Globetrotting: news from around the world — January/February 2016

Some Indonesian prisons may soon be guarded by crocodiles, while China’s Tsinghua Unigroup Ltd. plans to become the world’s third-largest chip manufacturer.


Guards of a different species

Death row convicts in Indonesia could end up in a prison built on an island guarded by crocodiles if a proposal by that country’s anti-drug agency goes through, reports the Global Post.

Crocodiles would be better than human guards at thwarting escapes and they could not be bribed, claims anti-drugs chief Budi Waseso. Only traffickers would be kept in the prison; that way, they would not be able to mix with fellow prisoners and recruit them into drug gangs.

Indonesia’s anti-narcotics laws are among the harshest in the world, with traffickers facing death by firing squad. Despite the strict laws, Indonesia’s prison system is corrupt and awash with drugs. Inmates and jail officials are regularly charged with narcotics offences. 


Boom(er) town

Custom golf cart 

The Villages, a seniors-only retreat in Florida, is the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the US, reports Bloomberg.

Founded 23 years ago, the upscale development west of Orlando is now home to 115,000 residents, up from 51,000 in 2010. Self-described as “Florida’s friendliest hometown,” it offers 2,400 clubs and three dozen golf courses. Citizens ride around in customized golf carts that range in price from US$8,500 for a standard model to US$30,000 for a custom version that looks like a Model T Ford and sports the owner’s college football team colours.

The Villages still has a lot of growth potential when you consider that the proportion of Americans aged 65-plus is estimated to grow to 21.7% by 2040. But the development will reach capacity long before then. With sales of about 400 homes a month, it is already running low on empty lots.


Betting on chips

Handful of chips 

China’s Tsinghua Unigroup Ltd. plans to invest US$47 billion over five years in an attempt to become the world’s third-largest chip manufacturer, according to Reuters.

“If you can’t be a top-three giant, it will be very hard to develop your business in the chip industry,” said Tsinghua chair Zhao Weiguo in an interview with the news agency.

At the moment, Intel is the world leader in chip manufacturing. Samsung Electronics is next in line, followed by Qualcomm.


Sick in space

For a polar explorer, a medical emergency can spell disaster or even death. The same could hold true for those fearless souls who venture into space.

In a recent BBC report, Michael Barratt, a medical doctor and NASA astronaut, gives a glimpse of the problems that could occur if surgery needs to be done during missions to the moon or Mars. If an artery is cut, for example, blood will spurt out, obstructing the surgeon’s field of vision. Contamination is also an issue, because bacteria float around in the station, greatly increasing the risk of infection.

Although NASA is currently looking at several options — including the use of telerobotics — for performing surgery in deep space, it’s probably best not to count on seeing any Star Trek-style sick bays anytime soon.