The many economical and ecological benefits to using human excrement and urine as fertiliser are not to be sniffed at. Fred Pearce gets to grips with a sorely underused resource.
Zimmerman receives an offer he can refuse
We hear that no sooner had Southern district councillor Paul Zimmerman quit the Civic Party than he received a number of offers of support from political parties. Zimmerman left the Civic Party recently after it declined to put him forward as a candidate for one of the new superseats that come into effect at the upcoming September Legco elections. He contemplated participating in the election as an independent but struggled for support as he started late. Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee was apparently quite positive, although her offer of support was not made directly but through the press. But the prospect of Ip being able to say 'Paul is my man' apparently deterred him. Others rang up with offers of support. But the quid pro quo was for him to diss the Civic Party, something he was not prepared to do. So, for the moment he's going to be supporting pan-democratic candidates in an effort to help them secure the necessary one-third of the seats in the 70-member Legco, ensuring that they can block changes to the Basic Law.
Discovery goes digital
Cathay Pacific's inflight magazine Discovery has entered the digital age. It was launched last week as a digital magazine, an iPad app and is available on the web. 'The launch allows the airline to create and distribute engaging digital content across multiple platforms integrated around the Discovery brand,' the airline said in a statement. We wonder how much longer the print version will be available.
Record-breaking shopping mall
Those of you not into Olympic-type events but with an interest in world records of a different kind may be interested in the fun and games that Cityplaza has organised for this month. In rather purplish prose, a press release informs us that in the interests of 'further enhancing shopper non-stop summer enchantment', Cityplaza is delighted to announce the 'keenly anticipated' return of its 'hugely popular' 'Astonishing Guinness World Record Holders'. The records they will be seeking to break are in events such as yo-yoing, breakdancing, unicycling and magic skills. Hong Kong's very own star illusionist, for example, will be trying to break the Guinness World Record for 'most costume change illusions in one minute'. Sweden's Peter Rosendahl will manoeuvre a microscopic one-wheeled bike with a wheel diameter of 13mm smaller than a 10-cent coin. These and other hard-to-resist worthy endeavours will take place at Cityplaza over three weekends starting this coming one.
Going off the rails
China's high-speed-rail programme has not been an unalloyed success. There have been a number of deviations. Some of these stem from the activities of Liu Zhijun, the former railways minister. When Liu presided over the UIC HighSpeed 2010 7th World Congress in Beijing together with International Union of Railways (UIC) chairman Yoshio Ishida, he was at the height of his powers with China anticipating spending up to four trillion yuan (HK$4.86 trillion) between 2011-15. 'UIC HighSpeed 2010 successfully fulfilled its targets,' proclaimed the conference's website. A few months later in February 2011, Liu was arrested and dismissed for suspected corruption.
Yesterday, Xinhua carried a report that alleged one of Liu's most serious offences was helping a high-speed-rail advertising company gain a commission of 10 million yuan. The advertising company was owned by Ding Shumiao, a mainland businesswoman who is facing trial in connection with the case. Ding's company, according to Xinhua, made 120 million yuan from the 2010 UIC congress. The company had a monopoly over advertising rights on high-speed-rail stations and allegedly made 800 million yuan in fees from stations between Shanghai and Beijing.
Grounds for optimism on US housing
Jefferies, an investment bank, heads a recent strategy note: 'For the price of one Hong Kong car park you can buy 5 US homes.' It goes on to say that US housing is no longer a drag on GDP. 'US housing is no longer in the accident and emergency ward but is still in rehabilitation.' Indeed, over the past three quarters, it contributed 0.3 per cent to GDP. 'Ironically, with high-end property prices in Singapore and Hong Kong nearly doubling since 2008, investors have perhaps failed to acknowledge just how cheap US property is compared with other international locations. It is early days to be too optimistic that US house prices are on a firm uptrend,' Jefferies says. 'The US housing market is passing through a clearing process which ought to mean that some of the worst data-points are now behind it and the drag on GDP has receded.' Fill your boots.