Spend Matters Afternoon Coffee

Boots and Walgreens merger to create procurement benefits -- The merger between the UK retailer Alliance Bootsand its US counterpart Walgreens will create a company with "unmatched supply chain and procurement expertise". The US pharmacy chain is acquiring a 45 per cent stake in the UK business, investing $6.7 billion (£4.26 billion), made up of $4 billion (£2.54 billion) in cash and 83.4 million shares. The companies said the deal would create the world's biggest purchaser of prescription drugs.

Vietnam and Japan take rare earth action.
Asian countries challenge China on rare earth minerals -- Vietnam and Japan have opened a centre for research into rare earth minerals to challenge China's monopoly of supply. The elements are crucial for many modern technologies including computers, TVs and wind turbines. China produces more than 90% of the world's rare earths but has enforced strict export restrictions. Vietnam, with huge untapped reserves is one of a number of countries gearing up to take advantage of worldwide demand.

A global eating disorder.
If the whole world had the same proportion of overweight and obese people as America, its biomass would rise by 20% -- One tonne of human biomass accounted for 17 adults in Asia but just 12 in North America, where three-quarters of adults were overweight or obese, and where the total biomass due to obesity is almost 1.2m tonnes (see below). If the populations of other countries adopted the pattern of weight distribution found in the United States, the world's biomass would rise by 20%--roughly equivalent to adding an extra 1 billion average-sized people. This would create all kinds of strains, not least on the world's food supply.

Adventure of a lifetime?
Mars One - Get Your One Way Ticket To The Red Planet -- A new private space firm from the Netherlands called Mars One is attempting to to send four astronauts on a one-way journey to Mars in 2023. The company intends to create a "habitable settlement" that will support settlers while they live and work on Mars. Every two years after 2023 an additional crew will arrive, enabling what they describe as a real living, growing community on Mars. The pitch is simple, a Mars mission that will allow the participants to emigrate to the red planet, never to return. The trip will be be one way, allowing those who go to live and work on Mars for the rest of their lives. The company says a 'return ticket' is pretty much impossible when talking about the Red Planet.

- Sheena Moore

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