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Some numbers to consider

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Why is it that some mornings when I crack open my newspapers and scan on-line versions of the papers I can't lay my hands on, all I see are fascinating numbers. Statistics galore. All fascinating. This was one of those mornings. Consider these gems:

* A public opinion poll in Great Britain shows that 78 per cent of Briton think the global climate is warming and changing. That's a strong response, but it's down from 91 per cent just a few years earlier. Why? The leading theory is that it's due to ClimateGate, the scandal that erupted last year after more than 1,000 confidential emails from climate change researchers were anonymously posted on the Internet. The emails suggested that the scientists were hiding research results that suggested climate change was a hoax. Three independent investigations of the emails, including one published this week  found the research was solid and scientists were not hiding data that disproved climate change. Despite these findings, the damage is clearly done.

* A report from the OECD on long-term unemployment has both good and bad news. First the good: the unemployment rate in the world's richest countries has probably peaked at 8.6 per cent, the OECD reports. However, the bad news is the report noted these countries need to create 17 million new jobs to get back to re-recession employment levels. Further, one in four employable Americans have now been unemployed for 12 or more months, a condition that may risk turning millions of Americans into benefit-dependent unemployables. In contrast, less than one in 10 Canadians qualify as long-term unemployed.

* The Chinese government now holds more than $2.4-trillion in US securities, putting it in the driver's seat as far as valuation of the US dollar and gold are concerned. This week, China's ironically named State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) reported on its website that it will NOT use the so-called nuclear option of dumping US securities to scuttle the Greenback. This is the third time SAFE has taken it upon itself to remind the world of its enormous reserve holdings and its unwillingness to cripple the already strained US dollar. Perhaps it just feels good to remind the world who's in the driver's seat.

* Everyone is watching the massive fight to cap BP's leaking Gulf of Mexico oil rig, but some of the more interesting stories have to do with the myriad of smaller battles to stop the oil from contaminating the Gulf coastline. As you read this, 75 barges loaded with more than 100,000 tons of rock sit idle on the Mississippi River. The rock was to be used to build dikes to stop the oil from contaminating the ecologically sensitive Barataria Bay, a lush estuary in Louisiana. BP spent $30 million excavating the rock and loading it on the barges. However, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has refused to issue a permit for the project, citing concerns that the man-made dikes will destroy accompanying coast line. If those numbers don't get you fired up, consider this one: the BP oil leak is now entering its THIRD month.

Tune in later this week for more optimistic numbers.

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About Dan Lett

Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school.

Despite the fact that he’s originally from Toronto and has a fatal attraction to the Maple Leafs, Winnipeggers let him stay.

In the following years, he has worked at bureaus covering every level of government – from city hall to the national bureau in Ottawa.

He has had bricks thrown at him in riots following the 1995 Quebec referendum, wrote stories that helped in part to free three wrongly convicted men, met Fidel Castro, interviewed three Philippine presidents, crossed several borders in Africa illegally, chased Somali pirates in a Canadian warship and had several guns pointed at him.

In other words, he’s had every experience a journalist could even hope for. He has also been fortunate enough to be a two-time nominee for a National Newspaper Award, winning in 2003 for investigations.

Other awards include the B’Nai Brith National Human Rights Media Award and nominee for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism.

Now firmly rooted in Winnipeg, Dan visits Toronto often but no longer pines to live there.


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