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Column: Rubber-necking on the Internet

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If you want to know what's going on in the world's rubber industry, read this publication. All the important news is here. Other stuff about rubber, just peruse the Internet. It's all there.

I do that. Not that I'm a rubber freak that wants to learn more about Katy Perry's bustier, yet another story about the “rubber match” between two teams, or the latest use of rubber bullets on protesters. No, I Google for “rubber news” to see if I can find interesting tidbits that haven't made the cut at Rubber & Plastics News.

For example, I was heartbroken to learn the giant rubber duck that has been touring the world since 2007 has gone missing. You might recall a column I wrote awhile back about this marvelous ambassador for rubber, created by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman.

It has visited more countries than the average American, drawing huge crowds. Most everyone loves a rubber duck, which perhaps is why if you Google “rubber duck” you get 1.46 million hits. I kid you not.

Alas, while visiting Guiyang in China's Guizhou Province a few weeks ago, where torrential rains caused extensive flooding on the Nanming River, our duck's tether broke. The 1 ton, 59-foot fowl flopped over and was swept away. No one has seen it since.

Another Web-inspired story I ran across also is a follow-up of something I wrote about, a glut of natural rubber. Various factors, led by the slowdown of China's economy and overplanting of NR, are behind the situation.

This is a real problem for Thailand, the world's largest producer of NR. The government for years pushed hard for smallholders to grow Hevea, helped subsidize the cost and thereby gained their political support. Now the supply and demand principle has messed things up, and farmers aren't happy.

The Thai government has been stockpiling NR to boost prices and has a difficult time off-loading it. Now it has found a way to get rid of the material—pristine, virgin NR will be mixed into asphalt for road construction. I'm no expert on rubberized asphalt, but traditionally one uses less expensive ground rubber originating from scrap.

Finally, I noticed something rubber-related took place in Akron earlier this month. I know it involves Bridgestone, and it occurred at Firestone Country Club, a place I visited once, years ago, for a long-forgotten company event.

It may be an animal show, since I do know there was a tiger involved. Did I mention I don't golf?

I hope RPN's editors are on the case. I don't think they are that interested in Katy Perry's bustier, anyway. But I could be wrong.

 Noga is a contributing editor of RPN and its former editor. He can be reached at