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GEOGRAPHY

A new British science textbook for schools claims that polar bears eat penguins, even though they live in separate hemispheres.

ADVERTISING

Internet advertising is booming. The industry has gone from US$9.6-billion in revenue in 2001 to $27-billion in 2006. While the Internet accounts for only 5-per cent of total spending on advertising, that figure is expected to reach at least 20-per cent in the next few years.

AFGHANISTAN

This country has about 200 mines, some of which are under the control of local warlords. A joint British-Afghan survey has found significant deposits of natural gas, petroleum and coal; copper, chromite, talc, bartyes, sulphur, gold, lead, zinc, iron ore, and salt. Also, precious and semi-precious stones including high-quality rubies, emeralds and much of the world's supply of lapis lazuli.

ILLNESS

In a recent survey, 32-per cent of U.S. workers polled admitted to calling in sick when they felt well at least once a year and 10 per cent said they do it three or more times a year. The most popular motivator for missing work was the need to relax cited by 48-per cent of workers. For another 24-per cent it was a chance to catch up on sleep.

PASSPORTS

Fake European Union passports are now so easy to obtain that false passports for 20 EU countries can be delivered in 24 hours. A fake EU passport is valuable as it not only ensures entry to Britain but also access to benefits, bank accounts and health care.

TOYS

It is estimated that last Christmas, parents spent a small fortune on high-technology toys that claim to lift the intelligence of their young. The world-wide market for "edutainment" toys reached US$1.7-billion in 2005 and could total $5.5-billion by 2010. Other studies say that more than 50-per cent of all money lavished on toys during the holiday season was spent on preschool products that purport to enhance specific motor skills.

WEB SITES

Russian companies have the worst corporate Web sites in Europe and make the least amount of information available to investors, analysts and other people seeking data to make investment decisions, according to a survey of 16 countries. Germany topped the charts with the Nordic countries (Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark) second. Switzerland and the Netherlands were next and France was fourth from the bottom.

BROADBAND

A third of British Internet users watch less television once they have broadband, while 27-per cent read fewer national newspapers and almost a fifth switch off their radios according to new research. The picture is similar across France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.S., highlighting the threat posed by the web to traditional media. This same survey shows that Britons pay less for mobile phone, TV and internet services than their counterparts in Europe and the U.S.

MAGNETS

Experts are now warning that newer types of fridge magnets could be a killer of those with weak hearts. A stronger type of magnet used in many new commercial products can interfere with pacemakers and implanted heart devices with deadly consequences. The culprits are very strong magnets made from neodymium-boron which have only recently become available and are being used in computer hard drives, headphones and hi-fi speakers, as well as toys and jewellery.

FILM

Camera film peaked in popularity in 1999 when 800-million rolls of reloadable film were sold. Today, the figure has declined to a projected 211-million rolls sold in 2006 as the number of film cameras sold has also fallen.

OIL

The world's oil supply won't begin to run out for at least another 24 years, contrary to some theories that suggest production has already peaked and supply is now in a terminal decline. The Cambridge Energy Research Associates estimates remaining global supply at 3.74-trillion barrels compared with 1.2-trillion estimates by other theorists.

CAPS

The Stevin wine screw cap, manufactured by Montreal's Alcan Inc., is the dominant player worldwide with about 65-per cent of the market, worth about US$120-million annually. Many of the adopters of the screw-top seal are producers from New World places such as New Zealand, Australia, California and Oregon. About 80-per cent of New Zealand wines now come with screw tops.

SCREENS

With 42-inch flat-panel TVs flying off US retailers' shelves now that prices have dropped below US$1,000, experts predict that the 72-inch TV will be the norm by 2009 at a cost of around $3,000. An old 34-inch tube TV used to weigh around 90 kilograms: a 57-inch flat-panel LCD TV weighs only 55 kilograms.

COMMERCIALS

Junk food advertisements during television shows popular with children in the U.K. have been banned. The crackdown affects commercials for all food and drink products high in fat, salt and sugar, such as burgers, chips and candies.

TRENDS

In a poll of over 106,000 consumers in the U.S. who were asked about what method of payment they typically use for purchasing groceries, 54.3-per cent said they use a debit card. The second highest method was cash at 19.6-per cent followed by a major credit card at 14-per cent. Cheques were the least frequently used form of payment, cited by 10.5-per cent.

DRINKING

A 12-year-old boy in Britain has become the youngest person in the country to get the qualifications needed to run a pub. As soon as he turns 18, he will finally be allowed to have a drink himself.

CROPS

A global network of agricultural research centres is warning that famines lie ahead unless new crop strains adapted to a warmer future are developed. New forecasts say warming will shrink South Asia's wheat area by half and there are now plans to accelerate efforts aimed at developing new strains of staple crops including maize, wheat, rice and sorghum. The most significant impact of climate change on agriculture is changes in rainfall. Increasing temperatures can also affect crops. Photosynthesis slows down as the thermometer rises, which also slows the plants' growth and capacity to reproduce.

GAS

Russia now accounts for 44 per cent of European Union gas imports, a proportion that will probably rise significantly after Russia builds a northern gas corridor directly to Germany, under the Baltic Sea. The EU wants to break Russia's grip on gas imports and recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Kazakhstan on energy aimed at binding Europe closer to this vast country which stretches from the Caspian Sea to the Baltic. It is hoped that a gas pipeline will be constructed that would connect the gas-rich countries of Central Asia directly to Europe.

SHIPS

The strong global economy has stimulated a boom in maritime trade, which in turn has caused an upsurge in shipbuilding. New ships delivered in 2005 had a capacity of 70.5 million tonnes, the highest on record and up from 49.4 million tonnes a year earlier. There was a particularly big increase in dry-bulk carriers, which carry commodities like iron ore and grain. Taking into account ships broken up and lost, the world's merchant fleet grew by over seven per cent.

CONSTRUCTION

In another first for the Gulf emirate of Dubai where the world's tallest skyscraper is now being built, plans have been unveiled to construct a 30-floor building that moves with the power of the sun to become the only rotating residential structure on the planet. Solar energy will be stored and used to drive the rotation mechanism to provide 360-degree views to every resident moving 52-degrees in 24 hours. A Dubai developer has also announced plans to build a new Russian city on 17,800 hectares near Moscow at a cost of US$11-billion.

MARINAS

The world's marinas are booming, driven by a surge in yacht sales. Boat builders are sitting on plenty of orders with luxury super-yachts showing the biggest gains. Sales of these giants--some now stretch to 400 feet--are up 80-per cent in the past six years, with Russian buyers especially visible. New Zealand, known for building luxury yachts, predicts that its boat sales will double by 2020 to US$3.2-billion. In Finland, another boat-making hub, sales rose 35-per cent last year. In the U.S., recreational sailors spent about $37.3-billion last year, up 13-per cent from 2004.

PARTS

Canada's auto parts makers are getting battered in their largest and most important export market as Mexico and China grab an increasingly larger share of sales to U.S. customers. Exports to the U.S. market by Canadian auto parts companies slid six-per cent in the first nine months of 2006 while U.S. imports from Mexico grew seven-per cent and those from China soared 29-per cent. The U.S. Census Bureau data show that Mexico displaced Canada as the largest supplier of auto parts to the U.S. market back in 2000 and sold US$26.7-billion worth to the U.S. in 2006.

HEALTH

A U.S. health care company has won approval to offer Chinese citizens a comprehensive medical insurance plan, the first of its kind in China. The move represents a breakthrough in a country where two-thirds of the population has no health insurance and where existing private health care policies are so limited that even those insured can sometimes face crippling extra expenses.

RVs

The U.S. sales of motor homes have fallen for 20 consecutive months as higher interest rates and gas prices and a slowdown in housing have affected consumer confidence. Further deterioration is seen for this year with shipments of motor homes and campers expected to drop more than 11-per cent. However, the industry is optimistic. Every day, more than 12,000 Americans turn 50 and the 50 and older crowd are the prime market. Over the next decade, that market is projected to double to 80-million from 40-million.

GREEN

The British government is planning to spend over US$2-billion replacing 78,000 ministerial and civil service vehicles under a programme to cut costs and reduce carbon emissions from its fleet by 15-per cent. The government has recruited 15 manufacturers from Europe, Asia and North America to supply cheaper, greener cars over the next four years. The costs will be shared by 38 government departments and agencies which have agreed to "green" their fleets in exchange for large discounts on available cars.

ARCTIC

Russian trawlers are being built to exploit the Arctic seas opened up as the sea ice shrinks as a result of global warming. Industrial trawlers are already mopping up new fisheries stimulated by the lack of summer ice. Inuit communities on the east side of Greenland have banned all outside fishing for shrimp stocks that are growing in the absence of summer ice and have decided to exploit them themselves.

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