top 10 container ports in the country.”

Ferrin’s words could have come from any port director in Florida. All of the state’s major ports are scrambling to cash in on an expected doubling of waterborne trade in and out of the state within the next 20 years. Many officials believe that they could have one of the top container ports in the country, if they only had the facilities to handle the growth — bigger cranes, longer berths, deeper channels.

The seed for the potential trade boom was planted in October 2006, when the citizens of Panama voted in a national referendum to expand their nation’s canal. A $5.25-billion upsizing will double the waterway’s capacity in 2014 — exactly 100 years after the United States first opened the water passage between North and South America and the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

The chief benefit of widening the canal involves so-called “post-Panamax” ships, monster freighters that can each carry more than 5,000 mobile-home-sized containers. At present, those post-Panamax ships can’t fit through the canal. A third set of locks will double the canal’s capacity, allowing container ships up to three times as large as those that can pass through today.

Currently, only about a third of the world’s container-ship capacity consists of post-Panamax ships. By 2011, more than half of the world’s fleet will be supersized, and just about all the jumbo vessels will be able to pass through the expanded canal.

The increased shipping capacity will shake up trade patterns throughout the Western Hemisphere, and particularly along the eastern U.S. coast. The project “will have a greater impact on international trade than the original canal had 100 years ago,” predicts Richard Wainio, Port of Tampa director and CEO, who served as an executive with the Panama Canal Authority for 23 years.

Other factors make the timing fortuitous for Florida. Today, most containers bound for the eastern seaboard enter through western U.S. ports and are loaded onto 18-wheelers or trains. But the west coast ports are severely congested and lack capacity. Meanwhile, the southern U.S. market is growing rapidly. Demographers predict Florida’s population will surpass New York’s by 2020. (Editor’s comment:  Oh, GREAT.  Just what we need, more Yankees! Well, maybe electricity will be too expensive to run the A/C and they’ll go back home.)  Also by that time, Asian cargo alone bound for eastern U.S. ports is expected to double. It’s much cheaper to ship goods by water directly to Florida than to unload them in Los Angeles and truck them cross-country. It results in less pollution and far less wear and tear on highways, too.

Source:  Florida Trend

Jaxport has been busily working on this for a couple of years and, indeed, the first of the big cranes have already arrived.  The first container ship from MOL will arrive in July:

June 11, 2007 — With the arrival of the MOL Vision on July 7, 2008, MOL (Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd.) delivers world class service to Jacksonville’s burgeoning South Atlantic port six months ahead of schedule.


In preparation for the opening of TraPac, Inc.’s new 158-acre terminal at the Jacksonville Port Authority (JAXPORT), the MOL Vision (voyage 008E) will begin calling on Jacksonville’s Blount Island Terminal as part of its East Coast – South China Express service (ESX). In addition to Jacksonville, the ESX will add east and westbound calls at Balboa, Panama.


Linking Central / South China and the US East Coast via the Panama Canal, the ESX service is jointly operated by TNWA Partners and CMA-CGM. As the future base of MOL’s U.S. South Atlantic port activities, TraPac will offer state-of-the-art post-Panamax container handling systems with a yearly capacity of 800,000 TEUs.


Rapidly increasing development in South Georgia and North Florida is quickly making Jacksonville one of North America’s rising stars of international trade. With nearly fifty major distribution centers within miles of JAXPORT, and 17,000 acres of available building and expansion capacity, JAXPORT is fast becoming the premier South Atlantic port for shippers looking to take advantage of its strategic location. In addition to shortening the distance between the U.S. and Panama, JAXPORT is serviced by three major interstate highways and more than 100 truck terminals, allowing shippers to reach more than 60% of the U.S. population within 24 hours.


With the completion of TraPac Jacksonville, MOL will solidify its commitment to enhancing its already robust East Coast global service, while continuing to strengthen its presence in Latin America and the Caribbean.


New ESX Port Rotation
Ningbo — Shanghai — Chiwan — Hong Kong — Balboa — Manzanillo, Panama — Jacksonville — Savannah — New York — Norfolk — Balboa — Ningbo


About MOL
MOL operates one of the largest and most diverse networks of liner and logistics services around the globe, including weekly Transpacific, Transatlantic, Americas and Asia-Europe services. MOL (America) Inc. and TraPac, Inc. are wholly-owned subsidiaries of MOL (Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd.) one of the world’s largest multi-modal shipping companies. Please visit the company’s website at


Source: JAXPORT press release.

Comments (1) »

Florida Has the Most Top-Ranked Hispanic Businesses in Nation

Central Florida has some of the top Hispanic-owned companies in the nation, according to the latest national ranking by California-based Hispanic Business magazine.

Florida also has the most top-ranked Hispanic businesses in the nation, with 124 companies generating $12.8 billion in revenue last year.

The findings are part of the magazine’s directory of the “500 Largest U.S. Hispanic-owned Companies,” a yearly listing of top performers published this month.

Eleven Central Florida companies made the list, despite a difficult economic climate that led to a 0.6 percent decline in revenues from the previous year among the top companies.

“Central Florida’s spending power continues to be large, and we have good business people from our community that have taken advantage of that,” said Julio Rocha, president of the Orlando Chapter of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs. “We have a vibrant business community that makes us proud.”

Greenway Ford, a Hispanic-owned auto dealership in east Orange County, was among the nation’s top 10 performers. The company on East Colonial Drive placed ninth, with 2007 revenues of about $520 million and about 780 employees.

Frank Rodriguez, president of the auto dealership, is a Tampa native who traces his heritage to pre-Revolution Cuban immigrants and Spanish families that are descendants of the state’s first European settlers.

He started as a car salesman in Tampa in 1979 and was promoted to managerial jobs in Jacksonville. He bought into the Orlando dealership in 1994, which is now headquarters for 13 dealerships in the U.S. and five in China.

The core of his local customers is made up of Latinos, but Rodriguez said he tries to appeal to everyone by adopting best business practices.

“You just have to treat people fairly and honestly,” said Rodriguez, 58.

Ramon Ojeda, president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando, said the stronger companies are “an inspiration” to the many entrepreneurs in his organization.

The Orlando area has been a hot spot for Hispanic businesses. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2002 economic survey, the latest figures available, local Latinos opened businesses at nearly three times the national rate.

Jim Jardon, a Hispanic defense contractor in Orlando whose Jardon & Howard Technologies placed 82nd in the rankings with $80 million in revenue, said there is plenty of room for other smaller Latino enterprises to grow.

“Our small businesses need to go beyond their comfort zone,” Jardon said. “They need to market in English and target the larger market.”

Source:  Florida Trend

Florida has been the beneficiary of the brain drain from Venezuela, Cuba, and other Latin-American countries, and we also have a long history of Spanish-speaking citizens dating back to the first permanent European city in America, St. Augustine.

Leave a comment »

Florida and Georgia Agricultural Summary 6/16-6/22/08

FLORIDA: Topsoil moisture 25% very short, 28% short, 43% adequate, 4% surplus. Subsoil moisture 40% very short, 15% short, 44% adequate, 1% surplus. Peanuts 25% pegged,14% 2007, 30% 5-yr avg. Wheat harvest completed, Santa Rosa County. Topsoil moisture mostly short, Panhandle; short to adequate, other areas in State. Subsoil moisture adequate, all regions. Summer vegetable harvest continued in Florida City. Other areas, field activity ending. Plant City, few fields of tomatoes left to be harvested. Suwannee, Jefferson counties, watermelon harvested. Suwannee County zucchini, squash, eggplant, okra, peppers harvested. Tropical weather beneficial to citrus fruit growth, tree foliage. Oranges large as golf ball size, grapefruit about two to three times as large. Production practices included herbiciding, spraying, mowing, brush removal. Growers combined efforts to put out aerial applications for Psyllids control. Valencia harvest continued over four million boxes due to lessening availability. Some processing plants to run Valencia oranges into second week of July. Grapefruit utilization almost over with small amounts of red varieties continuing to be processed. Honey tangerine harvest relatively over for season. Pasture feed 20% very poor, 20% poor, 30% fair, 30% good. Cattle Condition 20% very poor, 9% poor, 30% fair, 40% good, 1% excellent. Rainfall some areas helped pasture conditions remain stable throughout State. Panhandle, northern pasture poor to good, most fair condition; cattle mostly fair, some good to excellent condition. Central pasture very poor to good; cattle condition very poor to fair. Southwestern range poor to good; cattle mostlyfair to good condition.

GEORGIA: Days suitable for fieldwork 6.3. Topsoil moisture 30% very short, 45% short, 24% adequate, 1% surplus. Corn 6% very poor, 17% poor, 32% fair, 35% good, 10% excellent. Soybeans 4% very poor, 20% poor, 41% fair, 34% good, 1% excellent. Sorghum 3% very poor, 14% poor, 51% fair, 32% good, 0% excellent. Apples 0% very poor, 0% poor, 12% fair, 27% good, 61% excellent. Hay 11% very poor, 29% poor, 34% fair, 24% good, 2% excellent. Peaches 0% very poor, 5% poor, 33% fair, 62% good, 0% excellent. Pecans 0% very poor, 6% poor, 46% fair, 43% good, 5% excellent. Tobacco 0% very poor, 8% poor, 26% fair, 55% good, 11% excellent. Watermelons 0% very poor, 4% poor, 38% fair, 54% good, 4% excellent. Corn silked 73%, 76% 2007, 74% avg.; 23% dough, 25% 2007, 28% avg.; 0% dent, 1% 2007, 3% avg. Soybeans 87% planted, 77% 2007,  87% avg.; 76% emerged, 61% 2007, 76% avg.; 2% blooming, 1% 2007, 5% avg. Sorghum 76%, planted 78% 2007, 81% avg. Winter wheat 91% harvested, 96% 2007, 88% avg. Peaches 35% harvested, 38% 2007, 36% avg. Peanuts 42% blooming, 23% 2007, 45% avg. Watermelons 25% harvested, 25% 2007, 24% avg. Due to dry conditions, corn producers have been unable to keep up with irrigation requirements. For some farmers, dry land soybean planting has come to a halt. Crop, pasture and hayfield conditions have declined due to a lack of soil moisture. The watermelon and cantaloupe harvest was in full swing. Other activities included spraying peanuts and tobacco for insects. County Extension Agents reported an average of 6.3 days suitable for fieldwork.

For updates on other states, go to page 19 HERE.

Leave a comment »

National Agricultural Summary 6/16-6/22/08

Corn: Two percent of the acreage was at or beyond the silking stage, 2 points behind last year and the 5-year average for this date. Development was most advanced in Texas, where 56 percent was at or beyond the silking stage. A few fields entered the silking stage in Kansas and Tennessee. Excessive moisture in the southern Corn Belt continued to delay development. In contrast, lack of precipitation and cooler-than-average weather delayed development in Tennessee and North Carolina. Nationwide, 59 percent of the crop was rated good to excellent, 2 points higher than last week. Condition ratings improved slightly in the central Corn Belt, but fell sharply in North Carolina and Texas.

Soybeans: Growers had planted 91 percent of their acreage, compared with 97 percent last year and 96 percent for the 5-year average. Emergence, at 82 percent, was 12 points behind last year and 11 points behind normal. Two percent of the acreage was at or beyond the blooming stage, 3 points behind last year and 2 points behind normal. Nearly one-fifth of Illinois’ crop was planted during the week but progress remained behind normal. Planting was complete in Michigan, North Dakota, and Ohio, and was nearly complete in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Mississippi. Planting was ahead of normal in Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Ohio, but was at or behind schedule in all other soybean-producing States. Nearly one-fourth of Kentucky’s acreage emerged during the week, and development progressed rapidly in Illinois and South Dakota. Emergence was complete in Ohio. In Missouri, excessive moisture held emergence to 52 percent, compared with 84 percent last year and 87 percent for the 5-year average. Nearly half of Louisiana’s acreage and three-fifths of Mississippi’s acreage was at or beyond the blooming stage, ahead of the 5-year average. Elsewhere, 4 percent or less of the crop had bloomed. Overall, 57 percent of the crop was rated good to excellent, a slight improvement from the previous week.

Winter Wheat: Ninety-five percent of the crop was at or beyond the heading stage, 4 points behind last year and 2 points behind the 5-year average. Heading was complete in many States. In Idaho, however, only half of the acreage was at or beyond heading, 40 points behind last year and 29 points behind normal. In Montana, where 46 percent had headed, development was 37 points behind last year and 31 points behind normal. Elsewhere, the crop was between 87 and 100 percent headed. Producers had reaped 22 percent of the winter wheat crop by the end of the week, 1 point ahead of last year’s pace but 10 points behind the 5-year average. Harvest in Kansas was only at 6 percent complete, 30 points behind normal.

Cotton: Nationally, 28 percent of the acreage was at or beyond the squaring stage and 6 percent was setting bolls. Fields reaching the squaring stage trailed last year’s pace and the 5-year average. Squaring in Tennessee was 2 weeks behind due to below-average temperatures and early-season planting delays. Delays were evident in all cotton-producing States when compared with normal, except in North Carolina, Kansas, and Arizona. Nationally, boll setting was slightly behind last year and the 5-year average.

Sorghum: Planting advanced to 83 percent complete, 7 percentage points behind last year and 6 points behind the 5-year average. Planting was active in the Nation’s mid-section, where Illinois producers planted 39 percent of their crop during the week. Missouri and Oklahoma planting progress remained significantly behind normal, while progress was within 15 points of the 5-year average pace elsewhere. Planting was complete in the Delta. Nineteen percent of the acreage was heading, slightly behind last year but slightly ahead of normal. Heading was evident in the Delta and in Texas, but had not begun elsewhere. Heading progress in Louisiana was 24 points ahead of the
5-year average.

Rice: Three percent of the crop was heading, the same as last year, but slightly behind the 5-year average. Development was most advanced in Louisiana and Texas, where 15 and 14 percent of the fields reached heading, respectively. All rice-producing States were at or behind the normal heading pace. The percentage of the crop rated good or excellent dropped slightly from last week.

Small Grains: Spring wheat was 10 percent headed, 17 points behind last year and 14 points behind the 5-year average. In Washington, 30 percent of the crop reached the heading stage during the week. Development was also notably active in Montana and South Dakota. Heading progress was lagging the 5-year average in all States, except Montana. Nationwide, 72 percent of the crop was rated good to excellent, 5 points higher than the previous week. Eleven percent of the barley acreage had reached the heading stage by week’s end. Nearly half of the crop in Washington had developed to the heading stage. Progress in all States trailed last year and the 5-year average. Barley acreage rated in good to excellent condition increased 5 points during the week. Oat acreage was 47 percent headed, compared with 67 percent last year and 62 percent for the 5-year average. Acreage in nearly all States was heading behind schedule. Development was nearly 2 weeks behind schedule in Iowa due to excessive moisture. Heading lagged the normal pace by 6 to 30 points elsewhere, except in Pennsylvania and Texas. Nationwide, 66 percent of the crop was rated in good to excellent condition, 4 points better than the previous week.

Other Crops: Twelve percent of the peanut crop had reached the pegging stage, 4 points ahead of last year but 1 point behind the 5-year average. Progress was ahead of normal in Alabama, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Virginia, while all other States trailed their respective 5-year averages. Sunflower growers had sown 91 percent of their acreage, 1 point ahead of last year, but 1 point behind normal. Planting progress trailed the 5-year average everywhere except North Dakota.

Leave a comment »