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World must brace for higher food prices, experts say
With drought parching farms in the United States and near the Black Sea, weak monsoon rains in India and insidious hunger in Africa’s Sahel region, the world could be headed towards another food crisis, experts say.

Asia should keep a catastrophe at bay with a strong rice harvest while the G20 group of industrialized and emerging economies tries to parry the main threat, soaring food prices. “We have had quite a few climate events this year that will lead to very poor harvests, notably in the United States with corn or in Russia with soja,” warned Philippe Pinta of the French farmers federation FNSEA. “That will create price pressures similar to what we saw in 2007-2008,” he added in reference to the last global food alert, when wheat and rice prices nearly doubled. In India, “all eyes will be on food inflation – whether the impact of a weak monsoon feeds into food prices,” Samiran Chakraborty, regional head of research at Standard Chartered Bank was quoted by Dow Jones Newswires as saying. Monsoon rains were 15.2 percent below average in mid-August, according to latest data from India weather bureau, and Asian rice prices are forecast to rise by as much as 10 percent in the coming months as supplies tighten. India and Thailand are two of Asia’s leading rice exporters. Indian Food Minister Kuruppasserry Varkey Thomas told parliament this month that prevailing conditions “could affect the crop prospects and may have an impact on prices of essential commodities.”

Swine to human influenza A cases identified in Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) has identified four confirmed and six probable illnesses due to variant influenza A (H3N2), referred to as H3N2v, in Pennsylvania. The 10 cases of variant influenza have occurred among members of an agricultural organization that participated in the Huntingdon County Fair that took place during Aug. 5-11. Most illnesses are in children (persons <18 years of age), but several of the cases are in adults. Reported illnesses are typical of influenza and have been mild with no hospitalizations. There has been no evidence for person-to-person spread, although investigations are ongoing among the club members, their families, and other animal exhibitors at the fair.

Many agricultural fairs take place throughout Pennsylvania at this time of year. This raises the possibility that similar illnesses could occur in settings where swine are being exhibited. PADOH strongly urges health care providers to consider the diagnosis of influenza in patients presenting with influenza-like illness, especially in children or in persons who have had contact with swine or visited agricultural fairs before illness onset. More…

Hobbit village planned for Sweden
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Aug. 17 (UPI) — An entire village like those inhabited by the hobbits from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” is planned for a Stockholm island, its developers say.

“Living in a hobbit house is the smart and sustainable way to live in the future,” John Higson, co-founder of the project, told The Local.se.

Higson and his wife co-founded Dromgarden on the island of Musko, a self-sustainable and eco-friendly farm and village, in 2011 but the idea to build hobbit houses didn’t come until Higson heard about one built in Wales by a man named Simon Dale.

“Seeing Simon’s houses blew me away. They’re beautiful, unique and completely sustainable, and what a fantastic way to live,” Higson said.

“I’ve always enjoyed living a little bit differently. The idea of just a hobbit-style village came from talking to other people interested in being part of Dromgarden,” he said. More…


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