What the Aussies are doing right.

I read this article this morning about the true value of the U.S. penny.  According to the article (I could not find the exact numbers myself from the U.S. Mint), it costs 1.26 cents to make a penny.  This number is down from the end of 2007 figure, which was 1.67 cents.  Still, it costs more to make the thing than its actual face value.  In 2008, the mint will produce 1,536 million pennies, according to the Mint.  That’s $3,993,600 we’re losing, annually, just from making pennies using the current method.

Congress and the Bush administration are busily trying to come up with a new, cheaper method for penny making, as the value of metals increases.  I have a better idea – get rid of the penny.  We would save about $19 million this year, which could be used to offset the debt we’re incurring from producing nickels.  Australia did it in 1991, abolishing both the 1 cent and 2 cent coins from circulation.  Vendors were given the option of rounding prices up or down to the 5 cent mark.  They haven’t economically drow0ned – we should be able to, as well.  It might even force some of our retailers to gain a better grasp of basic math. Better yet, let’s kill the nickel, too.  Bigger coins don’t cost more than their value to make, so why not kill the little ones?  Will we miss them?  Really?

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Bees go AWOL

In my days as a ‘current events avoider’, I still managed to a fear of the loss of honey bees.  As the greatest, most diverse , and most widespread pollinator, we owe this little creature just about everything we eat, grow, or wear.  Outside of the value of honey as a crop, beekeeping can provide additional income to those who travel with their hives to aid crop fertilization, making it a lucrative profession both in America and third world countries.  But it seems like there’s always a threat to these ventures:  mites, fungus, Africanized bees, or even pesticides.

A recent survey of 19% of the commercial bee industry in the U.S. showed losses of 32% over the past year.  True, this survey investigated only the largest operators, but a general trend can be induced from the study.  Just imagine if 1/3 of the people in your office died over the course of a year, or 1/3 of the businesses in your area were closed.  Now imagine that, in addition to rising food prices and the scarcity of certain crops due to their use as biofuel, the loss of 1/3 or more of this year’s crop due to a lack of fertilization.

The most interesting part of the situation, however, is the loss of bees and entire hives to CCD, colony collapse disorder.  Basically, the bees of a hive get fed up, or depressed, or disillusioned with the leadership of their hives, and wander off on their own.  They die alone, the queen dies by herself, and honey production stops, starving off the next generation.  Science has yet to determine a cause, but I have my own theory:  we’ve taught them well.