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METHANE
Scientists say that the release of large amounts of methane from thawing permafrost in the Arctic could have huge economic impacts for the world. Researchers estimate that the climate effects of the release of this gas could cost US$60-trillion, roughly the size of the global economy in 2012. The impacts are most likely to be felt in developing countries and would include flooding, sea level rise and damage to agriculture and human health. However, it is also estimated that 30 per cent of the world's undiscovered gas and 13 per cent of undiscovered oil lie in Arctic waters.
 
METRO
The Saudi government has announced it will spend US$22-billion on a metro system for the capital Riyadh. The project is said to be the largest public transport initiative in the world. It will have six lines with over 180km of track and will help to boost the economy. Construction will begin next year, with trains running by 2019. Saudi has a lot of spare cash and needs to spend it. 
 
ROYALTIES
China has not paid Hollywood its share of the profits from some of this year's big box office films because of a dispute over a new two per cent tax on foreign films. China's box office revenues increased by 36 per cent to US$2.7-billion in 2012, making it the second-biggest movie market in the world, underscoring its importance as a key market for Hollywood's moviemakers. 
 
NUTRITION
Driven by 77-million consumers of sports drinks and 28-million consumers of nutrition bars in the US, the sports nutrition market has experienced significant growth in recent years. Women dominate the market for nutrition bars, as only 45 per cent of those eating at least one bar in the last 30 days are men, while 55 per cent are women. In contrast, men account for 64 per cent of high-volume users of sports drinks.
 
CONCRETE
One of the biggest drawbacks of concrete is that it is not as weatherproof as the stone it often substitutes for. Salt and ice routinely turn microscopic fractures in its fabric into gaping holes which let in water. Scientists have now shown that it is possible to mix special bacteria, which releases crack-sealing chemicals into concrete before it is poured, in effect creating self-healing concrete. Another approach is using a protective waterproof polymer that sticks readily to the concrete and forms a seal.
 
ICE CREAM
Despite the vast array of ice cream flavour varieties available in the US, it turns out that vanilla has staked its claim as the most popular among consumers, followed by chocolate and butter pecan in second and third place with Neapolitan and Rocky Road tied for fourth. However, there is an increasing trend towards frozen yogurt.
 
GLUTEN
The US Food and Drug Administration has now set a standard for gluten-free claims on food labels, a step that will help the three million Americans with celiac disease and bring uniformity to the US$4-billion market for gluten-free products. Gluten is a composite of starch and proteins found in certain grassy grains like wheat, barley and rye which, when eaten by people,  can trigger the production of antibodies that damage the lining of the small intestine.
 
TUNNELLING
The world's largest tunnelling machine has started drilling under the city of Seattle. The machine is 326 feet long, weighs 7,000 tons and will leave a tunnel nearly 58 feet in diameter. It will take about 14 months to complete the two-mile tunnel which will drill beneath 200 downtown Seattle buildings. The machine was built in Japan, arrived in 41 pieces and is worth US$80-million.
 
RESEARCH
Spending on research and development (R&D) in Canada's higher education sector increased over the past year to C$11.6-billion. This sector comprises universities and affiliated research hospitals, experimental stations and clinics. Provincially, R&D spending by higher education institutions increased in every province except Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan. Ontario and Quebec continue to report about two-thirds of R&D spending. 
 
HOUSING
America's housing market is in recovery but home-ownership rates, at 65.1 per cent, are at their lowest since 1995. In the second quarter of this year America's total inventory was 132.8-million units of which over 30 per cent are now renter-occupied. The rental vacancy rate has fallen from 11.1 per cent in 2009 to 8.2 per cent now. This has pushed rents up which could make home-ownership more attractive. 
 
FERRARI
Britain has now overtaken Germany to become Ferrari's biggest market in Europe. The manufacturer delivered 415 cars in the first half of the year, a rise of six per cent, overtaking Germany where 388 cars were sold in the same period. A total of 3,767 vehicles were delivered to dealerships in this period, a rise of 2.8 per cent. Sales in US and Canada were 1,048, a growth of 9 per cent.  
 
BREWING
Non-alcoholic beer is growing in popularity around the world. Last year, 2.2-billion litres was downed, 80 per cent more than five years ago. In the rich world it is mainly consumed by a health-conscious minority, but in the Middle East it now accounts for almost a third of worldwide sales. In 2012, Iranians drank nearly four times as much as in 2007 and consumers in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have a growing taste for it.
 
FRUIT
Georgia is famous as a major producer of the peach whose image appears on state license plates. But now the state actually makes more money from the sale of blueberries. The value of blueberry production in Georgia beat the peach crop in 2005 and the gap has grown bigger since then. Blueberries generated an estimated US$94-million for Georgia growers in 2012 making it more than three times as  valuable as the $30-million peach crop.
 
TRASH
Sweden has run out of trash. The country of more than 9.5-million is so big on recycling that only four per cent of all waste generated in the country goes to landfill, an amazing figure when compared to the US where half the garbage goes into landfill. However, this creates a dilemma as the country relies on waste to heat and provide electricity to a quarter of a million homes. Sweden is now importing trash from neighbouring countries including Norway and has considered importing it from the US. 
 
BUILDINGS
Competition to build the country's skyline higher is continuing even as China's economy has slowed and the government reins in credit. The Shanghai Tower will be China's tallest building when completed in 2015 at 632-meters. China completed 22 buildings higher than 200 metres last year, accounting for 33 per cent of the global number, more than any other country. However, the 660-meter Ping An Finance Centre will become China's tallest building when completed in 2016. The tallest building currently is the 492-meter Shanghai Financial Centre.
 
DINNERS
Surveys indicate that the restaurant supper occasion (as they are called in the trade) lost over 650-million consumer visits since 2006 but will gain 795-million visits over the next decade. Restaurant supper visits have steadily declined since 2006, while supper meals eaten in-home have increased. Per capita annual supper meals eaten in-home increased from 235 in 2006 to 250 in 2012. Conversely, per capita supper meals eaten away from home fell from 67 in 2006 to 61 in 2012. 
 
FREIGHT
Europeans have long pitied Americans for the quality of their passenger trains, but when it comes to moving goods, the US has a well-kept freight network that is the most cost effective in the world. In 2011, the seven largest freight railways had revenues of US$67-billion (up from $47.8-billion in 2009). Net income was $11-billion. By 2035 the demand for rail freight is expected to double with new business coming from moving consumer goods. Truckers are battling high fuel and labour costs, shortages of drivers and congestion. 
 
TRENDS
Falling TVs sent nearly 200,000 US children to the emergency room over 20 years and the injury rate has climbed substantially for these sometimes deadly accidents. Safety experts say better awareness is needed about the dangers, especially the risks of putting heavier, older model TVs on top of dressers and other furniture young children may try to climb on. Most injuries are in children under 5; head and neck injuries, including concussions are the most common.
 
POLLUTION
Air pollution in Los Angeles has declined due to California's strict vehicle emission controls according to scientists. Despite a three-fold increase in the number of vehicles on southern California roads since 1960, pollution there has declined. In addition, ozone levels have improved though ozone pollution in Los Angeles remains the worst of any American city.
 
HAY
In some parts of the US, bales of hay have become the focus of a crime spree. Long periods of severe drought and grass fires across much of the western US have forced the price of hay and other livestock feeds to record highs. Some US auctions have reported 800lb-hay bales, enough to feed the average cow for about 20 days, fetching close to US$350 each. Many thieves are stealing one bale at a time hoping farmers won't notice but the more brazen are stealing truckloads.
 
RACE
Britain is on course to become one of the most diverse countries in the world. Within half a century half the people in the UK will be foreign or from an ethnic minority. This would mean the UK could overtake the US as the world's melting pot with fewer people describing themselves as British or white. One in three babies in England now has a parent who was born abroad. By 2050, non-whites and foreigners could account for 38 per cent of people in the UK. 
 
SNAILS
South Florida is battling a growing infestation of the giant African land snail. The snail is considered one of the most destructive invasive species, feeding voraciously on more than 500 plant species. They can also eat through plaster walls which provides the calcium content they need for their shells. More than 1,000 are being caught each week in Dade County and 117,000 in total since the first one was spotted in 2011.
 
LOBSTER
In the early days, residents in the Massachusetts Bay Colony found them to be so abundant that they washed up on the beach in two-foot-high piles and people thought of them as trash food, fit only for the poor or to be served to servants or prisoners. Lobster shells around a house were considered to be a sign of poverty and degradation. In the 19th century consumers could buy Boston baked beans for 53 cents a pound, canned lobster sold for 11 cents a pound and it was fed to cats.
 
RECORDS
A retired pig consultant in the UK has logged every mind-numbing detail in the world's biggest personal diary. It spans 66 years, contains four million words on 21,000 pages in 51 volumes and includes 33,000 photos and weighs half a ton.
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