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HARRISON SHULL/AURORA/GETTY LUCKILY for Barack Obama, the US president’s salary doesn’t depend on who gets elected. A study of racial discrimination in the US workplace suggests that mixed- race Americans are discriminated against just as much as black people in terms of salary. Economist Robert Fairlie at the University of California at Santa Cruz examined the US census for 2000 – the first to include the “mixed race” option for ethnicity. The census also questioned people about their earnings. Fairlie reckoned that if racial discrimination in the US is aimed at anyone with a trace of black ancestry, rather than mainly at black people, then people with a mix of black and white ancestry would be likely to earn about the same as black people, and less than white people (Labour Economics, DOI: 10.1016/ Mixed racism j.labeco.2009.01.003). That is exactly what he found. An analysis of more than 3 million respondents revealed the average pay was $15.74 per hour for people of mixed race, $17.39 for black people and $22.04 for white people. This was despite the fact that 18 per cent of mixed-race people had college degrees, compared with 11 per cent of black people and 28 per cent of white people. The wage gap remained even after Fairlie controlled for factors such as age and socioeconomic conditions. Pharma helps poor BIG Pharma has a heart after all. GlaxoSmithKline will slash the cost of its medicines and patents to the world’s poor, raising hopes that its rivals will follow suit. In a speech at Harvard Medical School on 13 February, the chairman of GSK, Andrew Witty, declared that his company would “earn its right to exist” by meeting the expectations of society, not just shareholders. He said that GSK would cut the prices of all its medicines in 50 poor countries – to no more than 25 per cent of the price in wealthy nations. The company will also provide free access to its patents relating to neglected diseases – those into which there is a lack of current research. Oxfam spokesman Rohit Malpani urged other companies to emulate GSK, but would like to see the company free up its anti- HIV medication patents as well. Richard Barker of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry says GSK’s stance will spark a debate about “how much further industry can and should go” in promoting global health. Blast mining EVEN as public opinion in the US turns against coal, judges have overturned a ban on blasting away mountaintops to get at seams. In the central Appalachians, including West Virginia, mining companies have lopped up to 300 metres off hundreds of mountains, destroying biologically diverse hardwood forest. The debris is often dumped into valleys, sometimes burying streams in the process. Dying for a drinkNo way to mine coalDry China in water crisis AS RIVERS run dry and fields turn to dust, China has announced dramatic plans to cut water use by its industry and agriculture. Water resources minister Chen Lei announced plans to cut the amount of water needed to produce US$1 of GDP by 60 per cent by 2020. With China’s economy projected to grow by 60 per cent by that time, it effectively means the nation aims to cap consumption at today’s levels. The statement follows China’s worst drought in half a century and increased water shortages caused by industrial pollution, which is making river water unfit for drinking even after treatment. Official statistics show the country’s urban supply systems and irrigation networks are falling short by 40 cubic kilometres of water a year. The move also suggests that the government has finally decided that it cannot rely on solutions like its $60-billion south-north water- transfer scheme, which will divert southern water to the arid north. China’s biggest need is to reduce water used for growing food: its notoriously inefficient farms use two-thirds of the country’s water supplies. According to Junguo Liu of the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, about 1200 cubic kilometres of water is pumped from rivers and aquifers to irrigate Chinese fields each year. Unless efficiency improves, he predicts that figure will rise by a quarter by 2020 as demand for meat grows – meat production needs more water than vegetables and cereals. “Mixed-race Americans are discriminated against just as much as black people in terms of salary” CHINAFOTO PRESS/GETTY UPFRONT 6 | NewScientist | 21 February 2009

China drought forces huge water cutbacks

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LUCKILY for Barack Obama, the US president’s salary doesn’t depend on who gets elected. A study of racial discrimination in the US workplace suggests that mixed-race Americans are discriminated against just as much as black people in terms of salary.

Economist Robert Fairlie at the University of California at Santa Cruz examined the US census for 2000 – the first to include the “mixed race” option for ethnicity. The census also questioned people about their earnings.

Fairlie reckoned that if racial discrimination in the US is aimed at anyone with a trace of black ancestry, rather than mainly at black people, then people with

a mix of black and white ancestry would be likely to earn about the same as black people, and less than white people (Labour Economics, DOI: 10.1016/

Mixed racism j.labeco.2009.01.003).That is exactly what he

found. An analysis of more than 3 million respondents revealed the average pay was $15.74 per hour for people of mixed race, $17.39 for black people and $22.04 for white people. This was despite the fact that 18 per cent of mixed-race people had college degrees, compared with 11 per cent of black people and 28 per cent of white people.

The wage gap remained even after Fairlie controlled for factors such as age and socioeconomic conditions.

Pharma helps poor

BIG Pharma has a heart after all. GlaxoSmithKline will slash the cost of its medicines and patents to the world’s poor, raising hopes that its rivals will follow suit.

In a speech at Harvard Medical School on 13 February, the chairman of GSK, Andrew Witty, declared that his company would “earn its right to exist” by meeting the expectations of society, not just shareholders. He said that GSK would cut the prices of all its medicines in 50 poor countries – to no more than

25 per cent of the price in wealthy nations. The company will also provide free access to its patents relating to neglected diseases – those into which there is a lack of current research.

Oxfam spokesman Rohit Malpani urged other companies to emulate GSK, but would like to see the company free up its anti-HIV medication patents as well. Richard Barker of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry says GSK’s stance will spark a debate about “how much further industry can and should go” in promoting global health.

Blast mining

EVEN as public opinion in the US turns against coal, judges have overturned a ban on blasting away mountaintops to get at seams.

In the central Appalachians, including West Virginia, mining companies have lopped up to 300 metres off hundreds of mountains, destroying biologically diverse hardwood forest. The debris is often dumped into valleys, sometimes burying streams in the process.

–Dying for a drink–

–No way to mine coal–

Dry China in water crisisAS RIVERS run dry and fields turn to

dust, China has announced dramatic

plans to cut water use by its industry

and agriculture.

Water resources minister Chen Lei

announced plans to cut the amount of

water needed to produce US$1 of GDP

by 60 per cent by 2020. With China’s

economy projected to grow by 60 per

cent by that time, it effectively means

the nation aims to cap consumption at

today’s levels.

The statement follows China’s worst

drought in half a century and increased

water shortages caused by industrial

pollution, which is making river water

unfit for drinking even after treatment.

Official statistics show the country’s

urban supply systems and irrigation

networks are falling short by 40 cubic

kilometres of water a year.

The move also suggests that the

government has finally decided that

it cannot rely on solutions like its

$60-billion south-north water-

transfer scheme, which will divert

southern water to the arid north.

China’s biggest need is to reduce

water used for growing food: its

notoriously inefficient farms use

two-thirds of the country’s water

supplies. According to Junguo Liu

of the Swiss Federal Institute of

Aquatic Science and Technology,

about 1200 cubic kilometres of water

is pumped from rivers and aquifers

to irrigate Chinese fields each year .

Unless efficiency improves, he

predicts that figure will rise by a

quarter by 2020 as demand for meat

grows – meat production needs more

water than vegetables and cereals.

“Mixed-race Americans are discriminated against just as much as black people in terms of salary”

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INA

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PR

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Y

UPFRONT

6 | NewScientist | 21 February 2009