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In late November, Google announced plans to develop more affordable renewable energy to reduce the need for coal-based power, which supplies 40 percent of the world’s electricity. The company’s for-profit philanthropic subsidiary, Google.org, will spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the initiative called RE < C (renewable energy less/cheaper than coal), by investing in renewable energy start-ups and hiring 20 to 30 engineers and energy experts. The initiative will focus on green technologies like advanced solar thermal power, wind power, and geothermal systems. The company plans to produce one gigawatt of renewable energy, enough to power a city the size of San Francisco, more cheaply than coal-generated energy within five years. Google has taken steps in the past toward minimizing the company’s carbon footprint. It draws about 30 percent of the electricity for its million-square-foot Mountain View, California, headquarters from 9,000 solar panels installed on the rooftops of the 11 buildings and in parking lot overhangs—one of the largest solar power installations in the country.
Source: Los Angeles Times, Google Press Release, and Wired
Continuing improvement in data collection worldwide shows the number of people living with HIV has leveled off and new infections have fallen. In 2007, an estimated 33.2 million people were living with HIV, 2.5 million were newly infected, and 2.1 million died of AIDS. Sub-Saharan Africa, the most severely infected region in the world, has 22.5 million people living with HIV, 68 percent of the global total, but has seen a reduction of new infections. Last year’s 1.7 million new cases is a significant decrease from 2001. However, in the same time frame, new infections in Eastern Europe and Central Asia increased by 150 percent—from 630,000 to 1.6 million in 2007. People living with HIV in Vietnam more than doubled between 2000 and 2005, and Indonesia has the fastest growing infection rate. These numbers represent more accurate information on the disease collected worldwide. This news was released just days after the death of Dr. Merle Sande, a San Francisco infectious-disease specialist who pioneered HIV and AIDS treatment in the early years of the AIDS outbreak and later worked to create an infrastructure to prevent and treat AIDS in Africa. Under his leadership, San Francisco General Hospital opened the first ward and outpatient clinic for AIDS patients.
Source: The Economist, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and World Health Organization Press Release, and Los Angeles Times
The World Economic Forum (WEF) released their second annual Global Gender Gap Report in November. The Swiss-based think tank took economic opportunity, education, political empowerment, and health into account when compiling the list. Topping the list with the smallest gap were affluent, developed nations: Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Iceland, respectively. Of the 128 countries monitored, those that enforce traditional gender roles like Pakistan (126), Chad (127), and Yemen (last on the list) ranked lowest because of the inequality between the sexes. Since the inception of the study in 2006, the US has dropped from 23 to 31, behind Estonia, Namibia, and Costa Rica. While wealthier nations show less gender disparity the WEF attempted to eliminate bias by only measuring the inequality within the nation.
Source: Salon.com and the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2007
The 11,755 non-US troops from 26 countries account for about 7 percent of the 175,000 multinational soldiers in Iraq. These numbers represent a steady decline since the mid-2004 peak—25,595 soldiers representing 32 nations—and more countries plan to reduce numbers or pull out altogether. Sixteen nations in the “Coalition of the Willing” have 100 or fewer soldiers deployed and five nations have fewer than 10, including three Latvians, two Slovakians, and the lone soldier from Singapore. America’s largest ally and the only other combat nation, Britain, will withdraw half of its troops, leaving about 2,500 by spring. Noncombat missions carried out by foreign forces include surveillance, reconstruction, hospital administration, security, operating checkpoints, and distribution of food and school supplies. Salvadorian soldiers told the Washington Post that they want to help protect Iraqi civilians from the atrocities they experienced during their 12-year civil war in the 1980s. In response to the dwindling coalition nations Salvadorian Col. José Benítez said, “Perhaps they haven’t lived, in flesh and blood, terrorism like we have.” El Salvador is the only Latin American country left in Iraq and President Elías Antonio Saca announced a 10th contingent of 280 soldiers—100 fewer than previous deployments—to aid in reconstruction. Georgia, an Eastern European nation seeking NATO membership, has nearly 2,000 soldiers, approximately a quarter of its national army, in outposts along the Iranian border, but by next summer only 300 troops will remain.
Sources: Washington Post, New York Times, and BBC News