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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

31 INCREDIBLE FACTS ABOUT #GOLD

No metal can claim a legacy comparable to gold.

From VisualCapitalist.com:

Gold has been used to show affectionate love, but it has also represented power, status, and riches for the greatest kings of antiquity. Gold’s history is truly legendary, ripe with colorful tales and anecdotes from people ranging from William Shakespeare to Christopher Columbus. 

But gold doesn’t just “talk the talk”. 

Gold also walks the walk, because its grandeur is backed up by impressive chemical properties and uses. As we documented in our extensive Gold Series, it’s been used as a monetary metal for thousands of years by ancient civilizations such as the Lydians, Greeks, Chinese, and Romans. It’s the most malleable and ductile metal, and it doesn’t tarnish or corrode. Over time, these properties have helped people to associate gold with concepts such as immortality or royalty.

Even today, people are still finding new uses for gold that are impressive in their own right. For example, scientists recently discovered a gold alloy that is four times tougher than titanium.

Without further ado, here are 31 incredible facts about gold.

31 INCREDIBLE FACTS ABOUT GOLD

The following infographic puts the rich history of gold into perspective.


See the post online at Visual Capitalist here: http://www.visualcapitalist.com/31-incredible-facts-about-gold/ 


Monday, August 1, 2016

#Israel Proves the #Desalination Era Is Here #WaterDiplomacy

Israel Proves the Desalination Era Is Here - Scientific American
Israel now gets 55% of its domestic water from desalination, and that has helped to turn one of the world's driest countries into the unlikeliest of water giants. 

From Scientific American: 

Israel Proves the Desalination Era Is Here

From Ensia (find the original story here); reprinted with permission.

July 19, 2016 — Ten miles south of Tel Aviv, I stand on a catwalk over two concrete reservoirs the size of football fields and watch water pour into them from a massive pipe emerging from the sand. The pipe is so large I could walk through it standing upright, were it not full of Mediterranean seawater pumped from an intake a mile offshore.

"Now, that's a pump!" Edo Bar-Zeev shouts to me over the din of the motors, grinning with undisguised awe at the scene before us. The reservoirs beneath us contain several feet of sand through which the seawater filters before making its way to a vast metal hangar, where it is transformed into enough drinking water to supply 1.5 million people.

We are standing above the new Sorek desalination plant, the largest reverse-osmosis desal facility in the world, and we are staring at Israel's salvation. Just a few years ago, in the depths of its worst drought in at least 900 years, Israel was running out of water. Now it has a surplus. That remarkable turnaround was accomplished through national campaigns to conserve and reuse Israel's meager water resources, but the biggest impact came from a new wave of desalination plants.

Bar-Zeev, who recently joined Israel's Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research after completing his postdoc work at Yale University, is an expert on biofouling, which has always been an Achilles' heel of desalination and one of the reasons it has been considered a last resort. Desal works by pushing saltwater into membranes containing microscopic pores. The water gets through, while the larger salt molecules are left behind. But microorganisms in seawater quickly colonize the membranes and block the pores, and controlling them requires periodic costly and chemical-intensive cleaning. But Bar-Zeev and colleagues developed a chemical-free system using porous lava stone to capture the microorganisms before they reach the membranes. It's just one of many breakthroughs in membrane technology that have made desalination much more efficient. Israel now gets 55 percent of its domestic water from desalination, and that has helped to turn one of the world's driest countries into the unlikeliest of water giants.

Driven by necessity, Israel is learning to squeeze more out of a drop of water than any country on Earth, and much of that learning is happening at the Zuckerberg Institute, where researchers have pioneered new techniques in drip irrigation, water treatment and desalination. They have developed resilient well systems for African villages and biological digesters than can halve the water usage of most homes.

Bar-Zeev believes that Israel's solutions can help its parched neighbors, too — and in the process, bring together old enemies in common cause.The institute's original mission was to improve life in Israel's bone-dry Negev Desert, but the lessons look increasingly applicable to the entire Fertile Crescent. "The Middle East is drying up," says Osnat Gillor, a professor at the Zuckerberg Institute who studies the use of recycled wastewater on crops. "The only country that isn't suffering acute water stress is Israel."

That water stress has been a major factor in the turmoil tearing apart the Middle East, but Bar-Zeev believes that Israel's solutions can help its parched neighbors, too — and in the process, bring together old enemies in common cause.

Bar-Zeev acknowledges that water will likely be a source of conflict in the Middle East in the future. "But I believe water can be a bridge, through joint ventures," he says. "And one of those ventures is desalination."

Driven to Desperation

In 2008, Israel teetered on the edge of catastrophe. A decade-long drought had scorched the Fertile Crescent, and Israel's largest source of freshwater, the Sea of Galilee, had dropped to within inches of the "black line" at which irreversible salt infiltration would flood the lake and ruin it forever. Water restrictions were imposed, and many farmers lost a year's crops.

Their counterparts in Syria fared much worse. As the drought intensified and the water table plunged, Syria's farmers chased it, drilling wells 100, 200, then 500 meters (300, 700, then 1,600 feet) down in a literal race to the bottom. Eventually, the wells ran dry and Syria's farmland collapsed in an epic dust storm. More than a million farmers joined massive shantytowns on the outskirts of Aleppo, Homs, Damascus and other cities in a futile attempt to find work and purpose.

Water is driving the entire region to desperate acts.And that, according to the authors of "Climate Change in the Fertile Crescent and Implications of the Recent Syrian Drought," a 2015 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was the tinder that burned Syria to the ground. "The rapidly growing urban peripheries of Syria," they wrote, "marked by illegal settlements, overcrowding, poor infrastructure, unemployment, and crime, were neglected by the Assad government and became the heart of the developing unrest."

Similar stories are playing out across the Middle East, where drought and agricultural collapse have produced a lost generation with no prospects and simmering resentments. Iran, Iraq and Jordan all face water catastrophes. Water is driving the entire region to desperate acts.

More Water Than Needs

Except Israel. Amazingly, Israel has more water than it needs. The turnaround started in 2007, when low-flow toilets and showerheads were installed nationwide and the national water authority built innovative water treatment systems that recapture 86 percent of the water that goes down the drain and use it for irrigation — vastly more than the second-most-efficient country in the world, Spain, which recycles 19 percent.

But even with those measures, Israel still needed about 1.9 billion cubic meters (2.5 billion cubic yards) of freshwater per year and was getting just 1.4 billion cubic meters (1.8 billion cubic yards) from natural sources. That 500-million-cubic-meter (650-million-cubic-yard) shortfall was why the Sea of Galilee was draining like an unplugged tub and why the country was about to lose its farms.

The country faces a previously unfathomable question: What to do with its extra water?Enter desalination. The Ashkelon plant, in 2005, provided 127 million cubic meters (166 million cubic yards) of water. Hadera, in 2009, put out another 140 million cubic meters (183 million cubic yards). And now Sorek, 150 million cubic meters (196 million cubic yards). All told, desal plants can provide some 600 million cubic meters (785 million cubic yards) of water a year, and more are on the way.

The Sea of Galilee is fuller. Israel's farms are thriving. And the country faces a previously unfathomable question: What to do with its extra water?

Water Diplomacy

Inside Sorek, 50,000 membranes enclosed in vertical white cylinders, each 4 feet high and 16 inches wide, are whirring like jet engines. The whole thing feels like a throbbing spaceship about to blast off. The cylinders contain sheets of plastic membranes wrapped around a central pipe, and the membranes are stippled with pores less than a hundredth the diameter of a human hair. Water shoots into the cylinders at a pressure of 70 atmospheres and is pushed through the membranes, while the remaining brine is returned to the sea.

Desalination used to be an expensive energy hog, but the kind of advanced technologies being employed at Sorek have been a game changer. Water produced by desalination costs just a third of what it did in the 1990s. Sorek can produce a thousand liters of drinking water for 58 cents. Israeli households pay about US$30 a month for their water — similar to households in most U.S. cities, and far less than Las Vegas (US$47) or Los Angeles (US$58).

The International Desalination Association claims that 300 million people get water from desalination, and that number is quickly rising. IDE, the Israeli company that built Ashkelon, Hadera and Sorek, recently finished the Carlsbad desalination plant in Southern California, a close cousin of its Israel plants, and it has many more in the works. Worldwide, the equivalent of six additional Sorek plants are coming online every year. The desalination era is here.

What excites Bar-Zeev the most is the opportunity for water diplomacy.What excites Bar-Zeev the most is the opportunity for water diplomacy. Israel supplies the West Bank with water, as required by the 1995 Oslo II Accords, but the Palestinians still receive far less than they need. Water has been entangled with other negotiations in the ill-fated peace process, but now that more is at hand, many observers see the opportunity to depoliticize it. Bar-Zeev has ambitious plans for a Water Knows No Boundaries conference in 2018, which will bring together water scientists from Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza for a meeting of the minds.

Even more ambitious is the US$900 million Red Sea–Dead Sea Canal, a joint venture between Israel and Jordan to build a large desalination plant on the Red Sea, where they share a border, and divide the water among Israelis, Jordanians and the Palestinians. The brine discharge from the plant will be piped 100 miles north through Jordan to replenish the Dead Sea, which has been dropping a meter per year since the two countries began diverting the only river that feeds it in the 1960s. By 2020, these old foes will be drinking from the same tap.

On the far end of the Sorek plant, Bar-Zeev and I get to share a tap as well. Branching off from the main line where the Sorek water enters the Israeli grid is a simple spigot, a paper cup dispenser beside it. I open the tap and drink cup after cup of what was the Mediterranean Sea 40 minutes ago. It tastes cold, clear and miraculous.

The contrasts couldn't be starker. A few miles from here, water disappeared and civilization crumbled. Here, a galvanized civilization created water from nothingness. As Bar-Zeev and I drink deep, and the climate sizzles, I wonder which of these stories will be the exception, and which the rule. View Ensia homepage


Thursday, April 21, 2016

"1.2 billion opportunities" #Africa

But slow growth, ballooning deficits and #debt that has increased 18x in 7 years, will make the path to prosperity fraught with pitfalls. 

1.2 billion opportunities

THE ECONOMIST
Apr 21
FOR A LOOK at the African boom at its peak, do as a multitude of foreign investors have done and fly into Abidjan, the capital of Ivory Coast. Visitors arrive in an air-conditioned hall where a French-style café sells beers, snacks and magazines. There is advertising everywhere, for mobile-phone companies, first-class airline tickets and a new Burger King. The taxi into the city smoothly crosses over a six-lane toll bridge. On the way to the Plateau, the city's commercial core, cranes, new buildings and billboards jostle for space on the skyline. In the lagoon, red earth piles up where yet another new bridge is under construction. 
Just five years ago, Ivory Coast seemed like a lost cause. Having been defeated in an election at the end of 2010, the then president, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to leave office. The victorious opposition leader and now president, Alassane Ouattara, mounted a military offensive to force Mr Gbagbo out. French troops seized the airport to evacuate their citizens (the country used to be a French colony). Protesters were gunned down by troops, foreign businesses were looted and human-rights activists gave warning about mass graves being dug.
Ivory Coast still has problems, as shown by a terrorist attack in March that killed 22 people. But its economy is the second-fastest-growing in Africa (after Ethiopia, which is much poorer), expanding by almost 9% per year. Foreign investment is pouring in. As well as the Burger King, Abidjan now has a Carrefour supermarket, a new Heineken brewery, a Paul bakery and plenty of new infrastructure. Sharp-suited, French-educated ministers explain in perfect English what they are doing to "open up", "improve the ease of doing business" and "sustainably grow the middle class". Expensive hotels, such as the reopened $300-a-night Ivoire, are booked up; their bars are full of affluent people striking deals. The country's three port terminals, the biggest of which is being expanded by Bolloré, a French industrial firm, are working at full capacity, importing cars and electronics and exporting cocoa, coffee and cashew nuts.
This is the Africa of business magazines and bank ads: a continent that is rising at a prodigious pace and creating profitable new markets for multinational firms. But Abidjan also has plenty of reminders that it has been here before. For all of the new buildings springing up, its impressive skyline is still dominated by crumbling 1960s and 1970s concrete modernism. The roads may be new, but the orange taxis that ply them are still ancient fume-spewing Toyota Corollas, remnants of an earlier boom. For the two decades after independence from France in 1960, Ivory Coast enjoyed an economic miracle. Then, quite suddenly, the price of cocoa and coffee plunged and the boom faded as quickly as it had begun.
Reasons to worry
The deepest fear of today's investors in Africa is that it may be happening again. In Ivory Coast's neighbour, Ghana, thousands of government workers have been marching in the streets in the past few months to protest against their rising cost of living. Ghana relies on oil and gold, both of which have fallen in price, as well as cocoa. That, plus prodigious government borrowing, has caused a crisis. One US dollar now buys 4 cedi, the local currency; in 2012, it bought not quite two. Growth has halved since 2014, and Ghana is running a budget deficit of 9% of GDP and a current-account deficit of 13%.
According to the World Bank, in the year to April last year the terms of trade deteriorated in 36 out of 48 sub-Saharan African countries as the price of their commodity exports fell relative to the cost of their imports, mostly manufactured goods. Those 36 countries account for 80% of the continent's population and 70% of its GDP. Eight countries, including two giants, Angola and Nigeria, derive more than 90% of their export revenues from oil, which has recently plummeted far below the price needed to draw in new investors. Growth across sub-Saharan Africa dropped to 3.7% in 2015, far below East Asia's 6.4% and nowhere near enough to create enough jobs for the continent with the world's youngest and fastest-growing population. The World Bank expects it to tick up again, but only to 4.8% in 2017.
Countries that happily borrowed from international investors over the past few years have now found themselves shut out of the markets. The stock of outstanding sovereign bonds in the region had risen from less than $1 billion in 2009 to over $18 billion in 2014. If growth continues at a decent clip, that should be manageable. But if it stops, interest rates of 10% or more on dollar-denominated bonds will make refinancing difficult.
The continent's two biggest economies, Nigeria and South Africa, are already in deep distress. The reasons are different, but both have suffered from commodity-price falls as well as from atrocious economic management. The IMF, although loathed in much of Africa, is back, providing a $ 1billion loan to Ghana and preparing another for Zambia. Some fear a return to 2000, when this newspaper described Africa as the "hopeless continent".
Yet despite that, Nairobi's thriving malls and Abidjan's humming ports show that there are plenty of reasons to stay optimistic. The economic conditions have got worse, but this is a very different continent from two decades ago, when troops from eight African countries were fighting in Congo alone. Wars still rage in South Sudan, Somalia, Mali and northern Nigeria, and violence bubbles in places like eastern Congo, the Central African Republic and Burundi. But broadly speaking, most of sub-Saharan Africa is now peaceful. Elections seem increasingly less likely to result in strife, even if they still generally return incumbents, and more and more often for unconstitutional third terms. The governments that come to power are still often corrupt and inefficient, but far less brazenly so than those of cold war despots such as Mobutu Sese Seko of Congo or Jean-Bedel Bokassa of the Central African Republic.
Africa's 1.2 billion people also hold plenty of promise. They are young: south of the Sahara, their median age is below 25 everywhere except in South Africa. They are better educated than ever before: literacy rates among the young now exceed 70% everywhere other than in a band of desert countries across the Sahara. They are richer: in sub-Saharan Africa, the proportion of people living on less than $1.90 a day fell from 56% in 1990 to 35% in 2015, according to the World Bank. And diseases that have ravaged life expectancy and productivity are being defeated—gradually for HIV and AIDS, but spectacularly for malaria. Some of the gains may seem modest, but given that living standards across Africa declined during the 30 years after independence they are sufficiently established to prove lasting.
And for all that oil and metals have come to dominate economies such as Nigeria's and Congo's, the boom broadened beyond natural resources. Mobile telephones have transformed commerce across Africa, and now smartphones and feature phones (which are halfway between dumb and smart) are taking hold. In 2014, the latest year for which figures are available, 27% of Nigerians owned a smartphone. In many African countries 4G mobile-phone infrastructure is the only thing that works well, but it works at least as well as in much richer countries, and a lot can be built on it. What began with mobile-money systems such as Kenya's M-Pesa is now branching into bank accounts, savings accounts, loans and insurance. That in turn is helping people rise out of poverty and invest in their future.
This special report will argue that despite some deep and entrenched problems, African businesses offer hope too. It is clearly risky to make sweeping judgments about an entire continent with 54 countries and 2,000 languages. This report draws on visits to various countries in sub-Saharan Africa, but four in particular: South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ivory Coast, all coastal, urbanised and relatively rich. They certainly do not represent the whole of Africa, but your correspondent picked them because they each illustrate a different aspect of business across Africa as a whole. The businesses covered have not yet transformed the continent, but they show that African firms are capable of extraordinary innovation—if only they can be set free.
See the article on The Economist here:
Economist – Apr 14, 09:00
Image Not Available
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Thursday, April 14, 2016

#Mexico has world's 11th-highest GDP based on PPP. As Europe weakens, it will be in the top 10 @johnfmauldin

Mexico as a Major Power

March 14, 2016

This from Mauldin Economics



Mexico has the 11th-highest GDP in the world based
on purchasing power parity, according to the International Monetary
Fund. As Europe weakens, it will be in the top 10 in the not-too-distant
future. Yet, this country is regarded by many Americans as a Third
World nation, dominated by drug cartels and impoverished people
desperate to get into the United States.

While it is true that organized crime exists in Mexico and
that many Mexicans want to immigrate to the US, a roughly equal number
are leaving the US and returning to Mexico… drawn by economic
opportunities in their home country. The largest auto plant in the
Western Hemisphere is in Mexico, and Bombardier builds major components
for aircraft there. Mexico has many problems, of course, but so does the
U.K. (the 10th-largest economy) and Italy (12th).

No one would be surprised by the U.K. or Italy rankings, but many
people would be stunned to find that Mexico is ranked right up with
them. Obviously, Mexico is not as developed as Britain is. Like most
nations transitioning from underdevelopment to greater development,
Mexico suffers from substantial class and regional inequality, and the
emergence of a dominant middle class is still unfolding.

At the same time, Italy also has substantial regional inequality.
Mexico can't aspire to British standards, but Italy is a reasonable
model. Inequality diminishes the significance of being 11th in some
ways, but it doesn't change the basic reality of Mexico’s relative
strength.

Mexico is commonly perceived, far too simplistically, as a Third
World country with a general breakdown of law and a population seeking
to flee north. That perception is also common among many Mexicans, who
seem to have internalized the contempt in which they are held.

Mexicans know that their country’s economy grew 2.5 percent last year
and is forecast to grow between 2 percent and 3 percent in 2016—roughly
equal to the growth projection for the US economy.  But, oddly, they
tend to discount the significance of Mexico’s competitive growth numbers
in a sluggish global economy.

Here, therefore, we have an interesting phenomenon. Mexico is, in
fact, one of the leading economies of the world, yet most people don’t
recognize it as such and tend to dismiss its importance.



Read the rest of the article here: Mexico as a Major Power



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