Monthly Archives: March 2013

Forbes’ Map of Billionaires in The Americas

THANKS; Ricardo Geromel, Contributor I Cover Billionaires

There are 442 billionaires with citizenship from the United States, more than in any other country in the world and even more than in all the other countries in The Americas together, which have a total of 129 billionaires. Those 442 ultra rich from the U.S. own a combined wealth of $1,872.5 billion, three times more than the combined wealth of billionaires from the rest of the Americas, $572.5 Billion.
The average fortune of a billionaire from the U.S. is $4.2 billion, while the average fortune of a billionaire from any other country in the Americas is $4.4 billion. If we exclude Carlos Slim, the world’s richest with an estimated net worth of $73 billion, the average net worth of American billionaires from countries other than the US drops to $3.9 billion.
Bob Mansfield and David Lada mapped the wealth of the richest Americans. Share your own conclusions with us:


25th Anniversary Timeline, 2012
List Of Latin American Billionaires
List Of U.S. Billionaires
List Of European Billionaires
List of Asia Pacific Billionaires
List Of African Billionaires
List Of Top 500 Billionaires



Thanks;Alan Duerden
Public Relations Director, Marketplaces & GRC
Thanks;Eunice Lam
Public Relations Manager, Asia Pacific
Thomson Reuters


BOT Deputy Governor Presents Honours at Thomson Reuters FX Trading Awards

Thailand, Bangkok – Thomson Reuters, the world’s leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals, announced the winners of its fourth annual Thomson Reuters FX Trading Awards for Thailand’s financial community. The annual Thomson Reuters FX Community Forum took place in Bangkok yesterday and was officiated by the Bank of Thailand’s deputy governor, Mrs Pongpen Ruengvirayudh.

At the Thomson Reuters FX Community Forum event, Bank of Thailand deputy governor Mrs. Pongpen Ruengvirayudh addressed an audience of distinguished financial professionals on the challenges brought by “the great rotation” – the flow of funds from bonds to equities – as the markets have responded to the improved confidence in the global economy this year.

Foreign exchange trading conditions in Thailand continue to be positive against the backdrop of stable economic growth, according to Thomson Reuters data. Thailand’s economy has rebounded successfully since the devastating floods in 2011 and this year the country’s economy is expected to grow 5%, according to the World Bank, further strengthening its already growing FX market.

Thomson Reuters has a long history in Thailand and in 2006 became the first organisation to introduce electronic trading of the Thai Baht (THB) against the US dollar through its electronic Matching service. Last year the company launched Matching for Thai Baht (THB) onshore swaps, which has provided additional trading opportunities for financial institutions based in Thailand.

“Thomson Reuters commitment to deliver an improved and diversified line of solutions and services across the FX markets is long supported by market participants in Thailand,” said Nigel Fuller, sales director Asia, treasury transaction services at Thomson Reuters. “Our recent acquisition of FXall nicely complements our existing Thai Baht Matching business and we are supporting the FX market in Thailand like never before.”

Thomson Reuters acquisition of FXall, the leading multi-bank electronic foreign exchange platform, in August 2012 positions the company to deliver the most innovative FX services available across the entire spectrum of price discovery, execution and post-trade services.

Foreign exchange is the world’s most-actively-traded asset class and continues to generate significant interest from the global trading community. In February 2013, Thomson Reuters reported average global daily FX spot volumes in excess of US$137 billion over its foreign exchange trading platforms, while FXall trading volumes reached US$110 billion.

Thomson Reuters annual FX Awards for Thailand aims to promote transparency and liquidity in the Thai foreign exchange market and to recognize its importance to the broader Thai economy. The Thai FX Award winners were determined based on trading volumes and pricing contributions on Thomson Reuters electronic FX trading platforms.

“The awards are given not only for outstanding business achievements, but also to recognise the notable efforts made in enhancing the market’s efficiency,” said Pongpen Ruengvirayudh, deputy governor, Bank of Thailand.

The winners for Thomson Reuters FX Trading Awards for Thailand are as follows:

1. Best USD/THB Liquidity Provider (from Dealing Spot Matching)

Winner: Bangkok Bank PCL
1st Runner Up: The Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited

2. Best Foreign Currency Liquidity Provider (from Dealing Spot Matching)

Winner: The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd.
1st Runner Up: JPMorgan Chase Bank, Bangkok Branch
2nd Runner Up: Bangkok Bank PCL
3. Best Foreign Currency Liquidity Provider (from RTFX)

Winner: Thanachart Bank PCL
2nd Runner Up: Krung Thai Bank PCL
4. Best THB FX Contributor

Winner: BNP Paribas, Bangkok Branch
1st Runner Up: The Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited
2nd Runner Up: Citibank, N.A.
5. Best THB Interest Rates Contributor

Winner: TMB Bank PCL
1st Runner Up: Citibank, N.A.
2st Runner Up: Siam Commercial

About Thomson Reuters in Thailand
Thomson Reuters has operated in Thailand for more than 100 years and now employs over 1,200 staff. Most of the company’s businesses are represented in Thailand which includes specialists and experts in finance, legal, tax and accounting as well as Reuters News and other media services. Thomson Reuters Research and Development Centre is a leader in the Thai software industry, and was the first company in Thailand to receive CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration) accreditation. Thomson Reuters Bangkok office serves as a critical hub for product development, quality control, business analytics and product support across global operations. Thomson Reuters has an active corporate social responsibility programme in Thailand and many employees have contributed time to community projects in schools throughout the country. After the 2004 tsunami, the Thomson Reuters Foundation made a significant donation to support relief for victims and their families.

Thomson Reuters
Thomson Reuters is the world’s leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals. We combine industry expertise with innovative technology to deliver critical information to leading decision makers in the financial and risk, legal, tax and accounting, intellectual property and science and media markets, powered by the world’s most trusted news organization. With headquarters in New York and major operations in London and Eagan, Minnesota, Thomson Reuters employs approximately 60,000 people and operates in over 100 countries. Thomson Reuters shares are listed on the Toronto and New York Stock Exchanges. For more information, go to:

Zygna Continues to Cut Ties With Facebook

THANKS ; Brian Patrick Eha|12 hours ago
This week’s need-to-know social-media news.

Zynga, the social gaming company whose runaway hit FarmVille made it synonymous with Facebook games, is now pulling away from the social network that nurtured it. Starting next week, players will no longer be required to sign up for a Facebook account in order to register on And Zynga games — many of which encourage in-game purchases — will use the gaming company’s own currency instead of using Facebook as a payment processor. Facebook takes a 30 percent fee on those transactions. In 2011, Zynga accounted for about 12 percent of Facebook’s revenue.

The disengagement is mutual. Facebook plans to withhold certain information about its users’ social graphs. For instance, Zynga users will no longer be able to see their Facebook friends who are playing Zynga games but with whom they haven’t previously interacted. Although Zynga would prefer to have full access to Facebook user data, moving away from the company’s former dependence on a single platform seems the right choice. — Wall Street Journal

YouTube hits one billion monthly users.
YouTube says it now has 1 billion monthly users. If YouTube were a country, it would be the third-largest in the world, after China and India. The video service is so powerful and well-known around the world that it’s an advertiser’s dream: Every one of Advertising Age’s top 100 brands has run a campaign on YouTube. — CNET

Pinterest acquires a recommendation app.
Less than a year after local recommendation app Livestar launched, it has been purchased by Pinterest. Livestar will be shutting down and its engineering team will be joining Pinterest. “We think the Livestar team is a natural fit for Pinterest because of their commitment to inspiring people to do things in their everyday lives through social and expert recommendations,” Pinterest said in a statement. — GigaOm

Happy birthday: Twitter turns seven.
Twitter turned seven years old this week — a benchmark for taking stock of the company’s explosive growth. “As we’ve grown, Twitter has become a true global town square — a public place to hear the latest news, exchange ideas and connect with people all in real time,” editorial director Karen Wickre wrote in a blog post. The social network now has more than 200 million users creating more than 400 million tweets every day. — Twitter Blog
From Facebook to face time: one man’s attempt to reconnect with friends.
When was the last time you saw each and every one of your friends on Facebook? A Connecticut-based photographer is determined to meet all 788 of his Facebook friends in real life. What’s more, he plans to take their photos and to make a documentary about his journey. He has raised more than $13,000 on his project’s Kickstarter page, with four days of funding left to go. “The goal of this project is to reconnect with people. No more hiding behind the screen of social media,” Morin writes. Ambitious of him, isn’t it? — ABC News

Internet tax proposal up for a vote in Senate this week

THanks; C!NET

March 21, 2013 | Declan McCullagh
Internet tax supporters, with backing from Walmart, Macy’s, and Best Buy, are hoping a Senate vote will give them enough political leverage to require Americans to pay sales taxes when shopping online.

Democratic senator Dick Durbin, right, who has called Internet taxes “a matter of basic economic fairness,” is trying to move a plan forward with an amendment this week to the Senate Democrats’ budget.
(Credit: Getty Images)
Internet tax supporters are hoping that a vote in the U.S. Senate as early as today will finally give them enough political leverage to require Americans to pay sales taxes when shopping online.
Sens. Mike Enzi (R-Wy.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) are expected to offer an amendment to a Democratic budget resolution this week that, by allowing states to “collect taxes on remote sales,” is intended to usher in the first national Internet sales tax.
“We’re working overtime in pushing this, talking to our members, activating our grassroots,” says Stephen Schatz, a spokesman for the National Retail Federation. The group’s board members include OfficeMax, Macy’s, the Container Store, and Saks, which argue it’s only fair to force Americans to pay sales taxes when buying from online retailers.
The justification for the proposal reprises arguments that state tax collectors have made for at least a decade: online retailers that don’t always collect taxes are unreasonably depriving state governments of revenue and enjoy an unfair competitive advantage over big box retailers that do collect taxes. On the other hand, there are close to 10,000 jurisdictions that can levy taxes, each with its own rules and ability to conduct audits, and complying with all of those as a small retailer is not a trivial task.
Taxpayer advocates say an endorsement of a multi-billion dollar tax hike on Americans shouldn’t be snuck into an unrelated budget bill (PDF) that’s expected to be voted on before senators leave for an Easter recess. The National Taxpayers Union set up a petition to Congress this week calling the amendment “really just a way to unleash state tax collectors on the Internet,” and 15 conservative groups sent a letter last week to members of Congress saying an Internet tax law is “is bad news for conservative principles and the cause of limited government.”
They’re joined by by eBay, an association of small Internet sellers called W R HERE, and NetChoice, which includes Facebook, Yahoo, LivingSocial, and AOL as members.
The proposed amendment “does nothing to address what the Supreme Court says was an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce,” says Steve DelBianco, executive director of NetChoice. “It’s an unprecedented expansion of state sales tax authority.”
Enzi and Durbin sponsored the separate Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013 (S.336), introduced last month, which has 25 other Senate supporters and would authorize state governments to collect taxes from remote sellers with more than $1 million in gross receipts.
But it takes effect only if state governments sufficiently simplify their notoriously labyrinthine tax laws. In New Jersey, for instance, bottled water and cookies are exempt from sales tax (PDF), but bottled soda and candy are taxable. In Rhode Island, buying a mink handbag is taxed, but a mink fur coat is not (PDF).
The Enzi-Durbin amendment takes a similar approach, but lacks mandatory simplification and is non-binding. It appears to be intended as a clever political hack: secure plenty of votes on a non-binding Internet tax amendment, then use those vote totals to argue there’s sufficient support for S.336 when it’s up for a binding vote later.
“The strategy of the bill’s supporters is to offer this general amendment and then claim that all the senators that vote for it support the bill,” says Brian Bieron, eBay’s senior director for federal government relations and global public policy. “That is not just a stretch, it is not accurate. But the game plan is to rack up a sizable vote and then make the claim the bill itself should jump over the Finance Committee and go right to the floor.” (Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., head of the Senate Finance committee who represents a state with no sales tax, has been less than enthusiastic about S.336.)
A spokesman for Enzi did not respond to queries from CNET yesterday afternoon. Durbin has previously said that enacting the Internet tax legislation is “a matter of basic economic fairness.”
Enzi’s allies, including big box retailers and Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-S.D.), hope that they can convince 60 senators to vote for the amendment — a key supermajority that would ease the path for enacting S.336 in the future.
A letter (PDF) that the Retail Industry Leaders Association sent to all senators on Tuesday says the Enzi-Durbin amendment “simply provides states with the authority — if they so choose — to require online sellers to collect sales taxes just like brick and mortar and many of their Web sites already do today.” RILA’s board members include representatives of Best Buy, Home Depot, Walmart, Whole Foods, Target, and AutoZone.
The current legal and political landscape was shaped by a 1992 case called Quill v. North Dakota, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that out-of-state retailers generally don’t have to collect sales taxes.
One exception to that rule is a legal concept called “nexus,” which means a company can be forced to collect sales taxes if it has a sufficient business presence, which is why wasn’t required to collect sales taxes in California until recently. Another exception is the sale of cigarettes, which is covered by the Jenkins Act.
As a practical matter, many Americans already pay sales taxes on Internet purchases, either from big box retailers’ Web sites or from online retailers like that have generated nexus by opening warehouses or subsidiaries in more states. Smaller retailers, including,, Blue Nile, Systemax’s, and eBay sellers are less likely to have nexus, meaning their purchases would arrive tax-free (use taxes, however, may still apply).
Supporters of Internet tax legislation say they’re optimistic. “It’s bound to happen,” says Schatz, from the National Retail Federation. “It’s just a matter of when.”

Declan McCullagh
Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People’s Money column for CBS News’ Web site.

Will Killing Google Reader Increase Global Censorship?

Thanks for “@Marshable”

After Google unceremoniously announced it would be killing Reader later this year, much of the outraged response focused on its use in the U.S. But there’s a whole other aspect ..

But there’s a whole other aspect to the service: for thousands of users around the world, it’s one of the few ways they can get around their country’s censors.

A “save Google Reader” petition hosted by has received 125,000 signatures so far. And as revealed to Mashable Monday, 75% of those signatures come from users outside the U.S. — and 12% of them total say they live in countries that Reporters Without Borders or the OpenNet Initiative report say have active Internet censorship by government forces.

“Here in Kazakhstan, many blog services are banned by government, so Google Reader is one of the easy ways to access banned content,” writes one signatory, Yaroslav Sedyshev. “I’m using it every day and I’d be very upset if it’s no longer available.”

“Google Reader is my only Internet, guys,” wrote a petition signer in Belarus.

A number of Chinese signatories claim they have access to Reader, despite Google at large being blocked by the Great Firewall of China. “Google Reader is important as dinner to me,” wrote one. “Please don’t let it go,” begged another.

And then there’s the one country where Google Reader may be the most vital: Iran, which has long threatened to build its own domestic Intranet. As Quartz points out, Reader is enormously popular in Iran.

Google’s vast and secure server farms, with multiple redundancies, are apparently easier for the average Iranian user to access (and harder for the censors to block) than those of competitors such as

“Looks like there’s a dark side to the Google Reader story,” writes Charlotte Hill, a spokesperson for “People living under repressive regimes use the service to access information untouched by government censors.

“If Google Reader goes, they say, so will uncensored news and views from around the world.”

Are you using Reader to access news in a country that condones censorship? Do you think its competitors’ servers are robust enough to withstand the censors? Let us know in the comments.


Tips to Go Above and Beyond With Customer Service

Thanks!!! Entrepreneur Magazine
These days, providing adequate customer service is not enough.

You need to go above and beyond the call of duty to provide customer service that truly stands out. How do you do this?

Begin by thinking about your own experience as a customer — what you liked and disliked in certain situations.

Recall the times you were delighted by extra efforts to accommodate your needs or outraged by rudeness or negligence. This will give you greater insight into what makes for extraordinary customer service.

To put yourself in the customer’s shoes, try visiting a wide range of businesses your customers are likely to frequent. This could include your direct competitors, as well as companies that sell related products and services.

Observe how your customers are treated in addition to the kinds of services that seem to be important to them. Then adopt your business accordingly.

Going above and beyond is especially important when a customer has complained or there is a problem with a purchase. Suppose an order is delayed. What can you do? * Call the customer personally with updates on the status of the order and expected arrival time.
* Hand-deliver the merchandise when it arrives.
* Take 20 or 30 percent off the cost.
* Send a note apologizing for the delay — tucked inside a gift basket full of goodies.

These are all ways of showing the customer you’re on his side.

Going above and beyond doesn’t always mean offering deep discounts or giving away products. With a little ingenuity and effort, you can show customers they are important at any time.

Suppose you’ve just received the newest samples and colors for your home furnishings line. Why not invest your best customers to a private showing, complete with music, appetizers and a coupon good for one free hour of consultation?

Emergency orders and last-minute changes should be accommodated when possible, especially for important occasions such as weddings or a big trade show. Customers remember these events … and they will remember your flexibility and prompt response to their needs, too.

Being accessible also wins loyalty. Customer loyalty is hard to win and easy to lose. But by going above and beyond with your customer service, you’ll soon see your sales going above and beyond those of your competitors.

Excellent customer service is more than what you say and do for the customer. It also means giving customers a chance to make their feelings known.

Here are some suggestions for finding out what your customers want, need and care about: * Attend trade shows and industry events that are important to your customers.
* Nurture a human bond, as well as a business one, with customers and prospects.
* Keep alert for trends; then respond to them.
* Ask for feedback.

Whatever you do, don’t rest on your laurels. Regularly evaluate your product or service to be sure it is still priced, packaged and delivered right.

Underground Library Lets Subway Riders Sample Books On iPhones

Thanks;(h/t Dezeen)


Consider a morning commute on public transit: stuffy, slow, then slower, then delayed, and, ugh, you’re going to be late again. Amidst all the annoyances, however, that time in transit is ideal in one very specific way–an opportunity to catch up on your reading. Pull out the novel you’re halfway through, and presto: instant escape.

The Underground Library is the result of an assignment at Miami Ad School, where students were tasked with finding a creative way to advertise a project for the New York Public Library. The catch? It had to be something that wasn’t possible at least five years ago. Art directors Keri Tan and Max Pilwat and copywriter Ferdi Rodriguez teamed up to engage what is perhaps the Big Apple’s most captive audience, using technology to direct straphangers back to the printed page.

The concept is relatively simple: Subway smartphone users swipe at a special poster promoting a curated selection of books on offer, after which the first 10 pages will be automatically downloaded to their mobile device in an easy-to-read ePub or PDF format. Once they reach their stop and emerge aboveground, a map will pop up and direct them to the nearest available NYPL branches to nab the physical copy.

Determining the kind of tech that could make it happen required some serious research for the trio. What form of digital communication would perform best in a speeding subterranean car, crowded with commuters? They settled on Near-Field Communication (NFC), which can establish an automatic connection in less than a second within a limited range that maxes out at 20 centimeters; ultimately, this would reduce the potential for unintended signal interceptions, plus it doesn’t require manually pairing up with Bluetooth to make the transfer, or waiting for consistent Wi-Fi under the streets of Manhattan. At the moment, Google Android and Windows 8 have NFC capabilities, but the team believes it’s only a matter of time before it’s iPhone-compatible as well. Changing the reading list would simply be a matter of updating the NFC chip embedded in the poster.


Now, it’s probably been a while since a lot of these New Yorkers have stepped foot inside a NYPL, much less one that’s not in their neighborhood. No, you can’t just cruise in, show your smartphone, and ask to borrow the print edition. Participants would need a valid library card, which requires a teensy bit of back-end work to acquire. However, books can be returned at any location, meaning you don’t have to hit the same destination twice (lots more helpful details here–worth reading if you’re living in NYC and haven’t signed up yet).

So would the creators consider the experiment a bust if people just ended up downloading the rest? Nope! “We consider it a win-win for both publishers and the New York Public Library,” Tan says. Reading, in any form, is a good thing. “And there’s still a subset of the community in New York who would rather borrow from the library rather than paying for it. This includes students of all ages who would rather pay for their textbooks or for prolific readers who can finish a book fairly quickly.”







The campaign is currently just a concept, but it definitely seems like one that could get people jazzed about heading back to those awesome places where, believe it or not, they’ll lend you great books and tons of other stuff completely free of charge. What a world!

Can Natural Gas Become the New Gasoline?

Natural gas is abundant, clean and far cheaper than diesel. That has the U.S. transportation and auto industries looking for ways to kick their dependence on dirtier fossil fuels.

After years of debating how to tap domestic energy sources, new innovations in the sector have created a boom in U.S. energy production. And natural gas is now being viewed as something of a panacea for much of what ails the world’s largest economy — cheaper energy could make U.S. manufacturing globally competitive again.

Indeed, natural gas was the buzz of CERAWeek, an energy conference in Houston that explores hot topics in the energy sector.

Using the fuel in conventional transportation is one avenue that appears to hold vast potential.


Horsemeat scandal sparks rise in sales of vegetarian alternatives

Tuesday 5 March 2013 17.48 GMT


THANKS;Sarah Butler&UK news

Quorn’s suprisingly succulent cumberland sausages: the company is having to increase the number of shifts at its fermenting plant to cope with demand. Photograph: Lorna Roach

Britons are increasingly turning to vegetarian alternatives amid concerns sparked by the horsemeat scandal, according to food producers.

Quorn, the UK’s biggest vegetarian ready meal brand, said it had seen sales growth more than double in the second half of February as shoppers snapped up its burgers, mince and sausages made from a form of fungus. The company is having to increase the number of shifts at its fermenting plant to cope with demand.

Other specialist brands have also enjoyed a surge in sales since January when regulators found horsemeat in ready-made burgers sold in supermarkets. Asda said sales of meat-free foods had been booming in recent weeks as the scandal has widened to include well known brands including Findus and Birds Eye.

Fry’s, a South African brand which sells frozen vegetarian sausages and pies mainly to health foods shops such as Holland & Barrett, said sales had risen 30% since the beginning of February, three times the pace of its growth over the last few years.

Cauldron Foods, another brand owned by Quorn that includes specialist vegetarian options such as tofu as well as vegetarian sausages, has seen sales lift 6% after months without growth.

Meanwhile, VeggieDay, a German brand which recently launched in Co-op stores, said sales were greater than forecast and it had seen a burst of interest from retailers. “We have responded to the growth in consumer interest by bringing forward our product development schedule by approximately six months,” the company said.

Lisa Drummy, boss of the UK importer of Fry’s, said the company had been contacted by a number of supermarkets after years of being ignored. Fry’s also benefited from a deal to supply meat-free pies to food distributor 3663 after the UK foodservice wholesaler found traces of pork in Halal pies it was supplying to prisons. Although she was unsure how long it would last, Drummy said: “We’ve seen a big step up in February; it’s a kneejerk reaction.”

Kevin Brennan, the chief executive of Quorn, said the horsemeat scandal had served to highlight the rising cost of meat protein, particularly beef, and those cost pressures would mean more and more people would seek out alternatives in future. High beef prices are thought to have been a key factor behind the contamination of ready meals with cheaper horsemeat.

Beef prices are expected to continue to rise in future. Raising a cow requires the use of a relatively large amount of feed-crops such as wheat or soybeans and, as the world’s population grows, competition for those crops will increase. At the same time, demand for meat is on the rise, particularly in parts of Asia.

“Over time beef is going to become more of a luxury,” Brennan said. “People probably won’t continue doing what they are right now but I do think there is genuine potential that they could shift away from meat. It’s not about giving it up altogether but reducing consumption.”

Still, meat-free ready meals have some way to go. A YouGov poll commissioned by Quorn about a week ago, which found that just 15% of those questioned were more likely to consider an alternative to meat as a result of the horsemeat saga.

Drummy from Fry’s said: “A minority might think what’s happened is awful and people have definitely been put off buying more processed foods but most will carry on eating without looking to see what’s in it.”

Asda said that, while Quorn sales were still up, overall sales of meat-free products were beginning to plateau.

Amy Price, senior food retail analyst at research firm Mintel, said just 6% of the UK population were vegetarians, although a further 13% choose to avoid red meat.

She said: “There are still barriers for meat free on shoppers’ perception of taste and value for money while a third say they don’t know how to cook with meat alternatives.”

She added that publicity from those retailers who had worked hard to protect their meat supply chain from contamination by using British farmers who they worked with closely were also comforting shoppers.

Waitrose and Morrisons have both publicised their use of British farmers while last week Tesco said it would try to source more meat in the UK and Ireland as a result of horsemeat being found in some of its food.

Choking to Death: The Health Consequences of Air Pollution in China

Written on : Mar 6, 2013/Thanks>Reddit

“The poor air quality, according to a leading Chinese public health expert, is worse than SARS because nobody can escape it.”

As the delegates of the National People’s Congress (NPC) gather in Beijing to formally endorse nominees for key government leadership posts and policies, it would be hard for them to ignore the poor air quality in the country’s capital. Last Thursday morning, readings near Tiananmen Square measured the concentration of PM2.5—fine particles in the air that are smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter and are considered dangerous because they tend to penetrate the gas exchange regions of the lungs—at 469 micrograms per cubic meter, which corresponds to a U.S. EPA Air Quality Index reading of 479 (the scale stops at 500). Anything above 301 is considered “hazardous” in that it can cause “serious aggravation of heart or lung disease and premature mortality in persons with cardiopulmonary disease and the elderly,” and there is a “serious risk of respiratory effects in general population.” The PM2.5 levels in other famously polluted cities pale in comparison to those in Beijing; for instance, the highest PM2.5 level in a 24-period recorded in Los Angeles was 43 micrograms per cubic meter.

The poor air quality, according to a leading Chinese public health expert, is worse than SARS because nobody can escape it. Research suggests that air pollution can “raise the risk of cardio-respiratory death by 2 to 3 percent for every increase of 10 micrograms per cubic meter of pollutants.” Only 1 percent of China’s 560 million urban residents breathe air considered safe by the European Union, according to a 2007 World Bank study. A report released by China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection in November 2010 showed that “about a third of 113 cities failed to meet national air standards.” The 2012 Cancer Registry Annual Report revealed that lung cancer is top among all types of cancer in terms of the number of cases and deaths in China. Indeed, the number of lung cancer-caused mortality in China has increased by 465 percent in the past three decades. In Beijing, the number of lung cancer patients has increased by 60 percent in the last ten years. The rising incidence rate of lung cancer coincides with drastic reduction in the incidence rates of stomach cancer and cervical cancer, which is thought to be a result of improvements in public health standards.

For years, public health experts considered smoking the leading risk factor of lung cancer. Yet a recent report prepared by some prominent Chinese public health experts and economists did not find any significant change in China’s overall smoking rate over the last decade. A group of scientists analyzed historical records of aerosol particles and lung cancer incidence in Guangzhou and found that a dramatic increase in the occurrence of air pollution from 1954 to 2006 was followed by a large increase in the lung cancer incidence rate despite the drop in the overall smoking rate. It was found that 750,000 Chinese die prematurely each year, primarily because of air pollution in large cities. According to more recent estimates by Greenpeace and Peking University’s School of Public Health, exposure to PM2.5 contributed to more than 8,500 premature deaths in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Xi’an in 2012 alone.

The thick haze served as a wake-up call for the government, which seems to become more transparent in discussing air pollution in China. As public awareness of the problem grew, pressure on the government to address the underlying causes also increased. To improve the air quality, the Beijing municipal government has taken some emergency measures, including temporarily shutting down more than 100 factories and ordering one-third of government vehicles off the streets. However, given that coal burning in neighboring provinces and cities is a major contributor of the PM2.5 concentration in Beijing, the effectiveness of these steps has been limited. Moreover, while emissions from motor vehicles and coal-burning operations are responsible for the worsening air pollution in China, economic growth requires increased energy use. Since the regime’s legitimacy hinges upon delivering robust economic growth, governments at all levels continue to pursue growth at the expense of environment. We are going to see more NPC delegates pushing for better environmental protection measures, but don’t expect any fundamental change until the government has shifted to a new legitimacy base and restructured the state-society relationship to allow for more effective participation of civil society groups in the public policy process. In the words of Chinese premier-to-be Li Keqiang, “It will be a long process to resolve environmental problems.”