World and Nation

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49 Million Americans Report A Lack of Food

The number of Americans who lived in households that lacked consistent access to adequate food soared last year, to 49 million, the highest since the government began tracking what it calls “food insecurity” 14 years ago, the Department of Agriculture reported Monday.

The increase, of 13 million Americans, was much larger than even the most pessimistic observers of hunger trends had expected.

About a third of these struggling households suffered what the researchers called “very low food security,” the most severe form measured, meaning lack of money forced some members to skip meals, cut portions or otherwise forgo food at some point during the year.

The other two-thirds typically had enough to eat, but only by eating cheaper or less varied foods, relying on government aid like food stamps, or visiting food pantries and soup kitchens.

“These numbers are a wake-up call for the country,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

One figure that drew officials’ attention was the number of households, 506,000, in which children faced “very low food security”: up from 323,000 the previous year. President Barack Obama, who has pledged to end childhood hunger by 2015, released a statement while traveling in Asia that called the finding “particularly troubling.”

Startup Called ‘Glyde’ Challenges eBay and Amazon

People whose old books, CDs, DVDs and video games are collecting dust on their shelves will soon have another way to resell them on the Web.

On Monday, Glyde, a startup based in Palo Alto, Calif., plans to introduce a Web site intended to make it simple for people to buy and sell used media products:

The company, which will be challenging formidable giants like eBay and, is the brainchild of Simon Rothman, who worked at eBay from 1999 to 2005 and was the primary creator and executive in charge of its automotive site, eBay Motors.

Glyde will, among other things, supply sellers with a stamped, pre-addressed envelope once their item has been bought.

The company’s approach faces inherent challenges. The market is dominated by eBay and its somewhat forgotten media-focused site, Then there is, which this year began allowing people to trade in used video games and DVDs for store credit.

Glyde’s approach is to attract people using a slick, uncluttered Web site that cuts many steps out of the e-commerce process. Sellers indicate the item they want to offer and specify its condition. They do not have to upload a photo or type in a product description. The site suggests the market value; if the seller adjusts the price, they are told how many cheaper items are ahead of theirs in the queue.

More Delays for Iranian Nuclear Power Plant

Russia added a new note of discord to its relations with Iran on Monday, announcing that a Russian-built nuclear power plant in Iran would not come online at the end of the year as planned.

Russia’s energy minister said that politics had played no role in delaying the startup of the plant, a focal point in a broader dispute over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. And although Iran’s senior leadership offered no immediate response, hard-line members of its Parliament excoriated the delay, calling Russia “dishonest.”

“If we wait another 200 years, the Russians will not complete the plant,” said Mahmoud Ahmadi Bighash, a member of Parliament, according to Iran’s ISNA news agency. “It is naive to believe that the Russians are cooperating with us.”

The startup of the plant, at Bushehr, in southern Iran, has been plagued by delays since Russia took over work on the facility in the mid-1990s, with Russian officials often appearing to use the project as leverage in negotiations with Iran’s leaders.

Sergei Shmatko, the Russian energy minister, said Monday that “technical issues” were responsible for the latest postponement.

“We expect serious results by the end of the year, but the launch itself will not occur,” Shmatko said at a news conference in Moscow, according to the RIA Novosti news agency. He vowed that the Bushehr plant would be completed, but said that the date would depend on security guarantees at the facility.

Paying Extra for Green Power, And Getting Ads Instead

The solicitations have been flooding people’s mailboxes lately: pay a bit more on your electricity bill for 100 percent clean wind power. Or, the fliers say, buy “green power certificates” to offset your global warming emissions.

Close to a million electricity customers have signed up for such payments voluntarily, and the amount of electricity sold in this way has nearly tripled since 2005. But the participants are in a distinct minority, with a sign-up rate of only about 2 percent in programs run by utilities.

The government has looked at the question of whether these programs really cause more renewable energy projects to get built, and says it is difficult to draw an overall conclusion. Its experts say they believe that some green power programs work better than others.

At least one major program has come under fire from regulators. Last year, a Florida Power and Light green power program was terminated by the state’s Public Service Commission after an audit found that promised solar power facilities were far behind schedule. The program had more than 38,000 customers, and was once the sixth-largest in the country. The audit also found that the vast majority of homeowners’ payments went into marketing and administration.

About a quarter of the country’s utilities offer green power programs, and the way they are structured varies.