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WAVES

Massive waves up to 100 feet in height, once thought to be extremely rare, actually roam the oceans quite frequently and could threaten to overturn ships and oil rigs. A study conducted on radar images gathered by the European Space Agency revealed at least 10 of the rogue waves over a three week period. These waves are suspected of having played a role in the sinking of some of the 200 large supertankers and container ships that have gone down in bad weather over the past two decades. Most ships and oil rigs are designed to withstand waves up to 50 feet.

ZONES

The Association of Canadian Port Authorities is recommending that Canada should consider creating free-trade zones at its major ports to cut red tape and keep the country competitive with ports south of the border. The U.S. government has announced $30-billion for port infrastructure in coming years. In the absence of any similar promise from Canadian authorities, the country stands to fall behind and lose business to more efficient and streamlined U.S. counterparts.

GUM

Modern chewing gum originated around 1870 when someone arrived in New York with a load of chicle. The substance, a latex gum from the sapodilla tree of Central America, was considered a potential substitute for rubber.However, it was discovered that chicle made lousy tires but great chewing gum, much superior to the mixture of spruce bark and paraffin wax that people then chewed. Chicle gave way to artificial ingredients and gum's chewy base nowadays comes not from Central American trees but ExxonMobil polymers.

VALUE

The Christian Science Monitor reports that a tiny but growing number of consumers are spending as much as US$20,000 for hand-made mattresses boasting superior coils and layered with cashmere and Belgian silk.

CHARMING

The first dial-a-snake-charmer service is about to be launched in India. Luring snakes out of baskets using a "magical" flute is illegal because of animal-conservation laws, but conservationists plan to find employment for out-of-work charmers by hiring them to catch snakes that have slipped into people's homes. A charmer can earn between $1.40 and $14.00 to catch a snake while he would typically earn about $1.00 for a whole day of playing his flute and making a snake dance for the crowds.

PARTS

The world's auto makers announced $14.7-billion worth of new vehicle assembly investments in the first six months of 2004., but none of the money will be spent in Canada or the U.S. as auto companies instead pump billions into China and Eastern Europe.Auto makers unveiled $7.4-billion of new investments in China during the period, compared with $3.2-billion in the same period a year earlier. They will pump another $2.8-billion into Eastern Europe compared with $1.4-billion in the first half of 2003.

SECURITY

Mexico's top federal prosecutors and investigators are now getting chip implants in their arms to access restricted areas inside the attorney general's headquarters in Mexico City. The chips are designed to provide certainty about who accessed sensitive data. Mexico's biggest security problem until now has been corruption by officials themselves.

GRAIN

Food shortages were second only to oil prices in causing the huge global inflation of 1973 to 1975 and history is threatening to repeat itself. Despite a hoped-for small rise this year, China's grain output is still some 12 per cent below its peak and the country is experiencing another large grain deficit. Most of India is awaiting a belated monsoon. If it doesn't come, India's ability to export food will be in jeopardy. Australia too is in the midst of another drought.

RAGE

Japanese inventors have patented a car that expresses emotions as an answer to road rage. The car laughs, cries, or shows anger and sings to the occupants. Called a "vehicle expression system," the inventors say that such a system is vital for today's traffic congestion. and that cars with "expression functions such as laughing and crying" could create a"a joyful, organic atmosphere."

BEAUTY

China only recently lifted a 54-year ban on beauty pageants. Now, China has announced a new artificial beauty pageant for Miss Plastic Surgery. The contest will be open only to those who have undergone cosmetic surgery and can prove her beauty is man-made. Plastic surgery is on the increase in China with around $2.4-billion spent yearly on beauty treatments. China now has a million beauty salons employing six million people. The rise of the salons is based on the assumption that beauty is a route to success.

TIRES

A record 80 per cent of old tires were recycled for other uses, including fuel and playground equipment in 2003, according to a U.S. industry report. Back in the early 90s, there was over a billion tires in stockpiles, no one knew what could be done with them and the markets that did exist were very small. In 1990, only 11 per cent of scrap tires were recycled. In 2001, 78 per cent were recycled. and this figure is expected to grow to about 85 per cent by 2006. Last year, 223 million old tires were recycled and 290 million new tires produced.

VALUE

Volunteer work done by Canadians 65 or older amounts to over 161 million hours annually which translates into almost C$2-billion of paid work, according to the University of Guelph.

CHANGE

Next January, changes will be needed to the lowly bar code which appears on everything from chocolate bars to chairs and identifies products as they move through retailers' checkout scanners. By Jan 1, 2005, North American retailers will have to switch to the European 13-digit code from their current 12-digit code. If retailers fail to act, come January, the lines in grocery stores could back up along with lost business, higher supply chain costs, inventory mistakes, pricing errors. and the loss of customer loyalty.

DISCOUNT

A London restaurant recently promised free meals to any customer found to be related to Genghis Kahn. The unusual promotion is to mark the Mongolian government's decision to allow citizens to have surnames for the first time since they were banned by the communists in the 1920s. The restaurant has teamed up with a DNA-based research company to analyze cells from cheek swabs of customers. It is estimated that 17 million people worldwide, including the British royal family, Iranian royalty and the family of Dracula, are descendants of the Mongol leader.

CONGESTION

Moscow, famed under Communism for its slick public transport system, is to tackle its traffic crisis by using helicopters to shuttle passengers into and out of the city.The city is planning 10 helicopter terminals on the Moscow ring road to enable tourists and businessmen to avoid the congested roads that have turned the capital into a motorists' nightmare.

MANHOLES

A hand-carved circle of Coast Salish tadpoles and a digitally rendered constellation of bacterial dots are the two winning designs that will grace Vancouver, B.C.'s new manhole covers. The city recently sponsored a competition to design two new cast-iron manhole covers for Vancouver's separate storm and sanitary sewer systems. The competition surprised city staff when it drew a staggering 643 entries. Each manhole weighs 200 pounds.

CURIOUS

A Yorkshire, England, company has won a contract to export tea to China. The company, which already exports to 30 countries, recently dispatched $75,000 worth of flavoured teas to Shanghai.

DECAF

Scientists report that they have found a naturally decaffeinated version of the world's most popular coffee bean. Full strength coffee can raise blood pressure, trigger palpitations and disrupt sleep, and decaffeinated now accounts for about ten per cent of the world market. But the decaffeinating process often flushes out important flavour compounds, so the demand for a flavoursome, low-caffeine blend remains high. After screening 3,000 coffee trees from around the world, the scientists have isolated three plants from Ethiopia with a naturally low caffeine content

TRADE

Australia and Thailand have signed a trade deal which is expected to boost the economies of both countries by billions of dollars. The agreement is expected to boost Australia's GDP by $6.7-billion and Thailand's by $32-billion over 20 years. Thailand exports cars, fruit and vegetables to Australia while Australia exports fuel and chemicals to Thailand. Last year, Australia signed a free trade deal with Singapore.

CHOCOLATE

The price of chocolate bars could soar if diseases that have devastated South America's cocoa crops are allowed to spread to other parts of the world. One expert in fungi fears that infections such as Witches Broom disease could spread to Africa and trigger an international shortage of chocolate. Fungal infections of cocoa have cause economic devastation in Brazil putting 200,000 people out of work.

SHIFTS

According to recently released census figures, because of the demand for 7\24 service, one in five U.S. workers now works the late-shift--going to work between midnight and 6.30am. Once the haunt of nurses, police officers and factory workers, the "graveyard shift" has grown to include computer support staff, research scientists and brokers working trading desks halfway around the world.

PRODUCE

Mexican agricultural producers are being displaced in their own market because it is more common to find fruits and vegetables originating in the U.S. or Chile at the main supermarkets. The lack of investment and technology as well as a limited packaging system and good product presentation are limiting Mexican products from supermarkets.

COMPETITION

Hong Kong is a key air passenger hub for East Asia with its new airport handling 35 million passengers a year. Now however, China has opened a giant airport in Guangzhou (formally Canton) at a cost of US$2.5 billion with an eventual planned capacity of 80 million passengers a year. This is in the heart of the Pearl River Delta, known as the workshop of the world for the string of manufacturing cities that have sprung up there in recent years. It was this growth that, up to now, has made Hong Kong the primary East Asia port and service centre.

DINING

A fillet of red snapper costs about $7.95 a pound, but you might want to take a DNA kit to the fish counter as it may be fake. A University of Carolina study revealed that 75 per cent of store-labelled red snapper that it tested in eight states bore the genetic makeup of other fish. The profits from mislabelling fish can exceed those of drug dealing.

INTERNET

A number of Finish conscripts have been excused their full term of military service because they are addicted to the Internet. Doctors have found the young men miss their computers too much to cope with their compulsory six months in the forces.

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