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The Globe and Mail

World population to reach seven billion soon

A real Halloween scare

"On Oct. 31, world population will cross the seven billion mark," says. "… Twelve years ago, when world population reached six billion, the human prospect looked immeasurably brighter than it does today. … But over the past 12 years, the trends have not gone according to script. Oil prices shot from a low of $13 [U.S.] a barrel in 1999 to $113 a barrel earlier this year, and they're now hovering around $86. The prices of grains and other essential foodstuffs have more than doubled. Hunger and severe poverty have made a comeback. The fight against climate change has been nearly abandoned. The global economy has been battered. … Water scarcity and resource limitations have grown more acute. And the transition to a green economy has not been as swift as many hoped. In the meantime, world population keeps on growing with no end in sight. If fertility rates don't continue to fall, population could soar as high as 15 billion by the end of this century."

Economic outlook? Wet

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"New research contradicts earlier studies that found an economic downturn means less money for potentially unhealthy behaviours such as excessive drinking; instead, it suggests people drown their financial sorrows in a down economy," reports Psych Central. "Health economist Dr. Michael French from the University of Miami and his collaborators found that heavy drinking and alcohol abuse/dependence significantly increase as macroeconomic conditions deteriorate. The study discovered that binge drinking increased with a rise in the state-level unemployment rate. Driving while intoxicated and alcohol abuse and dependence also increased for both genders and across ethnic groups. The study is published in Health Economics."

The piranha's warning

"Piranhas are already feared for their sharp teeth and meat-eating ways, and now a ferocious 'bark' can be added to the list," LiveScience reports. "… Researchers from the University of Liège, Belgium, had noticed that red-bellied piranhas ( Pygocentrus nattereri) make barking noises when they are picked up by humans. To figure out why and how, the team suspended a hydrophone into a tank containing piranhas and recorded any sounds they made throughout the day. … The recordings showed that the fish were generally silent and non-combative. As soon as one was confronted by another, however, silence turned to barking."

Mom routs pesky nerds

"Bride Lee Su and husband Ming thought they were all alone when they picked a romantic woodland setting for their once-in-a-lifetime wedding photos," says Orange News U.K. "But within minutes they had to surrender when their clearing was invaded by hundreds of computer-game fans playing a real-life reconstruction of Counter-Strike in Forest Park, Nanjing, … China. 'One minute we were all alone feeling romantic and happy, the next we had men in uniforms charging at us. It ruined the day," said Su, 26. The war games troops were eventually routed by Su's furious mum, Yip Mei. 'They may have had guns, but they didn't scare me. I told them what I thought of them and they ran away,' said 47-year-old Mei."

Showers for the homeless

"Every week, a travelling shower truck gives thousands of homeless people in [California's San Fernando] Valley an opportunity to clean themselves and receive fresh clothing," reports the Sherman Oaks Patch. "Once a week, a mobile shower truck from the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission offers showers to people in Sherman Oaks who are living on the streets or in their cars. The number of people who have no access to a bathroom on a daily basis has increased dramatically over the past two years."

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Reality with overlays

"You point your smart phone at an Italian restaurant, and diner reviews of its lasagna pop up on-screen," the Los Angeles Times says. "Or you aim your tablet computer's camera down a residential street, and over images of the houses you see which ones are for sale – along with the asking price, number of baths and square footage. Haven't done this yet? You probably will soon. The technology is called augmented reality, or AR, and businesses are racing to incorporate it in as many consumer applications as they can. It's essentially the same technology TV sportscasts use to digitally paint a first-down line on a football field, adapted and updated for camera-equipped smart phones and tablet computers."

Thought du jour

"Let thy discontents be thy secrets; if the world knows them, it will despise thee and increase them."

Benjamin Franklin (1706-90), U.S. Founding Father, as 'Poor Richard'

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