Astraea News and Views
MOUNTAIN GLACIERS DECLINE
Data comes from sample of 30 mountain glaciers
Glaciers have different densities, so thinning is expressed in metres of water equivalent (mwe)
One mwe is roughly equivalent to 1.1m of ice
Mountain glaciers are shrinking three times faster than they were in the 1980s, scientists have announced. The World Glacier Monitoring Service, which continuously studies a sample of 30 glaciers around the world, says the acceleration is down to climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declared that human-induced climate change is happening and needs to be tackled. The World Glacier Monitoring Service, based in Switzerland, continuously studies a set of 30 mountain glaciers in different parts of the world. It is not quite a representative sample of all mountain glaciers, but does give a reliable indication of global trends. The latest survey shows accelerating decline. During 2005, this sample of 30 glaciers became, on average, 60-70cm thinner. This figure is 1.6x more than the average annual loss during the 1990s, and 3x faster than in the 1980s. With mountain glaciers typically only tens of metres thick many will disappear on a timescale of decades if the trend continued.
A report on the effects of climate change in Australia paints an alarming picture of life in the city of Sydney. It warns that if residents do not cut water consumption by more than 50% over the next 20 years, the city will become unsustainable. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation report also warns that temperatures could rise 5C above the predicted global average. This would leave the city facing an almost permanent state of drought.
The US suffered gross weather volatility hitting people with the effects of climate change. Harsh winter weather gripped parts of the US including the normally balmy south-west, and storms threatened south-eastern states. At least 65 people died, most in weather-related road accidents. Rare snow fell on the hills above the popular Malibu resort in California, as temperatures reached near-record lows. California instituted a state of emergency in 10 counties, after citrus crops were badly damaged. Scenes of the harsh conditions across the US.
Chrysler's chief economist Van Jolissaint has attacked popular attitudes to global warming, describing climate change as "way, way in the future, with a high degree of uncertainty". He was particularly critical of the recent Stern Report on climate change, which was commissioned by the UK government and calls for urgent action to tackle the problem. His words are in sharp contrast to the green image that the US car companies have been trying to promote at this year's Detroit motor show. Jolissaint, a Chrysler veteran, was recently appointed the chief economist for the German-US DaimlerChrysler Group.
This NASA image illustrates the extent of global climate volatility.
If all was OK it would be mostly white with no blotches of red or blue,
not like this ...
The Stern report said that it would take only 1% of global GDP to tackle climate change. What it didn't say was how GDP would vary across the world as climate change progresses. An enlightening new map produced by Yale University shows how many economies will suffer as a result of climate change, while a handful may ironically become richer through migration and altered global trading markets. Looking at nations' energy resources, agricultural production, forests and water resources, the scientists behind the project have developed a map which predicts how world economies will change from 2010 until the end of the century. Click here to view the map. Shows US suffering while Canada and EU benefit.
The Ayles Ice Shelf on Ellesmere Island in northern Canada broke away from the island and floated out to sea. According to news reports, the break took less than an hour, and Luke Copland, director of the University of Ottawa’s Laboratory for Cryospheric Research, described the break as evidence of the Arctic’s rapid response to warming temperatures.
China is failing to meet new targets on energy efficiency and pollution emissions. China set the targets in a bid to rein in the environmental costs of the country's rapid economic growth. But only Beijing and five other provinces or municipalities improved efficiency by 4% and cut emissions by 2% in the first six months of 2006. Much of China's airborne pollution comes from large coal-burning power stations and car exhaust fumes, neither of which can be reduced quickly. Many factories also ignore the law and pump toxic waste into rivers and lakes. And with the country still focused on breakneck economic growth, there is little sign that things are going to get better any time soon. Chinadialogue is an independent, non-commercial, bilingual website devoted to the publication of high quality information and debate on the environment. Through disseminating accurate and accessible information and fostering links across the language barrier, it aims to promote understanding and solutions to a problem which affects us all.
Corporate participation in voluntary environmental compliance programs may have less to do with the package of costs and benefits that government agencies put together and more to do with the companies' internal culture, raising the need for regulation. See the Investment section to see two reports supporting this.
The European Commission has added its voice to the debate about the use of open source software in a report funded by the Commission that concludes that the software could offer considerable savings to organisations with little negative effect on their business. The report found that in "almost all" cases long-term costs could be reduced by switching from proprietary software. However, it warned that a move to open source could increase short term costs, as any new look software does (eg Vista costs). This is largely be due to training for users of the software. According to the study, the number of existing open source programs already available would have cost firms € 12 billion to produce. It estimates that the available programs represent the equivalent of 131,000 programmer years.The report recommends "correcting current policies and practices that implicitly or explicitly favour proprietary software". It also recommends that schools start to introduce more of the software. This would instil "an attitude towards information technology that favours the ability to create and actively participate rather than just consume," the report said. This view echoes those of 111 UK MPs who signed an early day motion in December 2006 to support the use of open source in schools. The motion also criticised the "outdated" methods used to purchase software for schools that locked them into buying proprietary software.
A number of new updates to linux systems which may be downloaded. A useful one for us is the update to Mozilla, now called SeaMonkey, which includes additional options for how links open (tab or window) and how tabs open (new tab or old tab), which will improve user efficiency, especially if you use the browser for research.
The panel of leading experts discussing the future of the internet at the World Economic Forum in Davos warned that criminals controlling millions of personal computers are threatening the internet's future. Up to a quarter of computers on the net may be used by cyber criminals in so-called botnets, said Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the internet. Cerf, who is one of the co-developers of the TCP/IP standard that underlies all internet traffic and now works for Google, likened the spread of botnets to a "pandemic". This is made possible because such a massive proportion of them run exactly the same operating system - Microsoft Windows. Of the 600 million computers currently on the internet, between 100 and 150 million were already part of these botnets, Cerf said. Botnets are made up of large numbers of computers that malicious hackers have brought under their control after infecting them with so-called Trojan virus programs. While most owners are oblivious to the infection, the networks of tens of thousands of computers are used to launch spam e-mail campaigns, denial-of-service attacks or online fraud schemes. The problem is exemplified by an instance when a single botnet at one point used up about 15% of Yahoo's search capacity.
Pirated copies of Windoze Vista were circulating a week before the consumer launch.
The encryption on high-definition DVDs was bypassed. At the end of last year a hacker claimed he had defeated the protection on a number of HD-DVD titles, leading to fears the entire system was broken, however, the Advanced Access Content System (AACS) Licensing Authority has said the breach is limited. In a recent interview with digital media website Slyck, hacker muslix64 said his motivation for defeating the protection system was frustration. "I'm just an upset customer. My efforts can be called 'fair use enforcement'," he said. He had grown angry when a HD-DVD movie he had bought would not play on his monitor because it did not have the compliant connector demanded by the movie industry. As part of the copy protection system on high-definition DVD, some content providers insist that movies will only play correctly if there are HDMI or DVI ports on the player and screen as these two connectors can handle the HDCP copy protection system.
People who upload their own films to video-sharing website YouTube will soon get a share of the ad revenue. YouTube founder Chad Hurley and his team are working on a revenue-sharing mechanism that would "reward creativity". The system would be rolled out in a couple of months and use a mixture of adverts, including short clips shown ahead of the actual film. YouTube has more than 70 million users a month and was recently bought by Google. The offer applies only to people who own the full copyright of the videos that they are uploading to the YouTube website.
VOIP enthusiasts or people wishing to try it out should checkout GizmoCall which has a VOIP user interface online and offers $ 10 of free calls.
More people than ever are becoming early adopters of technology, according to research outlined in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronic Show attended by 140,000. The US consumer tech market is expected to be more than $ 155 billion in 2007. The industry says consumers' love affair with gadgets will continue despite a global economic slowdown and a prediction that growth in the US market would halve in 2007 from last year's figures.
Holonics * Health * Environment * Education * Living
Following are a couple of stories that challenge convention, like the rules of holonics*.
Success is what we all strive for and leadership in a field is what western culture tells us is the pinnacle of that success. However, in today's interconnected world, traditional behaviour is a liability at the top. An individual's level of intelligence and skill is unlikely to be a limitation to success, however behaviour can be. The leader's role is not to command but to catalyse the team. This BusinessWeek list Enough is Enough gives 20 serious failings of leaders continuing to practice hierarchical behaviour rather than open behaviour.
Winning Too Much The need to win at all costs and in all situations—when it matters, when it doesn’t, and when it’s totally beside the point.
Adding Too Much Value The overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion.
Passing Judgement The need to rate others and impose our standards on them.
Making Destructive Comments The needless sarcasms and cutting remarks that we think make us sound sharp and witty.
Starting with “No,” “But,” or “However” The overuse of these qualifiers, which secretly say to everyone, “I’m right. You’re wrong.”
Telling the World How Smart We Are The need to show people we’re smarter than they think we are.
Speaking When Angry Using emotional volatility as a management tool.
Negativity The need to share our negative thoughts, even when we weren’t asked.
Withholding Information The refusal to share information in order to maintain an advantage over others.
Failing to Give Proper Recognition The inability to praise and reward.
Claiming Credit We Don’t Deserve The most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to any success.
Making Excuses The need to reposition our annoying behaviour as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it.
Clinging to the Past The need to deflect blame away from ourselves and onto events and people from our past; a subset of blaming everyone else.
Playing Favourites Failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly.
Refusing to Express Regret The inability to take responsibility for our actions, admit we’re wrong, or recognize how our actions affect others.
Not Listening The most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues.
Failing to Express Gratitude The most basic form of bad manners.
Punishing the Messenger The misguided need to attack the innocent, who are usually only trying to protect us.
Passing the Buck The need to blame everyone but ourselves.
An Excessive Need to Be “Me” Exalting our faults as virtues simply because they exemplify who we are.
And Eric Abrahamson and David Freedman trawl the furthest reaches of psychology, management studies, biology and physics to show why a bit of disorder is good for you - mainly by creating much more room for coincidence and serendipity. A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder-How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place presents an open tech approach to personal process organisation in a style that will appeal to bankers and soldiers. While the book is a bit disorganised(!) and over critical, it certainly puts tidiness coaches ("merchants of guilt") in their place. The idea behind the book is welcome on Tom's desk!
boingboing.com presents a Periodic Table of Visualization Methods. Visual-Literacy.org offers an online introductory tutorial about how data, abstract thoughts, and concepts can be graphically represented to more easily gain useful insights. One of their knowledge map examples is this excellent Periodic Table of Visualization Methods. Rolling your mouse over each form of visualization brings up an example of the technique. It looks like it would very useful if you think a visualization is in order but you're not sure which specific kind to try. But it is also enlightening in its extent of ideas. PDF paper "Towards a Periodic Table of Visualization Methods for Management"
Cloudy apple juice contains up to four times the antioxidant levels of clear juices say Polish scientists. Scientists at the Agricultural University of Wroclaw recently studied levels of polyphenols — the antioxidant group that mops up cancer-causing ‘free-radicals’. They discovered that the processes used to make juice clear strip these beneficial antioxidants. The most likely culprits are thought to be an enzyme used to treat and clarify pressed apples and the centrifugation process techniques, which remove pulp.
Researchers in the US fear that the widespread use of cholesterol-reducing statins could lead to a surge in new cases of Parkinson’s disease. Scientists from North Carolina University (NCU) recently studied 124 patients with Parkinson’s and 112 of the patients’ partners, who acted as controls. They discovered that patients with ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol were more than three times more likely to have Parkinson’s than those with higher LDL levels. Statins significantly reduce LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream with the aim of reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Since previous studies have made a link with lower cholesterol and Parkinson’s, the lead researcher on the NCU team, Dr Xuemei Huang, believes that low LDL could be the culprit. If it is, she says, a surge in Parkinson’s could be imminent because of the widespread use of statins (two million in the UK alone). Huang is now about to begin a study of 16,000 people to see if the link is real and causal.
The habit of adding milk to tea could block the biological mechanism that is thought to make tea drinking beneficial to cardiovascular health. A recent study carried out by The Charité Hospital in Berlin examined the effects of drinking tea on the functioning of the brachial artery (a major artery in the upper arm). The study was carried out on 16 menopausal women who were assessed after drinking black tea with no milk, black tea with milk or hot water. The researchers found that while the tea increased the artery’s ability to relax and expand to accommodate increased blood flow compared to water, this effect was blocked when the milk was added. In a further test the researchers were able to identify three caseins (proteins formed in milk) that seemed to be responsible for the blocking effect. The Berlin researchers have acknowledged that their study sample was small and that other similar research has come to different conclusions. However, as the authors wrote in the European Heart Journal: “As worldwide tea consumption is second only to that of water, its beneficial effects represent an important public health issue.”
Food and farming charity Sustain claimed that bottled water is not just “environmentally foolish” but that it could also be a health hazard. Possible problems associated with shop-bought water include excess sodium, toxins that leach from plastic bottles into water and benzene contamination. Meanwhile a new report in to the bottled water market notes that product marketing, aimed mainly at 15 to 34 year old women, plays strongly on purity. But it says that the French health authorities are sufficiently concerned about the levels of certain minerals in some bottled waters to advise consumers to regularly switch brands to avoid excess exposure. The Sustain report also refers to a number of incidents in which leading bottled waters have become contaminated with chemicals, either at the bottling plant or as a result of chemicals migrating from plastic containers.
Scientists studying stroke patients are reporting that an injury to a specific part of the brain, near the ear, can instantly and permanently break a smoking habit. People with the injury who stopped smoking found that their bodies, as one man put it, “forgot the urge to smoke.” The finding, which appears in the journal Science, is based on a small study. But experts say it is likely to alter the course of addiction research, pointing researchers toward new ideas for treatment. While no one is suggesting brain injury as a solution for addiction, the finding suggests that therapies might focus on the insula, a prune-size region under the frontal lobes that is thought to register gut feelings and is apparently a critical part of the network that sustains addictive behaviour.
In the UK the Vegetarian & Vegan Foundation has written to the public health minister calling on the government to withdraw its support for the meat and dairy industries in light of the current obesity epidemic. The letter was sent to the Department of Health this week, along with a copy of the VVF’s newly-published scientific report, Globesity. The report says that the solution to rising obesity levels lies in more people adopting a plant-based diet. This, says VVF, has the added advantage of reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers, “which can be increased by animal products and are currently at epidemic proportions”. VVF urges government to improve the nation’s health “by offering advice that works rather than persisting with a public health policy that has so dismally failed”. VVF health campaigner, Amanda Woodvine, added: “Two decades of advice to opt for reduced fat meat have proved ineffective – obesity has spiralled in this time. We’re eating more meat, especially poultry, than ever before and the American Cancer Society confirms that the one food most associated with weight gain is meat.” We should point out that vegetarians can be overweight, though its less usual.
This year the theme of the Soil Association's conference was One
Planet Agriculture. “This is the most important conference in
the Soil Association’s history,” said the Association’s director, Patrick
Holden. And it was certainly big picture stuff — food and farming in a
post-peak oil, climatically chaotic future — and the solutions it offered
were radical ones. Speaking ahead of the conference, Holden said: “For
far too long we have been living beyond our means, squandering our natural
resources. We need now to move to a new agriculture, a type of
agriculture that can exist with a mere fraction of the fossil fuel energy
we currently use — perhaps down to just 10% of that by 2030.”
The Soil Association has launched a one-year consultation into ways of
promoting climate-friendly food and farming. The initiative could lead
to the UK's largest organic certifier
banning air-freighted food altogether. The Soil Association board
agreed to investigate a range of options to tackle the environmental impact
of air-freighting organic food at a meeting last week just ahead of its
annual conference in Cardiff. Other options include labelling and carbon
offsetting. Holden admitted that the issues around food miles were complex
environmentally and sometimes had an important social dimension. This
was especially the case in developing countries where it involved ethical
trading issues and was why the Soil Association would “engage a wide range
of stakeholders to ensure we get it right”.
It is ironic after all the tragic news of depleted ocean species, and the recent move by Japan to try to have the ban on whale fishing removed, that Japan is now urging conservation of tuna. At the Regional Fisheries Management Organisation gathering in January regulators adopted new restrictions on tuna catch. For information, the RFMO presentation is here and the 100 page report is here.
Conservationists blame illegal and unregulated fishing and unsustainable quotas for tuna's dramatic decline. In the western Atlantic, the number of bluefin tuna capable of spawning is less than one-fifth of what it was 30 years ago, according to the body that monitors fish stocks there. In a statement issued at the start of the meeting, the environment group WWF said Atlantic bluefin stocks were at a dangerously low level. "Atlantic bluefin, used for high-end sushi and sashimi, is massively over fished and the spawning stock of southern bluefin in the Indian Ocean is down about 90%," the statement said.
While Japan decries overfishing of tuna and promotes conservation, they are harvesting whales despite a ban. Activists intent on disrupting Japan's annual whale hunt have offered a $25,000 reward for information that leads them to the whaling fleet.The New Zealand military has filmed the hunters harpooning whales in waters south of Australia, but is refusing to give details. They are concerned activists could use violent tactics against the whalers. The Japanese crews are on a mission to kill about 850 minke whales and 10 fin whales. Commercial hunting was outlawed in the 1980s, but Japan has continued its annual cull. It calls it scientific research and they have not been called on that farce yet. It is simply a tactic to circumvent the regulations, and amounts to commercial whaling in all but name.
Meanwhile the UK is stepping up attempts to secure an anti-whaling majority on the International Whaling Commission. Last year, pro-hunting nations gained their first IWC majority for 20 years. The British government published a brochure aimed at encouraging nations opposed to whaling to join the Commission. It says whales are "sensitive, social creatures", with some species risking extinction. Japan says these arguments are "old rhetoric and half-truths". Japan, Iceland and Norway, the principal pro-whaling nations, believe that many stocks are large enough that hunting can be sustainable. They dismiss arguments that whales are special and distinct creatures as being relevant only in certain cultures. The issue was given added urgency by Iceland's decision in October to resume commercial hunting, a move which brought diplomatic protest from Britain and its allies.
Australia's famous Great Barrier Reef could be dead within decades because of the effects of global warming, according to a report, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warns that the reef's coral could be bleached because of warmer seas. The Barrier Reef is Australia's leading tourist destination; it is 2,000 km long with 1,500 types of fish. The draft document warned that the Great Barrier Reef will become "functionally extinct" because of coral bleaching - which occurs when the animal organisms that make up the coral die, leaving behind a white limestone skeleton. Bleaching occurs regularly during periods when water becomes unusually warm. Many reefs in East Asia declined significantly during the El Nino conditions in 1997/8; it can take a decade for coral to start recovering from severe bleaching. But in the future, the Barrier Reef may not have the chance to recover, scientists warn, as temperatures continue to rise and the sea becomes more acidic. This raises the risk that the coral will die outright.
A conservation programme for some of the world's most bizarre and unusual creatures has been launched by the Zoological Society of London. Species like the bumblebee bat and the pygmy hippopotamus will be protected under the Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (Edge) project. The scheme targets animals with unique evolutionary histories that are facing a real risk of extinction. The ZSL says many of these species are ignored by existing conservation plans. The Society defines Edge animals as having few close relatives, genetically distinct, and require immediate action to save them from extinction.
Two oriental white-backed vultures have been hatched in captivity for the first time, in Haryana, northern India—a glimmer of hope for three species of Asian vulture that have been poisoned almost to extinction, declining by up to 99% in the past decade. The poison is diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory drug for cattle, which causes kidney failure in vultures that feed on their carcasses. In India, Pakistan and Nepal, it has wiped out millions of white-backed, slender-billed and long-billed vultures, the most effective scavengers in a carrion-ridden ecosystem. Last year the three countries banned making and importing diclofenac, but it is still used. Unless captive birds can be raised, scientists say, over the next decade the vultures will go the way of the dodo.
Recent research by consultancy Kaisen has concluded that executive training courses are generally a waste of money. The principal failing is that course do not deliver experiential change, which is what executives need. They already have technology - how to do their job - but require emotional coaching to be able to handle increasing complexity and conflicting aims. The solution is either to only offer experiential courses to your executives or to engage mentors or coaches for one on one performance feedback and improvement.
PPI online observed the proportion of GDP spent on R&D around the world. With a bit less than a quarter of global GDP, the United States accounts for about one-third of the world's spending on scientific research and development. America's $312 billion in R&D for 2004 (the latest figure published by the National Science Foundation, combining government, non-profit and industry research spending) nearly doubles the figure for second-ranked Japan, and outdoes all 27 EU members combined. Relative to GDP, though, the United States ranks only sixth in the world. Israel is the world's top researcher, devoting a bit less than 5 percent of GDP to R&D. Sweden, Finland, and Iceland come next; Japan and South Korea sandwich the United States in fifth and seventh place. The EU and the big developing countries are a bit further back. Here are the numbers:
Research & development, as share of national and state GDP:
New Mexico: 8.72%
United States: 2.67%
South Korea: 2.64%
EU Total: 1.86%
The tiny skeletal remains of human "Hobbits" found on an Indonesian island belong to a completely new branch of our family tree, according to a new study. The finds caused a sensation when they were announced to the world in 2004, but some researchers argued the bones belonged to a modern human with a combination of small stature and a brain disorder called microcephaly. That claim is rejected by the latest study, which compares the tiny people with modern microcephalics. Microcephaly is a rare pathological condition in humans characterised by a small brain and cognitive impairment. In the new study, Dean Falk, of Florida State University, and her colleagues say the remains are those of a completely separate human species: Homo floresiensis. Findings are published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
In the UK, a state-funded Steiner school could open in September under the government's city academy programme. A feasibility study on bringing the independent school in Herefordshire into the maintained sector will be put before ministers in the coming weeks. The academy would not have to follow the national curriculum, but would introduce national tests in key areas. Steiner schools give priority to educating the "whole child", with a strong emphasis on creativity. The academy bid would see a new school building constructed alongside the existing building. The sponsor for the new academy is the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship. The Department for Education and Skills said, in line with its commitment to offer greater degrees of parental choice, it was working with the Steiner group to explore "different, but effective, educational principles". "Academies must provide a broad and balanced curriculum - this is one of the conditions of their funding agreement - and can specialise in one or more subjects," a DfES spokeswoman said. "They must teach the national curriculum core subjects like all others and carry out Key Stage 3 assessment tests in English, maths and science."
Also in the UK a government report says schools could be led by business and community leaders. Ministers should look at removing barriers to such appointments, although only teachers should be in charge of teaching and learning, it recommends. The study, by PricewaterhouseCoopers, comes as heads complain teachers are put off applying for the top job by bureaucracy and a lack of rewards. Ministers say there is no recruitment problem but improvements are possible. Their report says so-called "hero heads" cannot do everything and that responsibilities should be shared more widely. (I wonder if they apply the same advice to their multinational clients.) And it projects that there will be a need for increased expertise in areas such as finance, human resources, collaboration and project management.
Ethical factors have overtaken health and convenience as the top priority for shoppers considering trying a new product. According to a new survey into latest grocery trends by IGD, the production values or ethics of a product influenced purchasing decisions for 68% of shoppers surveyed. 62% of shoppers cited health and wellness and 52% cited convenience.
A new report published in The Lancet suggests China is seeing alarming and rising rates of the sexually transmitted disease, syphilis. It reports that China - which virtually eliminated syphilis in the 1960s and 70s - is now seeing the disease return with alarming intensity. It reveals that reported rates have risen from 0.2 cases per 100,000 in 1993 to 5.7 cases per 100,000 in 2005. Dramatic intervention is now needed, one of the report's authors says. The study involved doctors from China's National Centre for STD Control in Nanjing and from the University of North Carolina's School of Medicine. The disease is most prevalent amongst those in particular high-risk groups, like commercial sex workers and men who have sex with men. In those groups, as many as one in ten to one in five has syphilis, according to some of China's top specialists. But syphilis is also spreading quickly in the general population. An area of particular concern is the surge in congenital syphilis - the number of babies born with the disease, after contracting it in utero from infected mothers. It is reported that about 3,400 Chinese babies are being born each year with congenital syphilis. The figure has risen dramatically since 1991 - by more than 70% each year. Syphilis is an aggressive and dangerous disease in itself - but Dr Cohen says its rise also has wider implications, giving a sense of the rapid spread of other sexually transmitted diseases too. The dramatic spread is being fuelled in part by rapid social change. The large numbers of migrant workers in China, increasing prostitution and more extramarital sex - along with low condom use - are all key factors. The need to pay for health care now may deter people from getting early tests and treatment. Chinese society is still deeply conservative with little open discussion about sex at any level. That severely inhibits the exchange of information at all levels, from within families and sexual relationships to information campaigns in schools, universities and in the media. There may even be a biological reason too for the rapid rise. Chinese adults, who are sexually active now, had no exposure to syphilis for decades. Some scientists say that has left today's population with very little immunity to it.
NGI commissioned Zogby to ask US citizens whether or not they intended to move out of the US at some point in the future. Nearly 1% said yes, and 3% said they intended to buy a home outside the US. This compares well to the proportion of Americans holding a passport - about 10%.
UK pubs group JD Wetherspoon says non-smokers are returning to its bars after it introduced a ban in 61 of its premises outside of Scotland. The firm reported a 5.5% increase in like-for-like sales - which ignore sales at new outlets - in the 12 week period to 21 January. Wetherspoon plans to open 30 new pubs in 2007, creating 1,200 jobs. Chairman Tim Martin said: "The pubs that we have made non-smoking have actually seen sales increase." Smoking is already banned in Scottish pubs and is set to be prohibited in Wales and Northern Ireland from 2 April and in England from 1 July.
World spending on health, according to the World Bank and the U.N.'s World Health Organization, was 10.2 % of global GDP in 2003. This is the equivalent of about $ 3.7 trillion, or $500 per person which is more than the annual average income per person in some countries. (The figure counts all money spent by governments, providers, and individuals on "preventive and curative" health services, family planning activities, nutrition programs, and emergency medical aid.) America's health bill in 2003 was 15.2 % of GDP, far ahead of all competitors. So far ahead, in fact, that Americans accounted for nearly half of the world's health spending - $1.7 trillion of the total $3.7 trillion. Health bills for the rest of the world stretch out between 2 % and 11% of GDP. Japan's 82-year lifespan is the longest of any big country, but it spends only 7.9 percent of GDP on health, half the U.S. rate. Among developing countries, Cambodia, Lebanon, and Jordan spend the most, with health bills at 10.9 %, 10.3 %, and 9.4% of GDP respectively. Most rich countries have government insurance programs; the United States' approach, of course, has been to use government programs for military veterans, the elderly, and the poor and rely on employers for most of the population. Nonetheless, the American government spends as much on health as most of its rich-country peers. The average rich-country government spends 6.7% of GDP on health; America's 6.8% is very slightly higher. The national health systems of Canada and Britain cost about 6.9% of GDP, and that of Australia 6.4%. Germany's government spends the most on health care at 8.9% of GDP, followed by Norway, Sweden, France, and Denmark. Burma's government spends least, at 0.5% of GDP.
American readers in particular might be interested in a great initiative: "A Financial Literacy Life Raft for Generation of Youth Drowning in Debt" by the US Hip Hop Action Summit Network: 2007 National Tour on Financial Empowerment: "Get Your Money Right".
Executive pay is generally too much. We don't like to talk about it because the levels of many executive packages seem unethical, even if they are legal and agreed. This chart illustrates the situation
January was a productive start to the year as we took on some extra help and initiated a couple of infrastructure projects, planted 50 yew trees and plan for more, and recovered another submerged drainage system supplying the garden stream. This was in addition to the seasonal startup of the horticultural cycle of preparing beds, sowing some crops, clearing stores and so on. The winter group yoga lessons started too. On the desk we initiated some new media projects which I hope will find their way online as well as revising listed portfolios in light of accelerating change in market sentiment. We hope you are also enjoying a varied and interesting year too.
BallinTemple is very fortunate to find itself listed in Alistair Sawday's first edition of worldwide Green Places to Stay - one of only 3 places in the whole of Ireland. Many thanks to Emily Bunbury, who first sponsored us in ASP, and Ann Cooke-Yarborough who nominated us for a position in the green guide.
Happily PestalozziWorld has taken on an executive director who has great experience in Africa, where PestalozziWorld is growing fast, and will be able to share the burden of administration with trustees. PestalozziWorld educates underprivileged children in emerging economies. All donations go to children's support - administration is sponsored by trustees. (Please consider donating. Thank you.)
On a recent trip, when booking the travel we were asked if we wanted to rent a car. While we would not normally, the car offered was a Toyota Prius, so we decided to invest in some R&D. It was great. It took us 5 minutes and reading the manual (in French) to work out how to start it, but once done, it was a dream. Super quiet, comfortable, auto-everything, GPS etc and it hardly used any fuel. It is not a sports car, but for anything else (especially family or touring) you should definitely check it out.
By coincidence I saw K. Clarke series "Civilisation" (from 1970s) and read the new Suicide of the West which focussed attention on the role of "the west" in today's world. Civilisation is top class. Lord Clarke presents a compelling story of the emergence of civilisation seen through art and rightly puts ethics and integrity at the top of the list of values of civilisation. The series offers a overview of more than 1,000 years of recent development clearly showing the gradual reorganisation of society from dispersed pockets of excellence to a hierarchy of wealth that can develop massive structures to today in which something else is needed - perhaps coownership of all. Suicide of the West offers some valuable insights and information, but is undermined by a foundation on a weak premise - that the west has a distinctive makeup, tantamount to westerners being a different creature, which is plainly wrong since the west is made up of immigrants from all over the world. Some will buy the books self-serving logic, though it often seems to me to be false and unnecessary. The authors can make valuable observations without resorting to traditional perspectives which are plainly passée. There is no Suicide of the West of collapse of the west - however, there is the rise of Asia, Africa and South America. And within a generation there must be the fall of hierarchy and the rise of holonics.
Here to the right is a fun look back at 2006 from BusinessWeek ...
And Big Picture TV now has video of Takashi Kiuchi, one of Japan's most iconoclastic business executives. As Chairman and CEO of Mitsubishi Electric America he broke with corporate norms to champion a systems approach to business advocating a rapid transition to environmental sustainability and social responsibility. He is currently Chair of the Future 500, an international organization that provides tools and services to deliver improved corporate social responsibility.
Climateprediction.net is the largest experiment to try and produce a forecast of the climate in the 21st century. To do this, it needs people around the world to give time on their computers - time when they have their computers switched on, but are not using them to their full capacity. If you can help, go to the website.
Ecologist Online readers are encouraged to take photos of the changes in their local environment, and email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. The photos can be accompanied by a comment, and should supply both your details and the location and time of the photo. All photos and comments will be published under the 'Where has winter gone?' icon on their homepage, and a winner will be drawn when spring (or will it be summer?) arrives...
Also The Ecologist Online has launched a news service, bringing you daily updates on the most important environmental and health stories.
The Campaign for Fighting Diseases has excellent information resources on the main issues impeding the progress of disease control: Neglected diseases, Access to medicines, Intellectual property (IP), Malnutrition, Chronic Disease.
For economists and investors you can see a great video from Sam Zell with a song called Capital Keeps Falling on My Head to the tune of Raindrops Keeps Falling on My Head.
Ugly Betty hit TV screens recently and has already scooped 2 Golden Globe awards: Best Television Series and Best Performance by an Actress. The story is of a modest person trying to succeed in the world of fashion media. An ugly duckling type story set in modern context with some good lines and twists. The show's overtly perky and uplifting premise that Betty brings beauty to a beastly world is no longer considered wacky. Ugly Betty, in Hollywood circles, is being tagged as marking the start of an anti-Sex and the City trend. And it made waves at the Golden Globes where the un-liposuctioned, un-Botoxed actress America Ferrera got more attention on the red carpet than the entire picture-perfect cast of Grey's Anatomy. Ferrera patiently explained to the puzzled print-media in a packed press-room how: "It is very clear from the start that Betty is the hero. She's the one you're supposed to love and who is probably the most beautiful on the inside of everyone in the show." Its also a good story for children, who are otherwise brainwashed into stereotypes.
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