Globetrotting: News from around the world — December 2014

Trash has been accumulating in outer space — so much so that Lockheed Martin will be building a "space fence." Plus, a news aggregator called Blendle could upset the traditional newspaper business model.


A fence for space junk

Since the Soviet Union launched its Sputnik artificial satellite in 1957, junk has been accumulating in space to such an extent that the US Air Force has recently awarded Lockheed Martin a US$915-million contract to build a "space fence."

It’s definitely time. As the Global Post reports, it’s becoming quite a mess up there, with about 500,000 pieces of debris hurtling through space at more than 27,000 km an hour. The trash includes satellites, bolts, tools, even large quantities of astronauts’ urine. At such speeds, a fragment barely half an inch in diameter exerts the force of a bowling ball travelling at roughly 483 km an hour.

The projected fence, which should be operational in 2018, will not be of the chain link variety. It will be a ground-based radar system in the Marshall Islands that will monitor and catalog the debris.


Who’s the greenest of them all?


China and the US are the world’s top producers of electricity from renewable resources, according to the Global Post. They have a total output of 800 billion kilowatt hours and 527 KWh, respectively. Brazil is next with 459 KWh, followed by Canada (398 KWh).

But these are absolute numbers only. When you consider them in relation to total energy consumption, the picture changes dramatically. Norway, which is in eighth place in the previous ranking, jumps up to No. 1, with renewable electricity representing 109% of consumption. Brazil is in second place with 96%, and Canada is in third, with 72%. China produces only about 19% of its total electricity consumption from renewables; the US, just over 13.5%.


It’s a long story


Blendle, characterized as the "iTunes of information," is taking steps that will probably keep newspaper editors awake at night, reports Parisian business daily Les Échos.

Blendle’s business model, similar to that of iTunes, is to aggregate press articles and sell them individually to web users. Launched barely six months ago, the Dutch company already has 135,000 subscribers in its home market and recruits 15,000 to 20,000 new ones every month without spending a penny on marketing. Now the startup is aiming to expand to France, Germany, Spain and Scandinavia.


The shadow grows

The "shadow banking" sector has grown by US$5 trillion in 2013, reaching a total of US$75 trillion, finds the Financial Stability Board’s (FSB) fourth annual Global Shadow Banking Monitoring Report. This sector is composed of nonbank intermediaries such as private equity firms and hedge funds.

By definition, shadow banking entities escape the regulatory oversight that covers traditional banks. The monitoring exercise is meant to "identify and measure potential sources of systemic risks beyond the current bounds of prudential regulation." The FSB is chaired by Bank of England governor Mark Carney, and its secretariat is located in Basel, Switzerland.