Economist 7/31/15

  1. The rise of Emaar (builder Burj Khalifa )of has been just as vertiginous—and similarly influenced by Dubai’s ruler. Since it was founded by Mr Alabbar in 1997, the firm has grown to become the emirate’s biggest property developer by market value. Its profits rose by 30% in 2014, to $912m, and its spectacular buildings and planned communities have helped put Dubai on the map.Emaar has undoubtedly benefited from the right connections. About 30% of it is owned by a sovereign-wealth fund.When Dubai’s property market collapsed, sales fell to “nothing”, says Mr Alabbar.Emaar, meanwhile, increased its investment in fancy hotels and shopping centres, which now account for most of its revenue.Emaar has distinguished itself not just with the size of its projects—it also has the world’s largest mall—but also with their quality.Emaar is hoping that more of its growth will come from abroad. Its international projects now account for around 11% of revenues, a number the firm would like to double in the next few years.t has other big projects in Egypt (where it recently floated its local subsidiary), Jordan, India and Turkey.But Emaar’s track record abroad is spotty.
  2. THE OLIVE oil industry is in a bad way. World output is expected to fall by a third to 2.3m tonnes this year, its lowest level since 2000. The shortfall is largely due to arid weather in Spain, the world’s biggest producer, and Xylella fastidiosa, a bacterial disease which is ravaging olive trees in Italy. Production in those countries has fallen by around 50%. To add to these troubles, last week the bug reached Corsica, a French island off the west coast of Italy. The French government has burnt plants near the infected bush to isolate the outbreak, which was previously contained in Southern Italy.Around 300 plant species are vulnerable and it has previously devastated citrus-fruit trees in Brazil and vineyards in California.
  3. This vaccine, developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, and called rVSV-ZEBOV, smuggles one of the Ebola virus’s coat proteins into a person’s body in a Trojan horse called a vesicular stomatitis virus. This is a horse and cattle virus, and does not cause human illness, but its presence is enough to activate the immune system. This then learns to recognise and react to the Ebola coat protein—and thus, the vaccine’s inventors hope, to clobber Ebola, should it arrive in the vaccinated person’s body.The trial that the Lancet reports was conducted on more than 7,600 people in Guinea by a group of researchers led by Marie Paule Kieny of the World Health Organisation and John-Arne Rottingen of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.Ebola’s incubation period is ten days, and no one who had been vaccinated in either arm of the trial contracted the disease once that ten-day period was up.
  4. IN 2022 the Winter Olympics will be held in a place with no snow. On July 31st the International Olympic Committee awarded the games to Beijing, to be held in the city ofZhangjiakou, 250km (150 miles) north of the capital. The resort beat Almaty in Kazakhstan, the only other remaining city left in the bid.Beijing has already hosted a successful summer Olympics—making it the first city ever to host both. More worrying is China’s ambition to stage the winter Olympics—and launch a winter sports industry—in an arid desert (Zhangjiakou is near the Gobi). Almost every winter Olympics venue uses artificial snow to supplement their own supply, and to ensure a plentiful supply of the best kind. But most have far more of their own to start with.Of greater concern to environmentalists than a two-week party in 2022 is the broader attempt to launch China’s own domestic ski industry. The sport is still very much in its infancy.
  5. “Ugelstad spheres”, named for the Norwegian scientist who invented them in 1976, are used in cancer research, HIV treatments and the manufacture of flat-panel televisions. Only in the past decade has the cosmetics industry discovered how useful they are for scrubbing teeth and faces. New Yorkers now rinse 19 tonnes of microbeads down drains each year. Too tiny to be caught by municipal water filters, they easily flow into the world’s oceans, lakes and rivers. In water they can break down, releasing toxins, or become coated with other poisons, such as PCBs.Scientists had assumed that they floated in fresh water and were flushed downriver to the sea. Yet Mr Ricciardi has shown that some sink to the bottom of lakes and rivers, where they are eaten by bottom-feeding fish, which then develop diseases.On July 30th Canada’s labour minister declared by the shores of Lake Ontario that microbeads will be considered a toxic substance. The government now plans to prohibit the manufacture, import and sale of “personal-care” products that contain them. Eight American states have already enacted bans, starting with Illinois in 2014.Public pressure has forced some manufacturers to take action on their own. Unilever has stopped using microbeads; Proctor & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive and Johnson & Johnson say they will follow in 2017.
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