The negative impacts of natural disasters can be seen everywhere. In just the past few weeks, the world has witnessed the destructive powers of earthquakes in Indonesia, typhoons in the Philippines, and the destructive sea waves that struck Samoa and neighboring islands.
A study by the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters finds that, between 1980 and 2007, nearly 8,400 natural disasters killed more than two-million people. These catastrophic events caused more than $1.5 trillion in economic losses.
U.N. weather expert Geoffrey Love says that is the bad news. "Over the last 50 years, economic losses have increased by a factor of 50. That sounds pretty terrible, but the loss of life has decreased by a factor of 10 simply because we are getting better at warning people. We are making a difference. Extreme events, however, will continue to occur. But, the message is that they may not be disasters."
Love, who is director of Weather and Disaster Risk Reduction at the World Meteorological Organization, says most of the deaths and economic losses were caused by weather, climate, or water-related extremes. These include droughts, floods, windstorms, strong tropical winds and wildfires.
He says extreme events will continue. But, he says extreme events become disasters only when people fail to prepare for them.
"Many of the remedies are well-known. From a planning perspective, it is pretty simple. Build better buildings. Don’t build where the hazards will destroy them. From an early-warning perspective, make sure the warnings go right down to the community level. Build community action plans. ”
The World Meteorological Organization points to Cuba and Bangladesh as examples of countries that have successfully reduced the loss of life caused by natural disasters by taking preventive action.
It says tropical cyclones formerly claimed dozens, if not hundreds of lives, each year, in Cuba. But, the development of an early-warning system has reversed that trend. In 2008, Cuba was hit by five successive hurricanes, but only seven people were killed.
Bangladesh also has achieved substantial results. Major storm surges in 1970 and 1991 caused the deaths of about 440,000 people. Through careful preparation, the death toll from a super tropical storm in November 2007 was less than 3,500.
Q16. What is the talk mainly about?
Q17. How can we stop extreme events from turning into events?
Q18. What does the example of Cuba serve to show?
As U.S. banks recovered with the help of American government and the American taxpayers, president Obama held meetings with top bank executives, telling them it’s time to return the favor. “The way I see it are banks now having a greater obligation to the goal of a wide recovery,” he said. But the president may be giving the financial sector too much credit. “It was in a free fall, and it was a very scary period.” Economist Martin Neil Baily said. After the failure of Lehman Brothers, many of the world’s largest banks feared the worst as the collapse of the housing bubble exposed in investments in risky loans.
Although he says the worst is just over, Bailey says the banking crisis is not. More than 130 US banks failed in 2009. He predicts high failure rates for smaller, regional banks in 2010 as commercial real estate loans come due.
"So there may actually be a worsening of credit availability to small and medium sized businesses in the next year or so."
Analysts say the biggest problem is high unemployment, which weakens demand and makes banks reluctant to lend. But US Bankcorp chief Richard Davis sees the situation differently.
"We're probably more optimistic than the experts might be.
With that in mind, we're putting everything we can, lending is the coal to our engine, so we want to make more loans. We have to find a way to qualify more people and not put ourselves at risk."
While some economists predict continued recovery in the future, Baily says the only certainty is that banks are unlikely to make the same mistakes - twice. "You know, forecasting's become a very hazardous business so I don't want to commit myself too much. I don't think we know exactly what's going to happen but it's certainly possible that we could get very slow growth over the next year or two.”
If the economy starts to shrink again, Baily says it would make a strong case for a second stimulus -- something the Obama administration hopes will not be necessary.
Q19. What dose president Obama hope the banks will do?
Q20. What is Martin Neil Baily’s prediction about the financial situation in the future?
Q21. What does U.S. Bankcorp chief Richard Davis say about its future operation?
Q22. What does Martin Neil Baily think of a second stimulus to the economy?
A new study has failed to find any conclusive evidence that lifestyle changes can prevent cognitive decline in older adults.
Still there are still good reasons to make positive changes in how we live and what we eat as we age.
Cognitive decline is the loss of ability to learn new skills, or recall words, names, and faces that is most common as we age. To reduce or avoid it, researchers have examined the effect of smoking, diet, brain-challenging games, exercise and other strategies.
Researchers at Duke University scrutinized more than 160 published studies and found an absence of strong evidence that any of these approaches can make a big difference.
Co-author James Burke helped design the study. "In the observational studies we found that some of the B vitamins were beneficial." said. "Exercise, diet, cognitive stimulation showed some positive effects, although the evidence was not so strong that we could actually consider these firmly established."
Some previous studies have suggested that challenging your brain with mentally stimulating activities might help. And Burke said that actually does seem to help, based on randomized studies - the researcher's gold standard.
"Cognitive stimulation is one of the areas where we did find some benefit. The exact type of stimulation that an individual uses is not as important as being intellectually engaged,".
The expert review also found insufficient evidence to recommend any drugs or dietary supplements that could prevent or slow cognitive decline.
However, given that there is at least some evidence for positive effects from some of these lifestyle changes, plus other benefits apparently unrelated to cognitive decline, Burke offered some recommendations.
"I think that by having people adopt a healthy lifestyle, both from a medical standpoint as well as nutritional and cognitive stimulation standpoint, that we can reduce the incidence of cognitive decline, which will be proof that these factors are, in fact, important."
James Burke of Duke University is one of the authors of a study reviewing previous research on cognitive decline. The paper is published online by the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Q23. According to the speaker, what might be a symptom of cognitive decline in older adult?
Q24. According to James Burke, what does seem to help reduce cognitive decline?
Q25. What did James Burke recommend to reduce the incidence of cognitive decline?