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Friday, August 10, 2012

U.S. Forecasts Lowest Corn Yield in 17 Years

The U.S. government said today it expected the 2012 corn yield to be the lowest in 17 years as the worst drought in fifty years continued to expand. This will result in higher food and fuel prices. The production of soybeans, eggs, milk, and pork will also drop, though red meat will increase as farmers choose to slaughter animals because of higher animal feed prices. Other countries like Brazil, Russia, Australia, and India are also hit by the weather, something that may result in more inflation and less food. It’s not bad news for everyone, however: some investors are finding opportunities in the consequences of the drought.

Libor-Rigging to Be Made a Crime

The U.K.’s Financial Service Authority is looking to reform the way Libor is set and make its manipulation a criminal offense. FSA Senior Executive Martin Wheatley will work with the European Union and lead a month-long consultation, looking not only into interest rates, but also other unregulated markets. British bank Barclays, the first bank to be investigated about Libor, named Sir David Walker as its new chairman after Marcus Agius resigned in the wake of the scandal. Former Barclays trader Ryan Reich cooperated with the U.S. authorities, Reuters reported. Reich was fired in 2010 for having sent emails inquiring about the pricing of Libor, which could’ve helped his trading and is now working for hedge fund WCG Management. He could be a key witness for federal prosecutors.

Islamists Cut Off a Man’s Hand in Northern Mali

Islamists who have taken over Northern Mali said today they cut off the hand of a man accused of theft, in a show of determination to apply Shariah law in the territory they snatched from Mali. Tuaregs have been fighting for the independence and self-determination of the northern region of Azawad, following the example of South Sudan, a struggle Islamists and groups close to Al Qaeda essentially highjacked. The groups allied and inflicted a series of defeats on the Malian army, provoking a mutiny that resulted in a coup d’état last March in Bamako, the capital. President Amadou Toumani Touré was deposed for mishandling the rebellion in the North of the country. Taking advantage of the political instability, rebels took over that region, and are now controlling the cities of Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal. Azawad’s independence was declared shortly thereafter. Later, rivalries between secular Tuaregs and Islamists flared, setting the scene for new conflict. This resulted, among other things, in brutal cultural vandalism in Timbuktu, where Islamists destroyed shrines, mausoleums, mosques, and other symbols of African history.

Facebook on Privacy Watch for Next Two Decades

A day after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission slapped Google with a record-high fine for breaches in user privacy, it said today it’ll keep an eye on Facebook’s privacy rules for the next 20 years. Facebook must now ask its users for explicit consent before giving their information to advertisers, and it must always be clear about its privacy and security practices. In the past, Facebook made changes to its site that made private information public without warning the users. The FTC will assess the company on these criteria every other year for the next two decades.

Weekend Read: I, Nephi

The U.S. could be electing its first Mormon President soon, yet most people do not know what Mormonism really is. Adam Gopnik takes a close look. In The New Yorker.

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