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Posts Tagged ‘Europe

China planning a high-speed rail network to link Asia/Europe

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The world’s fastest trains ready to roll — Click to enlarge

China is in negotiations to build a high-speed rail network to India and Europe that would make a trip from London to Beijing last just two days.

The network would begin in London and extend to India, Pakistan and Beijing. It could eventually carry passengers from on to Singapore, a trip that would last three days, according to project consultant Wang Mengshu, as reported in the Telegraph (UK).

A second line would extend from Beijing northward, through Russia to Germany, linking with the European railway system.

A third line would extend southward, connecting Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) and Malaysia…

“We are aiming for the trains to run almost as fast as aeroplanes,” said Mr Wang. “The best case scenario is that the three networks will be completed in a decade,” he added.

According to the Telegraph report, China is in negotiations with 17 nations for the massive project, which would effectively open the Central, East and Southeast Asia to Europe (and vice-versa).

In a way, it’s the Silk Road 2.0: the rail lines would allow China to transport raw materials more directly and efficiently.

According to the report, the system wasn’t China’s idea — it was the other nations, such as India. But it took Chinese know-how and tech to get it done.

China is in the midst of completing a $735.6 billion, five-year domestic railway expansion project consisting of almost 19,000 miles of new railways.

The nation unveiled the world’s fastest train, the Harmony Express, last year. The train has a top speed of almost 250 miles per hour, and will be used between the cities of Wuhan and Guangzhou.

High speed rail isn’t unique, nowadays. Except, of course, if a system was built in the United States. We’d rather wrestle with concrete highways especially as we let them fall apart from lack of maintenance.

We should be able to count on Republicans and Blue Dog Dems to stand around next to the last crumbling interchange and bridge complex and take credit for all the money they’ve saved taxpayers over the years. While food prices triple and our stature in the world of manufacturing moves to last place.

Logistics? Who cares in the GOUSA besides UPS?

Thanks, Mike

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Written by Ed Campbell

March 20, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Netherlands #1 for plentiful, nutritious, healthy and affordable food

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The Netherlands is No. 1 in the world for having the most plentiful, nutritious, healthy and affordable diet, beating France and Switzerland into second place. Chad is last in 125th spot behind Ethiopia and Angola, according to a new food database by worldwide development organization Oxfam.

European countries occupy the entire top 20 bar one – Australia ties in 8th place – while the US, Japan, New Zealand, Brazil and Canada all fall outside. African countries occupy the bottom 30 places in the table except for four – Laos, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India are there too.

Oxfam’s “Good Enough to Eat” index [.pdf] compares 125 countries where full data is available to create a snapshot of the different challenges people face in getting food. Oxfam’s GROW campaign is calling for urgent reform to the way food is produced and distributed around the world to end the scandal of one in eight people going hungry despite there being enough to feed everyone. The new index looks at whether people have enough to eat, food quality, affordability, and dietary health…

The countries whose citizens struggle for enough food, with the worst rates of malnourishment and underweight children, are Burundi, Yemen, Madagascar and India. On the other side of the table, Cambodia and Burundi are countries that score better by having among the lowest levels of obesity and diabetes in the world, while US, Mexico, Fiji, Jordan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia score most poorly with high rates of obesity and diabetes.

Iceland scores a perfect mark for the quality of its food, in terms of nutritional diversity and safe water. Iceland’s obesity and diabetes levels push it down the table, to 13th spot. Similarly, unhealthy eating pushes the US down to 21st place.

Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said: “This index lays bare the common concerns that people have with food regardless of where they come from. It reveals how the world is failing to ensure that everyone is able to eat healthily, despite there being enough to go around.”

“Poverty and inequality are the real drivers of hunger. Hunger happens where governance is poor, distribution weak, when markets fail, and when people don’t have enough money and resources to buy all the goods and services they need,” she said. “Having sufficient healthy and affordable food is not something that much of the world enjoys.”

RTFA for a snapshot of the report and a modicum of detail. Go on to the .pdf report in depth on 125 countries.

The first thing that jumps out at me is the unity between a sound diet and exercise. The pairing that makes extra sense for health in the Netherlands – and probably the opposite for Iceland in my meager experience. A lot of exercise in Iceland is the same as Scotland, e.g. elbow-bending.

Fact remains, this sort of knowledge helps any of us at the individual level. You won’t be doing yourself any harm by comparing your own lifestyle with the models appropriate to the nations doing well. Especially if you fit the failed model of nations like the US.

Written by Ed Campbell

January 19, 2014 at 8:00 am

Congress and the White House keep Huawei out of the USA – so, now, they’re adding 5,500 jobs in Europe

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Chinese telecommunications equipment maker Huawei plans to create 5,500 jobs in Europe within five years as the company expands its services in the region, state-owned newspaper China Daily said on Saturday.

Huawei, the world’s second largest maker of telecoms communication equipment, is to offer information technology solutions to European businesses, Patrick Zhang, president of marketing and solutions at Huawei Enterprise Business Group, told the newspaper…

Zhang said Europe offered more growth potential than the United States, where a congressional report last year found the company posed a security threat and essentially blocked it from the market.

Our expansion progress in Europe is different from that in the U.S., where we have encountered access difficulties due to some groundless reasons given by the American side,” Zhang said.

Huawei representatives said last week that the company expected to have its revenues expand by 10 percent annually over the next five years, thanks largely to consumer devices and enterprise services.

Isn’t there something your grandma said about cutting off your nose to spite your face?

Europeans have had beefs with Huawei in the past over prices – the usual excuse when you’re not competitive. However, their corporations and governments have no problems using Huawei communications systems, products – aiding Huawei on their path towards number 1 in that market in the world.

Uncle Sugar and the Cold Warriors in Congress and the White House think they will somehow protect investments in out-of-date and uncompetitive designs from American companies by blocking foreign competition. And the United States may as well drop the fear of eavesdropping ploy about foreign governments. There’s one area where we definitely lead the world.

Written by Ed Campbell

September 21, 2013 at 2:00 pm

The beer fridge that only Canadians can open

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molson-passport-fridge

A fridge full of free beer sounds like a great thing to find sitting on a street corner, but what if you needed a Canadian to open it? That was the puzzle posed by the Rethink advertising agency on behalf of Canada’s Molson brewery. This northern spring, Rethink set up red fridges at various locations around Europe that would only open if a Canadian passport was inserted.

The fridges were set up in Canterbury, London, the White Cliffs of Dover, Cassel in northern France, Brussels, and somewhere in rural Belgium. Along with bottles of Molson beer, the fridge had a plexiglass holder with a spring-loaded catch. Inserting a passport told a computer to capture an image of the passport with a modified webcam. It read the image and if it matched the crest on a Canadian passport, it released the latch on the fridge.

While the stunt was part of an advertising campaign, we’re sure a few traveling Canadians also made some new friends as result of the promotion. That is, provided they were carrying their passports with them when called upon.

Promotional effort on behalf of vacationing hosers, eh?

Written by Ed Campbell

July 2, 2013 at 8:00 am

Best place to be born in 2013 — Switzerland

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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:

2. Australia
3. Norway
4. Sweden
5. Denmark
6. Singapore
7. New Zealand
8. Netherlands
9. Canada
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.

Written by Ed Campbell

December 7, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Widespread distrust of US extends beyond Middle East — even our closest ally thinks we are a bully!

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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…

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ed Campbell

September 12, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Europe’s newest tallest building, The Shard, unveiled in London

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Click on photo to enlarge

Europe’s tallest building has been officially unveiled in central London.

The Shard’s tapered design and glass panelling have already made the skyscraper one of the capital’s most noticeable landmarks…Just yards from the banks of the River Thames in Southwark, it seems to pierce the sky as it shoots more than 1,000ft into the air.

The tower, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, has 72 floors which can be occupied, and will contain offices, exclusive residences, a luxury hotel, restaurants and a viewing gallery.

There are a further 15 levels which make up the “spire” – six of which have the potential to be used, with the other nine exposed to the elements.

The 1,016ft skyscraper was inaugurated by the prime minister of Qatar, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, and the Duke of York, Prince Andrew.

Can’t help myself. I love beautiful modern architecture. If I has anywhere near London I would be there in an instant to take the Cook’s Tour of the tower.

Written by Ed Campbell

July 5, 2012 at 6:00 pm

The growing black market for body parts in Europe

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Belgrade, Serbia — Facing grinding poverty, some Europeans are seeking to sell their kidneys, lungs, bone marrow or corneas…This phenomenon is relatively new in Serbia, a nation that has been battered by war and is grappling with the financial crisis that has swept the Continent. The spread of illegal organ sales into Europe, where they are gaining momentum, has been abetted by the Internet, a global shortage of organs for transplants and, in some cases, unscrupulous traffickers ready to exploit the economic misery.

In Spain, Italy, Greece and Russia, advertisements by people peddling organs — as well as hair, sperm and breast milk — have turned up on the Internet, with asking prices for lungs as high as $250,000…

Organ trafficking is a growth industry,” said Jonathan Ratel, a European Union special prosecutor who is leading a case against seven people accused of luring poor victims from Turkey and former communist countries to Kosovo to sell their kidneys with false promises of payments of up to $20,000. “Organized criminal groups are preying upon the vulnerable on both sides of the supply chain: people suffering from chronic poverty, and desperate and wealthy patients who will do anything to survive.”

The main supply countries have traditionally been China, India, Brazil and the Philippines. But experts say Europeans are increasingly vulnerable.

An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 kidneys are illegally sold globally each year, according to Organs Watch, a human rights group in Berkeley, Calif., that tracks the illegal organ trade. The World Health Organization estimates that only 10 percent of global needs for organ transplantation are being met…

RTFA. Anecdotal evidence is offered that puts the lie to officials who say this couldn’t possibly be happening in their nation.

History would agree. There is a market for poor people selling their blood in practically every nation in the world. Why act surprised over newer technology, tidier methods enabling the sale of sought-after, more valuable bits of the human body?

The numbers of poor people ain’t exactly diminishing in Europe – or elsewhere in the Industrial West for that matter.

Written by Ed Campbell

July 1, 2012 at 6:00 am

Non-native species extend growing season in eastern US forests

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Japanese stiltgrass in Maryland

Non-native plant species are extending the growing season in eastern US forests by an average of four weeks, a study has suggested. There was no difference in the start of growing during the spring, but the report found a noticeable difference between native and non-native species in the autumn.

This could have a profound impact on forest ecosystems, such as how soil nutrients are absorbed…

Prof Jason Fridley said that his experiment, carried out over three years and involving more than 70 species, actually revealed that there was not a signal of non-native species coming into leaf earlier than native species during the spring.

“It turns out that the real difference is in the autumn – nobody was expecting this – it turns out that our native species in the east of the United States really don’t do anything after October, but the invaders were still very active,” Prof Fridley told BBC News.

Whether the later finish to the growing season gave the non-native species an advantage was an area that requires further investigation…

Prof Fridley added that that holding on to the leaves for longer was likely to have an impact on the area’s ecosystems.

“The invaders are actually losing nice green leaves that fall to the forest floor, and those nutrients are feeding the microbes and feeding the nitrogen cycle,” he said. “So we do think they are having a pretty big impact on what is happening beneath the ground.”

This opens up a lot of interesting questions for the food chains, such as: are there insects or mammals that are taking advantage of the fact that there are more things to eat very late in the season?” he observed…

Prof Fridley said that the species that were displaying the later leafing behaviour were primarily from China, Japan and Korea, with a number from the UK and Europe…

“I have a sneaking suspicion that the plants coming from the Old World to the New are actually better adapted than New World species, and it could be that the New World experienced some pretty major disruptions over the past two million years during the last Ice Ages.”

Curiosity that got its start from forest walks – in this case. Curiosity that is the hallmark of science.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 27, 2012 at 2:00 am

Sites run by black-hat hackers and thieves closed in global raid

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Dozens of websites offering credit card details and other private information for sale have been taken down in a global police operation. Britain’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) says raids in Australia, Europe, the UK and US are the culmination of two years of work.

Credit card numbers or bank account details of millions of unsuspecting victims were sold for as little as £2. Two Britons and a man from Macedonia were arrested, with 36 sites shut down.

Some of the websites have been under observation for two years…During that period the details of about two-and-a-half million credit cards were recovered – preventing fraud, according to industry calculations, of at least £0.5 billion…

Not surprisingly, criminal gangs try to recruit the smartest hackers or code-writers to both steal data from unsuspecting internet users, and make their own websites as secure and hard to trace as possible.

But many senior figures at the big internet service providers and domain name registration companies are traditionally anti-establishment and can be suspicious of police interference. They are often reluctant to agree to anything that could be perceived as curtailing the freedom of the web, such as preventing anonymous domain registrations.

SOCA officers and their counterparts at Interpol, the FBI and at other law enforcement agencies around the world, say they have been working hard to “influence” the industry, and they are hoping that those efforts will lead to changes that could make their job easier in future.

Without the help of the industry, or a massive investment in law enforcement, it will be increasingly hard to keep track of the millions of items of illegal data being traded in cyberspace

Of course, the coppers could start hiring geeks of their own. Certainly, the FBI, CIA do that. And the NSA is almost wholly staffed by hackers who are gray – at best.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 26, 2012 at 6:00 pm

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