Grim struggle for US long-term jobless; Rockefellers to divest from fossil fuels; ‘TV-free days to combat obesity’

1 Grim struggle for US long-term jobless (Andrew S Ross in San Francisco Chronicle) As of August 2014 three million Americans had been unemployed for more than six months. Over two million have been unemployed for more than a year. The only incremental improvement: the percentage of those out of work and looking for the past six months or more has declined, from 46% of the total unemployed in 2010, to 33 percent now.

The plight of the long term unemployed — highest in the 45-59 age group – remains “among the most persistent, negative effects of the Great Recession.” In percentage terms, it’s still the highest since the Great Depression, says the John J Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University in a report published today.

The long-lasting trend indicates “that the ranks of the long-term unemployed may remain high for months or years even if the economy continues to improve,” says the report. Close to half of those who have found jobs are being paid less, working part-time, or otherwise experiencing “a step down” from their job 5 years ago.

2 Rockefellers to divest from fossil fuels (BBC) Heirs to the Rockefeller family, which made its vast fortune from oil, are to sell investments in fossil fuels and reinvest in clean energy, reports say. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund is joining a coalition of philanthropists pledging to rid themselves of more than $50bn in fossil fuel assets.

The announcement was made a day before the UN climate change summit opens on Tuesday. Some 650 individuals and 180 institutions have joined the coalition. It is part of a growing global initiative called Global Divest-Invest, which began on university campuses several years ago. Pledges from pension funds, religious groups and big universities have reportedly doubled since the start of 2014.

Rockefeller Brothers Fund director Stephen Heintz said the move to divest from fossil fuels would be in line with oil tycoon John D Rockefeller’s wishes. The philanthropic organisation was founded in 1940 by the sons of John D Rockefeller. As of 31 July 2014, the fund’s investment assets were worth $860m.

3 ‘TV-free days to combat obesity’ (Sarah Boseley in The Guardian) Draft health advice on obesity has recommended taking TV-free days or setting two-hour limits on the amount of time spent sitting in front of screens. The advice, aimed at helping the population to keep weight off as well as losing it, says the long hours many of us spend watching TV or staring at screens prevent us being active – and many people snack as they watch.

The guidance from Nice (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) urges people to set limits for the sake of their health. “Any strategy that reduces TV viewing and other leisure screen time may be helpful (such as TV-free days or setting a limit to watch TV for no more than two hours a day),” it says.

The Nice guidance, which now goes out to consultation, is aimed at public health advisers. With 62% of the population overweight or obese, there is great concern for the nation’s health. Excess weight carries increased risks of heart attacks, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers, including breast cancer. Obesity cost the NHS an estimated £16bn in 2007 and is forecast to rise to £50bn by 2050.

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Global protests over climate change; ‘Dubai World debt restructuring soon'; Obesity is Africa’s new crisis

1 Global protests over climate change (Roger Harrabin on BBC) Street protests demanding urgent action on climate change have attracted hundreds of thousands of marchers in more than 2,000 locations worldwide. The People’s Climate March is campaigning for curbs on carbon emissions, ahead of the UN climate summit in New York next week.

In Manhattan, organisers said some 310,000 people joined a march that was also attended by UN chief Ban Ki-moon. Earlier, huge demonstrations took place in Australia and Europe. “This is the planet where our subsequent generations will live,” Mr Ban told reporters. “There is no ‘Plan B’ because we do not have ‘Planet B’.”

New York hosted the largest of Sunday’s protests, drawing more than half of the 600,000 marchers estimated by organisers to have taken part in rallies around the world. Another protest, another climate conference – will this time be any different? Well, the marches brought more people on to the streets than ever before, thanks to the organisational power of the social media site Avaaz.

Next year world leaders are due to show up in Paris to settle a global climate deal based not on a bitterly-contested chiselling negotiation in the middle of the night, but on open co-operative offers of action to tackle a shared problem. But some big players may continue the game of climate poker, holding back their offers until they see what else is on the table. So there is no guarantee that Ban’s idea will work – but at least for weary climate politics watchers it will be a change.

2 ‘Dubai World debt restructuring soon’ (Khaleej Times) One of Dubai’s top government officials has said that he expects state-owned conglomerate Dubai World to reach a deal on renegotiating its debt repayment schedule in the near future.

“I can say for sure we will reach it. It is there and you will hear about it soon,” Shaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai’s Supreme Fiscal Committee, who is also President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman and CEO of Emirates airline and Group, said when asked whether Dubai World has reached a deal with creditors.

Returning confidence has led to a number of new projects to be announced, including plans to build the world’s largest Ferris wheel and the world’s largest shopping mall. Shaikh Ahmed added that many of the new residential projects which have been announced were needed to help boost supply and dampen big increases seen in prices. Property price rises, at close to 30 per cent year-on-year, were among the highest in the world during 2013 and the first part of 2014.

3 Obesity is Africa’s new crisis (Ian Birrell in The Guardian) Fat is no longer just a developed world problem. Today more people in poorer countries go to bed each night having consumed too many calories than go to bed hungry – a revelation that underlines the breakneck pace of change on our planet. A landmark report by the Overseas Development Institute earlier this year showed that more than one-third of the world’s adults are overweight – and that almost two-thirds of the world’s overweight people are found in low and middle-income nations.

The number of obese or overweight people in developing countries rose from 250 million to almost 1 billion in under three decades, and these rates are rising significantly faster than in rich nations. South Africa typifies this alarming new trend, with nearly double the average global obesity rates, and according to another report has become the world’s third fattest nation.

Nearly two-thirds of the population is overweight and, unlike in the developed world, the problem afflicts more women than men. Incredibly, 69.3% of South African females display unhealthy levels of body fat and more than four in 10 are clinically obese (defined as having a BMI higher than 30). More than half the women in Botswana and one in eight Nigerian men are also obese, while Egypt saw one of the fastest rises among women.

A host of parasitical industries have grown up to feed off the obesity crisis, from quack diets and hypnotism at one end of the spectrum to fitness boot camps and bariatric surgery at the other. Television has also got in on the act, with reality shows encouraging people to turn their lives around by exercising and improving diet.

This is a global crisis. There are attempts to grapple with this crisis: restricting trans-fatty acids in Denmark, imposing taxes on fizzy drinks in Mexico, even fines for employers of overweight staff in Japan. But perhaps most frighteningly, not one of the 188 nations studied managed to reduce obesity levels over the period studied. Truly, as the fast-food joints and shopping malls of South Africa show, this has become a global health and social crisis of gargantuan proportions.

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Europe car sales continue recovery; Lessons from Scotland; Making Isis fall on its own sword

1 Europe car sales continue recovery (BBC) European Union new car registrations showed continued signs of recovery in July and August, industry figures show. Sales of new cars were 5.6% higher in July compared to the same month last year, and 2.1% up in August, the Association of European Automobile Manufacturers (ACEA) said. France was the only market to contract in July, with sales falling 4.3%.

But in August, even Germany, the EU’s leading market, saw sales fall 0.4% compared to the same month last year. Overall, sales grew 6% in the first eight months of the year, said ACEA, “continuing the upward trend that began 12 months ago”. This equates to 8,336,159 new car registrations over the period.

VW group, comprising Volkswagen, Audi, Seat and Skoda, led the leader board, accounting for 25.4% of total sales between January to August. In second place, the PSA Group, comprising Peugeot and Citroen, achieved an 11.1% market share over the same period, with sales rising 3.9%.

European car manufacturers were hard hit during the global financial crises as consumer spending all but evaporated. However in the last year the industry has begun to recover. But in the UK, where car sales have been comparatively strong and the economy has been outperforming its continental neighbours, sales grew by 6.6% in July and 9.4% in August.

2 Lessons from Scotland (Dawn) On Friday, it emerged that Scotland’s just over 300-year-old political union with England will survive, with more than 55 per cent of Scottish voters casting their ballots against independence. The ‘yes’ camp, led by the ruling Scottish National Party, promised voters a more just welfare state free from Westminster’s influence, while the British establishment pulled out all the stops to convince Scots to vote ‘no’, saying that Scotland and the UK were ‘better together’.

We must appreciate the democratic manner in which the matter was decided. The issue was resolved through the vote; unfortunately, in countless other instances around the world we have seen attempts at separation either succeed or be put down by force after much bloodshed and acrimony.

However, while the Scots will stay with the UK, other independence-seeking regions the world over have been emboldened by the exercise. For example, Spain’s autonomous Catalonia region may opt for a similar referendum, but unlike the UK, the central government in Madrid has vowed to oppose such a move.

Scotland’s case is an interesting one. In most instances separatist feelings are fuelled when a region suffers from poverty and discrimination and the denial of rights, or receives step-motherly treatment from the centre. Though Edinburgh’s relationship with London was not quite perfect, Scotland did not suffer from the usual causes that encourage separatism. There are lessons in the referendum for the rest of the world. Firstly, even the most divisive of questions can be dealt with in a non-violent fashion provided democratic methods are used. Secondly, even prosperous and relatively peaceful regions will desire separation if they feel their voices are not being heard.

3 Making Isis fall on its own sword (Chelsea E Manning in The Guardian) The Islamic State (Isis) is without question a very brutal extremist group with origins in the insurgency of the US occupation of Iraq. It has rapidly ascended to global attention by taking control of swaths of territory in western and northern Iraq, including Mosul and other major cities.

Based on my experience as an all-source analyst in Iraq during the organization’s relative infancy, Isis cannot be defeated by bombs and bullets – even as the fight is taken to Syria, even if it is conducted by non-Western forces with air support.

I believe that Isis is fueled precisely by the operational and tactical successes of European and American military force that would be – and have been – used to defeat them. I believe that Isis strategically feeds off the mistakes and vulnerabilities of the very democratic western states they decry. The Islamic State’s center of gravity is, in many ways, the US, the UK and those aligned with them in the region.

Attacking Isis directly, by air strikes or special operations forces, is a very tempting option available to policymakers, with immediate (but not always good) results. Unfortunately, when the west fights fire with fire, we feed into a cycle of outrage, recruitment, organizing and even more fighting that goes back decades. This is exactly what happened in Iraq during the height of a civil war in 2006 and 2007, and it can only be expected to occur again.

As a strategy to disrupt the growth of Isis, I suggest focusing on four arenas: Counter the narrative in online Isis recruitment videos. Set clear, temporary borders in the region, publicly. Establish an international moratorium on the payment of ransom for hostages, and work in the region to prevent Isis from stealing and taxing historical artifacts and valuable treasures as sources of income.

Let Isis succeed in setting up a failed “state” – in a contained area and over a long enough period of time to prove itself unpopular and unable to govern. This might begin to discredit the leadership and ideology of Isis for good. But the world just needs to be disciplined enough to let the Isis fire die out on its own, intervening carefully and avoiding the cyclic trap of “mission creep”. Isis is wielding a sharp, heavy and very deadly double-edged sword. Now just wait for them to fall on it.

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Alibaba shares soar after biggest IPO; Falling unemployment isn’t lifting wages; Selfie addiction and low self esteem

1 Alibaba shares soar after biggest IPO (San Francisco Chronicle) Shares of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba opened at $92.70 apiece Friday morning, 36 percent above their initial public offering price of $68. They quickly zoomed to as high as $99.70 before dropping back to close at $93.89, a gain of 38 percent above the IPO price.

Order imbalances delayed opening on the New York Stock Exchange for more than two hours. The company raised $21.8 billion, making it the biggest US IPO ever. The IPO price valued Alibaba at $168 billion. At the close of trading, it was worth $231.4 billion. If it was a US company, it would rank 10th in market value, below Chevron and above JPMorgan Chase.

Yahoo, which owned 22.4 percent of Alibaba before the offering, planned to sell at least 121.7 million of its 523.5 million shares in the IPO. It could sell an additional 18.3 million shares if underwriters exercise their option to purchase additional shares within 30 days. At $68 each, Yahoo would make roughly $8 billion to $9.5 billion on its share sales.

2 Falling unemployment isn’t lifting wages (Larry Elliott in The Guardian) The year of the pay rise. That was the way 2014 was billed back in January, when the view was that rapidly falling unemployment would force bosses to grant more generous wage settlements. It simply hasn’t happened. The economy generated more than 750,000 net jobs over the past 12 months, but earnings are rising at half the rate of inflation.

A number of conclusions can be drawn from the latest labour market data. The first is that the old relationship whereby falling jobless numbers led to employers being forced to pay more for a shrinking pool of talent has broken down. Weaker trade unions, less collective bargaining, an increase in the percentage of the workforce that is part-time or self-employed: these are all factors keeping the lid on wage increases.

Eventually, the traditional pattern will re-emerge. At some point, unemployment will fall to a level that does lead to such intense competiton for labour that the balance of power in wage negotiations will shift. But the current data suggests we are not at that point yet.

When the Bank of England announced its forward guidance policy in August 2013, the unemployment rate stood at 7.8% and Threadneedle Street said it would only start to contemplate a rise in interest rates when it had dipped below 7%, something it did not envisage until early 2016.

UK jobless rate fell below 7% in early 2014 and currently stands at 6.2%. The Bank of England has been busily cutting its estimate of the equilibrium level of unemployment, and on today’s evidence will need to continue doing so. That’s not just because earnings growth remains weak but because there is tentative evidence that the great British job creation machine is slowing down. 2014 will not be the year of the pay rise. Nor will it be the year of the rate rise.

3 Selfie addiction and low self esteem (Khaleej Times) Those who are habitual selfie takers are prone to having low self-esteem, says a study. The research, conducted by money-saving app VoucherCloud, found that over half of young people take selfies at least once a week. Nearly 60 per cent of youngsters admitted that behind their smile is a low self-esteem. Only 13 percent said they felt “confident in my own skin”.

“A selfie is subject to lighting, Photoshop and a whole host of other factors so often people actually look very little like they do in real life,” Matthew Wood, managing director of was quoted as saying in media reports.

The study, involving 2,071 British men and women aged 18-30, revealed that 39 per cent preferred taking pictures of themselves rather than their family, partner or pets. “It seems as if the selfie trend is just growing more and more. This is a phenomenon which will be around for some time,” Wood added.


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Britain stays united; The Ebola threat to world security; Don’t write off our youth

1 Britain stays united (The Guardian) David Cameron committed himself to a devolution revolution across Great Britain, including votes on English issues by English MPs at Westminster, as he hailed the Scottish people’s decision to remain inside the United Kingdom in the referendum.

But he made clear the constitutional reforms including in Scotland will not be delivered until after the General Election, and in tandem with reforms in England. “We have heard the voice of Scotland and now the millions of the voices of England must be heard”, he insisted.

The Prime Minister, vindicated in his decision to stage a Yes No referendum, also revealed he has asked Lord Smith of Kelvin to implement the Scottish devolution reforms set out by the party leaders in the final weeks of the referendum campaign.

Cameron did not recommit himself to the Barnett formula – the method by which resources are distributed on a population basis across England Scotland and Wales. Both Labour local councils, Tory MPs and Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, immediately insisted the Barnett formula has to be torn up.

Farage also pressed Scottish MPs to make an immediate commitment not to vote any further in English only issues, as he called for a constitutional convention to discuss the whole future political settlement in the UK. He said “The fact that three party leaders made commitments on behalf of millions of UK voters means nothing. Why should I stand by a panicky commitment to Scotland made by the Prime Minister?”

Some of Cameron’s remarks make clear that the offer of further powers in Scotland is dependent not only on the next election, but also a wider constitutional settlement including the exclusion of Scottish MPs from voting on many issues confined to England.

2 The Ebola threat to world security (BBC) The UN Security Council has declared the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa a “threat to international peace and security”. The council unanimously adopted a resolution calling on states to provide more resources to combat the outbreak.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned an emergency meeting of the council that the number of Ebola infections was doubling every three weeks. More than 2,600 people have now died in the worst Ebola outbreak on record. Mr Ban said the “gravity and scale of the situation now require a level of international action unprecedented for a health emergency”.

He announced the establishment of an “emergency UN mission” working with the World Health Organization (WHO) to combat the crisis, saying he would convene a “high-level meeting” next week. The council heard that the international response had to be three times bigger than it was now to contain the crisis – the number of cases is doubling every two weeks in west Africa.

3 Don’t write off our youth (Asha Iyer Kumar in Khaleej Times) Youth-bashing based on assumptions of an interminable ‘gap’ has been a pastime of generations. Our opinion about youth is often subjective and biased. It strikes me as odd that we generally label our youth as irresponsible and wild, even as we pride ourselves on our own children as incorruptible and chaste, thanks to our impeccable parenting skills. The kids out there need a lesson or two, but our own wards are immaculate. How lopsided we are with our judgments!

Yes, boys and girls of our times are fast, furious and fashionable, but are they really deserving of our constant criticism? Not in my view. They are more grounded and discreet than we believe them to be, and I have met youngsters and witnessed cases that bear out this fact amply. I will not classify these as exceptions; to me they are representatives of hope.

In a recent discussion, a relative who runs a voluntary organisation said to me that a majority of her volunteers were young people, including students, and they were the most willing to donate for charitable causes. I strongly believe that beneath the surface of their impatience and mulishness is a deeply sensitised psyche. Much as they want to splurge, they also want to find ways to kill maverick viruses. They want to stop wars and save the world. They want to contribute to the betterment of the human race, if only we will repose faith in them.

All carts have rotten apples, but the vendor counts on the fair ones to earn his bucks. I put my money on the little girl who stands up to the national anthem that plays at the end of a movie, on my pupil who says that he values the life lessons I give him than the literature lessons, on the dutiful boy who escorts his mother to the market, on the girl who takes a wounded street cat home, and on millions like them, for they are our only hope. Let us not judge our youngsters by the swear words and slapdash manner, and write them off just yet.

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Day of the Scot vote; US interest rate to stay near zero; Alibaba IPO to spur more Chinese firms; UK joblessness lowest since 2008

1 Day of the Scot vote (BBC) Ahead of the day Scotland decides on independence, chief counting officer for the referendum Mary Pitcaithly says she will announce the result at “breakfast time” on Friday 19 September. The result is most likely to be between 06:30 BST and 07:30 BST, according to Elections Scotland.

In a national referendum, there is only one result – the total number of votes cast in favour of “Yes/No” to the referendum question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?” across the whole country. There will not be a result in Highland or a result in Perth, only totals for those areas. The national result is the aggregate of 32 local totals.

When the final result comes in, that will be it. Even if there is only one vote in it. Scotland is remote and sparsely populated in places, so some areas have to factor in geography and the weather. But bad weather could delay the receipt of ballot boxes at a count, and as a consequence, delay the overall national result.

Voter turnout is also a consideration. More than 4.2 million people have registered to vote in the independence referendum, making it the largest electorate ever in Scotland. The 4.2 million registered voters suggests that 97% of the total number of people eligible to vote have registered.

2 US interest rate to stay near zero (Sydney Morning Herald) The US Federal Reserve has renewed a pledge to keep interest rates near zero for a “considerable time” and repeated concerns over slack in the US labour market, standing firm against calls to overhaul its policy statement.

Many economists and traders had expected the central bank to alter the rate guidance it has provided since March, given generally improving data on the economy’s performance. But the Fed repeated its assurance that rates would stay ultra-low for a “considerable time” after a bond-buying stimulus program wraps up. In a statement after a two-day meeting, it announced a further $US10 billion reduction in its monthly purchases, leaving the program on course to be shuttered next month.

The policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee also repeated its assessment that a “significant” amount of slack remains in the US labour market, a further sign it is no rush to raise benchmark borrowing costs. “The labour market has yet to fully recover,” Fed Chair Janet Yellen said. “There are still too many people who want jobs but can’t find them.” She added that “inflation has been running below the committee’s 2 percent objective.” In July, the Fed said inflation was “somewhat closer” to its goal.

3 Alibaba IPO to spur more Chinese firms (Melissa Sim in Straits Times) The months leading up to e-commerce giant Alibaba’s initial public offering (IPO) – expected to happen this week – have been a watershed moment for Chinese technology companies seeking a listing in the US.

Excluding the Alibaba IPO, which is expected to raise $21.8 billion, Chinese technology company IPOs have already brought in about $3.3 billion this year – the highest annual total in the last decade, according to financial data and technology company Dealogic.

Companies that listed here last year include China’s Twitter equivalent Weibo, which raised $286 million, and online retail company, which took in $1.7 billion. This year, “not a single Chinese IPO has traded down,” said Ms Kathleen Smith from IPO exchange-traded fund manager Renaissance Capital.

4 UK joblessness lowest since 2008 (Larry Elliott in The Guardian) The City is ruling out a rise in interest rates this year amid evidence that a fresh fall in unemployment to its lowest levels since the height of the financial crisis has failed to reignite pay growth. Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that joblessness on the internationally agreed yardstick was 468,000 lower in the three months to July than in the same quarter of 2013 – the biggest annual decline since the Lawson boom was raging in 1988.

George Osborne said the 146,000 fall in joblessness marked “another step on the road to full employment”. ONS figures showed unemployment on the “labour force survey” measure fell to 2.02m in the three months ending in July.

The rate fell more sharply than expected, with the drop from 6.4% to 6.2% taking it to levels not seen for almost six years. The alternative “claimant count” measure, which looks at the number of people out of work and claiming jobseeker’s allowance, fell by 37,200 to 966,500 in August, the first time it has been below a million since September 2008, when the global financial crisis began with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers.

Between May and June this year there were 774,000 more people in work than in the same three months of 2013, but the ONS said that in the three months ending in July, employment rose by just 74,000, the smallest increase for more than a year. It said that of the 74,000 jobs created, 68,000 were part-time.

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A new corporate tax order for the world; Number of websites passes one billion; Russia, Zimbabwe in $3bn platinum mining deal; American bellies are expanding fast

1 A new corporate tax order for the world (BBC) Moves to tackle corporate tax avoidance on a global scale have been unveiled by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The action plan is aimed at multinational companies that shrink their tax bills by shifting their profits from one country to another. Firms including Starbucks, Amazon and Google have been accused of pursuing such strategies.

The OECD says 44 nations making up 90% of the world economy favour its plan. Announcing the proposals, the OECD’s head of tax, Pascal Saint-Amans, said that they would “change the rules of the game” by making sure companies paid taxes in the country where profits were generated. At present, firms can exploit agreements intended to avoid double taxation of profits by using them to obtain double tax deductions instead.

They also use internal billing procedures to ensure that profits are registered in countries where corporate tax levels are lower. Under the OECD plan, a country-by-country model would require firms to declare their revenue, profit, staffing and tax paid in each jurisdiction.

Richard Collier, tax partner at PwC said the changes would have a big impact on global firms. “The scale and scope of change surpasses what many people had anticipated at the outset. The big worry for businesses is that different tax authorities will require different information, which could add to the administrative and cost burden for businesses.” Anton Hume, at accountants BDO, said the measures could result in companies moving away from tax havens: “It may mean that a lot of activities are onshored again.”

2 Number of websites passes one billion (Straits Times) The number of websites has burst above one billion and is growing apace, according to online tracker Internet Live Stats. Tim Berners-Lee, considered the father of the World Wide Web, touted the milestone on Twitter – one of the most prominent websites in the mushrooming but sometimes murky Internet world.

It comes as the agency responsible for managing addresses on the Internet expands choices far beyond “.com” and “.net” to provide more online real estate for the booming ranks of websites. The World Wide Web turned 25 in April this year. It was born from an idea in a technical paper from Berners-Lee, then an obscure, young computer scientist at a European physics lab.

3 Russia, Zimbabwe in $3bn platinum mining deal (Johannesburg Times) Russia and Zimbabwe have signed a $3 billion deal to jointly mine platinum in the southern African country, the world’s third largest producer, with Moscow providing the investment funds. The project will see production of nearly 600,000 ounces a year, making it the largest platinum mine in Zimbabwe.

Veteran President Robert Mugabe said the deal, expected to create 8,000 jobs. “We couldn’t do it with enemies. No. We can only do it with our friends,” said Mugabe, whose government has largely been shunned by most Western nations. The $3 billion will fund the development of the Darwendale Platinum mine northwest of the capital Harare and the construction of a smelter.

4 American bellies are expanding fast (San Francisco Chronicle) The number of American men and women with big-bellied, apple-shaped figures — the most dangerous kind of obesity — has climbed at a startling rate over the past decade, according to a government study. People whose fat has settled mostly around their waistlines instead of in their hips, thighs, buttocks or all over are known to run a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and other obesity-related ailments.

Fifty-four percent of US adults have abdominal obesity, up from 46 percent in 1999-2000, researchers reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Abdominal obesity is defined as a waistline of more than 35 inches in women and more than 40 inches in men. During the 12-year period studied, the average waist size in the US expanded to 38 inches for women, a gain of 2 inches. It grew to 40 inches for men, a 1-inch increase.

Dr. Earl Ford, a CDC researcher and the study’s lead author, said Americans may be exercising less and getting flabby. But because fat weighs less than muscle, they are not necessarily getting heavier. The study cites other possible reasons for the increase in belly fat, including sleep deprivation and certain medicines. Belly fat not only makes people look apple-shaped but often means fat has built up deep inside the body, around the liver and other abdominal organs.

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