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What to expect from wheat

The Russian ban on wheat has begun.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has sharply cut its outlook for world wheat production after revising down its crop forecast for Russia.

Global production would be 15.3m tons lower at 645.7m tons, it said.

The production outlook for Russia, which has seen its crops devastated by drought and extreme heat, was lowered by 15% to 45m tonnes. Neighbouring Kazakhstan also had its forecast cut. World wheat stocks still remain above crisis levels seen in 2007-08.

The USDA said stocks would fall from just under 194m tons to 174.8m tons

The cut to production forecasts was bigger than analysts had expected, but it was offset somewhat by increases in production forecast in the US, India, Australia and Uzbekistan.

The drought in Russia is beginning to ease, so production will work its way back up to normal levels.

Racial issues plague administration

President Barack Obama is the first African American president of the United States. Some may think that shows how far the country has come since segregation.

However, it seems that racial tensions have increased since Barack Obama began running for president. During the campaign, when anyone opposed his policies, they were accused of being racist. That prejudice has continued. Tea Party members are accused of being racist. In some publicized occasions, the accusation has incited violence.

Many headlines have been popping up recently, but a big incident of racial friction happened last July. Sgt. James Crowley arrested Henry Louis Gates, Jr. for disorderly conduct at his Cambridge home July 16 while investigating a possible burglary. Gates alleged he was a victim of racial profiling. Charges were later dropped. In the midst of this incident, Obama commented that the police sergeant “behaved stupidly”.

Everyone behaved stupidly. Both Crowley and Gates could have handled the situation with more aplomb. But worse, Obama made a judgement without knowing the facts. As the President of the United States, he shouldn’t have made any comment.

This summer, a Department of Justice dismissed voter intimidation charges against the New Black Panther Party, prompting criticism from conservative groups who said the black president was unwilling to prosecute fellow blacks for civil rights violations. A Department of Justice worker said this had become DOJ policy.

Which brings us to Sherrod.

This week, Shirley Sherrod, a black official at the Agriculture Department, said her bosses pushed her to quit after conservative media repeatedly broadcast a tape that seemed to show her saying she had discriminated against a white farmer because of his race. Turns out Sherrod was talking about something that happened years ago and taught her a lesson about the race. But, only the racist statements were released to the media.

Many think Andrew Breitbart, who broke the story, was set up. Words like ‘racist’ and ‘conservative media’ are being thrown around.

Clearly, race is still an issue. America cannot claim to be a post-racial society as long as snap-judgements, misconceptions, and miscommunications determine policy.

Recall of the Week: New Mobile App tracks recalls

While I didn’t start off wanting to have a recall of the week, there has been a recall on some product or other over the past few months.

Having trouble keeping track?

Now, the FDA has teamed up with the Department of Agriculture, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to create a mobile app that lets users track product recalls.

Find the app on the US government website. You get a press release and  a picture of the tainted product. Right now, the app is limited to Android users, but they are developing one for iPhone and Blackberry smartphones.

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