Leading Economic Indicators 

To feed the fast-growing women's hair-extension business, brokers in India scour the countryside for Hindu temples that encourage female worshippers to shear themselves as good-luck offerings to the temples' gods, according to a February dispatch in Germany's Der Spiegel. Historically, the hair was used to make mattresses, but because the celebrity-driven extension business is so large, salons around the world pay from $125 to $250 per pound for strands of never-chemically-treated hair of desirable hues. Shaving is a Hindu tradition, and one donor told Spiegel she had long prayed for her husband to stop drinking and that when that "miracle" happened, she felt compelled to offer her hair.

In the worst slums of Port-au-Prince, Haiti (where 80 percent of the people live on less than $2 a day), rice now sells for 30 cents a cup (double the price of a year ago), according to a January Associated Press dispatch, leaving the poorest of the poor to subsist mainly on "cookies" made with dirt. Choice clay from the central plateau is at least a source of calcium and can be baked with salt and vegetable shortening. However, recently in the La Saline slum, the reporter noted, the price of dirt, too, has risen about 40 percent. 

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