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There's always recycling

It's no secret that rapidly modernizing China is pushing the world demand for crude oil to unprecedented levels. So would you guess that the No. 1 worry of environmental authorities there is air pollution from burning fossil fuels? Not necessarily. According to the official Xinhua news agency, there's great concern about what to do with electronic waste. Electronic waste? Yes. By the most recent estimates, the communist nation's more than 1 billion people were using almost 900 million washing machines, refrigerators, TV sets, computers, and air conditioners - of which 28 million are at or already past "retirement age." And there aren't enough landfills or junkyards to hold 'em all. The master plan: involve appliance manufacturers in their "safe disposal," with government support.

US ranks only second best in new study of creativity

Prof. Richard Florida, an expert in economic development at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and author of "The Rise of the Creative Class," posits that scientists, writers, computer programmers, artists, and the like hold the key to modern economic vitality. Recently, he and colleague Irene Tinagli conducted a study of the competitiveness of 14 European nations relative to the US. They measured three interlinked areas: talent, technology, and tolerance, then subdivided them to arrive at scores for hign-tech innovation, opportunities for self- expression, scientific talent, values and attitudes, research and development, and several other categories. Using this index, Scandanavian countries, especially, excel. The top 10 nations and their scores:

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1. Sweden 0.81
2. United States 0.73
3. Finland 0.72
4. Netherlands 0.67
5. Denmark 0.58
6. Germany 0.57
7. Belgium 0.53
8. United Kingdom 0.52
9. France 0.46
10. Austria 0.42