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WEALTH

A recent survey estimates that the net wealth of Asian millionaires has eclipsed that of rich Europeans for the first time, largely because of the relative health of stock markets in Hong Kong, India and China last year. At the end of last year there were 3-million millionaires in both the Asia-Pacific and Europe. The wealth was quantified as US$9,700-billion in Asia against $9,500-billion in Europe. Millionaires in this survey were defined as people with net financial wealth of more than one million, excluding their primary residence. North Americans are still the best-off with 3.1-million millionaires worth $10,700-billion.

CATTLE

Only 94 of Britain's roughly 13,500 dairy farms currently raise more than 500 cows. Next year, it is planned to open the first mega-dairy based on the American Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO). The farm will be home to about 8,100 cows producing about a quarter million litres of milk each day. A concern is that CAFOs dump more waste than the land can cope with. Also, a Johns Hopkins University study on Industrial Farm Animal Production found evidence that those living near such farms suffered from asthma and other respiratory complaints.

TRANSPORTATION

Because of the U.S. government's failure to restore a program allowing Mexican trucks to operate north of the border, Mexican authorities have threatened to impose import tariffs on selected U.S. products. The products are to include pork and oranges as well as grapefruit, pistachios, chewing gum, cheese and ketchup. Mexico is waiting for the U.S. to propose a resolution to the standoff, which started when the U.S. Congress ended a pilot program allowing Mexican trucks to deliver goods in the U.S.

SHEEP

New Zealand's sheep farmers are flocking to a government carbon trading program that pays more to plant trees than sell wool and mutton. The system, the only one of its kind outside Europe, awards farmers credits that are sold to offset greenhouse emissions. The project can earn them about US$172 per acre on land unprofitable for grazing animals. Sheep have been in decline for decades in New Zealand falling from a high of about 70-million in 1982 to about 40-million currently. Since 1990, 28 per cent of land used for grazing sheep and beef has switched use.

TECHNOLOGY

It looks like an iPad, but it is only 1/14th the cost. India has unveiled the prototype of a US$35 basic touch screen tablet aimed at students which it hopes to bring into production by 2011. If the government can find a manufacturer, this will be the latest in a string of "world's cheapest" innovations from India, including the $2,127 Nano car, the $16 water purifier and the $2,000 open-heart surgery. The tablet, which has a solar power option, can be used for word processing, web browsing and video-conferencing.

TRENDS

Doctors at three health centres in Massachusetts have begun advising patients to eat "prescription produce" from local farmers markets in an effort to fight obesity in children of low-income families. Now they will give coupons amounting to $1.00 a day for each member of a patient's family to promote healthy meals. The goal is to get them to increase their consumption of fruit and vegetables by one serving a day.

ECONOMIES

China is getting closer to surpassing Japan as the world's second-largest economy, an unprecedented position for a still-developing country. In 2009, the world's largest economy was the U.S. with a GDP of $14.26-trillion. This was followed by Japan at $5.07-trillion and China at $4.91-trillion. Next were Germany, $3.35-trillion, France with $2.68-trillion and Britain with $2.18-trillion. Canada's GDP was $1.34-trillion.

VEHICLES

Today, a growing number of U.S. men are registered owners of cars (59 per cent up from 51 per cent four years earlier), while there are fewer female owners (41 per cent down from 49 per cent). Marketers often assume that women drive 80 per cent of auto purchasing decisions when, in fact, they are involved in only 65 per cent of them on average. Canadian Tire Corp is rushing to bolster business by returning to its roots as a man's store. It is more prominently displaying its auto-related departments after years of adding more picture frames, candles and other home decor products to lure women.

CAMERAS

The world's first 3D camera and printing service has been launched without the need for special glasses. Fujifilm's camera takes two photos simultaneously from its two lenses which are fixed a similar distance apart to human eyes. Using "lenticular" technology, the separate left and right eye images are interlaced on a furrowed surface to create the stereoscopic illusion. The new camera also incorporates a high definition 3D video camera, allowing users to watch their home movies back on any 3D TV.

SIZE

According to the latest World Investment Report, General Electric holds foreign assets worth US$401-billion, more than any non-financial firm. The American conglomerate has half of its assets abroad. For Vodaphone, a UK telecoms company and ArcelorMittal, a Luxembourg-based steel maker, the share of foreign assets is more than 90 per cent. Six of the ten biggest transnational corporations by foreign assets are from the oil or power industries. Exxon Mobil has the largest foreign sales of $322-billion. Toyota, the world's biggest car maker was the only Asian firm among the top 12.

GLASS

An ultra-strong glass that has been looking for a purpose since its invention in 1962 is poised to become a multibillion-dollar bonanza for Corning Inc. The company is ramping up production of what it calls Gorilla glass, expected to be the hot new face of touch-screen tablets and high-end TVs. Gorilla is very hard to break, dent or scratch and is two to three times stronger than chemically strengthened versions of ordinary soda-lime glass. Gorilla can also be thinner than a dime, saving on weight and shipping costs.

PURCHASING

According to recent U.S. government data, Americans are spending more on electronics like iPads and flat-screen televisions and less on durable goods like furniture, washing machines and lawn mowers. The shift reflects a change in priorities for American consumers. After pouring money into all aspects of their homes during the previous decade, consumers are redirecting their purchases to eye-grabbing technology and putting more of what is left over into savings.

GIVING

Nearly 40 ultra-wealthy individuals and families have pledged to give away half or more of their fortunes to charity. This in answer to a challenge issued by famed investor Warren Buffet and Microsoft founder Bill Gates earlier in the year. The first group of people to commit to the initiative includes technology titans and media moguls, financiers and tycoons, new money and old. If all of the 400-odd billionaires in the U.S. made the same vow, more than US$600-billion would be directed to good works.

RICE

Global warming is cutting rice yields in many parts of Asia. Yields have fallen by 10 to 20 per cent over the last 25 years in some locations. A group of mainly U.S.-based scientists studied records from 227 farms in six important rice-producing countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, India and China. This is the latest in a line of studies to suggest that climate change will make it harder to feed the world's growing population by cutting yields.

ALLERGIES

Food allergies and sensitivities are a serious and growing problem in developed countries. Experts estimate that as many as 60-million people in the U.S. are affected, either with a personal condition or through a family member and that number is increasing every year. A recent survey showed that allergies and sensitivities often affect more than one person in a household, with 45 per cent of respondents having two or more allergy sufferers in a single household, while 20 per cent have three or more sufferers.

EXPORTS

Last year, iron ore and coal alone accounted for nearly C$1.6-billion in Canadian exports to China. This represented $1-billion more than in 2008. Industry Canada statistics suggest considerable growth in 15 of Canada's top 25 export industries to China, with the largest increases in oilseed, iron ore and coal. Those three exports alone rose to nearly $3-billion in 2009 over the previous year's total of $1.3-billion. When compared with stats for Canada's exports to the U.S. the numbers show that only one of the top 25 Canadian exports to the U.S. increased in that same period and that was pharmaceutical.

FOOD

Imports of organic food products into the European Union are likely to increase sharply as demand outstrips domestic supply. Retail spending on organic foods averaged a total of US$18.69-billion in 2006 and 2007. More than 80 per cent of total retail spending was concentrated in four EU countries: Germany, Britain, France and Italy. In terms of production, organic farming accounted for 4.3 per cent of the EU's total agricultural area in 2008 at 7.7-million hectares.

PIRACY

The number of pirate attacks dropped during the first half of the year, thanks to the actions of the world's navies and vessel operators. According to the International Maritime Bureau, there were 196 pirate incidents during the first six months of 2010, compared with 240 incidents in 2009. They included 31 vessel highjackings, 48 ships being fired on and 70 boarded, with one crew member killed and 597 taken hostage. The coast of Somalia is the worst-hit area, with 100 pirate attacks.

UNDERDOGS

Apple, certainly no longer an underdog with US$222-billion in market capitalization, routinely depicts itself as the embattled and cooler No. 2 to Microsoft, though it is in fact now No. 1.

ART

A year and a half after art prices plunged, the world's chief auction houses have recovered much of their momentum. In the U.S., Christie's art sales rebounded 110 per cent to $999.6 compared to last year. Christie's International sold US$2.57-billion of fine and decorative art in the first half of the year, up 43 per cent from a year earlier. Rival Sotheby's auctioned $2.2-billion in the first half, more than double a year ago. Long-time collectors in the U.S. and Europe are still seeking potential bargains but are facing tougher competition from new Asian bidders.

RIVERS

Massive underwater rivers that flow along the bottom of oceans have been discovered. Researchers working in the Black Sea have found currents of water 350 times greater than the River Thames flowing along the sea bed, carving out channels much like a river on land. The undersea river, which is up to 115 feet deep in places, even has rapids and waterfalls, much like its terrestrial equivalents. If found on land, scientists estimate it would be the world's sixth largest river in terms of the amount of water flowing through it.

PRODUCTION

Performing Shakespeare to cows helps them produce more milk. An English theatre group has discovered that renditions of the Bard's prose were found to "relax" dairy herds and boosted production by four per cent. The actors selected scenes from the Merry Wives of Windsor for their audience of Friesians.

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