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It was our national pastime – but now shopping is just so over

Martin Hickman and Stina Backer, The Independent
For a time it seemed that walking the shopping malls was more popular than walking the dog, but in a dramatic change for a nation of credit card junkies, the Bank of England has declared that Britons are going off shopping as a “leisure activity”.

As the Bank announced the end of shopping as a national pastime, high street giants were announcing marketing ploys in attempts to turn back the clock to the free-spending days in the lucrative run-up to Christmas…
(20 November 2008)

Many Brisconnections shareholders facing financial ruin
(confluence of energy and financial crises)
Thea Dikeos, The 7:30 Report, Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Many small time investors in the recently floated company Brisconnections could face financial ruin after discovering the shares they purchased are to be paid for over three instalments. Many investors bought into the company when the share price plummeted from $3 to just a mere tenth of a cent believing they were snapping up a bargain. Now, investors face bills running into millions of dollars when the next dollar per share payment is due in April, a liability they claim was never spelled out to them.

… THEA DIKEOS, REPORTER: Ramesh Velougondaiah may not look like a big time stock market player, but this IT consultant from Toongabbie in Sydney’s west owes a staggering $5,640,000 for his shareholding in a company called Brisconnections.

RAMESH VELOUGONDAIAH, BRISCONNECTIONS SHAREHOLDER: Definitely, I don’t have $5 million, even if I sell myself, you know, or my rest of life, I think I don’t make $5 million.

THEA DIKEOS: He’s not alone. Brisconnections was floated in July after winning a $3.5 billion contract to construct a toll road from Brisbane to the airport. But the international credit crisis drove the share price down to a minuscule tenth of a cent attracting many small time investors who thought they were snapping up a bargain.

Gerhard Limnios bought two million shares for his 82-year-old mother.

GERHARD LIMNIOS, BRISCONNECTIONS SHAREHOLDER: There’s no way that mum could afford, you know, paying $2 million. She’s living, you know, with is, and she’s on a pension.
(20 November 2008)

The animals and plants we cannot live without

Richard Gray, Telegraph
From the Amazon rainforests to the frozen ice fields of the arctic, animals, plants and insects are disappearing at alarming rates from pollution, habitat loss, climate change and hunting.

Nearly 17,000 species are now considered to be threatened with extinction and 869 species are classed as extinct or extinct in the wild on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. In the last year alone 183 species became more endangered.

Now, in the face of the growing threat posed by environmental changes around the globe, five leading scientists are to argue whether there is a single type of plant or animal which the planet really cannot afford to lose.

The debate, titled Irreplaceable – The World’s Most Invaluable Species, will see five experts present the case for the world’s most important animals and plants from a shortlist of five: primates, bats, bees, fungi and plankton.

Primates, which are among the most threatened of animals, are likely to win hearts due to their cuddly exterior while those with a sweet tooth for honey will doubtless sympathise with the bees, which are suffering near catastrophic declines.

Fungi are among the most abundant organisms on the planet and include amongst their numbers the Earth’s biggest living organism, a giant fungus known as Armillaria ostoyae which stretches for 2,384 acres in Oregon’s Blue Mountains.
(16 November 2008)
Related in the Independent: Insecticide! (An ecological disaster that will affect us all).