Ottawa is proposing to
spend $16BN on buying & maintaining 65 Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint
Strike Fighter jets to replace the Air Force’s aging CF-18 jets. Never
mind that this was a sole-source contract or that it is paying a great
deal more than the US Air Force for the same plane or that the US government
has found it necessary to spend US$7BN to extend the life of the US
Navy’s F/A-18 jets because of delays in the rollout of the F-35s.
Conceptually the whole idea of buying jet fighters of any kind is questionable.
Canada has had little real use for its CF-18's for the past thirty-odd
years. In Afghanistan jet fighters have been proven counter-productive
in the military environment likely to hallmark the first half of the
21st century. In the fiscal environment going forward, money
is likely to be scarcer for all purposes, incl. military spending, than
it has been in the past & using it in the most cost-effective manner
will become the order of the day. And jet fighters are all but useless
in enforcing Canada’s souvereignty claims in the High Arctic; to do
so effectively you need boots on the ground & boats in the water,
not planes flying near the speed of sound tens of thousands of feet
up in the air.
Traffic patterns are
changing in the city of Edmonton. In 2004 66.2% of those entering its
downtown core did so by car & 33.8% by public transit while five
years later this had changed to 61.5% & 38.5% respectively. Ditto
for those travelling through the core : in 2004 74.3% did so by car
& 25.7% by transit, while the numbers in 2009 were 72.5% & 27.5%.
Many North American cities
are having troubles making ends meet. Here’s how Edmonton, that for
years has been raising property taxes at rates in excess of inflation
plus population growth (this year alone by 6½%), is boosting revenue
covertly. It is the 100% owner of EPCOR, a company 60% of whose profits
are paid as dividends into the City treasury. Once EPCOR was purely
a producer & distributor of electricity; but after the Alberta
government ‘deregulated’ the province’s electricity business,
it spun off much of its power business in Alberta to & moved into
a more promising growth area, the provision of drinking water- &
waste water management services. As part thereof Edmonton last year
contracted these activities out to EPCOR. And, as one reader pointed
out in a local newspaper, in the seven months ended June 30th
the charges on his monthly utilities’ bill have risen by 1.6% for
water & 8% for waste water treatment, and the monthly “service
charges” (for the privilege of using EPCOR services) by 4% for water,
7.8% for drainage & 12.6% for waste water. A neat & efficient
way to kill two birds with one stone : extract more money from taxpayers’
pockets without calling it a tax & augment EPCOR’s capital base.
There is more to the
uproar about governments threatening RIM to shut down its Blackberry
operations in their countries unless they get access to their encryption
technology. For that applies only to business-, not private-, traffic;
so what these governments are after is to be able to peek into business
No. 373SP - August
WILL BE THE NEW ECONOMIC ORDER
(G&M, David Rosenberg)
· Real economic
(& political) power resides on Main Street which understands
enough of what’s going on to realize the need to get balance sheets
in order, if only because of the rapid approach of retirement
for 78MM ‘boomers’, the 25% of the population with real
power in society. The balance sheet rebuilding process at the household-
& public sector level will in the short run undermine economic growth
potential. The seeds are already being sown for a radical restructuring
of entitlements : across the nation public sector pension plan trustees
& legislatures are pushing for higher contributions, later retirement
ages & less generous cost-of-living adjustments for retirees. In
the case of governments greater fiscal probity will involve fewer non-essential
services & means-testing for entitlements, and higher taxes &
user fees. Until the end of the balance sheet rebuilding phase, we are
likely to see a lengthy period of price stability or modest deflation,
and a deferral of strong GDP & earnings growth, and any return of
Many politicians seem
not yet to have gotten this message.
U.S. DRAWS LINE
IN SEA (UPI. com, Martin Walker)
· US Secretary of
State Hilary Clinton infuriated her Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi
at the recent ASEAN Regional Forum when she declared that the resolution
of territorial disputes in the South China Sea was in the US
“national interest”. There are three aspects to this issue. The
military card was already played by Beijing when it established military
outposts on the Paracel & Spratly islands, despite competing claims
from Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei & Indonesia,
all of whose coast lines are hundreds of miles closer to these islands
than China’s (on Hainan Island). The economic aspect is dominated
by indications that the South China Sea may contain significant hydrocarbon
reserves, and Beijing has already warned Western oil companies operating
in waters off the Vietnamese coast that they risk their future prospects
in China if they continue to do so. The cultural aspect arises from
the fact that, while the US stands on principles of international law
& the peaceful resolution of disputes, freedom of navigation
on the seas & free trade, free markets& free institutions, the
Chinese model is based on state power, state dominance of the economy
& the main industries, and state control of the media & the
· The economic aspect
was given another dimension when the head of China’s biggest rating
agency, Dagong Global Credit Rating, told the Financial Times that “The
U.S. is insolvent and faces bankruptcy as a pure debtor nation but the
rating agencies still give it a high rating ...(and) the huge
military expenditure of the U.S. is not created by themselves but comes
from borrowed money, which is not sustainable.” And yet the
official Chinese news agency Xinhua published an extraordinary editorial
on July 28th revealing high level alarm in Beijing over its
economic prospects, as rapidly rising wages and a labour supply
that is starting to decline combine with a housing bubble, saying that
“If housing are not checked and land issues not resolved, they could
threaten social stability and the national economy ... after seeing
it how difficult it is to implement tougher property policies, the public
has realized that the vested interest groups have become powerful enough
to resist or tamper with the central government’s property-control
policies.’ So China’s leaders are nervous about their own prospects
even as they bully their neighbours & claim America is in decline,
and now the US has drawn a line in the South China Sea although it remains
to be seen whether that line will hold & on which side thereof the
Southeast Asian countries will choose to stand.
While the US is a
lot further away, this disadvantage could be cancelled if it can create
enough credibility that it will remain firmly on the side of the other
Southeast Asian nations through thick & thin; for then the appeal
of possibly gaining control over large hydrocarbon reserves underneath
the sea that they could exploit (for which there would be a ready market
in Japan, India & China),& over the fish stocks in it, plus
the scope this may provide for playing one off against the other, could
outweigh their fear of their gigantic neighbour).
SAFEGUARDS IN U.S. SHALE-GAS ‘FRACKING’
(Reuters, Jon Hurdle)
· According to Green
Century Capital Management this spring 12 energy companies faced shareholder
resolutions, supported among others by the New York State Common Retirement
Fund, the third-largest US pension fund, urging better safeguards against
environmental damage from hydraulic fracturing, the key to producing
gas from shale, that some fear contaminates groundwater. Of those
four were withdrawn when the companies agreed to do so. And at ExxonMobil’s
Annual Meeting - which last year spent US$30BN to buy shale gas player
XTO Energy Inc. - despite the company urging shareholders to vote against
the resolution because fracking was already highly regulated &’
less environmentally damaging than conventional gas production since
it required fewer wells to be drilled’, investors representing 26%
of its outstanding shares nevertheless voted for it.
track record, anything it opposes is likely worthy of support, and vice
· While enriched
environments have caused young Americans’ IQ scores to rise with each
generation, the reverse has been true in recent decades for creativity
: since 1990 their creativity scores, however measured, have
been declining (while in China they have been climbing, due in part
to a move in their educational system away from rote learning).
than intelligence is key to economic progress. While computer games
(a survey among Ontario students found 10% spend seven hours a day staring
at computer or TV screens - boys more so than girls by 11.4% to 7.8%)
& education get the blame, part of it likely also lies with
‘parachute parents’ who won’t let their kids be kids & explore
their environment, who program all of their activities, and who won’t
let them out of their sight & are over-protective.
AROUND URBAN BEEKEEPING (Epoch Times, Joan Delaney)
· The installation
this spring of bee hives on the roof of Toronto’s Opera House was
the latest instalment in the growing trend towards urban beekeeping.
The nearby Fairmont Royal York hotel, one of the eight Fairmont inns
around the world with rooftop apiaries, has won awards for its honey.
While the Ontario Bees Act makes it illegal to keep bees within 30 metres
of a residential property line, such a rule no longer applies in Vancouver,
last March beekeeping became legal in New York City, there is an abundance
of apiaries in San Francisco, and there are bee hives on the South Lawn
of the White House, Chicago’s City Hall and London’s food emporium
Fortnum & Mason.
urban bee hives produce more honey than those in the country; for the
heat retained by all its stone, brick & concrete allows bees to
be active longer each day & extends their working season. Another
benefit of beekeeping was experienced by the Fairmont Hotel in Vancouver
which has a few apple trees on its roof garden : it found that the addition
of a couple of beehives increased their apple crop 10x.
LESS STUDYING NOWADAYS
(Boston Globe, Keith O’Brien)
· Research by Prof.
Philip Babcock at the University of California’s Santa Barbara campus
& Prof. Mindy Marks at its Riverside campus found that while students
at four year colleges studied 24 hours a week in 1961, today they do
so for only 14 hours.
Small wonder there
has been a meteoric & technology-facilitated rise in cheating.
BIG MONEY NEVER
SLEEPS BUT DOESN’T ENTICE EITHER
(Postmedia News, L.
· A national survey
of 2,500 Canadian highschool & post-secondary students aged 17-29
by the Toronto-based Studentsawards Inc. found that today’s young
adults are risk-averse. Their top priorities are spending time with
family & friends, getting more education & leading a healthy
life style. Few of them expect ever to become a millionaire, in contrast
to the “me” generation of the 1980's.
It might be interesting
to see what results a similar survey among young Americans would produce.
SEA ICE MELTING
FASTER IN ARCTIC (CanWest News Service, Randy Boswell)
· The Colorado-based
US National Snow and Ice Data Center on July 6th reported
that, after a record-setting melt in May, it melted faster in
June than in any June since records started being kept 30 years ago,
that, while the Hudson Bay usually holds significant ice in June, this
year it was completely ice-free & that the Nares Strait ice arch
which normally blocks the flow of northern ice into the warmer waters
further South, had disappeared in May.
Climate change is
all a hoax, isn’t it? Yes, and the world was created 6,000 years ago!
ALGAE A ‘GLOBAL CONCERN’ (Postmedia News, Carmen Chai)
· A Dalhousie University-based
study, the results of which were published in the July issue of Nature,
found that the microscopic marine algae known as phytoplankton, the
basis of the marine food chain & the source of much of the world’s
oxygen, is dying at an alarming rate &, due to rising sea surface
temperatures & changing ocean conditions, has declined by roughly
40% since 1950. According to the study’s lead author, Dalhousie’s
Prof. Daniel Boyce, “Phytoplankton is the fuel on which marine ecosystems
run ... A decline affects everything up the food chain, including humans.”
The scientists hypothesize
that warming near the surface makes each ocean water layer more distinct,
thereby preventing the nutrient-rich bottom layers from mixing with
the upper layers.
FLOCK TO CANADA (CanWest News Service, Peter O’Neil)
· According to the
OECD, Canada in 2008 received 34,800 asylum seekers, a number only exceeded
by the US’ 39,400 & France’s 35,400.
Ottawa since passed
legislation seeking to crack down on what the Minister called
“waves of false asylum claims coming from safe democratic countries”
like Mexico & the Czech Republic. But Tamils from Sri Lanka are
testing it, successfully so far, creating a windfall for human traffickers.
TO SEEK BP DAMAGES (Charlottetown Guardian)
· With 300 licensed
tuna fishermen among its 140,000 people, & many others supposedly
benefiting indirectly thereof, tuna fishing is deemed important
to the island economy. But the bluefin tuna on which this depends spawn
in the Gulf of Mexico before migrating North for the summer. According
to Mike McGeighegan of the P.E.I. Fisherman’s Association “The day
might come in a few years where there is suddenly very few tuna around
P.E.I. ... that could be the consequence of the spill ... Two or three
years from now we might see half the size of the school of tuna that
normally arrives around the island ... If we don’t file now ... we
will have no legal grounds and could be facing terrific losses in the
The average size of
the tuna caught in the North Atlantic has declined dramatically in recent
decades. Oil or overfishing, what’s the dif?
POOR TEEN HEALTH
‘GROUNDS FOR CONCERN’ (CanWest News Service)
· Of the 9,112 Grade
7-12 students surveyed by the Toronto-based Centre for Addiction and
Mental Health 14% reported poor health, obesity & mental health
problems vs. 6% in 1991.
The average for girls
was 18% & for boys 10%.
GREAT LAKES WATER
WASTE ‘ALARMING (Canwest, Bradley Bouzane)
Environmental Defence says Ontario & Quebec residents waste 58BN
litres of water a year. Per capita daily water use in Canada is
329 litres, twice that in Europe. Canadians flush toilets 7x daily &
standard flow toilets use 16 litres per flush, vs. six litres for low
flow ones; so 213BN litres could be saved each year, the annual
water use of the City of Toronto, by getting rid of all old-style toilets.
Getting rid of old washing machines could save another 162BN litres,
& conversion to low-flow shower heads another 65BN.
The solutions are
often there, but the willingness to bite the financial bullet seldom
WINS $1.4-MILLION IN DISMISSAL CASE
(G&M, Gloria Galloway)
· On August 31st
2006 Doug Tipple was fired without warning by the Minister’s Office
from his job as Special Adviser for Real Estate in the Department
of Public Works, despite having exceed expectations in his budget-slashing
job. The stated reason : he had missed meetings with senior officials
on a business trip to Britain (although an internal investigation, concluded
prior to his firing, had found that he & a colleague “appeared
to have used their time [in Britain] in a responsible and productive
The Labour Board adjudicator
that ordered the government to pay him $1.4MM in damages, found that
Mr. Tipple appeared to have been an
“excellent & valued” employee who had saved the Canadian taxpayer
$1BN over five years. But just imagine how many political toes he must
have stepped on in traditionally such a patronage-ridden government
department, and how many bureaucratic apple carts he must have upset
& empire-building dreams squashed, in so doing. The truth is that
Ottawa only pays lipservice to efficiency & the prudent husbandry
of public funds.
UP ON DRUG PURCHASES (G&M, Karen Howlett)
· Canada’s Provincial
Premiers unveiled plans on August 6th to set up a national
agency that would be responsible for purchasing the $10BN in prescription
drugs, and the medical equipment & supplies, their governments collectively
purchase each year, in the expectation this will lower the cost of a
major aspect of their healthcare expenditures.
The Law of Unintended
Consequences makes it almost inevitable that the resultant bureaucracy
will eat up whatever savings might be generated.
TO ECO-FRIENDLY USE (EJ, Dave Cooper)
· According to CNRL
President Steve Laut, due to the use of new methodology at its Horizon
oilsands plant (that started operations in early 2009) using carbon
dioxide (that all oilsands producers generate in making the hydrogen
needed to upgrade bitumen) that changes the chemistry of its tailings
“the amount of water we are withdrawing from the Athabasca River
is only 13 to 14% of what we were expected to draw from the river ...
on a daily basis.”
This would seem to
make more sense that capturing it to bury it deep underground (for which
the provincial government has earmarked $2BN).
GOV’T FAILS AT
GOING GREEN (Postmedia News, Mike De Souza)
· A survey of 5,109
senior stakeholders in government, industry & academia conducted
by McAllister Opinion Research, incl. 4,282 Canadians, found that 77%
of them rated Canada’s efforts at addressing climate change as poor
or very poor, and that almost as many had the same opinion about the
country’s performance in developing a green economy.
That shouldn’t come
as a surprise to anyone.
BEAT ‘WRONG’ PERSON (Postmedia News, Aileen McCabe)
· While police in
Hubei Province thought they were just beating a pesky petitioner senseless,
it turned out to be Chen Yulian, the wife of a top Communist Party official.
And then officials from the public security bureau in Wuhan, the provincial
capital, made matters worse when they sought to apologize by telling
her they made a mistake when they treated her like an “ordinary”
petitioner rather than an important “wife-of”. This prompted her
to ask from her hospital bed, one month after the incident, “An official’s
wife you can’t hit, but a commoner you can?” & the Party mouthpiece
People’s Daily to observe that “the mistake of the ‘mistakenly
beating gate incident’ is not about ‘beating the wrong people’
but habitual beating under the mindset of maintaining stability by violence.”
· Petitioning to
a higher level of government is the final recourse for Chinese who believe
they have been wronged & are unable to get satisfaction at the local
government level (often because its officials were the ones who wronged
them), but officials will go to any length to stop them from doing so
because complaints reflect badly on their performance.
The interesting thing
is that this event quickly became a cause celebre on the Internet.
SYSTEM SAVES CHINESE CITY FROM FLASH FLOODS (DT)
· While torrential
rains & flash floods have caused much damage, & killed many
people, across Southern China, the 100,000 residents of the city of
Ganzhou have been safe & dry thanks to two drainage tunnels built
by a man called Liu Yi during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) that proved
far more effective than modern storm sewer systems.
Despite being mesmerized
with new technology, there’s often nothing wrong with old technology.
PROPERTY MARKET FALTERS (BBCNews)
· In June property
prices in 70 cities declined for the first time since February 2009
(by 0.1% MoM) but were still up 11.4% YoY. And bank lending, which has
fueled property speculation, was down 5.6% MoM (& 50% YoY), raising
the question if there will be a soft landing in housing or a US-style
crash landing. Exports were up 43.9% YoY (vs. the 38% expected) but
imports only 34.1% on a smaller base,
boosting the trade surplus for the month by US$500MM to US$20BN.
This came days after Treasury Secretary Geithner chose not to label
Beijing a “currency manipulator” (since its pre-G20 announcement
allowed more flexibility in the yuan, even though so far it had resulted
in only a 0.9% change in its value).
One key difference
between the Chinese & US property booms is that the latter was far
more leverage-driven than China’s (so the prospects of owners getting
“underwater” is far smaller).
EARTH RESTRICTIONS COULD SPARK TRADE ROW
· Rare earth
elements like dysprosium, gadolinium & neodymium, but also the better-known
tantalum & lithium, are key to much green technology, consumer electronics
& high capacity magnets. Ninety-plus percent of their current
supply originates in China which is planning to cut its export quotas
for the Second Half by 72% YoY to 7,976 tonnes. According to Don Bubar,
CEO of Toronto-based Avalon Rare Metals Inc., this “underlines the
... the need for new supply sources to emerge outside China”. And
this has raised the ire of the US & other developed
countries that depend on China for their rare earth materials, with
the US gathering evidence for a formal complaint to the WTO. But while
China cornered the market by keeping its prices low, there are many
rare earth deposits elsewhere in the world that can be developed if
prices make it worthwhile to do so.
Demand is relatively
price-inelastic since the amounts needed in various hi-tech applications
are relatively small compared to the value of the end product. So China
may be shooting itself in the foot by encouraging the development of
other sources of supply.
... THE COMING LITHIUM SHORTAGE (Fortune, Shelley Dubois)
· Electric car skeptics
claim there won’t be enough lithium for significant numbers of them
& some even that the US invaded Afghanistan to secure its massive
lithium reserves. But according to the US Geological Survey the US has
2½MM tons in lithium reserves & the rest of the world another 23MM
tons - enough for billions of electric cars. And
existing non-Chinese producers have the capability to produce sufficient
lithium to fuel the number of electric cars projected for the next decade
(they are now only operating at 60% of capacity, & even so producing
more than the market needs, and have the ability to expand output).
While recycling it
is still non-economic, that will change as more used batteries become
MORE INDIANS THAN
CHINESE BY 2026 (DT, Dean Nelson)
· According to Dr.
Amatjeet Singh of the National Population Stabilization Fund India’s
current population of 1.1BN will grow by 371MM by 2026, taking it past
China’s current 1.35BN.
The common wisdom
holds the resultant low dependency
ratio will result in high economic growth.
SIGN MAJOR GAS PIPELINE AGREEMENT (AF-P)
· On May 28th
they signed an agreement for a US$7½ BN, 900 km gas pipeline to be
built by 2014 between Asalooyeh in Southern Iran & Iranshahr, near
the Pakistan border that will move gas originating in the huge South
Pars field (in the Persian Gulf) to Pakistan.
Originally this was
to have involved India as well, but it withdrew from the project last
DOWNGRADE STILL HANGS OVER BRITAIN (Reuters)
· It said on July
12th that, despite the fiscal tightening plans in the June
Budget, it’s keeping its negative outlook on Britain & that its
triple-A rating remains at risk, since the spending cuts have yet to
be made & the economy may grow slower than assumed in the Budget.
This may actually
play into the hands of Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.
MANURE TO POWER
ARMY BARRACKS (CH, Drill Bits)
· The new Royal
Horse Artillery barracks in Woolwich, Southeast London, will have its
heating & lighting needs met by burning pellets made of its 111
horses’ manure & bedding.
This kills two birds
with one stone : use less traditional fuel & dispose of the manure.
TALISMAN TO DRILL
IN POLAND (EJ, Business Browser)
· This major Canadian
oil & gas producer is teaming up with Poland’s largest oil refiner,
PKN Orlen SA, to drill for shale gas in that country which is estimated
to have reserves of shale & ‘tight’ gas that could be as high
as 3TR cubic metres (> 100TRCF).
Talisman likely has
as much, if not more, experience than most oil & gas companies with
shale gas. If this venture were successful it could be a major
boost to the Polish economy, make it a net energy exporter & reduce
Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.
WITHOUT CONSENT (Ottawa Citizen)
· Almost half the
euthanasia cases in Belgium involved patients who had not asked their
lives be ended, one fifths of the nurses interviewed by researchers
admitted having been involved in euthanasia cases that involved an ‘assumption’
they would want to have their lives ended & half said they had taken
part in “terminations without request or consent”.
Euthanasia has been
legal in Belgium since 2002 but requires consent.
IGNORING AFRICA, MBEKI SAYS (G&M, Geoffrey York)
· In an op-ed piece
published in The Star, a Johannesburg daily, former South African
President Thabo Mbeki on July 1st accused the G-8
& G-20 summits (the latter of which was attended by his successor)
of abandoning Africa & of conveying “a message of despair” to
the world’s poorest region. He based this on the fact that, while
the 2002 G-8 meeting hosted by Canada in Alberta (in which he had played
a role) had created an ‘Africa Action Plan’ & adopted a statement
about “the special needs of Africa”, the communique after the latest
G-8 meeting in Canada had merely talked about a”responsible partnership”
& the “global development challenge facing the world”, thus
walking away from the 2002 Africa Action Plan & depriving Africa
from its central place in the world’s development agenda.
Mbeki was Mandela’s
hand-picked successor as South Africa’s leader & its (under-performing)
President for nine years until ousted in a palace coup by Jacob Zuma
in 2008. While there is something in what he says, sub-Saharan Africa’s
rate of economic growth has improved greatly in recent years, in part
due to China pouring in money, but in part also to better & less
kleptocratic governance & to a realization among younger leaders
that foreign aid has been part of the problem, not
of the solution, and that, to improve their lives, they’d better start
‘pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps’. It’s ironic that
the West kept pouring in aid when much of it benefited kleptocratic
cliques & is now cutting back when it actually could do some good
(leaving a void that China will be only too happy to fill).
S. AFRICAN POLICE
CHIEF TOOK DRUG LORD’S BRIBE (EJ, World Digest)
· Jackie Selebi
was an anti-apartheid activist & a close ally of former President
Mbeki, and a former Head of the South African Police (& of
Interpol, from 2004 to 2008). On July 2nd, after a
nine-month trial he was found guilty of accepting $158,200 in bribes
for turning a blind eye on bad guys & providing them with inside
He subsequently was
sentenced to 15 years. His conviction, however, was as much as anything
evidence of a split in the ruling ANC party between its pro-Mbeki &
MOONSHINE OR THE
KIDS? (NYT, Nicholas D. Kristof)
· While traveling
through Central Africa we met a bright fourth grader who was about to
be expelled from school because his school fees hadn’t been paid in
three months. So we asked to meet his parents. His father makes straw
stools that he sells for a dollar each & is obviously very
poor. He is eight months behind on his $6/month rent & in danger
of being evicted, with no place to go. He says he cannot afford the
$6 cost of a mosquito net although two of his eight kids have died from
malaria, nor the $2½ monthly school fees for each of his three school
age kids, explaining that “It’s hard to get the money to send the
kids to school.” But both he & his wife have cell phones and between
them spend $10 on call time, and he goes drinking several times
a week at the village bar which he thinks costs him about $12 a month,
almost enough for his rent & the kids’ school fees.
He needn’t have
gone to Africa to find cases like this : in North America too there
is a phenomenon referred to as “three day millionaires”, people
who, on the day the welfare cheques come in, take a taxi to the bank
to cash it while the taxi waits outside, then go to the liquor store
to stock up, again while the taxi waits outside, & then go home
to get drunk, and who a couple of weeks later come knocking on the door
of the local Food Bank for food to feed their family.
JAGGED LITTLE PILL
(G&M, Carolyn Abraham)
· For every woman
there is always a risk after a baby is born when the placenta peels
away from the uterine wall, leaving a wound the size of a small pizza.
If all goes well, the uterus will contract to close around the blood
vessels; but if it doesn’t, as happens in up to 15% of the cases,
the mother can bleed to death within an hour, and across the world an
estimated 1,000 women die thus each day. Seventy-five years ago already
drugs came along to stop post-partum bleeding but the cold storage needed
to store them, & the technology to administer them, put them out
of reach of many women in the world. Then, a number of years ago, it
was discovered that a twenty year-old, 10¢ drug called misoprostol,
originally developed as a gastric ulcer drug, that needed no cold storage
to keep nor special equipment to deliver, could help save new mothers’
lives. But because it can also be used to induce labour &
abortions, it has ever since been mired in controversy to the point
where some governments have outright banned it. In addition, because
the manufacturer, US-based G.D. Searle & Co. has never conducted
trials to establish safe dosages for use, it has become what one doctor
called a “cowboy medicine”, often used in far greater amounts than
necessary, or desirable, if only because the standard pill size contains
as much as 24x the dosage required for some applications. As a result,
the WHO “does not recommend distribution of misoprostol to community-level
health workers or women and their families for routine or emergency
As one critic puts
it, “Caution kills.”
PEOPLE NEED TO
CURB THEIR APPETITE FOR MEAT (CanWest, Margaret Munro)
· A report
prepared by the UN Environment Program in response to a request to identify
activities that cause the greatest pressures on the environment associated
with a growing world population, and rising incomes & consumption,
concluded that, since cattle & other animals are fed over half the
world’s crops, meat consumption must be curbed to provide more food
for people & reduce agriculture’s environmental impact. Furthermore,
that agriculture, which accounts for 70% of all fresh water consumption
& 38% of all land use, and is a major source of greenhouse gases
and of phosphorus & nitrogen pollution, is in need of “transformational
change” and that at the household level there is room for change in
the way people use energy, travel and buy, & use, ‘mod cons’.
Better husbandry of
existing technology, rather than radical change, may well be the ticket.
CAN TRIGGER RAIN AND SNOW
· A report by the
US National Center for Atmospheric Research published in the Bulletin
of the American Meteorological Society says that under the right conditions
planes can “seed” clouds by simply flying through them. For when
they fly through air masses that contain “supercooled” water droplets,
the action of propellers or jet turbines can cause them to freeze &
drop to the ground.
We often ignore the
basic principle in physics that for every action there is a reaction.