Archive for December, 2010

New Zealand 3rd best country to live in – UN

Monday, December 27th, 2010

New Zealand is the third best country to live in the world, climbing 17 places in the latest United Nations’ index aimed at measuring development.

The Human Development Report 2010 (HDR) was released today by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN Development Programme Administrator, and former New Zealand prime minister, Helen Clark.

The report, The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development, highlights countries with the greatest progress as measured by the Human Development Index (HDI).

The index calculates the well-being in 169 countries, taking into account health, education and income, which are combined to generate an score between zero and one. The countries are grouped into four categories: very high, high, medium, and low.

New Zealand was named 20th in the 2009 and this year is just behind Norway and Australia, first and second respectively.

The country’s score has been rising by 0.5 percent a year between 1980 and 2010 from 0.786 to 0.907 today, placing it in “very high” category.

New Zealand’s life expectancy is 80.6 years, average number of school years is 12.5, and gross national income per capita is $25,438 ($NZ32,046).

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NZ women doing well but could do better – report

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

– I love my new country, New Zealand, but it isn’t perfect.   Here and there, the are bits one might wish were better.

– For example: the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the OECD and the fact that binge drinking is out of control here – these are a couple.

– I like their socialized medical system but it at times, it seems to lack the attention to quality and follow though that one comes to expect in places where the threat of law suits drive compliance to protocols and attention to detail.

– New Zealand was the first to give women the vote in the world but, in spite of this liberal reputation, the idea of equal pay for equal work hasn’t caught up here.   Witness the following story:

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New Zealand is doing well in gender equality but women still struggle to gain leadership roles and suffer from high levels of domestic violence, a new report says.

The New Zealand Government reports to the United Nations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw) every four years on how well New Zealand women were doing.

Women’s Affairs Minister Hekia Parata released the latest report today.

“We have a high rate of women in paid work – ninth in the OECD – but women are still under-represented in senior positions,” Ms Parata said.

“This is not just a fairness issue, it’s a productivity issue. New Zealand can’t reach its full potential if we’re not making the best use of all the skills we have available to us.”

Women make up 41.5 percent on state sector boards and committees. However the figure is crashingly worse for the 100 companies listed on the New Zealand Stock Market – less than 9 percent of directors as at 2007.

The gender pay gap was proving tough to improve. “(It) has stubbornly sat at around 12 percent for the last decade and there is evidence that gains in relevant areas – such as women’s success in tertiary education – are not automatically leading to women and men being rewarded more equally,” the report said.

Sexual violence and family violence continued to be serious problems, it said.

“There are some signs that we are beginning to change attitudes towards family violence, but there’s a long way to go before we significantly reduce violence against women and children,” Ms Parata said.

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– See also: The Global Gender Gap Report

A Cut-and-Dry Forecast: U.S. Southwest’s Dry Spell May Become Long-Lasting and Intensify as Climate Change Takes Hold

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

A new analysis using a standard drought index augurs that by the end of the century devastating drought conditions will take hold over much of the populated areas of the world

Lake Mead, the massive reservoir created in the late 1930s by Hoover Dam on the Arizona–Nevada border, has dropped to its lowest level ever, it was reported earlier this month. The lake has been steadily growing shallower since drought began reducing the flow of its source, the Colorado River, starting in 2000 due to below-average snowfall in the Rockies.

It is still too early to know whether the situation at Lake Mead and recent droughts throughout the U.S. Southwest are due to anthropogenic global warming, says Aiguo Dai, an atmospheric scientist in the Climate and Global Dynamics Division of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. There is not enough data to rule out natural variability as the fundamental cause. But the decadelong dry spell is consistent with the predictions of models used in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) in 2007, which projected that warming of the planet would lead to long-term drying over the subtropics—the climatic regions adjacent to the tropics, ranging between about 20 and 40 degrees north and south latitude, which includes the Southwest.

It’s also consistent with a new analysis, authored by Dai, which forecasts that increasing dryness over the next several decades will eventually become devastatingly severe, with long-lasting drought predicted for most of Africa, southern Europe, the Middle East, most of the Americas, Australia, and Southeast Asia. Dai computed global values through the end of the century for a commonly used index of drought severity, using data from 22 models used by IPCC-AR4, under a middle-of the-road emissions scenario that assumes human-generated greenhouse gas emissions start reducing about 2050, and that atmospheric CO2 increases to 720 parts per million (we’re currently at around 380) by the end of the century.

Dai’s projections are helpful because they begin to bring into focus some of the water-related global warming consequences that may be upon us relatively soon, says Richard Seager, a senior research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory. Seager, who was not part of the study, was a co-author of a 2007 study inScience that analyzed the findings of the IPCC-AR4 models. “When the IPCC report came out in 2007, there was relatively little that looked at how these climate changes developed within the coming decades,” he says. But in Dai’s new figures, “you can see that even in the coming decades or so we’re already getting into some trouble in this regard.”

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Kathmandu founder in $2m farm cruelty fight (a NZ company)

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Bravo, I say.  Bravo!

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The founder of Kathmandu has pledged $2 million to fight animal cruelty – and will give cash to anyone who dobs in farmers’ cruel practices.

Jan Cameron hopes “rewards” of up to $30,000 will entice insiders to expose any cruelty at battery hen and pig farms.

Estimated to have a personal fortune worth about $400 million, Ms Cameron hopes the money will put an end to sow crates.

Forty per cent of farms in New Zealand still use the small metal-barred crates. In an interview on TVNZ’s Sunday programme last night, Ms Cameron said she would do “whatever it takes” to put an end to sow crates. “It’s just torturing the animals.”

She would reward anyone who provided information about animal cruelty at battery hen and pig farms.

“The maximum reward will be up to $30,000 depending what the legal or animal welfare outcomes can be achieved as a result of the information they bring forward,” she said.

The money was there in case the informants lost their jobs.

Some money will also be given to the animal rights activist group SAFE, including for advertising to increase awareness of the situation.

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This Economy’s Winners and Losers (in the U.S.)

Monday, December 6th, 2010

U.S. Senator Bernard Sanders– Independent from the State of Vermont

– Check this out.  It is one powerful YouTube video.  And it makes me wonder why people sit still for it.

Click here

Georgia foils bid to smuggle weapons-grade uranium

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

Georgia has revealed how it intercepted a group of smugglers trying to sell weapons-grade uranium on the black market.

The men, both Armenian, slipped across the border into Georgia at night before being arrested in a sting operation.

Highly-enriched uranium can be used to make nuclear bombs.

Experts say they are worried that more might be being traded in the region, and that it could be intended for terrorists.

Georgian investigators say that back in March, the two Armenians stashed the highly-enriched uranium in a lead-lined cigarette container, concealed it in the night train from the Armenian capital Yerevan to Tbilisi, and made their own way across the border.

Thinking that they were selling the 18g (0.6oz) sample to an Islamist group, they were caught by an undercover officer in Tbilisi and put on trial.

The quantity was small, and would probably not have been enough for a bomb alone – but the men have said that they intended to sell more.

The exact origins of the uranium are unclear.

It is not the first time weapons-grade material has been intercepted in Georgia.

In 2007 a Russian man was arrested for carrying 100g of uranium, in a sting operation involving US agents.

Each seizure is a reminder of how porous the borders of the Caucasus are, in spite of the efforts of the US to secure them – and of the fact that unknown quantities of potentially lethal materials from Soviet times are still at large.

– To the original…

UN climate talks in China end without breakthrough

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

UN climate talks in China have ended without a major breakthrough and with angry words about the US from Beijing.

At the talks in Tianjin, China blamed the US for failing to meet its responsibilities to cut emissions and for trying to overturn UN principles.

The US accused China of refusing to have its voluntary energy savings verified internationally.

But there was some progress toward the next round of climate talks in Mexico in November.

There are hopes that the meeting in Cancun could agree details of a fund to transfer $100bn (£63bn) a year from rich countries to help poor nations cope with the projected consequences of climate change.

That sum is described by developing nations as substantial but inadequate.

‘Preening pig’

It has been the old deadlock in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin during the week-long talks.

China feels unfairly criticised by the US.

On Saturday, one of the Chinese climate negotiators reportedly accused the US of behaving like a preening pig, complaining about Beijing when Washington had done so little itself.

The head of the US delegation, Jonathan Pershing, was more diplomatic.

But he said that there could be no US signature on any binding deal that did not also bind China – America’s superpower rival.

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Inefficiency Hurts U.S. in Longevity Rankings

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

By any measure, the United States spends more on health care than any other nation. Yet according to the World Fact Book (published by the Central Intelligence Agency), it ranks 49th in life expectancy.


Researchers writing in the November issue of the journal Health Affairs say they know the answer. After citing statistical evidence showing that American patterns of obesitysmoking, traffic accidents and homicide are not the cause of lower life expectancy, they conclude that the problem is the health care system.

Peter A. Muennig and Sherry A. Glied, researchers at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, compared the performance of the United States and 12 other industrialized nations: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. In addition to health care expenditures in each country, they focused on two other important statistics: 15-year survival for people at 45 years and for those at 65 years.

The researchers say those numbers present an accurate picture of public health because they measure a country’s success in preventing and treating the most common causes of death — cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes — which are more likely to occur at these ages. Their data come from the World Health Organization and cover 1975 to 2005.

Life expectancy increased over those years in all 13 countries, and so did health care costs. But the United States had the lowest increase in life expectancy and the highest increase in costs.

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– Research thanks to Rolf A.

Canada senate kills climate bill ahead of UN summit

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has defeated a climate change bill calling for cuts in CO2 emissions.

Conservatives killed the motion backed by opposition parties 13 days before a UN climate change summit is held in Cancun.

The bill called for a reduction of greenhouse gases in the country by 25% from 1990 levels.

Canada’s House of Commons originally passed the legislation last year.

It was then reintroduced in May and passed again, before being struck down by the Conservative-led Senate late on Tuesday.

“This is a very sad day for Canada, for the environment, and for the role of Canada in the international stage on dealing with the crisis of climate change,” said New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton, adding that he was appalled by the Senate’s decision.

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Food security wanes as world warms

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Global warming may have begun outpacing ability of farmers to adapt

Since summer, signs of severe food insecurity — droughts, food riots, five- to tenfold increases in produce costs — have erupted around the globe. Several new reports now argue that regionally catastrophic crop failures — largely due to heat stress — are signals that global warming may have begun outpacing the ability of farmers to adapt.

Some one billion people already suffer serious malnutrition. That number could mushroom, the new reports argue, if governments big and small don’t begin heeding warning signs like spikes in the price of food staples.

Severe summer droughts in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan ravaged 2010 cereal yields. When Russia, the fourth largest wheat exporter, imposed an export ban in August, international markets responded with price spikes. Having sold around 17 million metric tons on world markets in 2009, Russia’s 2010 wheat exports are expected to fall closer to 4 million metric tons, according to a November Food Outlook report by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, or FAO. (Russia’s export ban is slated to remain in effect until next July.)

Overall, FAO reports, food imports by the world’s poorest nations are expected to cost 11 percent more in 2010 than a year earlier — and 20 percent more for some low-income food-importing countries. FAO predicts the total cost of 2010 food imports will be roughly $1 trillion — a near-record level. Contributing to the problem is a 2 percent drop in global cereal yields; earlier this year 2010 cereal production had been expected to post a 1 percent gain.

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