Wednesday, April 1, 2015

2015's Most And Least Reliable Countries To Do Business In - USA is ranked #10?!

A great post by Susan Adams Forbes staff
"Are you looking for new international suppliers for your company? Or thinking about where to open an overseas office? When you evaluate your international customers, do you care about the stability of their business environment? What about government corruption? If you already have foreign offices, have you checked on the risks of natural disasters like floods and earthquakes in those locations? How sound is the infrastructure there?
For country-by-country shortcut answers to those questions, consider the “2015 FM Global Resilience Index,” a ranking of 130 countries by FM Global, the 180-year-old international commercial and industrial insurance company based in Johnston, RI. FM Global’s main business: providing loss prevention services to big companies around the globe. 
FM Global puts countries through a rigorous evaluation process and produces a list of the places it deems most resilient. Landing in first place is a country that may not be at the top of your list for opening a subsidiary or factory: Norway (ExxonMobil has operated there for more than 120 years; ConocoPhillips also has longstanding oil fields there). Coming in second is a more obvious choice, given its bank secrecy laws and stable political environment: Switzerland. The Netherlands, with its healthy economy, solid infrastructure, sophisticated ports, extensive offshore wind power system, and secure dyke system, is in third place.
The U.S. doesn’t rank until 10th place and then only for a portion of the country FM Global calls Region 3, made up of 26 states in the Southwest, Midwest, and the South, plus Washington, DC., which FM Global deems safe from wind storms and earthquakes. The U.S.’s Region 1, which includes Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey and New York, is vulnerable to storms and places 16th on the list. U.S. Region 3, threatened by earthquakes, ranks in 21st place, just behind the United Kingdom and above Portugal. Region 3 includes California, Oregon, Hawaii and Alaska.
FM Global’s methodology involves measuring countries’ strength in nine areas, under three rubrics: economic, risk quality and supply chain. It looks at these nine things:
1. GDP per capita
2. Political risk including terrorism
3. “Oil intensity,” meaning the chance the country will experience an oil shortage
4. Exposure to natural hazards
5. “Quality of natural hazard risk management,” meaning the country’s preparedness to deal with a disaster like an earthquake or a flood
6. Quality of fire risk management
7. Control of corruption
8. Quality of the infrastructure
9. Quality of local supplies
FM Global used the following sources: The International Monetary Fund supplies the GDP data, the information about the oil supply is from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and the data on political risk and corruption comes from the World Bank’s “Worldwide Governance Indicators,” which pulls from 31 data sources. The Global Competitiveness Report, put together by the World Economic Forum and based on its survey of thousands of executives, is the source of the data on infrastructure and local supply chain quality. Finally the data on risks like exposure to natural hazards, readiness to manage natural calamities and ability to fight fires, all come from an algorithm FM Global developed to calculate risk at more than 100,000 commercial properties it insures around the world.
There are no surprises among the top 25 countries, which I’ll list below. They’re mostly European—Ireland, Luxembourg, Germany, Finland, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, etc. New Zealand and Australia also make the top 25, as do Hong Kong, Singapore and Qatar."

Monday, March 30, 2015

Our Plastic, Their Death - The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
By: Raymond Tony Chang Jr., Cornell University

The word “garbage,” as normally described, can easily mislead people into the thought of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch as a visible area of marine debris including items such as glass bottles and other large consumer products. This is simply not the case. Much of the mentioned debris actually refers to the even smaller bits of floatable plastics. Since much of the plastic is made up of material that are not biodegradable, much of the debris accumulate over the years – forming what we now know as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Over time, plastics break into tinier and tinier pieces that are not normally visible to the naked eye.  This immense amount of marine debris is a major component to the destruction of oceanic creatures living in these areas.  For example, loggerhead seas turtles tend to mistaken floating plastic bags for jellyfish, their favorite food (Rutledge).  Similarly, mammals that live around the gyre such as the albatrosses have been found with six-pack plastic soda rings choking their neck (Rutledge). The effect of marine debris circulating these Hawaiian Islands in this extremely large gyre is obvious in its harm towards marine animals and other mammals that live in the area. 

The Northern Pacific Subtropical Convergence zone of the GPGP lies exactly above the Hawaiian Archipelago.  In fact, this strand of Island is home to nearly 3 million birds, including the world’s largest population of Laysan Albatross (Eidt, 2012). The Midway Atoll, lying in the middle of the Hawaiian Archipelago, is home to these Albatross birds.  As the name suggests, the Midway Atoll is located roughly equidistant between North America and Asia.  The location of the Midway is also, right in the center of the North Pacific Gyre.  The Midway Atoll is a remote, unincorporated U.S. territory where the Battle of Midway occurred in 1942.  This ring of volcanic islands and reefs is now home to millions birds, “including 250 different marine species that populate the nearby reefs and lagoons” (Eidt, 2012). 

However, the beautiful Midway Atoll is now continuously destroyed by the 20 tons of plastic trash that float onto the shores of the islands each year (Chan, 2012). “Entanglement of plastics has been reported in 56 species of marine and coastal birds” (GreenPeace). Similarly, the numerous amounts of species living on these islands have all been greatly affected by the 90% plastic that come from land.  “Of the 500,000 albatross chicks born here each year, about 200,000 die, mostly from dehydration or starvation”(Eidt, 2012).  Recently, a two-year research funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency examined the death of albatross chicks and adults in this region.  Studies show that albatross chicks die from either dehydration or starvation of food; however, albatross chicks that are found dehydrated had twice as much plastic in their stomach compared to albatross chicks that died from other reasons.  Similarly, adult albatross often mistaken miniature plastic products such as bottle caps and lighters for food.  “Hence, the birds swallow the junk, that perforates their stomach or blocks their esophagus or gizzard, leading to inability to eat, often leading to death” (Eidt, 2012).  Not only are the albatross species affected, other studies suggested “up to 1 million seabirds choke or get tangled in plastic nets every year” (Eidt, 2012). 

Unfortunately, since adult Laysan Albatross mistaken plastic for food, they end up feeding these broken up pieces of plastics to their young.  The biggest threat is thus the ingestion of these plastics when it blocks the digestive track of albatross. “The world's plastic debris and other refuse is often digested by wildlife and kills an estimated 1 million seabirds per year, according to the United Nations Environment Programme” (Diamond, 2013). In addition, debris accumulated in the stomach can give the bird a false sense of fullness, resulting in the bird to stop eating and malnutrition.  The ingestion of sharp objects can also damage the linings of the gut of these birds resulting in infection, pain, or even death.  When animals ingest plastics, “it is possible that hazardous chemicals in the plastics may leach out and be absorbed into the animal’s body” (GreenPeace). The ingestion of these chemicals could potentially cause toxic effects to the Albatross resulting in severe pain within.  Lastly, one study reported “90% of chicks surveyed had some sort of plastic debris in their upper gastrointestinal tract” (GreenPeace). 

Will marine animals, specifically the local birds of the Midway Atoll such as the Laysan Albatross become extinct in the next few years?  It is up to the leading world super powers of the century, the United States of America and China, to create economical bylaws in order to discontinue the illegal dumping and contamination of the oceans, as well as improving the nature and habitat of the Midway Atoll. 

Work Cited 
Chan, Casey. "Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch." Gizmodo. Gizmodo, 03 Nov. 2012. Web. 02 Oct. 2013.
Diamond, Juli. "China Reports 66-Percent Drop in Plastic Bag Use." Worldwatch Institute. Eye On Earth, 16 Sept. 2013. Web. 02 Oct. 2013.
Eidt, Jack. "Midway Atoll: The Plastic Plight of the Albatross." Pacific Voyagers. Jack Eidt, 25 Oct. 2012. Web. 02 Oct. 2013.
GreenPeace, . "Plastic Debris in the World’s Oceans." . GreenPeace, 02 11 2006. Web. 01 Oct 2013.<>.
Rutledge, Kim, and Melissa McDaniel. "Great Pacific Garbage Patch - Pacific Trash Vortex." National Geographic Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Oct. 2013.

Most Haunting yet Beautiful places in the world
For more amazing pictures:

1. Pripyat, Ukraine

2. Mirny Diamond Mine - Eastern Siberia, Russia

3. Ryugyong Hotel - Pyongyang, North Korea

4. Gulliver's Travels Park - Kawaguchi, Japan

5. Aniva Rock Lighthouse - Sakhalinskaya Oblast, Russia

6. Chateau Miranda - Celles, Belgium

7. Eilean Donan - Loch Duich, Scotland

8. Abandoned Mill - Ontario, Canada

9. City Hall Station - New York City, New York

10. Wreck of the SS America - Fuerteventura, Canary Islands

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Where does all our Garbage go?? - Great Pacific Garbage Patch
For a more in depth reading:

Plastics bottles. Plastic bags. Plastic everything. As an individual walking down the busy roads of Shanghai city made me think - "where do all our trash go?" Countless times have I seen our supposed good citizens (sometimes) dump their used plastic bottles into the recycling bins. Countless times have I witnessed the life-filled plastic bag being tossed in the wind.  Countless times have I discovered that tiny plastic lighter hiding in the bottom corner of a tree. 

I wrote an 18 research paper on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch back in high school focusing on evaluating economic and political strategies of the superpowers and their position to help endangered species such as the Albatross who's habitat have been overflowed by the mountainous piles of garbage that humans have created. It's truly amazing to finally see young individuals, empowered to change and make our world a better place, design innovations so truly amazing as such....

"Dutch teenager and aerospace engineering student, BOYAN SLAT, 19, went on a diving vacation to Greece and was horrified to see more floating plastic bags than fish in the beautiful blue waters. He also found large amounts of colored plastic shards mixed in the sand on the beaches, and noticed that there were relatively few red plastic shards. He discovered that these had been eaten by birds and fish because they looked like flesh. These animals, he knew, would eventually die a slow and painful death.
Since then, Boyan has been on an ambitious mission to develop a solution to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, proposing in the following TEDx Talk that a series of large Manta ray shaped platforms be affixed in the waters, which - powered by the oceanic currents themselves - will be able to extract the plastic garbage on their own, at tremendous savings in terms of money, energy, and labor."


Jeremy Lin - The Ultimate test of Faith

"I guess God has a road planned for every single individual, famous or poor."