Friday, December 14, 2007
Tokyo (dpa) - Japanese automakers have applied to produce environmentally conscious eco-cars in Thailand, The Nikkei reported Friday.
Toyota Motor Corp and Mitsubishi Motors Corp plan to expand production capacity in Thailand and to begin manufacturing about 100,000 units of environmentally-friendly cars every year from 2010.
Toyota intends to invest about 17 billion yen (151.83 million dollars) and make the total of investment about 20 billion yen, Japan's business daily said.
The Thai government has decided to give tax breaks to automakers that produce eco-cars with 1.3-litre or smaller gasoline engines and fuel efficiency of 20 kilometres per litre.
Honda Motor Co, Suzuki Motor Corp and Nissan Motor Co have already received permission for their production plans. They plan to begin manufacturing eco-cars as early as 2010 in Thailand.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
By TERENCE CHEA, Associated Press Writer
Sun Nov 18, 1:53 PM ET
SAN FRANCISCO - Most Americans think they're helping the earth when they recycle their old computers, televisions and cell phones. But chances are they're contributing to a global trade in electronic trash that endangers workers and pollutes the environment overseas.
While there are no precise figures, activists estimate that 50 to 80 percent of the 300,000 to 400,000 tons of electronics collected for recycling in the U.S. each year ends up overseas. Workers in countries such as China, India and Nigeria then use hammers, gas burners and their bare hands to extract metals, glass and other recyclables, exposing themselves and the environment to a cocktail of toxic chemicals.
"It is being recycled, but it's being recycled in the most horrific way you can imagine," said Jim Puckett of the Basel Action Network, the Seattle-based environmental group that tipped off Hong Kong authorities. "We're preserving our own environment, but contaminating the rest of the world."
The gear most likely to be shipped abroad is collected at free recycling drives, often held each April around Earth Day, recycling industry officials say. The sponsors — chiefly companies, schools, cities and counties — often hire the cheapest firms and do not ask enough questions about what becomes of the discarded equipment, the officials say.
Many so-called recyclers simply sell the working units and components, then give or sell the remaining scrap to export brokers.
"There are a lot of people getting away with exporting e-waste," said John Bekiaris, chief executive of San Francisco-based HMR USA Inc., which collects and disposes of unwanted IT equipment from Bay Area businesses. "Anyone who's disposing of their computer equipment really needs to do a thorough inspection of the vendors they use."
The problem could get worse. Most of the 2 million tons of old electronics discarded annually by Americans goes to U.S. landfills, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data. But a growing number of states are banning such waste from landfills, which could drive more waste into the recycling stream and fuel exports, activists say.
Many brokers claim they are simply exporting used equipment for reuse in poor countries. That's what happened in September, when customs officials in Hong Kong were tipped off by environmentalists and intercepted two freight containers. They cracked the containers open and found hundreds of old computer monitors and televisions discarded by Americans thousands of miles away.
China bans the import of electronic waste, so the containers were sent back to the U.S.
The company that shipped out the containers was Fortune Sky USA, a Cordova, Tenn.-based subsidiary of a Chinese company. General manager Vincent Yu said his company thought it was buying and shipping used computers, not old monitors and televisions, and is trying to get its money back.
Fortune Sky exports used computers and components to China, Malaysia, Vietnam and other Asian countries.
"There's a huge market over there for secondhand computers that we don't use anymore," Yu said. "I don't think it's going to cause any pollution. If the equipment can still be used, then that's good for everybody."
Yu refused to say where he bought the material, but Basel Action Network tracked it to a San Antonio, Texas, company that collects computers, printers and other electronics from schools and businesses.
Activists complain that most exporters don't test units to make sure they work before sending them overseas.
"Reuse is the new excuse. It's the new passport to export," said Puckett of Basel Action Network. "Other countries are facing this glut of exported used equipment under the pretext that it's all going to be reused."
At the other end at customs, the goods don't always get checked either.
"It is impossible to stop and check every single container imported into Hong Kong," said Kenneth Chan of Hong Kong's Environmental Protection Department. "Smugglers may also deliberately declare their ... waste as goods."
In the first nine months of this year, Hong Kong authorities returned 85 containers of electronic junk, including 20 from the U.S.
Exporting most electronic waste isn't illegal in the United States. The U.S. does bar the export of monitors and televisions with cathode-ray tubes without permission from the importing country, but federal authorities don't have the resources to check most containers.
The EPA recognizes the problem but doesn't believe that stopping exports is the solution, said Matt Hale, who heads the agency's office of solid waste. Since most electronics are manufactured abroad, it makes sense to recycle them abroad, Hale said.
"What we need to do is work internationally to upgrade the standards (for recycling) wherever it takes place," he said.
The EPA is working with environmental groups, recyclers and electronics manufacturers to develop a system to certify companies that recycle electronics responsibly. But so far the various players have not agreed on standards and enforcement.
Many activists believe the answer lies in requiring electronics makers to take back and recycle their own products. Such laws would encourage manufacturers to make products that are easier to recycle and contain fewer dangerous chemicals, they say.
Eight states, including five this year, have passed such laws, and companies such as Apple, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Sony now take back their products at no charge. Some require consumers to mail in their old gear, while others have drop-off centers. HP says it also now designs its equipment with fewer toxic materials and has made it easier to recycle.
On the Net:
Basel Action Network: http://www.ban.org/
Computer Take Back Campaign: http://www.computertakeback.com/
International Association of Electronics Recyclers: http://www.iaer.org/
This is not a pretty story but it needed to be told.
In the end no one wins, we complained about China sending dangerous toys to our country - we are not all that pure and regal either.
(To be continued..)
China not fighting off e-waste nightmare
By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN, Associated Press Writer
26 minutes ago
GUIYU, China - The air smells acrid from the squat gas burners that sit outside homes, melting wires to recover copper and cooking computer motherboards to release gold. Migrant workers in filthy clothes smash picture tubes by hand to recover glass and electronic parts, releasing as much as 6.5 pounds of lead dust.
For five years, environmentalists and the media have highlighted the danger to Chinese workers who dismantle much of the world's junked electronics. Yet a visit to this southeastern Chinese town regarded as the heartland of "e-waste" disposal shows little has improved. In fact, the problem is growing worse because of China's own contribution.
China now produces more than 1 million tons of e-waste each year, said Jamie Choi, a toxics campaigner with Greenpeace China in Beijing. That adds up to roughly 5 million television sets, 4 million fridges, 5 million washing machines, 10 million mobile phones and 5 million personal computers, according to Choi.
"Most e-waste in China comes from overseas, but the amount of domestic e-waste is on the rise," he said.
This ugly business is driven by pure economics. For the West, where safety rules drive up the cost of disposal, it's as much as 10 times cheaper to export the waste to developing countries. In China, poor migrants from the countryside willingly endure the health risks to earn a few yuan, exploited by profit-hungry entrepreneurs.
International agreements and European regulations have made a dent in the export of old electronics to China, but loopholes — and sometimes bribes — allow many to skirt the requirements. And only a sliver of the electronics sold get returned to manufacturers such as Dell and Hewlett Packard for safe recycling.
Upwards of 90 percent ends up in dumps that observe no environmental standards, where shredders, open fires, acid baths and broilers are used to recover gold, silver, copper and other valuable metals while spewing toxic fumes and runoff into the nation's skies and rivers.
Accurate figures about the shady and unregulated trade are hard to come by. However, experts agree that it is overwhelmingly a problem of the developing world. They estimate about 70 percent of the 20-50 million tons of electronic waste produced globally each year is dumped in China, with most of the rest going to India and poor African nations.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it is ten times cheaper to export e-waste than to dispose of it at home.
Imports slip into China despite a Chinese ban and Beijing's ratification of the Basel Convention, an international agreement that outlaws the trade. Industry monitor Ted Smith said one U.S. exporter told him all that was needed to get shipments past Chinese customs officials was a crisp $100 bill taped to the inside of each container.
"The central government is well aware of the problems but has been unable or unwilling to really address it," said Smith, senior strategist with the California-based Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, which focuses on the electronics industry.
The European Union bans such exports, but Smith and others say smuggling is rife, largely due to the lack of measures to punish rule breakers. China, meanwhile, allows the import of plastic waste and scrap metal, which many recyclers use as an excuse to send old electronics there.
And though U.S. states increasingly require that electronics be sent to collection and recycling centers, even from those centers, American firms can send the e-waste abroad legally because Congress hasn't ratified the Basel Convention.
The results are visible on the streets of Guiyu, where the e-waste industry employs an estimated 150,000 people. Shipping containers of computer parts, old video games, computer screens, cell phones and electronics of all kinds, from ancient to nearly new, are dumped onto the streets and sorted for dismantling and melting.
Valuable metals such as copper, gold, and silver are removed through melting and acid baths, while steel is torn out for scrap and plastic is ground into pellets for other use.
This is big business for those who control the trade. Luxury sedans are parked in front of elaborate mansions in downtown Guiyu, adorned with fancy names such as "Hall of Southernly Peace."
Many of those who do the dirty work are migrants from poorer parts of China, too desperate or uninformed to care about the health risks.
In the town of Nanyang, a few minutes drive from Guiyu, a middle-aged couple from the inland province of Hunan sorts wiring in a mud-floored shack. Such work, including melting down motherboards, earns them about $100 per month, said the husband, who answered reluctantly and wouldn't give his name.
Many houses double as smelter and home. Gas burners shaped like blacksmith's forges squat beside the front doors, their flues rising several stories to try to dissipate the toxic smoke.
Nonetheless, a visitor soon develops a throbbing headache and metallic taste in the mouth. The groundwater has long been too polluted for human consumption. The amount of lead in the river sediment is double European safety levels, according to the Basel Action Network, an environmental group.
Yet, aside from trucking in drinking water, the health risks seem largely ignored. Fish are still raised in local ponds, and piles of ash and plastic waste sit beside rice paddies and dikes holding in the area's main Lianjiang river.
Chemicals, including mercury, fluorine, barium, chromium, and cobalt, that either leach from the waste or are used in processing, are blamed for skin rashes and respiratory problems. Contamination can take decades to dissipate, experts say, and long-term health effects can include kidney and nervous system damage, weakening of the immune system and cancer.
"Of course, recycling is more environmentally sound," said Wu Song, a former local university student who has studied the area. "But I wouldn't really call what's happening here recycling."
Those who control the business in Guiyu are hostile to outside scrutiny. Reporters visiting the area with a Greenpeace volunteer were trailed by tough-looking youths who notified local police, leading to a six-hour detention for questioning.
Government departments from the provincial to township levels refused to answer questions. The central government's Environmental Protection Agency did not reply to faxed questions.
Guiyu faces growing competition from other cities, notably Taizhou, about 450 miles up the coast in Zhejiang province. Meanwhile, collection yards have sprung up on the fringes of most major cities. The owners sell what they can to recyclers — most of them unregulated — and simply dump the rest.
Efforts to recycle e-waste safely in China have struggled. Few people bring in waste, because the illegal operators pay more.
"We're not even breaking even," said Gao Jian, marketing director of New World Solid Waste in the northeastern city of Qingdao. "These guys pay more because they don't need expensive equipment, but their methods are really dangerous."
The city of Shanghai opened a dedicated e-waste handling center last year, but most residents and companies prefer the "guerrilla" junkers who ride through neighborhoods on flatbed tricycles ringing bells to attract customers, said Yu Jinbiao of the Shanghai Electronic Products Repair Service Association, a government-backed industry federation.
"Those guerrillas are convenient and offer a good price," Yu said, "so there is a big market for them."
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Your thoughts create your world and your words indicate your thoughts. When you eliminate complaining from your life will you enjoy happier relationships, better health and greater prosperity. This simple program helps you set a trap for your own negativity and redirect your mind towards a more positive and rewarding life.
How it Works?
Scientists believe it takes 21 days to form a new habit and complaining is habitual for most of us.
The Emergence of Positive Psychology: The Building of a Field of Dreams
Shane J. Lopez, PhD
University of Kansas
"Build it and they will come. Build it and they will come."
A similar eerie directive echoed in Ray Consella's mind in the popular movie,
"Field of Dreams." An epiphany occurred when Consella realized that the building of a baseball field in rural Iowa would open a metaphysical door to his past and his future.
Dr. Martin Seligman experienced a similar epiphany that occurred in his garden and was brought about by the profound words of a child, his daughter Nikki. In a 1999 speech, Dr. Seligman recounted the experience that changed his view of parenting and psychology and he concluded the following:
Raising Nikki would be about taking the strength that she had just shown--I call it seeing into the soul--naming it, nurturing it, reinforcing it, helping her to lead her life around it and let it buffer against the weaknesses and the vicissitudes. The most important thing, the most general thing I learned, was that psychology was half-baked, literally half-baked. We had baked the part about mental illness; we had baked the part about repair of damage...The other side's unbaked, the side of strength, the side of what we're good at.
Positive psychology is the other side. It is the scientific pursuit of optimal human functioning and the building of a field focusing on human strength and virtue. It builds on the bench science and research methods that shed light on the "dark side" of human functioning, and it opens the door to understanding prevention and health promotion. Dr. Seligman (1998) noted:
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Malaysia to Get High Speed Broadband
According to Business Week, The Malaysia government will fund 30% of the proposed multibillion project, which will be built by Telekom Malaysia
by Lee Min Keong
Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak last week unveiled plans to embark on an ambitious initiative to roll out high-speed broadband services across the country. The government official also revealed that incumbent fixed-line carrier Telekom Malaysia (TM) has been awarded the mega broadband project.
Targeted to cover 2.2 million premises, the project is estimated to cost 15.2 billion ringgit (US$4.46 billion) over 10 years, Najib was quoted to say in local news reports.
"We have asked the Finance Ministry to verify the figure, which includes the cost of 'last-mile' fiber, core network and [improvements to] international connectivity," Najib told local reporters.
State-owned TM has been directed to start initial work on the project, though deployment of the physical infrastructure is likely to come only six months after the partnership agreement has been signed. The government is targeting to ink the agreement as soon as possible, Najib said.
The country's deputy premier explained that the Cabinet Committee on Broadband, which he heads, chose to partner TM because the telco already owns an existing infrastructure. This, he said, would allow additional investment to be done on a lower cost basis and at a faster speed.
"We want the [new high-speed broadband] service to be rolled out quickly and in a cost-efficient manner, so that Malaysia would not be left behind in terms of competitive edge," he added.
Najib left open the possibility for other telcos to get a dip in the project, though he noted that the role of these industry players would only be determined later.
STUDYING THE COSTAccording to local reports, the government had commissioned consultant firm McKinsey & Co. to conduct a feasibility study, which estimated that an investment of 15 billion ringgit (US$4.4 billion) would be required to lay fiber-optic lines to every home in Malaysia's major urban areas. To reach every home in the country, this investment will need to increase to 53 billion ringgit (US$15.55 billion).
Saturday, October 06, 2007
LONDON (AFP) - British adventurer Jason Lewis on Saturday arrived in Greenwich, south-east London, ending a 13-year round-the-world trip using only the power of the human body.
The 40-year-old completed the final leg of his 46,000-mile (74,000-kilometre) odyssey by pedalling his 26-foot (7.9-metre) boat Moksha up the River Thames.
The last effort into London followed a 3,000-kilometre bike ride from Turkey through Bulgaria, Romania, Austria and Germany to Oostend in Belgium, where the boat was waiting for him.
During his circumnavigation, he capsized in the North Atlantic Ocean, broke both legs, was chased by a crocodile in Australia and arrested on suspicion of spying in Egypt and threatened with a 40-year prison sentence.
Bearded and looking tired, a clearly emotional Lewis crossed the Greenwich Meridian line at the Royal Observatory by carrying his boat with the help of supporters and cheering well-wishers.
Lewis set off from the same spot -- zero degrees longitude -- bound for Portugal in July 1994. The 16-leg journey also included hiking, kayaking and hiking.
"It feels fantastic. I came over the line and I was choked. I blubbed (cried) like a baby," he told reporters.
"Everything I've been doing for the last 13 years has been in some way connected to this trip and tomorrow that will be no more."
Among the welcoming party was Queen Elizabeth II's cousin, the Duke of Gloucester, who is patron to the Expedition 360 adventure and who named Moksha in 1993. The name means "liberation" in Sanskrit.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
The United States said Wednesday it was "very troubled" by Myanmar's deadly crackdown on anti-government protesters and urged "a peaceful transition" in Yangon from military rule to democracy.(AFP)
"The United States is very troubled that the regime would treat the Burmese people this way. We call on the junta to proceed in a peaceful transition to democracy," said White House national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe.
Asked whether Washington considered earlier reports of violence in Myanmar to have been confirmed, Johndroe replied: "Yes."
Myanmar security forces used batons, tear gas and live rounds Wednesday in a violent crackdown on mass protests against the military junta, killing at least four people including three Buddhist monks.
Up to 100,000 people defied heavy security to take to the streets of the main city Yangon, marching and shouting abuse at police despite blunt warnings from the ruling generals who are facing the most serious challenge to their rule in nearly two decades.
Two of the monks were beaten to death while another was shot when he tried to wrestle a gun away from a soldier and the weapon discharged, two senior Myanmar officials told AFP.
They said the monks were killed near Yangon's Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar's holiest site and a key rallying point for the clergy leading the nine days of protests which have spread across the Southeast Asian nation.
A fourth man, who was not a monk, was shot dead, a hospital source said.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Aerial view of the floods effecting the Katawki district of eastern Uganda, Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2007. Across Africa, torrential downpours and flash floods have submerged whole towns and washed away bridges, farms and schools. More than a million people across at least 17 countries have been affected by the rains since the summer, according to the United Nations. At least 200 people have been killed, and hundreds of thousands are displaced. (AP Photo/Katy Pownall)
Severe floods hit 17 countries in Africa
By KATY POWNALL, Associated Press Writer Wed Sep 19, 3:26 PM ET
SOROTI, Uganda - Fish swam alongside the dugout canoes residents were using to flee their flooded homes, riding the water gushing through the streets of this town in eastern Uganda.
Interior Minister Mohamed Mohamud Guled said this week that southern Somalia faced a "humanitarian catastrophe," because rivers had burst their banks, flooding farms and destroying crops. The rivers began flooding in late August following heavy rains in neighboring, he said.
On the other side of the continent,http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070919/ap_on_re_af/africa_floods_1;_ylt=AmuxAUGlCUIb9ihSRhXchFTlWMcF has also been heavily hit. Three regions in the north, the country's traditional breadbasket, have been declared an official disaster zone after whole towns and villages were submerged. Torrential rains between July and August killed at least 32 people and displaced a quarter of a million, the U.N. said.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
This is a story about living well and living smart. It is about having a beautiful home which is also good for the environment and the owner's pocket book. I love beautiful homes and when the home is good for the environment, I even love it plenty more.
Stunning Solar-Powered Homes
Matt Woolsey 08.16.07, 6:00 PM ET
|In Pictures: Stunning Solar-Powered Homes|
Read the whole article on Forbes web site:http://www.forbes.com/2007/08/16/solar-energy-homes-forbeslife-cx_mw_0816solarrealestate.html?partner=playlist&thisSpeed=15000
Owners of solar-powered homes sleep easy all summer. And it's only in part because they can keep their houses cool without paying obscenely large electricity bills.
Rather, by opting for a photovoltaic (PV) solar-power system, which relies on roof-top solar panels to convert sunlight directly into electricity, a homeowner can, depending on the time of year and the climate in which he lives, cover his monthly energy bill and in some cases, even sell surplus energy back to the grid.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Oslo, Norway has the honor of being #1 on the list.
The Economist Group is the leading source of analysis on international business and world affairs
Sunday, July 08, 2007
The final tally produced this list of the world's top human-built wonders:
• The Great Wall of China
• Petra in Jordan
• Brazil's statue of Christ the Redeemer
• Peru's Machu Picchu
• Mexico's Chichen Itza pyramid
• The Colosseum in Rome
• India's Taj Mahal
Read full article »
Friday, June 22, 2007
LiveScience Staff Writer
Fri Jun 22, 9:55 AM ET
You may have to kiss that summer trip to the beach goodbye later this century, thanks to rising sea levels and more intense tropical storms, scientists predict.
A new study of the potential sand losses to North Carolina beaches reports that a 1-foot rise in sea level in the next 25 to 75 years (which is at the lower end of the range predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) would cause the coast to move inland by 2,000 to 10,000 feet and could cost an estimated $223 million in lost recreational value by 2080 to beach-goers in that state alone.
Predicting exactly how much beaches will shrink is impossible because beach erosion rates are highly variable, even between points that are only a few miles apart. The make-up of each beach's sand, the absence or presence of jetties and other man-made structures meant to retain sand, and offshore topography (which influences wave formation), all affect erosion rates.
Sea level rise is another ominous potential eroding force, at least for beaches that are highly developed. When seas rise, undeveloped beaches can simply shift further inland, but because roads, buildings and other man-made structures act as a barrier, the sand at developed beaches cannot migrate backward. Effectively, relentless waves will wear away the sand and these beaches will shrink until there’s simply no sand left for sunbathing or seaside strolls.
“We create the [beach erosion] problem,” Pilkey said.
In fact, Pilkey says, the building of jetties and sea walls may be doing the most damage for now, because while they preserve a small portion of the shoreline near the structure, they actually result in more coastal erosion further from the structure than would have occurred naturally.
“I suspect that may be more important than sea level rise,” he told LiveScience, but that trend will eventually change later, with global warming’s forces surpassing the impact of sea walls and jetties.
For West Coast U.S. beaches, erosion from sea level rise and storms is less of a threat than on the East Coast, because the "left" coastline tends to be higher and steeper, but that doesn’t mean beach-goers there are in the clear. One of the main sources of sand for these beaches is river transport, but dams built along western rivers block this sand, which causes the beaches to erode.
More crowded beaches
With beaches slowly vanishing from the coasts, vacationers might have to find some other way to entertain themselves and soak up the sun in the summer in the coming decades.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
By THOMAS HOGUE and MALCOLM FOSTER,
AP Business Writers
Wed Jun 20, 12:02 PM ET
BANGKOK, Thailand - Ten years ago, a plunge in the Thai baht sparked a wave of recessions across Asia's high-flying economies, bankrupting entire nations, putting millions out of work and shaking markets around the world. Some feared that decade of growth would be lost.
Today, the region as a whole has bounced back from the 1997-98 crisis and is better equipped to deal with financial emergencies. Banking is more transparent, corporations are better managed, poverty rates have dropped and the region's collective economic growth has doubled.
Still, the recovery has been uneven. The three countries hit hardest by the crisis that began July 2, 1997 — Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea — have charted sharply divergent paths over the last 10 years, reflecting their differing responses to the crisis and policies since then.
South Korea, which received a humiliating $58 billion bailout arranged by the International Monetary Fund, quickly cleaned up its banking system and started reforming its heavily indebted family-owned conglomerates. The economy shrank and the jobless rate soared, but by 1999 it was robustly growing again.
The crisis, while painful, forced South Korea to make changes that paved the way for more stable long-term growth. Today, it is one of Asia's powerhouses, led by Samsung Electronics Co. — the world's biggest memory chip maker — and Hyundai Motor Co.
Indonesia, however, continues to struggle. The crisis helped bring about the downfall of former dictator Suharto and greater political freedom, but the economy remains beset by rampant corruption, a weak legal system and lackluster foreign investment. Economic growth has been ticking along at about 5.5 percent the last two years, but unemployment is rising.
Thailand hovers somewhere in between. Bangkok, where hundreds of skyscrapers froze in mid-construction when the crisis erupted, now has an elevated Skytrain, a subway, a brand new airport and dozens of glitzy malls. Japanese investment has made Thailand a major auto and electronics exporting hub.
But a rise in the baht and political uncertainty caused by a tainted election in 2006 and military coup last September has dragged on growth.
In the wake of the crisis, Thai authorities shut down dozens of insolvent financial firms, vastly improved banking supervision and updated archaic bankruptcy laws. However, it can still take years for creditors to pursue claims, and further reforms of laws governing bankruptcy and repossession of assets from recalcitrant debtors haven't gone beyond the drafting stage.
"Korea restructured its financial sector, but the problem in Thailand has been the inconsistency of reforms," says Sompop Manarangsan, a professor of economics at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University. "This is not good for the longer term."
Investors got a flashback to the 1997 crisis in December when the Thai central bank imposed capital controls in an attempt to weaken the currency, sending stocks plummeting 15 percent in one day and rattling regional markets.
Authorities quickly exempted stocks and foreign direct investment from the rules, helping the market bounce back. Investors were also reassured to know that Thailand had $65 billion in foreign currency reserves, far more than in 1997.
Still, Thailand's bungled effort to impose capital controls underscore the lingering challenges that Asia's emerging economies face in handling international money flows in search of higher returns.
It was the dramatic outflow of funds from Thailand that forced the central bank on July 2, 1997, to finally cut the baht's peg to the dollar, causing the Thai currency to plummet, triggering the crisis.
Unlike today, many Thai companies at that time were burdened with huge dollar-denominated debts. When the local currency plunged, the value of those loans suddenly ballooned in baht terms, forcing many companies to go bankrupt.
That kindled speculative pressures that also forced currencies in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and South Korea to fall, driving more companies out of business, including one of South Korea's largest conglomerates, the Daewoo Group.
The turmoil rippled around the world, affecting markets as far away as Brazil and Russia.
In ensuing months, the IMF orchestrated emergency loans of $17 billion for Thailand, $50 billion for Indonesia and $58 billion for South Korea — and imposed austerity measures such as raising interest rates and cutting public spending that many believe exacerbated the crisis.
Since then, Asian nations have taken steps to protect themselves by bulking up their foreign currency reserves and set up regional agreements to supply emergency funds through bilateral currency swaps.
South Korea's effective use of the IMF funds to repair banks' balance sheets and moves to improve corporate transparency set the stage for a rapid recovery. After contracting 7 percent in 1998, the economy jumped 9.5 percent in 1999.
Many of the major conglomerates survived, but not without changes. The Samsung Group streamlined its business structure, shedding its automobile unit and reforming its financial structure by reducing debt. The Daewoo Group, however, collapsed spectacularly under mountains of debt.
South Korea also responded by opening its economy wider to foreign investors, bringing changes virtually unimaginable before the crisis.
For example, U.S. private equity fund Newbridge Capital in late 1999 purchased a controlling stake in Korea First Bank, becoming the first foreign investor to acquire a South Korean financial institution.
But the outlook for Indonesia — hardest hit by the crisis — is mixed.
The turmoil accompanying Suharto's ouster in 1998 made it difficult for authorities to tackle structural problems in the economy, including bad lending practices to corruption.
Today, greater investment in factories, roads and ports is needed to achieve economic growth of more than 7 percent — the minimum level needed, experts say, to create enough jobs to put a dent in unemployment, now around 12.5 percent.
"The country is still dealing with the long-term fallout from the crisis," says Peter McCawley, an expert on the Indonesian economy at the Australian National University.
Progress on improving the investment climate has been patchy and many businesses prefer to locate factories elsewhere in Southeast Asia, where wages are lower, setting up is easier and corruption is less of a problem.
Exploration for Indonesia's vast copper, gold and zinc deposits remains dormant despite record metal prices. Companies say it is too risky investing millions when there is no certainty they will be able to mine them later. A mining law aimed at ensuring legal certainty for investors is still being debated in parliament.
Associated Press Writers Grant Peck in Bangkok, Kelly Olsen in Seoul and Chris Brummitt in Jakarta contributed to this report.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
The 3,000-mile trek began April 20th in New York at CBS Studios and concluded at Mariners Church on June 16th with an outdoor BBQ and closing ceremony celebration.
After hooking up with a group of supporters in Long Beach, CA, on Saturday morning, the team rode down the coast and into the parking lot of Mariners Church at about 3:00pm. They were greeted by a more than enthusiastic crowd of supporters who were being kept up to date on their location by cell phone.
Finally, they heard "THERE THEY ARE!" as the group of cyclists appeared on the main street. With hot dogs and hamburgers in hand all were invited to go indoors for a welcoming ceremony and video of some of the high points of the ride.
Jun 17, 2007 8:46 am US/Pacific
Pair Finishes Cross-Country Bike Trip For Charity
(AP) IRVINE, Calif. An Orange County pair has finished a cross-country bicycle journey that has raised enough money to buy almost 10,000 wheelchairs.
The wheelchairs will be distributed to disabled people in developing countries.
Don Schoendorfer and Mike Bayer, co-founders of Free Wheelchair Mission, completed the 3,000 mile campaign Saturday in Irvine after leaving New York on April 20.
Bayer says the journey was “worth every pedal stoke.” Schoendorfer and Bayer are still about 5,000 wheelchairs short of their goal of 15,000.
The two were met at the finish line by family, friends and supporters and celebrated with a barbecue.
(© 2007 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
Friday, June 01, 2007
Vineyards and fruit trees have been replanted in the original locations used some two thousand years ago in Pompeii. The harvest makes up some of the ingredients sold in kits to visitors with instructions to reproduce ancient recipes.
AP Photo/Pompeii Archaelogical Superintendence
Secrets of Ancient Pompeii Households Revealed in Ruins
Special to LiveScience
Fri Jun 1, 10:55 AM ET
Residents of Pompeii ate their meals on the run, just like many Americans do today, according to a new archaeological study of how households functioned in the ancient Roman city buried by volcanic ash.
Completely destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., Pompeii is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. Besides its risqué statues and frisky frescoes, however, few of its artifacts have been studied in depth.
Excavating a neighborhood block that includes one of Pompeii's grandest mansions, scientists have recently shed a lot more light on the day-to-day tasks undertaken by its citizens.
"I am looking at pots and pans and how houses actually functioned," said archaeologist Penelope Allison of the University of Leicester, in the United Kingdom. "I am interested in revealing the utilitarian side of life rather than its glamorous side, in slaves and servants and how they lived side by side with their masters."
Allison's complete findings are published in a new book, "The Insula of the Menander at Pompeii Volume III" (Oxford University Press, 2007).
Pompeii was destroyed quickly and thus preserved like a time capsule, so the Allison's findings may also carry over to other Roman towns from the same period, she said.
A non-gadget world
The ins and outs of domestic life—ranging from where food was cooked to who patched up cuts and scrapes—was the main focus of Allison's research. Though ancient Rome was an advanced society, it can't be assumed household units worked the same way they do today, she said.
Even simple tools that were found, such cooking vessels, could be interpreted in a number of different ways.
"Today we have hundreds of very specific gadgets," she said, "but in a non-gadget world you have a number of things used for a variety of purposes, such as pots that might have been wine dippers and spindle whorls that were used as furniture ornamentation."
People also filled a number of different roles when necessary, the findings suggest.
When a child cut their knee, it didn't mean a trip to the local medical clinic, necessarily; Pompeii may have been a town full of "Dr. Moms".
"We believe that whenever we find medical instruments, they belonged to doctors. But I think that a lot more high-level first aid went on within households," Allison said. "We have found surgical instruments in domestic contexts, and I think someone in the house was responsible for sewing up injured people."
Weaving looms found in the homes also imply that women—or perhaps even men—did much of the sewing for their own families rather than purchasing clothes ready-made, she said.
Ancient fast food?
With all the sewing—of wounds and clothes—among other daily chores, busy residents of Pompeii probably had little time left for long, relaxing meals at the dinner table.
There was an absence of formal dishware sets but an abundance of small grilling vessels (like barbecues) found in the residences studied, indicating that people were eating-and-running on the go, Allison said.
Some things don't change.
Architectural relics and modern structures show that we may not be much different than our ancestors.
By Craig Childs, CRAIG CHILDS is the author, most recently, of "House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest."
February 16, 2007
ARCHEOLOGISTS recently discovered what appears to be the other half of Stonehenge, illuminating what they believe is a much larger Neolithic complex than has long been envisioned. What is coming to the surface seems strangely familiar. Looking closely at Stonehenge and other Neolithic sites, we find the formative patterns of our modern world.
Step out of your house and you might notice your street is fixed on a cardinal grid: north, south, east, west. This pattern defines many American and European cities, as well as Neolithic sites such as Anyang in China and the Mexican city of Teotihuacan.
FOR THE RECORD:
Stonehenge: A Feb. 16 commentary about Stonehenge stated that a megalithic structure in the Sahara dating back 6,000 years was the oldest in the world . A site in Turkey known as Gobekli Tepe dates back more than 11,000 years.
The new discovery, two miles from Stonehenge itself, is an elaborate residential compound now being excavated. It is a site where the builders of Stonehenge may have lived and where pilgrims may have stayed while attending feasts and ceremonies. Fascinating tidbits have been unearthed: a timber version of Stonehenge, evidence of different kinds of occupations in the 4,600-year-old village and a processional "road" leading to the nearby Avon River. These finds add to the picture of an enigmatic Neolithic religion, in which stone-paved roads are aligned with celestial features and great circles frame the rising and setting sun at key times of the year.
This all has an uncanny resemblance to Neolithic sites in different parts of the world. The Big Horn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming, dating back several hundred years, is a complex celestial calendar, its 28 spokes of aligned stones pointing to risings and settings of the sun and various stars. This medicine wheel, in turn, is similar to the Nonakado Stone Circle of Japan, from the 1st millennium BC, where standing stones mark important, calendrical events on the horizon.
My friend and colleague, Kim Malville, recently discovered an Egyptian Stonehenge in the Sahara dating back more than 6,000 years. Malville believes that it acted as both a calendar and a temple for people living along the edge of an ancient lake, and it is the oldest known megalithic site in the world.
My personal favorite Stonehenge look-alike — at least in concept — is in northern New Mexico, where in the 11th century, the Chaco culture built hundreds of miles of processional "roads." Rather than rings of giant standing stones, the Chacoans erected enormous masonry temples known as great houses. Many of these great houses are aligned to view celestial events through portals and windows.
Looking at the way ancient people assembled themselves, archeologists see cults and primitive, celestial religions. But how primitive were these people's beliefs, and how different from them are we?
I once ambled around the Colorado Capitol in Denver with a compass and notebook in hand. I had come to a modern landmark to apply the same questions we had been asking at ancient sites. I found that every aspect of the building's neoclassical architecture has alignments you see at many Neolithic ceremonial centers. Every bench is symmetrically arranged around the cruciform building, which is, in turn, set to cardinal directions. It lies within an array of other government buildings and open processionals, each holding to the same cardinal patterns.
At the Chaco site, certain ruins were found swept clean, while nearby buildings were loaded with trash. The same thing was just unearthed near Stonehenge: some buildings littered with broken pottery and discarded bones — what archeologists believe to be the leavings of feasts and pilgrimage — and others remarkably clean.
Julian Thomas of the University of Manchester commented that these clean rooms near Stonehenge may have belonged to special people, chiefs or priests. He also suggested that they were possibly shrines and cult centers.
That day in Denver, tens of thousands of people were gathered in an open area at the foot of the Capitol for some kind of weekend fair. The atmosphere boomed with music and smelled of food cooking in numerous tents. What was I seeing? Pilgrims, feasts and cult centers? Were the meticulously kept buildings erected for priests and chiefs?
The same kind of architecture can be seen in Washington, where countless astronomical alignments are constructed into the Capitol and its surrounding buildings and monuments. Most recently, Gerald Ford joined a long line of presidents whose bodies have lain in state inside the majestic, symmetrical Rotunda. Will future archeologists imagine the worship of ancient leaders whose bodies were kept within circular chambers before burial?
So often we see ourselves as a lonely, cultural pinnacle, superior beyond all comparison. But if recent excavations at Stonehenge offer anything, they put our era in perspective, reminding us of an unbroken lineage shared across continents and cultures. We are simply an extension of an ancient age, living now in the next lost civilization.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Fri May 25, 6:25 AM ET
JAKARTA (AFP) - Activists urged the Indonesian government Friday to crackdown on exports of rare merbau, warning soaring global demand was pushing the tropical hardwood to the brink of extinction.
Greenpeace said merbau would be extinct within three decades unless Indonesia strictly controlled shipments to Europe, China, Australia and New Zealand, where it is popular for decking and flooring.
"The Indonesian government should set up an international control mechanism to protect the species from extinction," Greenpeace campaigner Hapsoro told a press conference here.
Greenpeace said its research showed 83 percent of the forests containing merbau in Papua had already been logged or had been earmarked for logging, leaving just 17 percent untouched.
Once common in Asia and eastern Africa, merbau is now only found in significant quantities in Indonesia's Papua and Papua New Guinea, it says.
"Illegal and destructive logging, as well as continued trading of merbau, is still rampant. The international community must question Indonesia's seriousness on this matter," said Hapsoro.
He said the government should list merbau on CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, as a first step to controlling the trade. Traders would then need to gain permits for exports with strict quotas introduced, he said.
Indonesia currently bans export of complete merbau logs, but allows roughly sawn merbau to be shipped.
However Hapsoro said traders managed to get around the partial ban by hiding logs in containers falsely labelled as sawn timber. Thousands of logs were smuggled from Indonesia to China last year, he added.
"You can hardly find the wood domestically, most of the demand comes from outside the country, mainly because the wood is very expensive, reaching up to 600 dollars per cubic metre," said Hapsoro.
"We also call for companies that buy merbau to trace back the origins of the wood (to check) whether it is legally harvested," said Hapsoro.
The Swiss-based World Conservation Union (IUCN) lists merbau as "vulnerable and facing extinction in the wild in the medium-term future."
Greenpeace says Indonesia has lost more than 72 percent of its intact ancient forests and much of the rest is threatened by commercial logging and clearance for palm oil plantations.
Ten countries account for 80 percent of the world's primary forests, of which Indonesia, Mexico, Papua New Guinea and Brazil saw the highest losses in primary forest in the five years from 2000 to 2005, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said.
Friday, May 25, 2007
By AYE AYE WIN, Associated Press Writer
10 minutes ago
YANGON, Myanmar - Myanmar's military government on Friday extended the house arrest of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi for another year, defying an outpouring of international appeals for the Nobel Peace Prize winner's freedom.
The 60-year-old Suu Kyi has spent more than 11 of the past 17 years in detention. She has been continually detained for the past four years, spending most of it confined to her residence in Yangon, Myanmar's biggest city.
Her current one-year detention order was due to expire Sunday and the extension had been widely expected despite calls by international groups and world leaders for Suu Kyi's freedom.
The government's action was not officially announced but was privately confirmed by security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the matter's sensitivity.
The United Nations, the European Union and the U.S. government all repeated their previous calls for the release of Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, as well as for moves toward democracy in Myanmar.
The first sign of the extension came when neighbors saw a silver-gray Toyota with tinted windows enter Suu Kyi's compound at 3:55 p.m. They were assumed to be government officials because she is allowed no visitors. They stayed for about 10 minutes.
One official confirmed that the car carried officials who presented Suu Kyi with a new detention order. The detention order takes effect when it is read to the person concerned. The official asked that neither he nor his agency, which is concerned with security affairs, be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Suu Kyi, the head of Myanmar's National League for Democracy party and daughter of Myanmar's martyred founding father, has been held continuously since May 30, 2003, when her motorcade was attacked by a pro-junta mob during a political tour of northern Myanmar. The government considers her a threat to public order and she is not allowed any telephone contact with the outside.
The junta took power in 1988 after crushing pro-democracy demonstrations in Myanmar, then known as Burma. It refused to hand over power when, on May 27, 1990, Suu Kyi's party won a general election by a landslide, insisting the country first needed a new constitution. Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.
The military has continued to rule while persecuting members of the pro-democracy movement.
Worldwide supporters of Suu Kyi expressed disappointment — but not surprise — at her continued detention.
In Washington, the White House sharply criticized the junta.
"The United States condemns the generals ... for the extension of the house arrest of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi," said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for President Bush's National Security Council.
"The regime's unjustified, continued detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and the repression of other democratic activists must end," he said.
The Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell (news, bio, voting record), called the junta's decision inexcusable.
"Nothing more clearly reflects the predatory nature of this regime than its keeping this heroic Nobel Prize laureate under house arrest," he said in a statement. "It also demonstrates that more pressure rather than less needs to be exerted on this regime by the international community."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "deeply regrets" the government's decision to extend Suu Kyi's detention "despite his direct appeal to Myanmar's senior leadership and the many public calls worldwide for her release," U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said in New York.
"He strongly believes that the sooner restrictions on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political figures are lifted, the sooner Myanmar will be able to move toward inclusive national reconciliation, the restoration of democracy and full respect for human rights," Montas said.
Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the U.N.'s human rights expert for Myanmar, criticized the junta as well for refusing humanitarian appeals concerning prisoners serving sentences as long as 70 years.
"They say they are moving ahead, but they continue to hold 1,200 political prisoners, including the main members of the opposition," he told The Associated Press by telephone from Cape Town, South Africa.
Germany, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said it "deeply condemns" the junta's decision.
Nyan Win, a spokesman for Suu Kyi's party, said the organization had not yet been able to confirm the decision. "However, if the detention is extended despite demands by the international community, this is a very uncivilized action," he said.
The military rulers have given no sign they intend to free Suu Kyi.
"We don't see any indication of her release despite demands from world leaders and unprecedented activity within the country," Mya Aye, a prominent member of Myanmar's 88 Generation Students' Group, said before Suu Kyi's extended detention was confirmed.
The 88 Generation group — named after the year in which the military brutally suppressed democracy protests — has in the past year picked up the mantle of opposition activism from Suu Kyi's party, which has become moribund in her absence.
In Thailand, home to many Myanmar exiles, a spokesman for a prominent opposition group denounced the new detention order.
"It's a very unlawful decision by the generals, so we are very frustrated. She is not a criminal and not a threat to national security," said Zin Linn of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, a self-styled government-in-exile.
Friday, May 18, 2007
Chinese archaeologists studying ancient rock carvings say they have evidence that modern Chinese script is thousands of years older than previously thought.
State media say researchers identified more than 2,000 pictorial symbols dating back 8,000 years, on cliff faces in the north-west of the country.
They say many of these symbols bear a strong resemblance to later forms of ancient Chinese characters.
Scholars had thought Chinese symbols came into use about 4,500 years ago.
The Damaidi carvings, first discovered in the 1980s, cover 15 sq km (5.8 square miles) and feature more than 8,000 individual figures including the sun, moon, stars, gods and scenes of hunting or grazing.
"We have found some symbols shaped like both pictures and characters," Li Xiangshi, a cliff carving expert at the North University of Nationalities in Ningxia Hui autonomous region, told Xinhua news agency.
"The pictographs are similar to the ancient hieroglyphs of Chinese characters and many can be identified as ancient characters."
Until the discovery, the earliest characters included 4,500-year-old inscriptions on pottery from Henan province in central China.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
By Gopal Sharma
KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Explorers have discovered a series of caves decorated with ancient Buddhist paintings, set in sheer cliffs in Nepal's remote Himalayan north, leaving archaeologists excited and puzzled.
An international team of scholars, archaeologists, climbers and explorers examined at least 12 cave complexes at 14,000 feet near Lo Manthang, a mediaeval walled city in Nepal's Mustang district, about 125 km (80 miles) northwest of Kathmandu.
The caves contain paintings that could date back as far as the 13th century, as well as Tibetan scripts executed in ink, silver and gold and pre-Christian era pottery shards.
"Who lived in those caves? When were they there, when were (the caves) first excavated and how did the residents access them, perched as they are on vertical cliffs?" asked Broughton Coburn, an American member of the survey team.
"It's a compelling, marvelous mystery."
Explorers from the United States, Italy and Nepal used ice axes and ropes to climb to the caves, cutting steps in the cliff face as they went.
"These findings underscore the richness of the Tibetan Buddhist religious tradition of this area -- stretching back nearly a millennium -- as well as the artistic beauty and wide geographical reach of Newari artists," said Coburn, an expert in Himalayan conservation and development.
Newaris are ethnic Nepalis renowned for skills in wall paintings and other forms of mostly Buddhist art.
The cave complexes are several hours walking distance apart. Some chambers were thought to have been used for burials, and there were also mounds archaeologists hope may hide further treasures.
There are about 20 openings in each complex, and their multiple floors are connected by vertical passages with rudimentary handholds or footholds, requiring some climbing skill to negotiate.
They contained stupas, decorative art and paintings depicting various forms of the Buddha, often with disciples, supplicants and attendants.
The site of recent findings lies north of Mount Annapurna, the world's tenth highest mountain.
Coburn said the artifacts remained unpillaged partly because the area has, until recently, been inaccessible.
One cave's mural paintings were executed in sub-tropical themes -- containing palm trees, billowing Indian textiles and birds as well as animals, he said.
"For Nepal, and for the Lobas, the people of northern Mustang, these are national treasures, and they need to be preserved and protected," Coburn said.
Government officials were upbeat.
"These are very hopeful findings and foreign explorers could be allowed to carry out further exploration in the area," said Prakash Darnal, senior archaeologist at the government's ministry of culture.
Few foreigners are currently allowed to visit the area.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer
51 minutes ago
UNITED NATIONS - The world's population will likely reach 9.2 billion in 2050, with virtually all new growth occurring in the developing world, a U.N. report said Tuesday.
According to the U.N. Population Division's 2006 estimate, the world's population will likely increase by 2.5 billion people over the next 43 years from the current 6.7 billion — a rise equivalent to the number of people in the world in 1950.
Hania Zlotnik, the division's director, said an important change in the new population estimate is a decrease in expected deaths from AIDS because of the rising use of anti-retroviral drugs and a downward revision of the prevalence of the disease in some countries.
The new report estimates 32 million fewer deaths from AIDS during the 2005-2020 period in the 62 most affected countries, compared with the previous U.N. estimate in 2004.
This change contributed to the slightly higher world population estimate of 9.2 billion in 2050 than the 9.1 billion figure in the 2004 estimate, the report said.
The report also said most population growth will take place in less developed countries, whose numbers are projected to rise from 5.4 billion in 2007 to 7.9 billion in 2050. The populations of poor countries like Afghanistan, Burundi, Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Niger, East Timor and Uganda are projected to at least triple by mid-century.
By contrast, the total population of richer countries is expected to remain largely unchanged at 1.2 billion. The report said the figure would be lower without expected migration of people from poorer countries, averaging 2.3 million annually.
According to the report, 46 countries are expected to lose population by mid-century, including Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea and most of the former Soviet republics.
Zlotnik said most countries in Asia and Latin America have reached the "relatively beneficial stage" of having more working-age adults than children or elderly in their populations, "and they will remain in that stage for at least two more decades."
But their populations will then start to age, heading in the same direction as Europe and North America, she said.
"Europe is the only region at this moment where the number of people aged 60 and over has already surpassed the number of children," she said. "We expect that Asia and Latin America will have by 2050 an age distribution that is very similar to the one that Europe has today."
African countries will have an increase of working-age adults by 2050, but the continent's overall population will also nearly double in that time, Zlotnik said.
"So it is the continent that is going to have to absorb a very high increase, and it will have to absorb it at levels of development that are the very lowest that we have in this world," she said.
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
WORLD POPULATION WILL INCREASE BY 2.5 BILLION BY 2050;
PEOPLE OVER 60 TO INCREASE BY MORE THAN 1 BILLION
Saturday, March 03, 2007
DHAKA (AFP) - More than 700,000 health workers fanned out across Bangladesh on Saturday to immunise 24 million children against polio after the disease made a surprise comeback last year, an official said.
Since January last year, 17 new cases of the disease have been reported, prompting the latest campaign. Before that, no new cases had been declared since 2000, when the government carried out a series of immunisation drives.
Across Bangladesh, parents queued for the polio vaccines to be administered to their children at more than 140,000 health centres, the government's immunisation programme manager Abdul Qader said.
"We were worried about weather because there were rains in much of the country yesterday. But today the weather is perfect. We hope we will achieve our target of immunising 24 million under-five children today," he added.
All the country's non-government organisations were roped in to help with the massive immunisation drive, and hundreds of thousands of mosques and temples used to spread the message.
"Out of the five-man team in every centre, three are members of NGOs. We have joined forces to eradicate polio from Bangladesh," he added.
Volunteers will visit door-to-door in the next four days to vaccinate children, and mobile immunisation teams will be sent to bus and railway stations, airports and brothels.
The government has laid special emphasis on immunising children along the border with India, which has a large number of new polio cases.
Read the whole story on this link:
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
Last modified Wednesday, January 31, 2007 5:26 AM PST
State Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth listens to Larry Saunders of Saunders Ranch in Fallbrook as Saunders talks about his problems collecting on insurance claims related to crop damage.
DAVID CARLSON Staff Photographer
State senator aims to help growers
By: NICOLE SACK - Staff Writer
TEMECULA -- State Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth introduced legislation Tuesday to "soften the blow" of January's cold snap that hit growers statewide and caused more than $1 billion worth of damage to California crops.
Hollingsworth, R-Murrieta, has introduced three bills offering tax breaks for California farmers who suffered crop loss as well as those facing long-term recovery to damaged groves and nurseries.
"The growers in San Diego and Riverside counties that I represent, as well as farmers in more than 20 other counties around the state, have suffered tremendous damage from this freeze," Hollingsworth said in a press conference at the Calavo avocado packing house in Temecula. "Their losses will be in the millions and could last for years."
While the official numbers are yet to be released, representatives from the California Farm Bureau Federation estimate the statewide damage to crops to be $1.1 billion. Steve Pastor, executive director for Riverside County Farm Bureau, said more than $86 million of damage was done to this county's crops alone.
"This disastrous freeze wiped out crops overnight," Pastor said. "These measures are going to be good to help farmers get back on their feet."
The first bill introduced by Hollingsworth, SB 148, would provide a property tax exemption for fruit and nut trees severely damaged by the cold. The exemptions would be available to farmers for the next four years. The trees, although mature, would not be assessed at full value while they recover from the freeze.
Carlos Vasquez, field operations manager for Calavo, said it will take about two years for damaged avocado trees to again produce fruit. But during that time, farmers must maintain the groves.
"These growers will have no income coming in, but will still be incurring costs," Vasquez said. "The effects of this freeze will carry through the year."
The second bill, SB 149, would offer a sales tax exemption for materials farmers used to fight the cold snap, such as natural gas, gasoline and other fuels used to warm groves, orchards and greenhouses.
The successive nights of low temperatures, which dipped into the 20s from Jan. 12 to 16, took a severe toll on citrus fruit. While there have been widespread losses, the California Farm Bureau Federation reported frost-protection measures taken by farmers did succeed to some degree.
To make the tax breaks more timely, Hollingsworth is also pushing a third bill, SB 114, that would allow farmers to deduct losses against their prior year's income, as well as carry operating losses forward for five years.
The trio of bills has been introduced in the state Senate. No further action has been taken as the official language of the bills is being reviewed by the rules committee.
Hollingsworth hopes to fast-track the measures. The property tax relief bill would have to be approved prior to property assessments, which could delay the tax breaks if the Legislature drags its feet. Once approved, the freeze relief would be effective for four years, said Hollingsworth spokeswoman Erica Holloway. The exemptions would be on the 2007 tax rolls, she said.
While Hollingsworth's initiatives were welcomed, area growers asked if more immediate relief could be offered.
Larry Saunders, a Fallbrook avocado grower, said he wants the state to help expedite Federal Crop Insurance reimbursements, which he says generally take one year to be paid out.
"The losses are known; our premiums are paid. I know that the federal government subsidizes our insurance, but my loss is my loss," Saunders said. "It is not in the benefit of the farmer to have to wait a year to get some help."
Avocados have begun to drop from trees as a result of freeze damage to the fruit stems, what growers call "chill drop." Freezing temperatures weaken the stems and cause fruit to drop from the trees prematurely. The freeze could also harm buds for next season's avocado crop, Vasquez said.
The damage is also visible, said Chuck Bandy, avocado division manager for McMillan Farm Management.
"It looks like a flame thrower was taken to these trees," Bandy said. "Soon the trees will look like skeletons. They will regrow, but won't produce for two years. Growers are going to need assistance to make it through the next few years."
-- Contact staff writer Nicole Sack (951) 676-4315, Ext. 2616, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Detroit Free Press
DETROIT - Just in time for Veterans Day, Mike Ilitch, Little Caesars founder, plans to launch a program that would make it easier for American veterans to open their own pizza businesses.
The Little Caesars Veterans Program offers a reduction on the franchise fee, credit on the first equipment order and financing. The offer is even better for disabled veterans, who would have the entire $20,000 franchise fee waived for their first store.
Honorably discharged veterans will receive up to $10,000 in benefits toward starting a new Little Caesars franchise. Service-disabled veterans are eligible for up to $68,000 for starting a franchise. A typical Little Caesars store costs $175,000 to $300,000 to build and equip, said David Scrivano, Little Caesars president.
The Detroit-based Little Caesar Enterprises Inc. plans to announce the program on Saturday, which is Veterans Day. It is the company's way of providing business opportunities for veterans who are making the transition to civilian life.
Jan. 30, 2007
Courtesy National Geographic
and World Science staff
Excavations near England’s vast Stonehenge rock monument have revealed an enormous ancient settlement that once housed hundreds, archaeologists said Tueday. They say the houses were probably constructed and occupied by the builders of nearby Stonehenge—the legendary, mysterious circle of massive stones on England’s Salisbury Plain.
The Sun shining through the Stonehenge monument. Sunrise and sunset on the summer and winter solstices—the longest and shortest days of the year respectively—were the key times when the Sun would shine through the monument. (Courtesy centennialofflight.gov)
“The whole valley appears full of houses,” said archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson of the U.K.’s Sheffield University. “In what were houses, we have excavated the outlines on the floors of box beds and wooden dressers or cupboards.”
The houses were dated to 2600-2500 B.C., the same period Stonehenge rose—one reason the researchers concluded the occupants erected Stonehenge. The homes would form the largest Neolithic, or late-Stone Age, village ever found in Britain; a few similar Neolithic houses have been found in the Orkney Islands off Scotland.
Parker Pearson said the discoveries help confirm a theory that Stonehenge didn’t stand alone but was part of a much larger religious complex used for funerary ritual. The settlement was found at Durrington Walls, a part of this complex that is some 1,400 feet across and encloses a series of concentric rings of huge timber posts, he said. Only small areas of Durrington Walls, located less than two miles from better-known Stonehenge, have been investigated by archaeologists.
Parker Pearson argues that Stonehenge and Durrington Walls were intimately connected: Durrington’s purpose was to celebrate life and deposit the dead in the river for transport to the afterlife, while Stonehenge was a memorial and even final resting place for some of the dead.
Stonehenge’s avenue, discovered in the 18th century, is aligned on the midsummer solstice sunrise, while the Durrington avenue lines up with midsummer solstice sunset. Similarly, the Durrington timber circle was aligned with midwinter solstice sunrise, archaeologists said, while Stonehenge’s giant trilithon—a structure of three stones—framed the midwinter solstice sunset.
Eight of the houses’ remains were excavated in September in the Stonehenge Riverside Project, led by Parker Pearson and five other U.K. archaeologists. Six of the floors were found well-preserved. Each house once measured about 16 feet square and had a clay floor and central hearth. The team found 4,600-year-old debris strewn across floors, postholes and slots that once anchored wooden furniture, long since disintegrated.
Durrington, Parker Pearson believes, drew people from all over the region. They came for massive midwinter feasts, where prodigious quantities of food were consumed. Abundant animal bones and pottery, in quantities unparalleled elsewhere in Britain at the time, attest to this idea, he said.
After feasting, Parker Pearson theorizes, the people traveled down the avenue to deposit their dead in the River Avon flowing towards Stonehenge. They then moved along Stonehenge Avenue to the monument, where they would cremate and bury a selected few of their dead. Stonehenge was a place for these people, who worshipped their ancestors, to commune with the spirits of those who had died, the researchers proposed.
Durrington appears “very much a place of the living,” said Parker Pearson. In contrast, no one ever lived at the stone circle at Stonehenge, which was the largest cemetery in Britain of its time: Stonehenge is thought to contain 250 cremations. The findings of the new research, funded by the National Geographic Society, were announced in a teleconference on Tuesday.
* * *
Thursday, January 18, 2007
The Associated Press
By DAN SEWELL
January 17, 2007
Any time there is a product shortage, it follows that prices increase Grocery retailers are taking stock of the impact California's freeze will have on supplies and the prices of citrus, strawberries and other damaged crops in their stores.
Meghan Glynn, spokeswoman for Kroger Co., said Wednesday that severe weather in California, Arizona and parts of Mexico is expected to hurt store supplies for several months.
'We expect shortages of citrus fruits, berries, some lettuce varieties and several fresh vegetable offerings,' she said. 'We regret that we are not able to offer our customers the range of high-quality fresh produce usually available this time of year.'
Glynn said Kroger, the nation's largest traditional grocery chain, is working with suppliers to find alternative sources. Kroger has nearly 2,500 grocery stores in 31 states.
'We are working with our vendors to source some items from other countries,' she said, although details weren't yet available.
Growers in California say prices will shoot up in the aftermath of subfreezing temperatures that caused nearly $1 billion in losses to oranges, lemons, avocados, strawberries and other crops.
'Our prices will remain competitive based on market conditions,' Glynn said. 'We'll continue to monitor the situation closely.'
Whole Foods Market Inc. spokeswoman Kate Lowery said prices will go up for citrus fruit and customers could also see price increases for California strawberries.
'Any time there is a product shortage, it follows that prices increase,' Lowery said.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, said it's assessing the situation with its suppliers.
'Although it's too early to determine the impact, we are communicating with our California citrus suppliers to understand their losses and to help them manage the situation,' spokeswoman Karen Burk said in a statement, adding that Wal-Mart is 'revising their previously agreed upon costs to put them more in line with present conditions.'
Brian Todd, president of The Food Institute, an industry information service, said some of the fresh citrus and other damaged crops could be replaced with imports, but prices are still likely to rise.
'Supermarkets for the most part in some way will have to pass along the increase,' he said.
Restaurants might substitute other items for those in shortage, or raise prices, and price-minded consumers could switch to other fruits and vegetables, Todd said.
HSBC analyst Mark Husson said although prices will most certainly go up if a shortage results, the impact will not be big enough to substantially affect grocers' margins, sales or earnings.
AP Business Writer Lauren Shepherd in New York contributed to this report.
On the Net:
Kroger Co.: http://www.kroger.com
Whole Foods Market Inc.: http://www.wholefoods.com
Wal-Mart Stores Inc.: http://www.walmart.com
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The growers GOT THE SHAFT again since the crops are damaged we will not receive the income as expected and, any undamaged fuits that are still good, THEY WILL NOT BRING THE HIGHER PRICES; Believe me, the packing houses will lower the prices they pay TO THE GROWERS since they will claim that the FRUITS ARE DAMAGED!!!
Temecula, CA (PRWeb) January 14, 2007 -- The Temecula law firm of Ackerman, Cowles & Lindsley filed a 1.2 billion dollar claim against what are alleged to be the perpetrators of a vast real estate and currency exchange scheme taking place in Southern California.
Riverside County Superior Court Case No. RIC463483 (Anonymous Investor v. Jovane Investments, et al.) was filed by an investor who claims to have suffered $3,000,000 in damages on her case alone. The plaintiff seeks to have the matter certified as a class action later this year because there are another alleged 400 investors in the alleged scheme.
The amended complaint, filed on January 12, 2007, alleges that the operators of the Jovane Investment firm of Murrieta, and related businesses, including Stonewood Consulting, Inc., Pacific Wealth Management LLC (Nevada), Oetting Enterprises, and Sunburst Financial Systems, Inc., engaged in a real estate scheme involving perhaps as many as 5000 home loans in the Southern California region. The defendants are alleged to have incited members of the general public. members of the military, and nursing staff at Rancho Springs Community Hospital in Southern California, to get involved in a real estate business whereby "investors" could each become the owners of multiple residential properties throughout the Temecula Valley and Northern San Diego County.
It is alleged in the complaint that defendants allegedly involved in the scheme would artificially inflate the values of the homes, complete 125% loan to value mortgages in certain cases, give escrow kickbacks to sellers who received as much as $100,000 more than an asking price, and sell the investors on the idea of giving up excess proceeds out of the sale to investment companies for a great profit over a period of years. In some cases, $50-60k-a-year salaried employees had mortgage obligations that were more than $20,000.00 a month because they "owned" 5-8 homes. The defendant companies are alleged to have taken money from other investors to pay the mortgages on behalf of plaintiff and others. The scheme is alleged to be a traditional Ponzi scheme.
Additionally, other investors were alleged to have been duped into buying into Iraqi dinar investments where the alleged victims would pay more than sixty times the actual value of the dinars. The victims were allegedly not told about the true value of the dinars and the dinars were allegedly never delivered to the victims.
The allegations were referred to the Riverside County District Attorney's office back in November of 2006. However, according to lead counsel, Richard D. Ackerman, "I am quite certain that the district attorney's office is swamped with thousands of criminal cases and simply has to allocate investigation resources toward violent crime at this time. Justice will eventually prevail. Unfortunately, however, if action is not taken soon, our entire Southern California economy may suffer as a result of the type of practices alleged by the many victims in our case."
All told, it is alleged that the damage to investors, lenders, the county tax rolls, Southern California neighborhoods, and others is far in excess of the 1.2 billion dollars cited in the complaint.
The case has been assigned to Judge Dallas Holmes of the downtown Riverside Superior Court in Riverside, California, for trial. The plaintiff intends on working with alleged victim-lenders and governmental agencies in an effort to prevent hundreds of foreclosures and additional damage as a result of the alleged fraud. The victim lenders are alleged to include Bay Capital Mortgage, Community First Bank, GMAC Mortgage, Suntrust Mortgage, Aurora Loan Services, Home Eq Servicing, and SLS Loan Servicing. Numerous credit card companies are alleged to be affected by the currency scheme as well.
Defendant Pacific Wealth Management LLC and defendant Maurice McLeod, a principal of Pacific Wealth Management LLC, have already been ordered by this same judge to stop all investments activities in California under the name of Pacific Wealth Management LLC. The related case is captioned Pacific Wealth Management LLC v. Pacific Wealth Management LLC, Superior Court of California, Riverside Case No. RIC462505. The injunction order was entered on January 9, 2007.
Ackerman, Cowles & Lindsley
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Well, It is sad since people think they can trust anyone without any actual agreement and or a signed contract! I hate to say this I seached Google for Sunburst Financial Systems, and if any one did, they could easily have found this suspicious story about Sunburst Financial Systems of Palm Deserts in 2003 !!!!
Desert company cuts back business
PALM DESERT: Sunburst says it has no conection to MX Factors, which is
Thursday, October 23, 2003
By Devona Wells / The Press-Enterprise
A Palm Desert firm has sent its employees home and stopped accepting
investments after plagiarizing marketing materials from an Inland
company that is being investigated.
Sunburst Financial Systems also dismantled a Web site that "plagiarized
sales and marketing information out of MX Factors," said Sunburst
general manager Christopher Oetting by phone Wednesday. He declined to
say why biographical information on one of Sunburst's managers mirrored
that of Richard Harkless, the owner of MX Factors.
Riverside's MX Factors is being investigated by the U.S. Postal
Inspection Service and the Securities and Exchange Commission, and has
been accused in a recent lawsuit of operating a Ponzi scheme.
Like MX Factors, Sunburst Financial does not have a license to sell
securities in California, according to the state Department of
Corporations. In September, the no-license violation earned MX Factors
an order from the department to no longer accept money from investors.
Spokeswoman Kam Coveyou said she could not confirm whether such an order
would be issued to Sunburst or whether an investigation of the company
is under way.
Oetting said Sunburst and MX Factors are not connected.
"We are not MX Factors. We are not affiliated with MX Factors. None of
the principles of MX Factors are involved with Sunburst," he said.
But biographical information about a Sunburst director named Richard
"Rick" Nelson is very similar to that of Harkless.
According to literature from Sunburst and MX Factors, both Nelson and
Harkless have an MBA with an emphasis in business organization and
mathematical applications, were collection agents for a national firm in
1986 and started a company for clients needing protection from
Some sentences are exact duplicates, including: "This company was one of
the first in California to begin converting sole proprietors and
partnerships to limited liability companies. The company continues today
and has a client base of over 150 manufacturers and wholesalers."
Harkless could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
In August, Sunburst opened in Palm Desert, according to Oetting. The
company has pulled in $205,000 from nine investors, he said in a phone
interview. A company name is absent from the front door of the Sunburst
office on Fred Waring Drive. All business is conducted by phone, fax or
the Internet, he said.
Sunburst incorporated in California on Sept. 11 - two days after MX
Factors investors were notified in a letter that it was no longer taking
funds. Nevada records show MX Factors came to be in 2001.
Sunburst shut down its Web site and let go of its seven employees for a
week, said Oetting. He said he was acting on the advice of company
lawyers after he received a call Tuesday from Barry Minkow, an
investigator with the Fraud Discovery Institute. Minkow, jailed in 1988
for securities fraud, said he has been checking into Sunburst for two
weeks and turned over information he uncovered to a postal inspector and
the Securities and Exchange Commission. Minkow also shed light on MX
Factors and gave his research to the Better Business Bureau and has
since shared it with investors.
Sunburst saw MX Factors' literature and loved it, said James Duncan, a
Sunburst consultant. On its Web site, Sunburst advertised a 17 percent
yearly return to investors who put in at least $20,000. The money would
be used to finance other companies by purchasing accounts receivable, a
practice called factoring - the arrangement MX Factors offered its
"We thought we could do the same thing. Did we make some mistakes?
Probably. But, that's why we stopped. We'll pay the fines, face the
repercussion," Duncan said by phone.
Since MX Factors was ordered to stop taking investments, a trio of
lawsuits have been filed by investors and customers seeking their money
from the Riverside firm. Estimates put the amount invested in MX
Factors, which promised investors a 12 percent return every 90 days, at
$50 million or more. An Oct. 2 lawsuit asks for more than $26 million
and accused MX Factors of running a Ponzi scheme, which uses money from
new investors to pay the original ones.
Caren Singer, an MX Factors investor for more than two years, attempted
to acquire information by phone and in person Tuesday from Sunburst
after hearing about the company from another investor.
Singer saw the Web site before it was taken down and said, "I'm still
trying to catch my breath from the shock."
"This is way more than a coincidence," she said in a phone interview.
A San Diego accountant hired to reconcile the accounts of MX Factors
said Wednesday he's received financial documents from at least 150
participants. Dan Tobias said by phone that he hopes to have the job
done by the end of the year.
An e-mail newsletter warning investors about Sunburst was sent out
Monday by Venture Research Institute. The Lake Forest institute provides
information on private investments and issues warnings about ones it
finds violating laws and other guidelines.
"The suspicion is that Sunburst Financial is a continuing effort of the
folks that brought you MX Factors," the e-mailed warning says.
Staff writer Jonathan Shikes contributed to this story.Reach Devona
Wells at (9090 368-9559 or email@example.com
Now How much is the whole region and the industry is going to suffer? Ofcourse we all are going to suffer too.