Protecting The Big Cheese

Grind for January 12th, 2019
“In a magazine, one can get – from cover to cover – 15 to 20 different ideas about life and how to live it.”

– Maya Angelou

Global Politics

The Headline

Pompeo visits Iraq to reassure allies following Syria announcement

The Grind

Defense Secretary John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo started the new year with frantic trips to the Middle East following Trump’s surprise decision last month to pull troops from Syria.

The primary concerns related to US withdrawal are the reemergence of ISIS and the safety of our allies (primarily the Kurds). Last Sunday, Bolton promised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu both objectives would be achieved.

“The defense of Israel and other friends in the region is absolutely assured,” he said, adding that the Trump Administration would “make sure ISIS is defeated and is not able to revive itself and become a threat again.”

Bolton’s next stop is Turkey, which has been tasked with leading the last charge against ISIS after the US withdraws.

The Details

Secretary of State Pompeo met with Jordan’s King Abdullah on Tuesday as part of an eight-day tour that includes at least nine countries.

He made an unexpected stop in Iraq Wednesday, meeting with Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, parliamentary speaker Mohamed al-Halbousi, and President Barham Salih.

The situation is difficult for Iraq, which needs US support to defeat ISIS but doesn’t want to get caught up in the conflict between the US and Iran.

“We will need the support of the US,” said Salih, who expressed gratitude for America’s ongoing presence in Iraq. “ISIS is defeated militarily but [the] mission is not accomplished.”

Iraq claimed victory over ISIS in December 2017, but remaining members of the group have reverted to insurgency. Meanwhile, hard-line Shiite factions in Iraq (which helped defeat ISIS) have been calling for the removal of US troops for more than a year.

Iraq says it opposes US sanctions on Iran, but is complying with the rules to avoid conflict. Last month, the Trump Administration approved a waiver allowing Iraq to continue purchasing gas from Tehran.

Iraq is also frustrated with the US over Trump’s December 26th visit to troops stationed there. Lawmakers called the visit “arrogant” because Trump failed to meet with any government officials.

Say Cheese

The Headline

US cheese industry suffers massive surplus

The Grind

As reported by the US Department of Agriculture, there are roughly 1.4 billion pounds of cheese lying around in cold storage.

The surplus – which is the largest in US history – is a result of high milk production and declining rates of consumption.

The Details

Milk production in the US has increased by 13% over the past decade despite a sharp decline in consumption.

To give you an idea, the average American consumes about 149 pounds of milk per year; in 1975 that number was 247.

All that extra milk gets turned into cheese.

Another factor in the surplus is a growing demand for speciality cheese, which tends to be produced outside the US.

“What has changed…is people are turning away from processed cheese,” says Andrew Novakovic, a professor of agricultural economics at Cornell University.

Meanwhile, the dairy surplus is driving the price of milk and processed cheese down to figures that make it nearly impossible for dairy farmers to make a profit.

As Novakovic explains, “It’s the same as it is for everything else – if you’ve got too much of something, the price has to go down until consumption rises.”

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