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» Last week, China said it plans to build a "Polar Silk Road" that will open shipping lanes across the largely pristine region at the top of the world. It's an ambitious idea for a country that lacks an Arctic border, and it has raised concerns around the world about China's ultimate intentions and its capacity for environmental stewardship. Although these are reasonable worries, they're almost certainly overblown.
» In Africa, the plastic shopping bag is an endangered species. Last week, tiny Benin became the latest African country to restrict the import, production and even use of such bags. It's not messing around, either. Following in the steps of Rwanda (where plastic bag importers are publicly shamed) and Kenya (where bags users can be subject to four years in jail), Benin plans to fine bag importers as much as US$87,000 (2.8 million baht).
» While commodities traders still work their way out of a historic slump, Japan is looking ahead to the next boom. According to Bloomberg News, next year a group of Japanese companies and government agencies will start mining minerals at a site about 1,600km southwest of Tokyo -- and 1.5km beneath the ocean's surface. It will be the first large-scale test of whether mineral deposits can be mined commercially from the seafloor.
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