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FRUIT

China has become the world's largest centre for fruit and vegetable production. Statistics show that in 2000, China's fruit growing area and production reached 8.67 million hectares and 62 million tons, accounting for 18 per cent and 13 per cent of the world total respectively. Meanwhile, China's vegetable growing area and production amounted to 14.67 million hectares and 440 million tons, accounting for 35 per cent and 67 per cent of the world total respectively.

RETIREMENT

Rates of early retirement in Canada have tapered off after peaking in 1997. During the early 1990s, the overall rate of early retirement increased steadily until 1997, when 46 per cent of all workers who retired did so before they were 60. One reason behind the surge in early retirement during the early 1990s may have been downsizing in some public?sector industries. Many older public servants were encouraged to take early retirement packages. In 1997, 65 per cent of those who retired were under 60.

MINIATURIZATION

In another milestone in computer miniaturization, IBM has announced that it's scientists have built the smallest-ever computer logic circuit made from a single molecule of carbon. The material used to construct the circuit is a carbon nanotube, a hollow strand 100,000 times thinner than a human hair.

POPULATION

As of July 2001, Canada's population surpassed 31 million reaching an estimated 31,081,900. From July 2000 to July 2001, the population increased by 312,200 people, the largest annual population rise since 1996/97. The population grew by an estimated 1.0 per cent in 2000/01, compared with increases of less than 0.9 per cent during the previous three years. The main factors behind this higher growth were an influx of 252,100 immigrants to Canada in 2000/01, about 46,000 more than in 1999/2000. In addition, the number of non?permanent residents rose by 22,900 in 2000/01, almost double the estimated number in 1999/2000.

CABS

More than 62,000 cellphones were left in London cabs during the past six months. Half were never reclaimed.

CHINA

Once in the WTO, China will represent the world's fifth largest trading power after the Quad group (composed of the US, the EC, Japan and Canada). Several analysts conjecture that China's entry will change the balance of forces in the body, adding weight on the side of developing countries. Conversely, easier access to a market of one billion people is widely believed to offset Quad concerns over the stance China might take in the trade organization.

VEHICLES

According to the international police organization Interpol, there has been a worldwide surge in car theft, with one vehicle being stolen every 10 seconds. It is urging improved cross-border cooperation to combat car thieves. Three million vehicles disappear each year and criminals make an annual profit of about $19 billion. In 1999, Interpol said 1.7 million vehicles had been reported as stolen, up from 1.1 million the previous year.

COSTA RICA

The President of Costa Rica has suggested that the country's suffering coffee growers shift to sugar for the Canadian market. Since signing an FTA with Canada, Costa Rica is allowed to export up to 20,000 metric tons of sugar each year. Under the treaty, the sugar quota could rise to 40,000 tons within seven years. Coffee producers have been losing about five dollars on each 100 pound bag of coffee.

E-BUSINESS

A survey of 500 IT executives, by Jupiter Media Metrix, concludes that U.S. businesses are more concerned about the impact that online security problems have on consumer confidence and trust in e-business, than about suffering an actual financial loss due to a security breach. Just over 12 per cent of U.S. companies with a Web presence said they have suffered direct financial losses due to an online security breach. 40 per cent said they are more worried about how online security invasions will affect their customers.

LOW TECH

Archaeologists in the City of London have unearthed two machines that show that the Romans used to lift water on an industrial scale.The three-foot high water wheels were found in two deep wells near the site of a Roman bathhouse and amphitheatre. They would have been turned by a man walking on a 10-foot high treadmill and, on an average day, would have raised an estimated 60,000 gallons of water, enough to fill nearly 2,500 modern bathtubs.

BIOTECH

Contradicting the prevailing sentiment in Europe against biotech crops, a recent report from the European Union suggests that they may be safer than regular foods. The biosafety report summarizes 81 research projects financed by the EU over the past 15 years, at a cost of US$64 million, on genetically modified crops and products made from them. The research has not found any new risks to human health or the environment, beyond the usual uncertainties of conventional plant breeding. In fact, the use of more precise technology and greater regulatory scrutiny probably make them safer than conventional plants and foods.

FRANCE

French vineyards have called for millions of litres of wine to be turned into either methylated spirits or cooking brandy, in a desperate attempt to survive the slump affecting the country's wine industry. French wine consumption has dropped dramatically in recent years: The average adult drinks only 57 litres of wine annually, compared with 91 litres in 1980

SAFETY

More than half the foreign ships inspected at Canadian ports last year were found to have defects and in 10 per cent of the cases those defects were serious enough that the ship had to be detained. Of the 1070 ships inspected at Canadian ports, there were 583 foreign vessels found to have defects and 103, with an average age of 16.3 years, were detained. The vast majority of ships inspected were involved in commercial transport. Passenger ships made up only four per cent of ships inspected. Ships operating under the Panamanian flag were the worst offenders in 2000.

CATFISH

This is a Dixie delicacy increasingly liked by other Americans. One recent poll placed it as the country's third-favourite seafood, beaten only by shrimp and lobster. Around 600 million pounds of catfish, worth US$500 million, are sold every year in the U.S. Most of it comes from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. Last year some seven million pounds of catfish were imported from Vietnam, compared with two million pounds in 1999 and 575,000 pounds in 1998. Farmers are blaming the Vietnamese for falling prices, from about 80 cents a pound to 60 cents a pound in the past year.

FIZZ

An American researcher has injected carbon dioxide into oranges, pineapples and pears, making them fizz like a carbonated drink. The gas, which is said to enhance flavour and make fruit more appealing to children--except bananas which explode. The products are being test-marketed at U.S. grocery stores.

MARKETS

Kentucky Fried Chicken, which pulled off an extraordinary coup by opening a huge outlet next to Tiananmen Square in 1987, now has nearly 500 sites across China. McDonalds, which first erected its golden arches in Beijing in 1992, now has 370 outlets around the country. Starbucks, the Seattle-based coffee-shop chain is the latest symbol of American consumer culture to make its mark on China's urban landscape. Opening in 1999, it now has 35 outlets, mainly in Beijing and Shanghai, which is considered remarkable given that China is a country of devoted tea drinkers who do not take readily to the taste of coffee.

TRENDS

The percentage of Canadian-born players in the National Hockey League has reached another record low. There were 375 Canadian players, or 52.3 per cent of all players, on opening night rosters compared to 380, or 53.2 per cent, a year ago. European content is up for the 12th consecutive year.

DROUGHT

Saskatchewan farmers are expected to harvest 18 per cent less spring wheat this year. Production will probably fall by 1.6 million tonnes to 7 million tonnes, the lowest production estimate in recent history. The yield has declined by about 10 bushels per acre. Canola production has fallen by 38 per cent to 2.1 million tonnes.

ALLERGIES

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to require food labels to show common allergens and to develop common manufacturing standards to prevent allergens from contaminating food. The CSPI estimates that 4 million Americans are allergic to foods such as peanuts, nuts, eggs, soybeans and wheat. Each year, 29,000 people visit a hospital after an allergic reaction and about 150 die as a result of their allergy.

CARTELS

The European Union Commission has fined six companies US$52 million for operating a secret cartel to fix prices and share the market for sodium gluconate, a cleaning solvent ingredient. The Commission found that the cartel, which accounted for most of the world-wide production, operated the cartel between 1987 and 1995. The market was worth US$16 million annually during the eight year infringement period.

CADILLAC

Once an American automotive icon of luxury, style and performance, Cadillac has fallen on hard times. In 1998, it was displaced as the top-selling luxury car brand in North America after leading the segment since 1950. Today, Cadillac is in sixth place with Toyota's Lexus division first.

DRUGS

A U.S. senator is spearheading an effort designed to encourage drug wholesalers and pharmacists to import cheap prescription drugs from Canada. The goal of the proposed legislation is to eliminate the need for individuals to visit Canada themselves and to put pressure on U.S. drug makers to ease prices. Canadian regulations hold the prices of most prescription drugs to much lower levels.

AGRI-FOOD

A new service should make it easier to move Canadian product into Mexico, one of the largest markets of Canada's agricultural and agri-food industry. A full-time resource person has been placed at the Mexican border to ensure that Canadian companies are well prepared to meet Mexican requirements. Mexico has a fairly complicated import regime and getting products (especially processed foods) across the border can be challenging.

ODD

Centuries after King Arthur, a new type of knight is wandering Britain. When asked their religious affiliation on the 2001 census forms, many Britons wrote in "Jedi Knight." So many have done so that the government has been forced to give Jedi Knight its own category when compiling the census results. Jedi Knights are warriors who battle evil through the ages in the Star Wars movies. Jedi Knights have been given its own code in processing the census because of the large number of people who entered it. However, officials report that this will not be included as a religion in a future census

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