­

ENERGY

Europe must triple its efficiency measures if it wants to slash energy consumption 20 per cent over the next decade, according to a recent study. Europe could save US$104-billion a year by 2020 if it uses energy more efficiently, a savings of about $450 per household. The 27-nation European Union is lagging behind that efficiency goal. The EU has adopted a 20-20-20 program to cut 20 per cent of its greenhouse gas emissions and to get 20 per cent of its energy from renewable resources by 2020.

FUEL

Scientists in Scotland have unveiled a new biofuel made from whisky byproducts that they say can power ordinary cars more efficiently than ethanol. The team spent two years creating the biofuel butanol that can be used in gas tanks either as a stand-alone fuel or blended with gasoline or diesel. It is derived from distillation byproducts pot ale (liquid from copper stills) and draff (the spent grains), all of which are excess materials from producing whisky. Global exports of Scotch rose to a record US$4.85-billion last year and accounted for about a quarter of all food and drink exports from the U.K.

JAPAN

The government in Japan says suicides and depression cost its economy almost US$32-billion last year. The figure refers to lost incomes and the cost of treatment. It is the first time Japan has released such figures. Japan has one of the world's highest suicide rates, with more than 32,000 people killing themselves last year and the number of suicides exceeding 30,000 for 12 straight years.

BRANDS

The latest annual ranking of brands has Coca-Cola top with a value of US$70.5-billion. This was followed by IBM at $64.7-billion, Microsoft, $60.9-billion, Google, $43.6-billion and GE, $42.8-billion. Apple increased its brand value this year by 37 per cent, Google by 36 per cent and BlackBerry, 32 per cent. The biggest losers were Harley-Davidson whose brand dropped 24 per cent, BP which lost 17 per cent and Toyota which was down 16 per cent in brand value.

RIPOFFS

Some 90 tonnes of counterfeit goods illicitly bearing such designer names as Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Chanel and Gucci were destroyed recently in Thailand to show Thailand's commitment to observing intellectual property rights. Destroyed were more than 600,000 fake and pirated items valued at US$75.6-million. Fake goods, many from China, are openly for sale throughout Thailand but the government wants to see the U.S. remove Thailand from its Priority Watch List of countries with serious violations of intellectual property rights.

LOCKUPS

Prison tourism is on the rise with people now paying to get into jail. Defunct prisons all over the world have found a second life by operating as tourist attractions, museums and even hostels offering everything from spooky evening tours by candlelight to the chance to stay overnight in a cell, and of course a gift shop.

CHARGING

Cell phone users will be able to charge their devices wirelessly for the first time in 2012. Fujitsu, the Japanese technology company, has created a system capable of simultaneously charging multiple portable electronic devices such as cell phones, digital cameras and laptop computers without the need for cable connections. According to Fujitsu, electric car users may also eventually be able to charge their vehicle wirelessly using the same technology. The technology works on the basis of the transmission of electricity using magnetic fields between the charge and the device and will work at distances up to several metres.

YOGA

More than 30-million Americans practise some sort of yoga in an ever-expanding industry which generates an estimated US$46-billion annually. In India, birthplace of yoga, a government agency is fighting what it calls "yoga theft" after several U.S. companies said they wanted to copyright or patent their versions of yoga.

FUNERALS

When the new Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) was recently introduced in Ontario and British Columbia, people rushed to prepay their funerals. On a C$10,000 funeral, the new HST adds about $800 in Ontario and $700 in B.C. Many funeral homes launched marketing campaigns earlier this year to let potential customers know about the savings. There was roughly a 40 per cent jump in prepaid funerals in the months before the new tax came into effect.

EDUCATION

Tertiary education pays off for both the individual and the wider community. In countries where most of the workforce has an upper secondary education (ie most industrialised countries), a college or university qualification gives recipients extra earning power and generates tax revenues for the country in which they work. On average across those rich countries that are members of the ACCEDE, the total return for male graduates is greater than US$230,000, more than half of which accrues to the individual.

FILTERING

A group of South African researchers has developed a filter that can purify water straight from the bottle. It sits inside a tube that can be fitted on top of a bottle and purifies water as it is poured into a cup. The filter is no bigger than an ordinary tea bag. The filter will not only stop harmful bacteria from getting into the water, it will also kill them. There are millions of people, many in Sub-Saharan Africa who still do not have access to safe drinking water. A commercial market also exists for those who go camping and hiking.

VALUE

What may be the oldest share certificate has been found north of Amsterdam. A university researcher found the receipt for a founder share in the Dutch East India Company dated September 9, 1606. Auctioneers estimate that the share, the fourth of its kind to emerge, may be worth as much as US$788,000. The Dutch East India Company sent ships from the Low Countries to the East Indies and was founded in 1602. It raised money from anyone prepared to participate and initially paid dividends in spices and pepper.

ACCIDENTS

The number of workers who died on the job in the U.S. fell by 17 per cent last year to the lowest level in nearly two decades as workers logged fewer hours during the recession. The 4,340 workplace fatalities recorded in 2009 was the smallest total since the Bureau of Labor began tracking the data in 1992. There was a 10 per cent drop in 2008 because of unemployment and layoffs in the more dangerous industries, like construction.

SHRIMP

An invasive species of predatory shrimp has been found for the first time in the U.K. The shrimp preys on a range of native species, such as fresh water invertebrates, particularly native shrimp, and even young fish. This alters the ecology of habitats and could cause extinctions. The shrimp often kills its prey and leaves it uneaten. The shrimp is native to the steppe region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea and it is believed to have invaded Western Europe via the Danube.

THE PRESS

France's newspapers are kept in a state of "permanent artificial respiration" by the annual billion euros in state aid they get and badly need to shake themselves up to survive, according to a recent report. The government commissioned report, laments that the massive subsidies have failed to create the emergence or the presence of political and general press titles that were strong and not dependent on public aid. The aid even had the effect of discouraging newspapers from trying to find sustainable financial strategies.

WHEAT

French soft-wheat shipments outside the European Union will rise to a record this season as buyers including Egypt rely on the country to make up for Russia's export ban on grains. Shipments outside the EU are expected to jump 12 per cent to 11-million tonnes from 9.8-million tonnes a year earlier. France can offer lower-priced wheat than the U.S., making it the default supplier to Africa and the Middle East in Russia's absence.

WOMEN

Women in Canada earn less than two-thirds of what men do, a ratio that has scarcely moved in more than a decade. Canadian women do better than their male counterparts in high school, college and university, but fall starkly behind on the bottom line, their paycheques. And the disparity looks even worse when compared with other developed countries. College and university-educated women in the OECD countries earn about 71 per cent of what men do. However, Statistics Canada reports that more than twice as many women as men worked part-time jobs in Canada which would account for much of the lag in pay equity.

EXPORTS

China's draconian export curbs on rare earth minerals needed by the rest of the world for frontier technologies is escalating into a serious diplomatic and trade clash with the U.S. and other leading powers. There have been angry complaints by companies outside China that rely on this family of 17 minerals for hybrid cars, mobile phones, superconductors, navigation and a host of high-tech industries. Beijing set off shockwaves in early July when it announced a 72 per cent reduction in rare earth exports.

GROWTH

India will overtake China as the world's fastest-growing economy as early as 2013 as it adds six times more workers to its labour pool than its northern neighbour. This will occur as China's age dependency ratio, or the proportion of children and elderly to the size of the working-age population declines. China's age-dependency ratio may reach 45.8 per cent by 2025 from 39.1 per cent in 2010. India's will drop to 47 per cent from 55 per cent.

PAIN

An IBM study of traffic in 20 major cities found Beijing has the highest rate of "commuter pain" followed by Mexico City and Johannesburg. Toronto had the eighth lowest rate, and Montreal the fourth lowest. Stockholm has the least painful commute.

APPS

A regional independent grocer in the U.S. is piloting a new iPhone App developed to help shoppers locate products in the store, find sale items and even view the exact location of their car in the parking lot. The application will allow shoppers to key in the exact product they desire and within seconds the location of the item will be represented by a pin placed precisely on a map of the interior of the store. Shoppers can also view a list of services available in the store and find their location.

TRADE

A new report says Canada has dragged its heels in developing trade with Southeast Asian nations. The region, commonly known as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Individually these nations have little economic clout but together they represent a market of 600-million people with a GDP of US$1.5-trillion and 2008 trade of nearly $1.9-trillion. If this were one country, it would be the world's 10th largest economy.

LOST

Men waste thousands of dollars of fuel because they refuse to ask for directions when lost. A British insurance company found male drivers travel 444 unnecessary kilometres each year because they reject help when lost.

Log in to comment
­