World and Nation

Shorts (left)

Environmental Investments Could Pay Off for Google

Google, the Internet search and advertising giant, is increasingly eyeing the energy sector as a potential business opportunity.

From its beginning, the company has invested millions of dollars in making its own power-hungry data centers more efficient. Its philanthropic arm has made small investments in clean energy technologies.

But in recent weeks, Eric E. Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, has hinted at the company’s broad interest in the energy business. He also joined Jeffrey R. Immelt, General Electric’s chief executive, to announce that they would collaborate on policies and technologies aimed at improving the electricity grid. The effort could include offering tools for consumers.

Meanwhile, engineers at Google are hoping to unveil soon tools that could help consumers make better decisions about their energy use.

Polio Spreads to New Countries And Increases Where It’s Endemic

Polio infections are increasing and spreading to new countries, according to case counts recently released by the World Health Organization.

Since April, outbreaks have been found in 10 countries beyond the four in which polio is considered endemic — Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan. And in those four countries, the number of cases is more than double the number found by this time in 2007.

In Africa, cases have been found as far south as Angola and as far west as Ethiopia. Each detected case implies another 200 cases with few or no symptoms, experts say.

There have been outbreaks of both type 1 and type 3 polio, which frustrate WHO plans, begun in 2005, to concentrate on a monovalent vaccine against type 1. Recent studies show that vaccine to be far more effective against type 1 than the old trivalent vaccine was. But it does not protect against type 3, and a new monovalent vaccine against that is being introduced. (Type 2 was eliminated in 1999.)

Pakistan, which has seen a rapid rise in cases, now has 86,000 vaccination teams going house to house and dosing children at train stations and border crossings. But tribal areas on the Afghan border and contiguous parts of Afghanistan are barely covered because travel is unsafe for vaccinators.

Hardships Past Haunt Europe’s Search for Safety

“I haven’t forgotten history,” says Gert Heinz, a tax adviser in Munich. “If you depend on paper money you can lose everything. We’ve learned that the hard way after two world wars.”

So when Chancellor Angela Merkel went on television recently to tell Germans that their bank accounts were safe, Heinz, who at 68 still remembers the rows of canned food that his mother hoarded in the attic, decided he would rather be safe than sorry.

He converted a chunk of his savings into gold, as he had done before, and stocked up on a six-month supply of rice, sugar, flour and a special brand of powdered milk that lasts 50 years.

Heinz may be an extreme example, but he is not alone. As Europeans grasp for security in the face of a financial storm that — at least so far — has affected them much less directly than it has many Americans, they are reflecting the history of their tortured continent that has weathered wars, revolutions and financial crises over the centuries.