March 17th, 2011
03:41 PM GMT
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(CNN) - Within hours of the Japanese earthquake, natural gas price futures for summer delivery started to rise. Within three trading days, Barclays reports that UK natural gas prices have shot up more than 13%. It's only a matter of time before the suppliers pass that rise onto customers.

Why should this happen?

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March 17th, 2011
01:27 PM GMT
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I recently discovered a tiny nugget of information that I am savoring.

Don’t get too excited. It is just a word; only two syllables of linguistic pleasure. It’s a word that doesn¹t really make sense when you first read it. However, it is quite pleasant to say out loud.

Go on, say it:

“Bushpunk.”

I was doing some online research on African innovation and creativity and stumbled on the concept of ”bushpunk,” which is described as a uniquely African way of making something out of nothing. Or as some might say, “low-tech solutions to high-tech challenges.”

One blog I discovered, www.bombasticelements.blogspot.com, describes ”bushpunk” as when we, “unhitch our imagination” and repurpose or “cannibalize” objects to refashion them to meet our demands.

In Africa, the staggering growth of mobile-phone banking, for example, grew out of this need to use mobile phones for more than just making calls.

In Kenya, a similar description refers to this same sense of grassroots innovation. “Jua kali” literally means sitting in the “hot sun” in Swahili and it describes an industry of roadside inventors creating things in the open-air.

Across the continent, there are numerous examples of how people interpret objects and technology for themselves. We have all seen those homemade radios or the makeshift generators that litter the African urban landscape.

In Lagos, there is a bustling industry of pavement computer experts. In Maputo, satellite dishes are rewired to provide access to whole apartment blocks. In South Africa, I have seen kids fashion toys out of discarded rubbish that make you smile with wonder.

Then there are the local inventions that make you wonder why the research and development department of a global multinational didn’t think of it: bicycles that also charge cellphone batteries while you peddle or the vuvuzela-like washing machine for rural women to use.

It is a fascinating combination of poverty breeding ingenuity. Millions of Africans lack opportunities to better themselves but everyday they create a wealth of innovations that defy the boundaries of their village.

Harnessing the power of “bushpunk” is the next step in Africa's development.

What are the most ingenious African solutions you have seen or heard of?



March 17th, 2011
07:04 AM GMT
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(CNN) – A spiraling crisis caused by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear drama has turned into a financial crisis for the world’s third largest economy.

In a few short hours, the yen smashed through the 80 yen-to-the-dollar barrier, peaking at 76.25 yen. That was the highest level the currency has hit since World War II.

The health of Japan’s economy is based heavily on exports. A stronger yen can wipe billions of dollars off corporate balance sheets. For example, Toyota loses 30 billion yen, roughly $380 million, for each uptick of the yen against the dollar.

Analysts say timing played a big role in the sudden surge. Trade is typically thin around the end of the U.S. trading day and before Asian markets open. The yen, considered a safe bet in times of crises, had been gradually strengthening over several trading sessions. With risk adverse investors pushing the currency higher, it broke through 80 yen per dollar.

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March 17th, 2011
02:09 AM GMT
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Hong Kong, China (CNN) – My 10-month old daughter loves hard boiled eggs. I buy Japanese eggs to mix into her solids. Here in Hong Kong, I go to Japanese supermarkets to do my grocery shopping. I trust the quality. Then a relative from abroad called this week and asked if I was certain Japanese produce was safe.

Well, that's a tough question to answer at this point. I do know it's a question a lot of families are starting to ask.

Japanese food is hugely popular worldwide, stocking shelves at high-end stores around Asia and specialty shops in Europe and the U.S.  Governments are taking precautions by doing thorough inspections of Japanese produce. Hong Kong's Center for Food Safety has already conducted radiation tests on at least 34 samples of fresh vegetables, meat and fish from Japan. The center reports all test results were satisfactory.

"As far as radiation is concerned, I think the most at-risk articles are those fresh products, perhaps dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Dr. York Chow, Hong Kong's Secretary for Food and Health, at a news conference earlier this week. “In case we detect anything, of course, we will ban those products from Hong Kong."

Thailand's government is focusing on Japanese imports of meat, milk, fish and seaweed.  A radiation physicist from the Office of Atoms for Peace has told CNN the agency will work with Thailand's Health Ministry to do random checks of imported food from Japan. On Tuesday, India also ordered radiation tests of Japanese food at its ports and airports. Only food originating from Japan after March 11 will be tested.

Paul Yang lives in Tokyo, where he grew up, and is a father with two young children. He and his wife are not changing their family's eating habits, he said.

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