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HEALTH

New data shows that Canadians consume, on average C$220,000 in publicly funded health-care over a lifetime. Spending is fairly consistent across income groups, despite significant differences in the health status of rich and poor. People in the lowest income group have $237,000 in lifetime health costs compared with $206,000 for the highest income group. The wealthy live an average of five years longer than the poor. But the wealthy also tend to be healthier, so their lifetime cost to the health-care system tends to be less.

FUNGUS

The orange-coloured fungus called roya, or coffee-leaf rust, continues to wreak economic havoc in Latin America. The fungus is hurting production and is expected to cause crop losses of US$500-million and cost 374,000 jobs in Central America alone. Roya is making some of the world's most desired coffee beans scarcer and driving up their prices. Some varieties of Guatemalan coffees now cost about 70 cents more a pound. The fungus has swept through coffee fields from Mexico to Panama, where some of the world's rarest and most expensive beans are grown.

ACCIDENTS

Each year, 1.3-million people die in car accidents and 10 countries are responsible for nearly half these deaths. Over all, India is responsible for the highest number of road deaths, followed by China and the United States. Meanwhile Eritria is home to the highest concentration of road deaths (48.4 per 100,000 people) followed by the Cook Islands, Egypt and Libya. The World Health Organization estimates that road traffic deaths will be the fifth leading cause of death by 2030.

WINE

Researchers are predicting a two-thirds fall in production in the world's premier wine regions because of climate change. The study forecasts sharp declines in wine production from Bordeaux and Rhone regions in France, Tuscany in Italy, in the Napa Valley in California and Chile by 2050, as a warming climate makes it harder to grow grapes in traditional wine country. But is also anticipates a big push into areas once considered unsuitable. This could mean more grape varieties from Northern Europe, including Britain, the U.S. Northwest and the hills of central China. Wine grapes are one of the most sensitive crops to subtle shifts in temperatures, rain and sunshine.

REFUGE

Last year, 32.4-million people around the world were forced to flee their homes by disasters such as floods, storms and earthquakes. While Asia and west and central Africa bore the brunt, 1.3-million were displaced in rich countries, with the United States particularly affected. Ninety-eight per cent of all displacement was prompted by climate and weather-related events, with flood disasters in India and Nigeria accounting for 41 per cent of global displacement in 2012. In India, monsoon floods affected 6.9-million people and in Nigeria, 6.1-million.

CUBA

Five decades after Fidel Castro ordered golf courses to be closed in Cuba because he considered them to be elitist, the island's Communist government has approved the construction of a luxury golf resort, complete with an 18-hole golf course. The US$350-million resort is the start of a new policy to increase the presence of golf in Cuba according to the Ministry of Tourism. A second golf project with Chinese investment is expected to be approved by the end of the year. Other resorts will then be developed gradually across the island with Spanish, Vietnamese and Russian funding.

NIGERIA

Some 60 per cent of Nigeria's 167-million people are farmers and farming accounts for 41 per cent of the GDP of Nigeria according to the Central Bank. Nigeria's governments talk grandly about the potential of large scale agri-business but the country still awaits its green revolution. Nigeria should be able to feed itself but fails to do so. It spends about US$11-billion a year importing food and is the world's largest buyer of rice. Before the discovery of oil in the 1970s, Nigeria was the world's biggest exporter of peanuts and palm oil but since then farming has been neglected and less than half of Nigeria's arable land is used.

PAINT

Houses could be painted with a super-material that generates electricity from sunlight and can even change colour on request, according to new research. Manchester University scientists used wafers of grapheme with thin layers of other materials to produce solar-powered surfaces. The resulting surfaces, which are paper-thin and flexible are able to absorb sunlight to produce electricity at a level that would rival existing solar panels. These could be used to create a "coat" on the outside of buildings to generate power needed to run appliances inside while also carrying out other functions too, such as being able to change colour.

DEBT

Danes are the most indebted people in the world with personal debt that is equal to almost three times income. Denmark is the Scandinavian economy hardest hit by the global financial crisis. Households there saw their personal wealth drop by US$69,900 on average since the property market peaked in 2007 when house prices dropped by 20 per cent, wiping out more than 12 banks.

MARKETS

Between 2000 and 2010 Latino buying power in the U.S. has more than doubled. But wooing Latino consumers is easier said than done. And as they grow richer and more numerous, their tastes are changing too. One sign of the shift is language. When Latino advertising was born in the 1980s, a largely immigrant audience could safely be addressed in Spanish. Today, most Hispanics were born in the U.S. and only 23 per cent of the young ones prefer Spanish to English. 62 per cent reside in California, Florida, Texas or New York. Marketing to Latinos was once a niche affair, Now it can be at the heart of a campaign.

AIRPORTS

It is estimated that Canadians are cross-border shopping for cheaper air fares which cost the country's airline business an estimated 70 flights a day. A recent Senate committee report recommends giving the carriers a fee break that could help them fight back by ending rental charges for the use of the country's 26 busiest airports as a means of making Canadian airlines more competitive. It is estimated that the leakage of Canadian airline passengers to the U.S. in 2010 cost the GDP C$1.1-billion, 8,890 jobs and $190-million in tax revenues.

TRENDS

A Swedish start-up is selling a stamp-sized wearable camera called Momento that you can pin on your clothes which takes a photograph every thirty seconds ensuring that no experience, however mundane, will go undocumented. The device also has an app and cloud-storage, so your pictorial record of commuting, shopping or cooking can be searched and shared. Something must have appealed as when Momento tried to raise US$50,000 on a crowdfunding platform, it raked in more than $500,000. It will sell for $279 and will offer support services such as storage for a subscription fee.

SHORTAGES

First it was milk, then butter, coffee and cornmeal ran short, now Venezuela is running out of the most basic of necessities, toilet paper. The embattled government has had to import 50-million rolls recently as state-controlled prices have led to shortages of basic consumer goods. Economists say that Venezuela's shortages stem from price controls meant to make basic goods available to the poorest parts of society and the government controls on foreign currency.

LUMBER

Canada's lumber producers ought to be enjoying the fruits of a U.S. housing recovery but they cannot take advantage of it. The forestry companies say that a shortage of rail cars is causing them to lose sales and market share, just as American demand for their products returns after a long, severe slump. The problems the companies face include irate customers threatening to impose penalties for late delivery; empty ships sitting uselessly in port for lack of timber to move; and idled shipments that have to be stored under tents.

COAL

The coal mining industry in British Columbia contributes C$3.2-billion in value added GDP to the provincial economy. It also pays $715-million in total tax payments by the coal industry to all levels of government. There are 10 operating mines in BC which contribute 40 per cent to the national coal production. The industry contributes 21.8 per cent of B.C.'s total exports. 26,000 jobs in BC are attributable to the coal industry with estimated annual earnings of $95,174 for workers directly employed by coal companies.

DRUGSTORES

Canada's major drugstores say they can help save provinces up to C$11-billion over three years if pharmacists were to get the green light to treat minor illnesses, administer vaccines and manage chronic conditions. While provinces have moved to varying degrees in these areas, more can be done that would result in better health outcomes for patients and urgently needed government savings, the stores say.

POVERTY

The OECD reports that the gap between rich and poor widened more in the three years to 2010 than in the previous 12 years. It says the richest 10 per cent of society in the 33 OECD countries received 9.5 times that of the poorest in terms of income. Those with the biggest gap included the U.S., Turkey, Mexico and Chile. The OECD says that this gap will grow wider if governments do not stop cutting back on welfare programs which they have been doing to reduce debt and balance government books as tax revenues have fallen because of weak growth.

CROPS

British scientists have developed a new type of wheat which could increase productivity by 30 per cent. The group has combined an ancient ancestor of wheat with a modern variety to produce a new strain. In early trials the resulting crop seemed bigger and stronger than the current modern wheat varieties but it will take at least five years of tests and regulatory approval before it can be harvested by farmers. One in five of all the calories consumed around the world come from wheat.

TAXES

The U.S. Senate has passed a bill that would impose sales taxes on online retailers. The vote to enable States to collect the taxes now has to go to the House of Representatives where some Republicans oppose it as a new tax. States lost US$12-billion last year in sales on online purchases. The law would not apply to retailers with less than $1-million in online sales.

COMPUTERS

China has overtaken the U.S. as the world's biggest market for personal computers. Shipments to the country rose to 69-million units in 2012. The U.S. was the biggest market up until 2011. Last year, it had orders for 66-million units. China is also the world's biggest market with more than 500-million users. Laptops are the fastest growing sector in developed markets and have overtaken PCs, but in China, sales of desktops and laptops is evenly split.

TATTOOS

A New York real estate company is allegedly offering a 15-per cent raise to employees who get the company's logo tattooed on their bodies. A total of 40 employees have now been tattooed.

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