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Catering plants pose health risks

In Uncategorized on January 8, 2011 at 4:23 am

Hundreds of people are hospitalized each year due to food poisoning. This is after eating meals supplied by some catering enterprises.

Dirty kitchen of Minh Tam in district 3. Cases of food poisoining have increased due to unhygienic catering plants ( Photo: SGGP)

Health authorities on January 4 inspected the catering plant of Minh Trang in the district of Tan Binh, Ho Chi Minh City. Inspectors discovered that the catering facility had a number of heath issues concerning hygiene.

These included dirty floors, the cutting boards for meat placed to close to toilets, and dirty and unhygienic cooking containers.

In addition, the inspectors found that some food items expiry date had passed, and other food items have dubious origins. These were six packages of floor and soy sauce containers.

Furthermore, the inspectors also discovered the catering plant had kept the additives and spices maintained incorrectly; therefore, the inspectors ordered the plant to destroy expired flour and the inspectors took the spices for further testing.

In the area of Minh Tam in District 3, a caterer had dirty kitchens, which attracted many flies and other insects. Inspectors found at the premises, contaminated meat and red coloring spices, that failed to meet hygiene regulations. Therefore, they decided to close the business down and seized the unsafe food.

Health authorities admitted that they were unable to check all food catering facilities, because of a shortage of personnel. Therefore, new cases of food poisoning are being reported each day.

Huynh Le Thai Hoa, head of the municipal Health Department’s Food Hygiene and Safety Division, said some caterers prepared their meals too close to drainages areas and the cooking equipment used is unhygienic.

Source: SGGP

W.Bank: Rising Asian currencies pose growth risk

In Uncategorized on October 19, 2010 at 4:21 pm

The World Bank warned Tuesday that capital inflows into fast-growing East Asian economies have inflated regional currencies and could threaten growth by making exports less competitive.

“Appreciating exchange rates so far have not crippled the recovery, but further appreciation will bear close watching,” said the World Bank, pointing out that regional currencies are 10-15 percent above pre-2008 crisis levels.

A bank employee counts notes in Hanoi, Vietnam.

“So far, export growth has remained robust, but with continued real appreciation of East Asian currencies this growth could slow,” a report said.

The World Bank report came as fears grow of a “currency war”, in which nations, trying to export their way back to economic health, are seeking to cap or lower their currencies to make their goods more competitive.

The bank urged regional debate at a Hanoi summit this month, saying “the issues need to be discussed in the context of ASEAN and ASEAN+6, where member countries could fashion a common approach to these regional challenges.”

Source: SGGP

Huge ice island could pose threat to oil, shipping

In Uncategorized on August 11, 2010 at 11:21 am

An island of ice more than four times the size of Manhattan is drifting across the Arctic Ocean after breaking off from a glacier in Greenland.

Potentially in the path of this unstoppable giant are oil platforms and shipping lanes — and any collision could do untold damage. In a worst case scenario, large chunks could reach the heavily trafficked waters where another Greenland iceberg sank the Titanic in 1912.

It’s been a summer of near biblical climatic havoc across the planet, with wildfires, heat and smog in Russia and killer floods in Asia. But the moment the Petermann glacier cracked last week — creating the biggest Arctic ice island in half a century — may symbolize a warming world like no other.

This combination of two satellite images provided by NASA and taken on July 28, 2010, at left, and Aug. 5, 2010, at right, shows the Petermann Glacier in Northern Greenland

“It’s so big that you can’t prevent it from drifting. You can’t stop it,” said Jon-Ove Methlie Hagen, a glaciologist at the University of Oslo.

Few images can capture the world’s climate fears like a 100-square- mile (260-sqare-kilometer) chunk of ice breaking off Greenland’s vast ice sheet, a reservoir of freshwater that if it collapsed would raise global sea levels by a devastating 20 feet (6 meters).

The world’s newest ice island already is being used as a powerful emblem in the global warming debate, with U.S. Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts suggesting it could serve as a home for climate change skeptics.

Researchers are in a scramble to plot the trajectory of the floating ice shelf, which is moving toward the Nares Strait separating Greenland’s northwestern coast and Canada’s Ellsemere Island.

If it makes it into the strait before the winter freeze — due to start next month — it would likely be carried south by ocean currents, hugging Canada’s east coast until it enters waters busy with oil activities and shipping off Newfoundland.

“That’s where it starts to become dangerous,” said Mark Drinkwater, of the European Space Agency.

The Canadian Ice Service estimates the journey will take one to two years. It’s likely to break up as it bumps into other icebergs and jagged islands. The fragments would be further ground down by winds and waves and would start to melt as they move into warmer waters.

“But the fragments may still be quite large,” warned Trudy Wohlleben, a Canadian ice forecaster, who first spotted the massive chunk of ice on satellite images last Thursday.

The chunks of ice could be large enough to threaten Canada’s offshore platforms in the Grand Banks off Newfoundland, said Wohlleben.

And, while it’s possible to redirect smaller icebergs, by towing them or spraying them with water cannons, “I don’t think they could do that with an iceberg this large,” she said. “They would have to physically move the rig.”

Moving an offshore platform is time-consuming and expensive — and very complicated in cases where they are fixed to the ocean floor.

While Greenland’s glaciers break off thousands of icebergs into Arctic waters every year, scientists say this ice island is the biggest in the northern hemisphere since 1962.

It contains enough freshwater to keep the Hudson River flowing for more than two years, said Andreas Muenchow of the University of Delaware.

The drifting ice sheet is likely to remain at the heart of the global warming discussion during its journey.

While experts say it’s difficult to directly tie the giant ice island to climate change because there are so many factors that affect glaciers in the area, the unusual event coincides with worrisome signs of warming in the Arctic.

Since 1970, temperatures have risen more than 4.5 degrees (2.5 degrees C) in much of the Arctic — much faster than the global average. In June the Arctic sea ice cover was at the lowest level for that month since records began in 1979, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The retreat of Greenland’s glaciers, which has accelerated in recent years, is one of the least understood pieces of the climate puzzle.

A team of climate scientists who visited the Petermann glacier last year, expecting it to crack then, is now planning another trip within weeks.

“We did leave behind a couple of time-lapse cameras and 11 GPS (devices). Now we are scrambling to get up there and recover the data,” said Jason Box, an expert on Greenland glaciers from the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University.

Box and two British researchers traveled to the glacier last year with Greenpeace activists who offered space aboard their ship, the Arctic Sunrise, to scientists studying climate change.

They were hoping to capture the event with cameras rolling, which would have been a powerful image just months before the Copenhagen climate talks that failed to produce a binding treaty to reduce heat-trapping gas emissions.

“It would have been nice if it had broken off last year,” said Melanie Duchin, who led that Greenpeace expedition. “I mean ice melting, it doesn’t get any simpler than that.”

Still, she finds it ironic that the Petermann breakup coincides with another catastrophe linked to fossil fuels. The Arctic Sunrise is now in the Gulf of Mexico, surveying the massive oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon blowout.

Source: SGGP

Rodents pose new health threat in Zimbabwe’s towns

In Uncategorized on May 7, 2010 at 12:38 pm

 A stray cat paws through a heap of refuse between blocks of flats in Harare‘s upmarket Avenues area, sending rats squealing and scurrying for cover among the rubbish.

Across the road, cars take turns to skirt a swelling mound of garbage nearly blocking one of the two lanes.

Informal dumpsites have become a familiar sight in sections of Harare where residents are resorting to emptying bins in open spaces as the municipal authorities fail to collect refuse, causing residents to fear disease outbreaks.

The ubiquitous heaps are breeding grounds for rats and mice, posing a health threat as the rodents sometimes find their way into homes.

People are seen walking past a heap of rubbish in Harare’s Mbare suburb. Local authorites have not collected the garbage over the past few months resulting in the increase of rats in the capital.

Combined Harare Residents’ Association has warned of possible disease outbreak if the refuse problem is not addressed.

“In areas such as Mabvuku, residents say refuse was last collected in February 2009,” the association said in statement, referring to a township in eastern Harare where five people died in a typhoid outbreak in February which affected scores of residents.

“The piles of refuse have provided conducive breeding grounds for mosquitoes and rats and residents fear for their health.”

Rats can spread diseases through droppings, some of which could be life threatening, including salmonella, diarrhea, vomiting and fever.

Humans can also contract ratbite fever from a rat.

“You can’t blame the people who are dumping the rubbish here,” Jennifer Mazhawidza, a street vendor said pointing to a heap of garbage blocking a sanitary lane.

“The municipality should do something about it. They charge levies for collecting refuse but they don’t provide the service. Now there are rats everywhere because of the rubbish and we may have another disease outbreak.”

Municipal authorities collect a monthly levy from residents and companies for refuse collection.

But residents like Tapiwa Ndenda from the populous township of Chitungwiza cannot recall the last time municipal dumptrucks did rounds in his neighbourhood.

“If the trucks came this year, it’s not more than three times,” he says after looking to the sky trying to remember when he last saw the dustmen in the now-rare orange trucks in action.

“We sometimes have these big rats which can easily be mistaken for kittens.”

Chitungwiza recorded the first cases of cholera during an outbreak in 2008 which claimed at least 4,000 lives and affected around 100,000 people across Zimbabwe.

The outbreak was contained last year with a heavy injection of international aid, although sporadic cases are still reported.

A woman who works for a pest-control company said demand for rat-baiting services has surged.

“We get more calls from people wanting to rid their houses of rats than we used to. It’s because of the rubbish that’s everywhere,” said the woman who declined to give her name.

“At my own house I put rat poison and a few rats die, but I keep seeing one every time.”

Godfrey Chikwenhere, a rodent control specialist at the government’s research and extension services said his department was receiving frequent requests for help to get rid of rats.

“We are receiving reports that rodents are on the increase,” said Chikwenhere, who was part of a research team that undertook a study in the southern Africa on the problem of rodents.

“How that relates to incidence of human disease still needs to be researched on.”

Let down by the authorities, residents and civic groups are teaming up in clean-up campaigns to clear away the informal dumpsites.

“However the dumpsites are sprouting again as the city has not complemented the efforts of the residents by collecting refuse,” the residents’ association said.

Source: SGGP

BoJ chief warns low US interest rates pose risk

In World on November 16, 2009 at 9:17 am

TOKYO, Nov 16, 2009 (AFP) – Bank of Japan governor Masaaki Shirakawa warned Monday that a prolonged period of highly stimulative monetary policy in the United States could pose a risk to the world’s largest economy.

“If the continuation of low interest rates leads to a substantial rise in long-term interest rates by raising inflation expectations or by generating expectations for a weak dollar, this may give rise to another problem.”

That is “the fiscal burden increases and in turn the need for adjustments in the government’s balance sheet arises,” he told a financial forum.

Bank of France Governor Christian Noyer (R) and his Japanese counterpart Masaaki Shirakawa attend the Paris Europlace financial forum at a Tokyo hotel on November 16, 2009 (AFP photo)

The US central bank has kept its benchmark lending rate at a range of zero to 0.25 percent since last December in an attempt to tackle the worst economic downturn in decades.

Governments and central banks around the world face the tricky task of deciding when to withdraw emergency measures aimed at shoring up their economies in the face of a brutal global slump.

The BoJ’s own key lending rate stands at 0.1 percent and the European Central Bank’s benchmark rate is at 1.0 percent. A handful of countries have hiked rates recently, including Australia, Israel and Norway.

Shirakawa said that assessing corporate balance sheet adjustments in the United States and Europe was “a key issue in determining the outlook for the global economy.”

“Given the growing inter-connectedness between economies around the world, what is important for the global economy is that advanced and emerging economies grow in a sustained and well-balanced manner,” he added.

Bank of France governor Christian Noyer, an ECB council member, told the same forum the risk of a deflationary spiral “has been considerably reduced.”

“Indeed, even when instant inflation turned negative in many countries for several months in a row, long-term inflation expectations remained remarkably stable,” he added.

Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share