CharlieV the Newsboy

The World is F***ed #5: A Comparison of Food & Petrol Price Increases in South Africa

5 year trends

Yesterday I read an article on the BBC website that got my mind spinning. The article is about how the UK Office of Fair Trade (OFT) has decided to launch a study into the high price of fuel. In the UK the price for petrol and diesel went up 38% & 43% respectively from June 2007 to June 2012. There are other factors they are investigating, but the bit that got me thinking was their citizens being upset about the 38-43% increase (Read the article here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-19489908)

This past month our petrol prices went up to their highest ever levels. A litre of 95 octane petrol now costs R11.97 inland and R11.62 along the coast.

Since June 2007, our petrol prices locally have gone up by a massive 59% for 95 octane unleaded and 65% for diesel! The chart below shows us in a bit more detail how the prices have risen and fallen over the past 5 years. In 2008 you may recall that oil prices rose dramatically, reaching a record $147 during July and then dropping to around $40 in December. However despite the oil price being lower than at it’s peak, we are paying R2 more a litre.

Fuel Price

Fuel vs Oil prices (June 2007 – Sept 2012)

Looking at food prices isn’t much better. I chose six random food products that I felt were quite common among all income groups, being: 1l Full cream milk sachet, loaf brown bread, 1kg whole fresh chicken, 1kg beef chuck, sunflower oil & 1kg carrots.

The increases ranged from 30% (chicken) to a massive 104% (Sunflower oil).

Food Price

Food Prices from June 2007 to Jun 2012

Separately, however, these didn’t make much sense, so I went to a bit of effort and created a weighted average between fuel, food and oil prices and compared them to the trend over the years and this is when it made more sense

If you look at the below chart, you will see red, green and blue solid lines indicating the movement of fuel, food and oil over the 5 year period, while the dotted lines indicate the trend created by this movement.

The purple line (X) is based on year on year inflation over this period, in other words what price increases should look like.

5 year trends

Trend of price increases over 5 years

But what do you notice if you compare the 3 trends and the solid purple line? This clearly indicates that fuel, and by comparison food, since SA relies on transport via our road networks, follow the trend of oil prices rather than the actual inflation rates given by government, which granted takes into account much more than I have: house prices, car prices, etc.

I’m no expert in matters like this so if anyone out there can give me a better explanation I will gladly accept it, but as if climate change wasn’t reason enough for us as a species to move away from oil and fossil fuels as a source of fuel and energy, then surely this should be  even more reason?

EDIT:

The sources for all the above prices and rates are:

Petrol Prices: http://www.aa.co.za/

Food Prices: http://www.namc.co.za/

Oil Prices: http://www.investis.com/

Inflation Rate: http://www.liberta.co.za


Why I Refuse To Buy a Blackberry

Android robot logo.

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday (10 October 2011), millions of Blackberry users (tens of millions according to The Guardian) suffered service outages on their Blackberry devices due to server issues at the Slough data centre in the UK. It finally came back up in the early hours of this morning (11 October 2011), but a little earlier many reports of yet more outages, or sluggish connectivity were being talked about on the various forms of social media.

In the US they have been losing the battle for a while now against Android and iPhone. The EMEA region, which the outages affected have been the one area where Research In Motion (the company that develops Blackberry), has been reporting a success in building up it user base.

A quick look at RIM’s share prices shows that share prices have dropped by almost 60% since the beginning of the year (4 January – 10 October 2011). Not exactly making people confident now are they? If you believe the Guardian’s source:

RIM has been ignoring problems with its server architecture that could prove its downfall for years. “They didn’t start looking at scalability until about 2007, when they had around 8m active devices,” the former employee said: “The attitude was, ‘We’re going to grow and grow but making sure our infrastructure can support it isn’t a priority.’ They have their own clunky infrastructure to do something that you don’t really need a clunky infrastructure to do anymore.”

Thanks, but I’ll stick to my Android. According to Gartner, for quarter 2 of 2011, Android devices had just over 43% of the mobile OS market worldwide (compared to 17% for quarter 2 last year). iOS, the OS for iPhones and iPads, were the only other OS to show any significant growth – 18%, up from 14% the previous year. Blackberry dropped from over 18% to under 12%.

I can see this dropping even more after the last two days…


WikiWhat?

Logo used by Wikileaks

Image via Wikipedia

Most of us wouldn’t have heard of WikiLeaks up until a few weeks ago, then all hell broke loose. As it stands today, wikileaks.org, the original website is down and founder Julian Assange, has been arrested and denied bail by the British authorities, after a European Arrest Warrant was issued by Sweden in an alleged sexual assault investigation. I have to admit, that up until the last week or so, I knew very little about WikiLeaks. I knew they existed, but besides knowing what they did, knew very little else. That was until 28 November 2010.

WikiLeaks started announcing from the 22 November 2010, via Twitter that they would be releasing cables from a collection of over 250,000 leaked United States embassy cables, in what is the largest set of secret and confidential documents to have ever been released into the public domain. Even just before the scheduled release of the the cables, there were DDoS attacks on their servers, which were alleged to have caused an additional 4-6 Gb/s of traffic to their site. The release went ahead as scheduled though with an initial 243 cables being released, along with simultaneous press coverage from El País (Spain), Le Monde (France), Der Spiegel (Germany), The Guardian (United Kingdom), and The New York Times (United States). The plan is to release the cables over an extended period, for their full effect to be felt. Since the start, they have been releasing a steady flow of cables, with a break recently, possibly as a result of their various issues.

Browsing the cables available is a bit of a nightmare but The Guardian has an really awesome interactive database of all the cables released so far, which splits them into several categories and sub-categories. The actual cables are available to read and some of them are pretty scary stuff,  with many international and domestic issues covered, ranging from nuclear weapons to the financial crisis and even specific characteristics of ministers and diplomats.

Since the first cables were released, PayPal, Mastercard and Visa have stopped payments to WikiLeaks and Swiss Bank Post Finance have closed their accounts. Yet each of them maintain it is nothing to do with politics, and have some bullshit story about it violates rules, blah, blah. On top of this several other companies have begun distancing themselves from WikiLeaks, including Amazon; even Twitter seems to have censored their trending topics.

Their founder and editor-in-chief, Julian Assange, has also had a really bad day at the office. It started with the news that Sweden were looking into issuing a warrant for his arrest. He later turned himself in to British authorities and was subsequently denied bail, and will be jailed until 14 December 2010 for his extradition hearing. According to The Guardian article:

The first complainant, a Miss A, said she was the victim of “unlawful coercion” on the night of 14 August in Stockholm. The court heard Assange was alleged to have “forcefully” held her arms and used his bodyweight to hold her down. The second charge alleged he “sexually molested” her by having sex without using a condom, when it was her “express wish” that one should be used.

A third charge claimed Assange “deliberately molested” Miss A on 18 August.

A fourth charge, relating to a Miss W, alleged that on 17 August, he “improperly exploited” the fact she was asleep to have sex with her without a condom

Am I the only one that thinks that sounds a bit dodgy? If it is in fact not just trumped up charges, which I think they are, I apologise, but seriously? The US are also waiting for this to finish, so that they can find some charge from the US Espionage Act or something that will stick, but will be difficult due to their First Amendment.

As a contrast, and while I understand that it is by no means the actual winner, as it stands, he is the current favourite in TIME’s 2010 Person of the Year poll with a average of 91 out of 100 rating. Reuters even wrote an article about him today which illustrates the mixed feelings about the man. WikiLeaks has turned out not to be just one man, as they have promised to continue releasing cables as time goes by. They have not left themselves vulnerable I might add either; a heavily encrypted 1.4GB file was released via torrent and has been downloaded by thousands of supporters and if they feel they are losing the battle and are unable to hold against the pressure, a key will be released which will open the flood gates.

The whole saga has turned into The People vs several world Goverments and their puppet Corporations. I won’t even try guess where this is going but things will never be the same after the dust settles. The amount of information out there is mind-boggling and my intention of this post is to simply show what I have found and to make some sense of it… which is appearing impossible I might add. Today alone there were at one stage nearly 3000 sources covering the stories relating to WikiLeaks or Julian Assange and as of 7 December 2010, at 20:12 GMT, Wikileaks was mirrored on 1005 sites.

Will it turn out to be nothing but a huge bubble? I definitely don’t know, but it’s one hell of ride to be on.

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