The world’s largest publicly traded oil company, Exxon Mobil, posted the most profitable year ever by an American corporation in 2008, despite the collapse oil prices in the fourth quarter of last year. Exxon Mobil earned $45.2 billion in 2008, beating its record-setting 2007 profit if $40.6.
Source: New York Times
As of one of his first acts as interior secretary, Ken Salazar scrapped a Bush administration proposal to open up as many as 300 million acres off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to oil and gas drilling. Salazar said he was launching a comprehensive review of offshore resources by the Interior Department, which oversees oil and gas drilling on public lands, including 1.7 billion acres on the outer continental shelf. He also promised to conduct four meetings with stakeholders in Alaska, on the Pacific Coast, the Atlantic Coast, and the Gulf Coast before making a final decision on offshore drilling. President Bush’s draft proposal, which would govern drilling on the outer continental shelf from 2010 to 2015, was unveiled just days before Bush left the White House.
Salazar said the delay represented a “dramatic change from the last eight years, where you had a one-road highway to energy independence, which was drill, drill, drill.”
In a similar move, Salazar has reversed another Bush-era plan to lease wilderness land in Utah “at the doorstep of some of nation’s most treasured landscapes,” according to Salazar— Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Parks, Dinosaur National Monument and Nine Mile Canyon
Source: Houston Chronicle, Agene France Presse
In late January 85 children were released by the Mai-Mai armed group in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. The children were between the ages of 7 and 17, five of them being girls, and many of them are believed to have been conscripted by the Mai-Mai as child soldiers into the ongoing conflict in the border region of Rwanda and Congo, the world’s deadliest battleground since World War II, killing 5.4 million people in the last 10 years. A number of armed groups in North Kivu, including the National Congress for People’s Defense, Pareco, and the Mai-Mai, have verbally agreed to release all children in their ranks. The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers estimates that tens of thousands of children are currently fighting in 19 conflicts across the globe.
Sources: UNICEF, Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers
At least 128 active duty US Army troops killed themselves in 2008, the highest number of suicides since record keeping began in 1980. (This number does not include the 41 Marines who killed themselves.) The final count will most likely be higher because a dozen other suspicious deaths are still being investigated. In comparison, there were 115 self-inflicted deaths by Army soldiers in 2007 and 102 in 2006. The Veterans Administration estimates that 18 veterans a day—or 6,500 a year—take their own lives, a number inclusive of veterans of all wars.
Source: Associated Press
The Swiss canton of Appenzeil, a scenic portion of the Alpine country, passed a law in February outlawing naked hiking after many local residents were surprised last season by an influx of German nudists. Those caught trekking in the nude will receive a fine of approximately $200. The practice of FKK (“free body culture”) is a serious pursuit in Germany, dating back to the early 20th century.
Source: Der Spiegel
A study released by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden in January contends that socially active people who are not easily stressed have a 50 percent lower risk of developing dementia compared with those were isolated and prone to distress. The study tracked 506 elderly people over six years who did not have dementia when the study began. Of the seniors, 144 developed dementia, with more socially active and less stressed men and women less likely to develop the condition.
An estimated 24 million people worldwide suffer from problems with orientation, memory loss, and other dementia-related symptoms. Researchers believe the number of people with dementia may quadruple by 2040.
In late January Disneyland announced plans to use compressed natural gas to fuel its 16 guest trams at its 500-acre resort in California and powering the Disneyland Railroad steam trains and Mark Twain riverboat with biodiesel derived from used cooking oil harvested throughout the complex. Use of biodiesel enables the park complex in Anaheim to save about 200,000 gallons of petrol-based diesel fuel each year, according to Frank Dela Vara, Disneyland director of environmental affairs and conservation. For a decade, the trams ran on diesel hybrid engines. Disneyland expects that using compressed natural gas will cut the need for some 50,000 gallons of standard diesel fuel each year.
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2008, Sweden is the “most democratic” nation in the world. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) is a project of the Economist magazine. When 60 indicators were graded from 1 to 10, Sweden achieved a score of 9.88. (North Korea scored lowest with .086) The indicators were spread across five broad areas: electoral process, functioning of government, political participation, political culture, and civil liberties. The US ranked 18th in the survey, behind many European countries. This is due to the fact that Sweden and the US are diametrically opposed on one important point, according to Stefan Hedlund, Professor of Soviet and East European Studies at Uppsala University in Sweden. Swedes value equality over liberty, while the opposite is true for Americans. Although Sweden has a robust market economy, Swedish prosperity has been spread among the population to a greater degree than in most other countries. Surveys of individual happiness closely track the functioning of democracy, with Sweden ranking close to the highest in world surveys. Sweden also ranks first in Save the Children’s Mothers Index and Women, indicating effective societal support for families, and gender equality.
Source: Positive News International