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Man will need two Earths by 2030

Posted by arnon_k On October - 15 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

Humans ‘using one and a half planets’ worth of resources and will need two Earths by 2030′

Human demands on natural resources have doubled in under 50 years and are now outstripping what the Earth can provide by more than half, a new report has warned.

And humanity carries on as it is in use of resources, globally it will need the capacity of two Earths by 2030, the biennial Living Planet Report said.

Wildlife in tropical countries is also under huge pressure, with populations of species falling by 60 per cent in three decades.

And the report, from the WWF, the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network, said British people are still consuming far more than the Earth can cope with.

If everyone lived such a lifestyle, humans would need 2.75 planets to survive, it warned.

The world’s people are now living lifestyles which would require one and a half planets to sustain, though there are significant differences between rich and poor nations.

The study’s authors looked at 8,000 populations of 2,500 species and studied the change in land use and water consumption across the globe.

The UK comes 31st in a list of countries based on their ‘ecological footprint’ – the amount of land and sea each person needs to provide the food, clothes and other products they consume and to absorb the carbon dioxide they emit.

The country has fallen down the league table from having the 15th biggest footprint in the last report two years ago, but WWF attributes this to an increase in other countries’ impact rather than a reduction in the UK’s use of resources.

Ireland has the 10th highest ecological footprint in the world, while the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Denmark, Belgium and the US are the five worst countries for over-consumption of resources.

Much of the ‘ecological overshoot’ is caused by the world’s rising carbon footprint, which has increased 11-fold since 1961.

It also carried a warning about the loss of wildlife and ecosystems which people depend on for food, fuel, clean water and other resources – with populations of species declining by 30 per cent worldwide between 1970 and 2007.

In tropical regions the decline is 60 per cent, but populations have recovered by 30% in temperate areas, where more rich countries are found, possibly due to those nations starting from a lower baseline and efforts to tackle pollution, improve air and water quality, increase forests and conserve wildlife.

The steepest declines in wildlife are happening in low-income countries, which the report warns has serious implications for people depending on those ecosystems as they will struggle to break out of poverty without access to clean water, land, adequate food and materials.

The biggest ecological footprint is made by rich countries – on average five times that found in developing nations – suggesting that unsustainable consumption in wealthier countries relies on depleting resources in poorer parts of the world.

The report also looks at how changes in diet and energy sources could affect humanity’s ecological impact, for example the pressure put on land for food and forest products.

The study suggests that if the expected global population of 9.2 billion people in 2050 were to eat a typical Malaysian diet, we would need 1.3 planets to sustain us but if everyone were to eat an Italian diet, humanity would need closer to two planets.

The report is released ahead of international talks in Nagoya, Japan, next week, which aim to address losses in biodiversity – species and ecosystems – being seen around the world.

David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF-UK said: ‘The loss of biodiversity and habitats undermines the natural systems upon which we depend for the food we eat, the air we breathe and the stable climate we need.

‘The depletion of natural resources caused by human consumption also poses risks to our economic security: for instance, scarcity of resources and degraded natural systems will increase the price of food, raw materials and other commodities.’

He urged action by the Government, businesses and people in the UK to ‘fundamentally rethink our relationship with the planet’.

He said: ‘This report shows that we need a new green economy which assigns genuine value to the benefits we get from nature: biodiversity, the natural systems which provide goods and services like water, and ultimately our own well-being.

‘The new coalition Government can take a lead by putting green investment and real sustainability at the heart of its decision-making.’

Mathis Wackernagel, president of the Global Footprint Network, which has developed the ecological footprint measure, said: ‘Countries that maintain high levels of resource dependence are putting their own economies at risk.

‘Those countries that are able to provide the highest quality of life on the lowest amount of ecological demand will not only serve the global interest, they will be the leaders in a resource-constrained world.’

Microsoft today unveiled a new range of smartphones it hopes will rival the phenomenal success of Apple’s iPhone.

The company wants its new operating system, Windows Phone 7 (WP7), to put its mobile business back in the running against not just Apple, but also Google, which makes the Android phone software, among others.
Speaking at a launch event in New York this afternoon, Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer said: ‘Everybody should be able to take a look at a Windows Phone and say it can represent me.’

The world’s largest software company is hoping that the new phones, from handset makers Samsung, LG, HTC and Dell, will propel it back into the mobile market, which many see as the key to the future of computing.

The new phones, initially available on the T-Mobile network in the UK and on AT&T in the U.S., are much closer in look and feel to Apple’s iPhone, with colourful touch-screens and ’tiles’ for easy access to email, the Web, music and other applications.

Some analysts say they represent Microsoft’s last chance to catch up with rivals in the smartphone market who overtook it in the past few years.

‘I’ve been looking forward to this day for some time,’ Mr Ballmer said, showing off nine phone models.

Mr Ballmer, who has admitted that his company ‘missed a generation’ with its recent unpopular phone offerings, said the new phones would eventually be available from 60 mobile operators in 30 countries.

Meanwhile, at a simultaneous launch event at London’s Institute Of Contemporary Arts (ICA), Microsoft announced that WP7 will be coming on the Dell Venue Pro by Christmas.

Dell’s Venue Pro will join five other WP7 handsets – three from HTC and one each from LG and Samsung – in the UK market in the coming months.

The Venue Pro will offer something a little different to the market, with the other five all touch-screen tablet type phones, but the Venue Pro offering a slide-out QWERTY keyboard.

Technology fan – and ardent Apple aficionado – Stephen Fry was at the ICA event and even took the stage to praise the WP7.

The comedian said: ‘I am genuinely thrilled. I never thought this day would come to stand on this stage and praise Microsoft for doing something they can be proud of…

‘I have felt enormous pleasure using this phone. Will I be using my Windows Phone 7? Yes’

In the U.S. the first phone from AT&T – priced at $200 – will be available on November 8.

Microsoft has a market share of only five per cent in the global smartphone market, according to research firm Gartner, compared with nine per cent a year ago.

Google’s Android system has a 17 per cent market share, jumping from only two per cent a year ago.

The market for multi-feature phones that allow users to email, surf the web and play games, as well as have access to music and video, is set to expand massively.

Gartner expects almost 270million smartphones to be sold around the world this year, up 56 per cent from last year.

In comparison, Gartner expects only a 19 per cent increase in worldwide PC sales to 368 million units this year.

Microsoft shares were up five cents at $24.62 on the Nasdaq this morning. AT&T shares were up 18 cents at $28.40 on the New York Stock Exchange.

But Microsoft has hurdles to overcome.

In the second quarter, Windows Mobile, Microsoft’s existing phone system, accounted for only about five per cent of smart phones sold worldwide, compared with 41 per cent for Nokia’s Symbian system, 18 per cent for Research in Motion’s BlackBerry phones, 17 per cent for Android and 14 per cent for iPhone.

The iPhone and Android are popular in part because of the tens of thousands of tiny applications – or ‘apps’ – made by outside software developers.

But those developers may not want to devote the resources to build programs for another smart phone system until it gains traction with users.

In the past, Microsoft focused narrowly on building phone software, giving handset makers and wireless carriers lots of leeway to adapt and customise their products.

In the wake of the iPhone’s phenomenal success, Microsoft has adjusted its strategy, retaining more control over the way the phones look and work.

The iPhone prompted a generation of lookalike smart phones, with screens filled with tiny square icons representing each program.

Microsoft has tried to avoid an icon-intensive copy, instead relying more on clickable words and images generated by content.

For example, a weather program might show a constantly updated snapshot of weather conditions, while photo or music libraries would be represented by a recent snapshot or the cover of the last album played on the device.

Windows Phone 7 borrows its aesthetic from the company’s Zune media players, and the entertainment ‘hub’ on the phone is based on the Zune the same way the music on the iPhone is filed under the ‘iPod’ section.

Many other Microsoft programs and services come built in on the new phones – there’s a mobile version of the Bing search engine, for example, and a games ‘hub’ that can connect to Xbox Live, Microsoft’s online gaming community.

First human stem cell test begins

Posted by arnon_k On October - 12 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

Doctors have started a landmark clinical trial to use embryonic human stem cells to treat a man’s spinal injury.

Doctors at a special spinal cord and brain injury clinic in the United States have begun treating the first person admitted into a landmark clinical trial to study the use of embryonic human stem cells to cure serious diseases and repair devastating injuries.

The man, whose personal information is being kept confidential, was enrolled at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia, on Monday, according to a press release from the Geron Corporation, which won approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2009 to begin the trial.

The Phase I trial, as it is called, will involve only eight patients and is not meant to see if the stem cells “cure” the volunteers, only that they do no harm.

The use of embryonic stem cells from unborn fetuses is controversial, especially in the United States, where it has prompted lawsuits against the government. Opponents, notably religious conservatives, believe it is unethical to use the genetic material of unborn children.

Enrollment period will last months

All eight patients in the Phase I trial will have suffered some kind of injury to their spinal cord, said Dr. Richard Fessler, a Northwestern University professor, who is leading the study.

The injury must fulfill certain criteria: The spine can be crushed but not severed, and the patient must not have an infection or a history of cancer. Patients will be provided with an independent advocate to ensure they are not pressured into making decisions. But potential volunteers have only two weeks – or 11 days once a period of “preoperative testing” is subtracted – to make their decision, Fessler said.

Since doctors will spend a month observing each patient after they are admitted before allowing a new volunteer into the study, the enrollment period will last at least eight months, he said. After that, Fessler said, doctors will not know for months whether patients are experiencing any kind of improvement in the use of motor skills or senses or bladder control.

Trumpeting of new study ‘irresponsible’

Dr. David Prentice, a senior fellow for Life Sciences at the conservative Family Research Council, a Christian advocacy group, told ABC News that Geron Corp. is “irresponsible” for flaunting its trial and that adult stem cells – instead of those from fetuses – have proven effective at treating spinal cord injuries.

Geron Corp. received approval from the FDA to test specific nervous-system cells, called oligodendrocytes, in 2009, but the government paused the trial until this year.

Geron, a publicly traded biotechnology company that has aimed primarily to develop treatments for cancer, is the first of a number of businesses looking for FDA approval to test stem cells on humans. Geron previously tested rats and mice.

The company went public in 1996 and has yet to turn a profit, posting a net loss of roughly $70.4 million in 2009.

UAE, BlackBerry resolve dispute, averting ban

Posted by arnon_k On October - 11 - 2010 4 COMMENTS

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The United Arab Emirates on Friday backed off a threat to cut key BlackBerry services, just days before a planned ban that could have harmed the country’s business-friendly reputation.

The last-minute decision ended more than two months of brinksmanship with the Canadian company that makes the smart phones, a tool popular both with businesspeople and gadget-loving consumers in this Gulf federation.

The ban on e-mail, messaging and Web services — which the government threatened to impose over security concerns — was due to take effect Monday.

Half a million local users and thousands of BlackBerry-toting business travelers would have been affected. Dubai’s airport, the region’s busiest, handles about 100,000 passengers daily.

“It’s going to come as quite a relief,” said BlackBerry user Matthew Reed, a Dubai-based analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, a research firm. “It was not at all clear what would happen until right up to the end.”

While a number of countries, including India and Saudi Arabia, have threatened BlackBerry crackdowns in recent months, the UAE’s proposed ban drew widespread attention because of the country’s tough negotiating stance and its role as a highly wired, tech-savvy trade and transportation hub.

The Emirates telecommunications regulator confirmed that a deal had been reached with device maker Research in Motion Ltd. that brought the devices into compliance with local laws.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority provided few details, but said “no suspension of service will occur” Monday as previously planned, according to a statement carried by state news agency WAM.

The wording of the announcement suggested the reprieve was permanent.

The TRA acknowledged “the positive engagement and collaboration of Research In Motion (RIM) in reaching this regulatory compliant outcome.” It wasn’t clear what concessions, if any, the Canadian device maker made to avert the ban.

TRA representatives were not available for comment Friday, the start of the local weekend.

RIM declined to comment specifically on the UAE decision.

“RIM cannot discuss the details of confidential regulatory matters that occur in specific countries, but RIM confirms that it continues to approach lawful access matters internationally within the framework of core principles” it has spelled out in the past, the company said in an e-mailed statement.

Shardul Shrimani, a telecoms analyst at IHS Global Insight, said RIM likely gave authorities some limited access to the encryption data they use to safeguard users’ messages or will allow them access to its servers.

“They must have come to some sort of agreement where there’s some limited access,” Shrimani said.

RIM’s co-CEO Jim Balsillie said last month that the company has no way of providing government officials with the text of encrypted corporate e-mails sent on its phones, but that it won’t object if individual companies that use the devices hand over their encryption keys to authorities.

Balsillie said countries that want access to BlackBerry e-mails could theoretically set up a national registry where companies doing business within their borders would have to provide government officials with the ability to peek at encrypted messages.

The consumer version of BlackBerrys carries a lower level of encryption than the ones made for corporate clients. Emirati authorities would likely want the ability to access those phones’ data as well.

Saudi Arabia in August backed down from a threat to block the popular BlackBerry Messenger service after closed-door talks with RIM, resolving for now a dispute over the phones there.

India has also put off plans to block corporate e-mail and messaging services unless RIM makes data more easily available to its intelligence and law enforcement agencies. New Delhi gave the company a 60-day reprieve starting Aug. 31.

Other countries, including Lebanon and Indonesia, have raised BlackBerry concerns but have not announced plans to block service.

UAE BlackBerry users were thrilled that a ban had been averted there Friday.

“We are very happy. It’s a good decision,” said BlackBerry user Jitendra Gianchandani, an accountant who runs a consulting company in the Emirates.

Gianchandani said he had no problem with the government potentially gaining access to BlackBerry data so long as it is trying to protect against unauthorized use and terrorist threats.

But Reed, the telecoms analyst, expects many BlackBerry owners will want more clarity on the terms of the deal.

“RIM’s big corporate clients might be wondering what kind of compromises it might have made,” he said.

The UAE city-state of Dubai hosts the regional headquarters of numerous multinational companies, many of whom ship goods through its hulking seaport, the busiest in the Middle East. The Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi is one of the world’s largest oil producers and an increasingly important source of investment capital.

BlackBerrys are popular because data sent through them is seen as highly secure.

Emirati authorities have raised concerns that the phones’ security features could be misused by terrorists and criminals. The U.S. government and some analysts say those concerns are legitimate.

Free-speech advocates have criticized the crackdown, saying it provides a convenient justification to tighten controls on the flow of information. UAE censors already patrol the Internet, blocking access to pornography and other sites deemed dangerous or offensive.

Shrimani said he was not surprised the Emirates relented in the end.

A service ban “could have had a negative impact on their economy,” he said. “So it really was in their best interest to stand back on this occasion.”