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OIL

As oil prices have soared, thieves are among those seeking new sources of crude oil. A sharp rise in thefts at oil fields is driving oil companies and law enforcement to beef up security at wells that are being targeted more frequently as a source of easy money. Thieves are tapping into pipelines, paying off drivers and sometimes simply driving up to wells in tanker trucks and pumping the oil out of storage containers. Investigators who specialize in oil field crimes have seen their caseloads increase fivefold in the past two years.

LUNCH

According to a recent poll of 5,000 workers, eight out of 10 British workers take less than 30 minutes for lunch each day, and 44 per cent eat at their desks, even though 71 per cent say their company has an area set aside for a meal break. 41 per cent say they feel guilty if they take a full hour.

SATISFACTION

Airline passengers are among some of the most dissatisfied customers in the U.S. The annual report of the University of Michigan shows that the industry scored 63 out of a possible 100 in 2007. The study represents the views of 80,000 consumers who were asked about goods and services they have purchased. Only the cable and satellite TV industry scored lower with 62. Even the Internal Revenue Service scored higher. Disenchanted employees, increasing fuel costs, bankruptcy and record levels of lost, delayed and damaged luggage are the most common complaints.

NUMBERS

China's one-child policy created a generation of only children that number 90 million. 119 baby boys are born for every 100 girls and the number of unmarried young men-called bare branches-is predicted to be 30 million by 2020. Three in ten Chinese families have grandparents living in the same household. Urban Chinese earn more than three times as much as those in rural areas. One in four residents in Beijing is a migrant from the country and public protests rose by 50 per cent in 2006. Cell phones in China have grown from 87 million in 2000 to 432 million today.

PUMPS

Small service stations in the US ran into problems as the price of gasoline marched towards $4 a gallon. Thousands of old-fashioned pumps can't register more than $3.99 on their spinning mechanical dials. The pumps, throwbacks to bygone era, are difficult and expensive to upgrade and replacing them is often out of the question for station owners. Many of the same pumps can only count up to $99.99 for the total sale, preventing owners of some trucks, SUVs and vans filling their tanks all the way. As many as 8,500 of the nations 170,000 service stations have the old pumps.

THE OFFICE

An Agricultural University of Norway study suggests that potted plants in the office can improve the health of workers and reduce the number of sick days. This adds to the body of evidence that suggests that plants in the work place have a beneficial effect. Plants appear to reduce office workers' fatigue, dry throats, headaches, coughs and dry skin. Plants and microbes in the soil are good at removing volatile, organic compounds that can effect health.

INVESTING

Despite the weakness of the dollar, U.S. firms are going on a spending spree in Europe. By May of this year, American corporations (excluding private equity firms) had bought 112 British businesses worth US$12.4-billion. In seven of the last 10 years, the UK has been the top destination for US multinational corporations looking to expand. The American thirst for deals reached its peak during the dotcom boom in 1998 when US companies spent a total of $41-billion on 481 UK-based businesses.

RESEARCH

According to a Pew Internet and American Life Project survey, online real estate websites have reduced the number of homes that buyers and renters visited in person 57 per cent of the time and 29 per cent claim that online research saved them money. 57 per cent say the internet reduced the number of places they looked at and 54 per cent took a video tour of a house or apartment, or neighbourhood in which they were interested.

FUNERALS

American pet owners are turning to animal funeral parlours to send off their four-legged loved ones with the same dignity and ceremony usually afforded only to humans. Riding a boom in US spending on pets, the total this year is expected to reach US$43-billion, traditional undertakers are branching out into the sensitive area of pet funerals. One company offers a 24-hour service with caskets starting at around $185 and can reach as much as $5000. The first pet funeral home started in Indianapolis and expects to open 250 to 300 more locations over the next seven years.

LUXURY

One of the world's most prized culinary delicacies, the famous Perigord black truffle, could soon be off the menu. Scientists fear it will be wiped out by an invading Chinese truffle they have discovered growing in European soils which has almost no taste at all. The Perigold black truffle sells for about US$1400 a kilogram. Only the Piedmont white truffles fetches higher prices. Harvests of the Perigord truffle have declined greatly over the past century falling from over 1,500 tonnes in 1870 to less than 100 tonnes today.

GROCERIES

Members of the fast-growing South Asian and Chinese Canadian communities account for one-third of grocery spending in Toronto and Vancouver. South Asian Canadians households spend up to 23 per cent more on groceries than others in Canada. Chinese Canadian shoppers spend nine per cent more on groceries than an average household. Both groups tend to shop at discount supermarkets.

SCOOTERS

With the high price of gasoline, there is an increased interest in the U.S. in the small scooters that get 100 miles per gallon (2.35 litres per 100 kilometres). More than 130,000 Vespas, Hondas, Yamahas and other scooters were sold in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2008, a 24 per cent increase over the previous year. The figures do not include sales by small manufacturers in China and elsewhere.

FOWL

Chickens are the most common birds in the world. About 30-billion chickens are eaten each year, more than 1,000 a second. The Romans considered chickens to be sacred to Mars, the god of war. A lifetime's waste from one chicken can power a 100-watt bulb for five hours.

PUNCTURES

Changing a tire by the side of the road could soon become easier thanks to a clever British invention. Instead of the tiring process of lifting the car up by winding a jack handle, the Titan air jack raises it for you. A bag attached to the exhaust pipe is placed under the car and when the engine is run at idle it inflates and lifts it to wheel-changing height in less than a minute. It can be used on any surfaces and lifts vehicles up to four tons.

PAPERS

The number of daily newspapers rose to 287 in 2006 from 185 in 2005, according to the World Association of Newspapers. Global newspaper advertising will increase to US$130-billion in 2010, from $125-billion in 2007, thanks in part to growth in India and other emerging markets. This trend is reversed in the North America where newspaper advertising revenue in the U.S. fell by 7.9 per cent in 2007.

COINS

To lessen the cost of minting pennies and nickels, which cost more to make than they are worth, the US Congress is looking at the possibility of going to steel coins such as those used during World War II.

SHIPS

The biggest shipbuilding boom in history has collided with the largest credit market loss ever. As much as US$14-billion in ship orders is threatened by cancellations and delays as lenders are demanding bigger deposits and shorter terms for financing. The loss or delay in delivery of about 250 cargo ships, or 10 per cent of orders, will tighten the supply of ships. Freight rates have increased over 50 per cent this past year. The value of cargo ships under construction at the end of 2007 was US$141-billion and the approximate cost of a new vessel, is about 155-million.

ACCOUNTING

The world's chief accountant has praised Canada for its decision to adopt global accounting standards by 2011. The International Accounting Standards Board is leading the push to persuade countries to abandon their national accounting standards and embrace a single, global standard, known as the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). So far, 110 countries have agreed to the change.

CANOLA

Farmers are expected to plant a record 14.8-million acres of canola this year. Last year it was worth C$6 per bushel, this year it should sell for $14. Canada produces just over 6-million tonnes of canola seed per year, 20 per cent of the worlds supply. 3.4 million tonnes of this is exported as seed, 706,000 tonnes as oil and another 1.15 million tonnes as meal. The U.S is the largest importer.

RUNNING

GTX Corporation of Los Angeles has developed a way to turn running shoes into real-time tracking devices capable of transmitting location data that can be viewed as Google Maps on any Internet-connected device. The company hopes its technology will be used in insoles by the end of the year. The footwear will cost up to $200 with a $20-monthly subscription fee and the gadget requires cell towers.

PRESCRIPTIONS

More than half of insured American now take prescription medicines, mostly on a daily basis, for what are described as chronic problems. Experts say the data reflects worsening public health, better medicines and aggressive pharmaceutical advertising.

ACCIDENTS

Every year, according to the WHO, 1.2 million people die in road accidents making it the seventh biggest killer in the world, ahead of diabetes and malaria. Wearing a seat belt would save half of all car occupants who die in crashes.

ASIA

The value of Japanese exports to China in 2007, the year in which China overtook the U.S. as Japan's biggest export market destination was US$165.2-billion. The value of Japanese exports to the U.S was about $161-billion. China's exports to Japan in 2007 were worth $102-billion. Japan's foreign direct investment to China last year was $6.2-billion.Japan remains the biggest economic power in Asia with a US$4.3-trillion economy in 2006, against China's $2.7-trillion.

BUGS

At a recent U.N. meeting in Thailand, experts considered the dietary value of bugs. More than 1,400 insect species are eaten by humans worldwide offering promising possibilities both commercially and nutritionally. Among the most popular are beetles, ants, bees, crickets and moths, some of which offer as much protein as meat and fish. At least 527 different insects are eaten across 36 countries in Africa, while they are also eaten in 29 countries in Asia and 23 in the Americas.

HEARTACHE

A Japanese company has introduced "heartache leave," a new benefit. One day off is granted to employees in their early 20s suffering a breakup. Two days for those in their late 20s and three days for those over 30. The same company has "bargain leave" to take advantage of retail sales.

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