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The Globe and Mail

Required reading: Five essential stories of the week

Each week, Report on Business editors choose five stories that shouldn't be missed. Here are the 'must reads' for the week of May 10, 2010.

Africa is experiencing an oil-and-gas boom as the continent's relatively unexplored prospects present a tantalizing draw for foreign oil companies eager to feed the world's growing energy appetite. The continent now represents one of the world's last untapped oil-and-gas hot spots where foreign companies of all stripes are converging to explore promising basins, and taking advantage of lucrative production-sharing agreements that are unavailable in other oil-rich nations. The oil business on the continent is a high-stakes and often risky venture for all involved, but strategically crucial for African countries and major oil-consuming nations.

Paul Godfrey, a veteran media executive with a salesman's touch, has been given the biggest turnaround assignment of his business career, taking charge of Canada's largest newspaper chain after a group of investors won the bidding for it. The 46 publications, including the National Post, once formed a major piece of the now-crumbling CanWest Global Communications Corp. media empire and were sold Monday to unsecured lenders for $1.1-billion. The deal wraps up an auction process that began when the newspaper unit filed for creditor protection in January.

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For finance officials in China, inflation is a worry. For Han Xuetao, it's a reason to smile. Mr. Han, who lives in China's eastern Shandong province, has been growing garlic for 20 years. Never, in that time, have prices for his crops been higher than they are now. The price of garlic, a key ingredient in many Chinese dishes and an indicator of broader food costs, has shot up more than tenfold from a year ago, largely the result of a late cold snap in the north of the country this spring and a parallel drought in the south that hit crops badly.

In the West, or so they say, men are men - but women are where the money is. When Western cable giant Shaw Communications Inc. reached a deal on May 3 to buy the television assets of CanWest Global Communications Corp. , what drew most of the attention was the $2-billion price tag and the shift in the Canadian media landscape, as one of the industry's most influential families nabbed a piece of another family's failing dynasty. But a little-noticed aspect of the deal is the control it gives the Shaw family over the most popular specialty cable channels in Canada targeted at women - a powerful niche to for any broadcaster to own in the battle to attract TV advertising dollars.

Patricia Hermann is the ultimate house sitter. In the past four years, she has lived in six monster homes in Minnesota, where she works as a nurse at the Minneapolis Heart Institute. The average emergency room nurse in the state makes about $70,000 - good money, but not enough to make the mortgage payments on the $850,000, five-bedroom Tudor-style she's currently calling home. Ms. Hermann is a "home manager" for Nashville-based Showhomes Management LLC, which calls itself America's largest staging company. . . The concept of home staging, often called "fluffing", is an old one. But in the aftermath of the U.S. foreclosure crisis, it has taken on greater importance, as desperate homeowners try to set their properties apart from millions of others on the market.

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