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Civil engineering in the news today - Monday 9 February

The death toll from the deadliest bushfires in Australia's history reached 131 today as fears that the devastation had been caused by arsonists led police to declare some of the worst hit towns crime scenes...

...Officials in Victoria believe at least some of the 400 fires that reduced some towns to blackened ruins may have been deliberately set - The Guardian

More than one in four homes in the UK will be offered a complete eco-makeover under ambitious plans expected to be announced this week to slash fuel bills and cut global warming pollution. The campaign is thought to involve giving 7M houses and flats a complete refit to improve insulation, and will be compared to the 10-year programme that converted British homes to gas central heating in the 1960s and 1970s - The Guardian

Scientists are to hold an emergency summit to warn the world's politicians they are being too timid in their response to global warming. Climate experts from across the world will gather in Copenhagen next month to agree a stark message to policy makers, which they hope will break the political deadlock on efforts to curb rising temperatures. The meeting follows "disturbing" studies that suggest global warming could strike harder and faster than expected - The Guardian

The decline in the construction industry appears to have levelled off in January, with civil engineering recording its first year-on-year rise in contracts since last March, according to figures to be released on Monday. Residential and non-residential construction remained close to the stagnant levels seen since the intensification of the credit crunch in September, with residential construction showing a record year-on-year decline of 44%. Non-residential construction was down 23% on the year, but civil engineering rose 18% to 110.7, the first time the monthly Glenigan index has recorded a positive figure since last June - The Financial Times

ArcelorMittal is set to see its profits fall this year by more than half as a result of the steep downturn in the steel industry, according to the estimates of stockbroking analysts. The world’s biggest steelmaker looks likely to turn in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of about $11bn for 2009, according to an average of the estimates of analysts covering the company, compared to an expectation from these analysts that the equivalent figure for 2008 will come in at about $24bn - The Financial Times

Jim Leng, chairman of Corus, the UK steelmaker, has quit as chairman-designate of Rio Tinto after a split with Tom Albanese, chief executive, over how to tackle the mining group’s financial problems. The development is the latest in a series of problems for the Anglo-Australian group, which is trying to reduce a £25bn debt burden in the face of depressed demand for commodities and squeezed profit margins - The Financial Times

Barack Obama's administration has stepped up pressure on US lawmakers, threatening to force them to work through their one-week recess starting on Friday, to get the $800bn economic stimulus package enacted as soon as possible. Amid the worst job losses in a generation, Mr Obama postponed details of a $350bn bank rescue plan to force legislators to focus first on passing the economic stimulus bill - The Financial Times

State intervention to help small companies has either flopped or failed to take effect yet, according to a survey by the Federation of Small Businesses. Many small businesses told the trade association that banks had turned down their applications for government-guaranteed credit. Others complained that public sector bodies were ignoring a government pledge to pay in 10 days. And almost all said that a 2.5 percentage point cut to value added tax, costing taxpayers £15bn, had failed to improve sales - The Financial Times

A ship carrying 700 tonnes of contaminated waste has arrived on the banks of the River Tees for recycling. It will be broken up in Hartlepool in a contract reported to be worth up to £3.5 million, creating 200 jobs - The Times

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