Posts Tagged ‘Asia’
The amount of light produced by a society is closely correlated with its economic status–rich developed countries tend to be brighter at night than poor developing ones. So an interesting question is how the distribution of light across our planet is changing over time.
Today we get an answer thanks to the work of Nicola Pestalozzi, Peter Cauwels and Didier Sornette at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. These guys have used data released by the US Defense Meteorological Satellite Program which has monitored night light levels around the planet continuously since the mid-1960s…
Pestalozzi, Cauwels and Sornette look in particular at the dynamics of night lights. They calculate the planet’s mean centre of light and measure how it has moved in the last couple of decades. “Over the past 17 years, [the center of light] has been gradually shifting eastwards over a distance of roughly 1000 km, at a pace of about 60 km per year,” they say.
They’ve also used night lights as a way to monitor all kinds of other changes such as the expansion of developing countries like Brazil and India, the drop in light levels in countries suffering from demographic decline and a reduction in urban population like Russia and the Ukraine, and the success of light pollution abatement programs in countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom.
Perhaps their most fascinating insight is in the rapid increase of economic regions such as the Nile Delta and the area around Shanghai. Pestalozzi, Cauwels and Sornette say that the data clearly shows how light produced by these areas in the developed world has remained remarkably stable, with the New York metropolitan region easily topping the rankings by sheer size.
However, the amount of light produced by these areas in the developing world has increased dramatically with Shenzen in China and the Nile Delta in north Africa showing the biggest increases.
No surprise to anyone involved with global commerce. I started working for Asian companies around 1974 and the size of the companies increased steadily as the firms I worked for moved from Japan to Taiwan and eventually, Shanghai.
Switzerland is the best country for a baby to be born in 2013, according to a new study by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which is based on both subjective and objective quality of life factors.
The variables include life expectancy, gender equality, political freedoms, and even climate, but because the study looks at where “to be born” not “where to live,” some of the factors look at what life will be like in those countries in 2030, when children born in 2013 reach adulthood.
Rounding out the top 10 are:
7. New Zealand
10. Hong Kong
The report authors write:
Being rich helps more than anything else, but it is not all that counts; things like crime, trust in public institutions and the health of family life matter too. In all, the index takes 11 statistically significant indicators into account.
The United States didn’t crack the top 10 this year, because American “babies will inherit the large debts of the boomer generation,” the researchers write. Could have included mediocre education, crumbling infrastructure in that same sentence.
In the 1988 survey, the United States came in first, followed closely by mostly European countries and several high-performing Asian ones, such as South Korea and Japan…
Now, Japan and South Korea rank 25 and 19, respectively, perhaps because their economies have become more troubled in recent years.
Europe has also slipped in the rankings because the ongoing euro-zone crisis there has caused severe unemployment and “eroded both family and community life,” the authors write…Germany has dropped to 16 – a tie with the United States.
Disagree with the list? The full methodology can be found here.
The Economist is a magazine grounded in conservative economics. That’s conservative in the traditional sense, rather like the term used to be in the United States before today’s Republican Party started their outreach policy for governance by homophobes, religious nutballs, various and sundry bigots.
So, the list will be accused of being part of a mythic liberal conspiracy – regardless of credentials.
As America’s election season nears its finish, the debate seems to have come unhinged. Nowhere is that more evident than in the fixation on China – singled out by both President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, as a major source of pressure bearing down on American workers and their families. Get tough with China, both stressed in the presidential debates, and the pain will ease.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Consider the following charges:
Currency manipulation. Since China reformed its exchange-rate regime in July 2005, the renminbi has risen 32% relative to the dollar and about 30% in inflation-adjusted terms against a broad basket of currencies. These are hardly trivial amounts, and more renminbi appreciation can be expected in the years to come.
Unlike Japan, which was pressured by the West into a large yen revaluation in 1985 (the “Plaza Accord”), the Chinese have opted to move gradually and deliberately. American officials call this “manipulation,” arguing that market forces would have resulted in a sharper renminbi appreciation than has occurred. Fixated on stability – a concept alien to US politicians and policymakers – the Chinese prefer, instead, to play a more active role in managing the adjustment of their currency. I call that prudence – perhaps even wisdom. Two lost decades later, the guinea pig, Japan, might have a view on which approach works best.
Think this only showed on US television?
American influence on the world stage is being sapped by widespread distrust of US intentions, not just in the Middle East and south Asia but also among traditional European allies, according to a survey of global opinions.
Suspicion of America outweighed faith in its good intentions by large margins in the Arab world and Pakistan, and even its heavyweight European ally Germany was more sceptical than trusting, a YouGov survey found. British and French opinion was more positive but still deeply divided.
Negative Arab and Pakistani perceptions of America as overweening and untrustworthy clearly pose a daunting foreign policy challenge for the Obama administration. The fact that 78% of Pakistanis questioned by YouGov said they did not trust America to act responsibly underlines Washington’s serious lack of soft power in the region as it attempts to extricate itself from Afghanistan.
Attitudes towards the US in the Arab world were nearly as negative. Those respondents in the Middle East and north Africa who said they trusted America were outnumbered by more than two to one by those who said they did not, and 39% said they did not trust America at all.
Perhaps just as worrying for Washington is the lukewarm support among western European allies. More Germans questioned in the YouGov survey voiced misgivings than trust in the US. Perhaps surprisingly, in view of past wariness, French opinion was somewhat warmer: just over half of the French poll respondents trusted America, against 40% who did not.
The so-called special relationship between the US and Britain emerged from the survey as distinctly lopsided. There was widespread American affection for its close ally, but the sentiment was only partly requited, reflecting deep British ambivalence about America’s powerful role in world affairs…
Unlike the Crime Scene Investigators from the popular TV series, these detectives are hired to look for evidence of rogue wood from stores increasingly worried about being duped by a global trade in illegal timber now worth billions.
They take wood samples into their lab and put them through DNA tests that can pinpoint the species and origin of a piece of timber. They also track timber and timber products from forest to shop to ensure clients’ shipments are legal.
“This is like CSI meets save the planet,” says Jonathan Geach, executive director of Double Helix Tracking Technologies, the Singapore company that has developed and commercialized DNA testing for wood, the only firm in the world to do so…
The money earned from a trade that Interpol estimates at up to $30 billion annually is untaxed and often run by organized gangs to fund crime and conflict. The logging increases global warming with heightened carbon emissions, and landslides through loss of watersheds. It causes loss of livelihoods in forest communities and dents global timber prices.
Until now, the battle against trade in illegal timber has been waged with regulations and preventive measures, and has not met with much success. Now it is increasingly focused on using the criminal justice system and law enforcement techniques.
Retailers such as Kingfisher, Marks & Spencer and Australian timber wholesaler Simmonds Lumber are either already using the technology or looking to add it to their existing timber sourcing practices…
As new U.S. laws started to bite over the past two years, and with tougher laws set for Europe in 2013, the number of clients is growing, says Kevin Hill, DoubleHelix’s founder.
Within two years, the aim is to license Lowe’s DNA extraction technique to accredited laboratories globally, as the $150 billion timber industry comes under increasing pressure to stamp out illegal wood.
As much as I hate the phrase, this is a true win-win situation for consumers and sellers alike. Contractors and end users will have verified questions like sustainability. Lumbering interests and mills will profit from sales with guaranteed quality, legality.
RTFA for many details about the economics and science. Interesting stuff.
Pentagon planners will consider adding bombers and attack submarines as part of a growing U.S. focus on security challenges in the Asia-Pacific…
“We will take another look” at sending more such muscle to the strategic hub of Guam in the western Pacific, now that this has been recommended by an independent review of U.S. regional military plans, Robert Scher, deputy assistant secretary of defense for plans, told lawmakers.
U.S. strategy calls for shifting military, diplomatic and economic resources toward the region after a decade of land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan sparked by the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and the Pentagon…and a lot of lies at the behest of Bush and Cheney.
The Defense Department, however, must weigh the issue from a broad global perspective and take into account competing requirements, Scher testified before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Armed Services subcommittee on readiness…
The central geostrategic uncertainty that the United States and its allies and partners face in the region “is how China’s growing power and influence will impact order and stability in the years ahead,” the CSIS review said.
All these shit-for-brains tin soldiers figure the American people are too damned dumb, too ignorant to stop another march into Asia carrying the American flag. They know they can count on an obedient Congress. So many of you who marched against the VietNam War have to remember that – eventually – the Bozos in Washington brought our troops home. That wasn’t voluntary on their part. They were afraid of losing control.
Fact remains, the rest of the world hasn’t forgotten what our policies bring to every region of the world we’ve made part of our garrison. We have over 700 bases in about 180 countries, right now. Even though brainwashed American taxpayers don’t raise a peep about the cost – the rest of the world looks offshore and views our warships as one more threat from the cops of the world.
I jokingly say I’m not voting for Obama; but, against Romney. I’m voting against the evil of two lessors. Obama talks like he has progressive ideals and delivers no more than any liberal ever has. That means Hillary probably would have done as much by the working people of the United States. And like Hillary – and Bill – none of these three have ever challenged the status quo on American foreign policy that has been in place since the beginning of the Cold War.
Nothing is more important around this little planet than making the world safe for Exxon-Mobil, not democracy. I could add all the variations on that theme; but, if you read and think, listen and learn to what really goes on in the political economy of Earth – you can come up with all the parallels yourself.
Don’t stop! Don’t stop fighting to press the self-proclaimed good guys into living up to the principles they lie about – just because we’re also busy fighting the truly criminal creeps at the same time. We cannot afford to let up. We do not need another Iraq. I do not want to see another VietNam.
A Taiwanese vegetable vendor, who has personally given away over 7 million Taiwanese dollars to several charities for children, was among six winners of Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel prize this year…
The Manila-based Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation named Chen Shu-chu as one of six winners, citing her for “personal giving, which reflects a deep, consistent, quiet compassion, and has transformed the lives of the numerous Taiwanese she has helped”.
From her daily earnings as a vegetable vendor, Chen, who reached only the sixth grade and sleeps on the floor, was able to help build a library and feed and shelter children-at-risk as well as families displaced by disasters.
“Money serves its purpose only when it is used for those who need it,” she said. “I feel happy whenever I could help other people…”
The awards, named for a popular president of the Philippines who was killed in a plane crash, were set up in 1957 by the trustees of the New York-based Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
Nearly 300 people and groups, including the U.S. Peace Corps and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, have been recognized since 1958.
If the video is cranky, click “YouTube” lower rh frame and watch it there
As a crane lowered a steel-and-concrete slab onto support pillars, construction workers swarmed around to bolt it down – a choreography of mad-dash steps against a backdrop of firecrackers, and a sacrificed cow, to herald China’s latest “instant building”.
The three-story structure, a workers’ cafeteria, was just a side note to a 30-story hotel built over 15 days outside this city in Hunan province in December. Both are examples of the streamlined construction being pioneered by China’s Broad Sustainable Building.
“There is an urgent need for construction security, especially energy-saving in construction, and this touches on conserving materials,” Zhang Yue, Broad Group’s founder and chairman, told Reuters in an interview at his headquarters in Changsha.
Over the last decade China has seen one of the biggest construction booms in history to house a surging urban population and an expanding industrial sector. But with that construction have come worries about environmental destruction, waste and shoddy buildings. Zhang argues that his buildings represent just the opposite…
“It’s very easy to learn the construction – all the workers need to do is fasten the bolts,” said Liu Zhijian, a 23-year-old site worker from the nearby city of Loudi. “There’s no welding, no dust, no water,” he said. “It’s not at all like traditional construction, which is all about bricks and concrete…”
The approach is relatively straightforward. Workers prefabricate flat modules at two factories in Yueyang, about 90 minutes north of the provincial capital of Changsha…
The process also leaves little trash behind…”We have only 1 percent of construction waste at building sites,” said Shang Dayong, a worker from Ningxia province who came to learn the quick-build process to teach others back home.
Modular construction truly rocks. Even though most of the housing I worked on was custom designs, there are firms I competed against that did a stellar job with production modules built off-site and transported to fit the site. If their pre-designed packages fit the needs and taste of clients, savings of 20-30% were common.
In commercial construction — even faster and easier. There is one chain of motels that builds all of their modules as opposite rooms in the motel with a section of hall way between. They’re trucked to the job site and dropped into place floor by floor, side by side. Easy as pie. A hell of a lot less job site labor, savings on insurance, raw materials, scrap all-round.
The tip of a girl’s 40,000-year-old pinky finger found in a cold Siberian cave, paired with faster and cheaper genetic sequencing technology, is helping scientists draw a surprisingly complex new picture of human origins.
The new view is fast supplanting the traditional idea that modern humans triumphantly marched out of Africa about 50,000 years ago, replacing all other types that had gone before.
Instead, the genetic analysis shows, modern humans encountered and bred with at least two groups of ancient humans in relatively recent times: the Neanderthals, who lived in Europe and Asia, dying out roughly 30,000 years ago, and a mysterious group known as the Denisovans, who lived in Asia and most likely vanished around the same time.
Their DNA lives on in us even though they are extinct. “In a sense, we are a hybrid species,” Chris Stringer, a paleoanthropologist who is the research leader in human origins at the Natural History Museum in London, said in an interview.
The Denisovans were first described a year ago in a groundbreaking paper in the journal Nature made possible by genetic sequencing of the girl’s pinky bone and of an oddly shaped molar from a young adult. Those findings have unleashed a spate of new analyses.
Scientists are trying to envision the ancient couplings and their consequences: when and where they took place, how they happened, how many produced offspring and what effect the archaic genes have on humans today…
I’ve heard it many times before. Remarkable growth in Asia is leading to big increases in coal consumption and carbon-dioxide emissions. But I didn’t have a good sense of just how big that change has been until I saw this graphic from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Asia’s coal use was smaller than Europe’s in 1980. Now it dwarfs coal consumption even in North America, the world’s second-largest consumer.
Stunning – as a reflection of fossil fuel consumption, energy production. Without differentiating the portion of coal consumed as metallurgical versus thermal coal we’re still looking at enormous growth in industrial potential.
The concurrent pollution problems help to understand why China is fast becoming the world’s leading manufacturer of alternative energy devices. Their conversion rate to solar and wind power is close to first – though still behind Europe. They’re trying equally fast to catch up to and surpass nations like France in nuclear power generation. They have to. That burgeoning middle class is starting to make lifestyle demands to match their growing wealth and education.