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DISASTERS

A joint report by the World Bank and the United Nations, forecasts that global losses from natural disasters could triple to US$185-billion per year by 2100. The report does not include the total impact of climate change and refers mainly to damage from earthquakes, cyclones and floods. The report suggests a shift from relief work to preventive measures and said that storms and earthquakes in densely populated cities could put 1.5-billion people at risk by 2050. The damage will triple due to rising populations in certain areas that are prone to natural disasters.

REMITTANCES

The World Bank estimates that officially recorded remittances to developing countries will have reached US$325-billion in 2010, a 6 per cent increase over the previous year. Although giant countries like India and China get the biggest amounts of money from workers abroad, remittances play an even more significant role in smaller nations where they can amount to a larger share of GDP. Lebanon for instance, gathered $7.6-billion in remittances, just over 15 per cent of the amount that India received which represented only 3.9 per cent of India's GDP, but over 20 per cent for Lebanon.

ENERGY

According to the International Energy Agency's latest forecasts, global demand for energy will increase by 36 per cent between 2008 and 2035. Emerging economies will account for almost all of this increase (93 per cent). In China, which overtook the U.S. to become the world's largest energy user, demand is projected to increase by 75 per cent in this period. Fossil fuels will still be the dominant source of energy in 2035. The demand for coal and oil in the mostly rich members of the OECD countries will fall between 2008 and 2035.

MAIL

The U.S. Postal Service more than doubled its losses in fiscal year 2010, despite cutting billions of dollars in expenses and trimming its staff. Losses totalled US$8.5-billion in the year ending September 2010. That compares to a loss of $3.8-billion the previous year. The Postal Service blamed the deeper losses on the recession and on the continuing growth of e-mail. The losses occurred despite cost savings of $9-billion over the past two years.

DEVELOPMENT

Vietnam has chosen Japan as a partner to mine rare earth minerals and develop nuclear power in the country. Japan announced plans to begin mining for rare earths used in the manufacture of products like laptops, cellphones and hybrid cars in a bid to reduce its dependence on China. Also, Vietnam has plans to build eight nuclear plants by 2030 to meet rising energy demand. Currently, hydropower contributes more than a third of the country's energy. Russia is also negotiating with Hanoi to build nuclear power plants in Vietnam.

FREEBIES

Fewer doctors in the U.S. are accepting drug samples, gifts, meals and all-expense paid trips from drug companies. This comes amid mounting concerns over the potential for conflicts of interest in medical practice. Still, arrangements between physicians and the pharmaceutical industry continue to be common; 84 per cent of physicians reported some sort of tie with drug companies in 2009, compared with 94 per cent in 2004. Also, fewer doctors report speaking on behalf of drug companies, consulting for pharmaceutical companies and participating in drug company advisory boards.

TRADE

Should the free trade deal between Canada and India go ahead, it could boost the economies of both countries by C$6-billion a year. Bilateral merchandise trade with India totalled $4.2-billion in 2009, an increase of over 70 per cent from 2004. In 2009, Canada's main exports were vegetables, fertilizers, machinery and wood pulp. Imports for 2009 were valued at $2-billion and consisted principally of organic chemicals, knit and woven apparel, precious stones and metals and electronic equipment and machinery. For Canada, the prize is the huge potential market for services. Canadian banks, insurers and engineering firms have long sought better access to the Indian market.

SHOES

The Mexican shoe industry is urging the government to shut the market to Chinese shoes, following the lead of Argentina, Brazil and Ecuador. Mexican shoe imports rose by 70 per cent in 2010 triggering huge sales losses and jobs in the industry. China is estimated to be supplying 50 per cent of the world's shoes currently and it, plus India, have eclipsed Italy, Spain and France to seize three-quarters of the global market.

RESEARCH

China plans to spend US$4.5-billion over the next five years on mineral exploration to reduce its escalating reliance on imports. Explorations will be launched in 21 provinces. China has become a major importer of ores and metals from around the world to feed its robust economic growth. Domestic excavation should help reduce imports of copper ore, iron ore and sylvite to less than 75%, 50% and 60% respectively of the total amounts consumed in China. More than 500 locations have been found during the past 12 years that contain mineral deposits.

MORTGAGES

The Canadian residential mortgage market crossed the C$1-trillion threshold in 2010 for the first time as higher prices forced many to borrow heavily to finance their new homes and low interest rates encouraged many more to refinance. At the end of August 2010, there were $1,008,000,000 in mortgages outstanding, a gain of 7.6 per cent in one year. Over the past 15 years, the volume of outstanding mortgages has increased by 194 per cent. The average house price at year end was $331,000. 18 per cent of mortgage holders took equity out of their homes, almost half of them needing debt consolidation.

DEVELOPMENT

Since 1980 Nepal has made the greatest strides in improving human development according to the UN's annual Human Development Index (HDI). The index consists of three sub-indices covering wealth, health and education. The countries whose HDI has improved the most since 1980 are mainly in Asia and Africa. China and India have been helped by rapid GDP growth but even slower-growing countries like Nepal and Bangladesh have fostered development by making progress in health and education.

DURABILITY

Called the JCB Tradesman, the world's first waterproof floating cellphone was introduced recently in the UK. The manufacturer claims it remains fully functional after being submerged in water. It continues to operate after being dragged behind a vehicle at 120mph, buried in two tonnes of rubble and then left underwater for six hours.

FAVOURABLE

After surveying 183 countries, the World Bank has concluded that Singapore is the best country in which to run a business. The report examines nine criteria such as how easy it is to start a business or get credit, as well as paying taxes, registering property, dealing with construction permits, enforcing contracts and protecting investors. Hong Kong came in second followed by New Zealand third and the U.S. behind the UK in fifth. Canada came seventh. Chad was the worst country for the second year running.

CONFIDENCE

A recent American Express survey shows that 70 per cent of Americans trust non-profit outfits more than government or business to address some of the most pressing issues of our time. Meanwhile a Merrill Lynch survey of rich people found that over 94 per cent trusted non-profit organizations while business won a 68 per cent rating and government 32 per cent.

OIL

A newly-tapped oil field 183km off the coast of Brazil could contain up to 15-billion barrels of oil. That matches the size of the giant Tupi oilfield, whose discovery in 2007 drew attention to Brazil's potential as a major oil producer. If the 15-billion barrel figure is confirmed it would double Brazil's known oil reserves and make the country one of the world's top 10 oil producers.

SPEED

China has claimed the top spot on the list of the world's supercomputers. The title has gone to China's Tianhe-1A supercomputer that is capable of carrying out more than 2.5-thousand trillion calculations a second. To reach such high speeds, the machine draws on more than 7,000 graphics processors and 14,000 Intel chips.The machine houses its processors in more than 100 fridge-sized cabinets and together these weigh more than 155 tonnes.

HONEY

Production of honey in the UK is booming again due to an increased number of amateur beekeepers. England's bees have been vanishing faster than anywhere else in Europe, with more than half the hives dying out over the past 20 years due to diseases, loss of habitat and a mysterious condition known as colony collapse disorder. But in the past three years, membership in the British Beekeeper's Association has doubled to just under 20,000 and there are now more than 80,000 hives in Britain compared to 40,000 in 2007. On average, each hive produces 32 pounds of honey worth US$250 to the beekeeper.

RESERVES

The U.S. holds the world's largest gold reserves: 8,133.5 tonnes worth US$387-billion. Germany is second with 3,402.5 tonnes worth $162-billion. Third is the International Monetary Fund with 2,907 tonnes worth $138-billion. Canada has gold reserves of 3.4 tonnes worth $162-million.

COMPENSATION

Two-thirds of workers surveyed around the world say they would be willing to take a 10 per cent lower salary at their next job in return for being able to telecommute and use wireless gear to do their jobs. 60 per cent said they don't think it is necessary to be in an office to be productive. The sentiment was most prevalent in China, Brazil and India, countries where workers tend to be younger than in Canada, the U.S. and Japan.

NUTS

China has developed an appetite for nuts. Along with demand for minerals and energy, consumers are craving walnuts, almonds and pecans. Wholesale prices for North American growers soared as much as 40 per cent last year. China bought about 100-million pounds of pecans in 2009, a quarter of the total crop in the U.S. and Mexico. California is one of the world's largest exporter of walnuts and grew 510,000 tons last year, an increase of 17 per cent and last year the state exported 1.39-billion pounds of almonds.

INDONESIA

With a population of 237 million, the GDP of Indonesia is US$617-billion. Its 2009 exports were $116.5-billion including crude oil, natural gas, crude palm oil, coal, appliances textiles and rubber while imports were worth $97-billion including refined oil and fuel, food, chemicals, capital goods, consumer goods, iron and steel. Canadian exports were worth $972-million, up 40 per cent from 2005 levels.

TRENDS

Soon, many American grocery stores will be carrying fill-your-own-wine machines. The machines carry between 500 and 1,000 litres each, all you supply is the container. By reducing the amount of packaging needs to contain and transport wine, there are substantial savings to pass on to consumers.

WATER

A fountain in Paris now dispenses chilled sparkling water to reduce the usage of bottles that need recycling.

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